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A Note from Our Indigenous Program on the National Day of Racial Healing

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Hāwane Rios is a Kanaka ‘Oiwi (Native Hawaiian) singer-songwriter from Waimea, Hawai‘i. | Photo by Jalena Keane-Lee

By the Sundance Institute Indigenous Program

Today is the fifth annual National Day of Racial Healing. Launched in 2017 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation—one of the foundational supporters of the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program and Full Circle Fellowship—this day invites everyone to bring racial healing into their homes, communities, and institutions. In our Indigenous Program, we have integrated racial healing exercises through all of our fellowships and labs, and we now invite our community to participate today.

We understand that healing can only happen when we recognize harm done and we make concerted efforts to repair the ruptures caused. This past year has made clear to us that the effects of white supremacy are rife and require willful examination and collective action. We are proud that racial equity has been a priority in the founding of our Institute and in the work of all our programs. We are also proud of the work we’ve done so that our mandate toward racial equity has evolved alongside our socio-cultural landscape.

My songs are where I go to metabolize and release the pain and the trauma that I have lived through and survived. It is where I lean all the way into my own capacity and capability to heal deeply, profoundly, and fully. And it is from that space of intentional prayer that I offer this music into this realm.

—Hāwane Rios

In considering how to observe this day, the Indigenous Program recognizes that #HowWeHeal is both an individual and collective responsibility. We also understand that creative expression has been and remains one of the oldest and most powerful forms of healing, available to every individual. As our contribution toward this collective effort, we offer this music video by Native Hawaiian singer and songwriter Hāwane Rios in observance of the National Day of Racial Healing.

From Waimea, Hawai‘i, Hāwane was raised from an early age in the traditional art forms of chant and dance, which inspired her passion for music and songwriting. She believes that music is a powerful catalyst for change, and is moved to write and sing songs with a healing and unifying message. The music she shares reflects her deep love and commitment to Mauna Kea, and honors the solidarity that the mountain has bridged with many other movements around the world that are centered on protecting the rights of this beautiful earth.

We encourage you to take a moment to view and listen to Hāwane’s video and to create a moment for yourself to contemplate what racial healing means to you. Then read some words from the artist herself!

Q: How have you found healing in your art?

A: My creation story is full of song. My mother’s voice danced me to life, brought the wind to my lungs, the strength to my back, the fire to my core, and the gentleness to my heart. I was raised by the chants and songs of my ancestors. These powerful mediums of expression passed down across time and space are the pillars of my life and the very foundation of who I am.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been singing. I know that my love for music and the art forms of my people are ancient. I know that my passion to tell the stories of the time we are living in right now through song is guided by the story keepers that I descend from. The melodies and words that come from me bring me home and ground me to the earth in a sacred way because they begin in my prayers, in my ceremonies, my rituals, and my dreams.

I believe in my soul that my kūpuna, my guardians in the spirit realm, help me create every song that I write, and that is why when I need healing the first place I go to is the resonant tones of my own voice to be held by the voices of the ones who came before me. My music is the safest place I know. My songs are where I go to rest and where I go to know peace. My songs are where I go to metabolize and release the pain and the trauma that I have lived through and survived. It is where I lean all the way into my own capacity and capability to heal deeply, profoundly, and fully. And it is from that space of intentional prayer that I offer this music into this realm.

It is my hope that my music will last far beyond me like that chants and the songs of my ancestors. These are my humble offerings to the descendants to come.

Q: What is “Mana Wahine” about?

A: “Mana Wahine” is a dedication to the creatress power of divine feminine and to all of the women through the generations who lived and loved so that we and our descendants could manifest in this world in this time. A conversation with my beloved Māori sister, Ngahuia Murphy, inspired me to write this song. She spoke of the sacred reclamation of mana that these words, “mana wahine,” hold.

These words exist in both our ancestral languages reminding us that we are connected by our oceanic genealogy and lifeways of our peoples. Our ancestors had a deep reverence for the sacredness of women. It is now up to all of us to not only remember this very reverence but to live it and to teach our young ones how to move with honor for the life givers of this planet.

We live in a world where women are still working tirelessly for equality, basic human respect, protection, safety, care, and justice. So I wrote this song to offer a safe place for us to land to remember that we deserve to be treated with hōʻihi and aloha. I sing this song to empower us with a prayer in my heart and my womb for us to come together in a good way to learn what it means to uplift one another and help one another heal so that our daughters will always know their sacredness and their worth.

Q: How is “Mana Wahine” a part of your healing?

A: As a survivor, the words and the melody of this song have become medicine for me in so many ways. I have healed so much of the old pain I carried in my womb from the transgressions I have lived through by singing this song to all the parts of me that were, and still are, calling for grace. When I say, “We shall sing into your wounds, pray you back to might, lift you to the light,” I feel so held and so seen by my own journey and my own resilience.

It has taken me a long time to see my own music as healing for myself and my lineage. I am so thankful to all of my guides of the spirit realm that guided this song to me. Every time I sing it, I feel more and more in my body, in my heart, and my joy. I give thanks for that, and I give thanks for every single woman who inspires me, protects me, loves me, and truly sees me in all of my phases. This song keeps me accountable to myself, my pilina (connections), and to the earth.


For more information on the National Day of Racial Healing and how you can participate in #HowWeHeal, please visit dayofracialhealing.org, follow #HowWeHeal on social media, and look through the toolkit or conversation guide. Be sure to use the hashtag #HowWeHeal.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

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