‘Iokepa and Inette

“I’m not a teacher. I remind you of what you already know, but may have abandoned. Our lives are noisy, demanding and very distracting. This huliau brings us home to what we carry within ourselves.”


My name is ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Īmaikalani, but for the first forty-six years of my life  I was called ‘Joseph.’

On January 30, 1997, that and just about everything else in my life changed in a breath. I was no longer the person I’d always thought I was.

I stepped from a material American life in Washington State into something else. I agreed on that date to accept my inheritance – and I did it on the strength of faith alone.

Only two days before, I was driving down the freeway with the rare, Seattle winter sunshine in my face – and I was flooded with gratitude. I recalled my entire life, how wonderful it had been.

I was moved to offer a prayer. “God,” I said aloud, “I’ve gotten to do a lot of things in my life that most men never get to do. I’ve traveled in Europe, had homes, friends, wonderful children; I’ve driven fast cars, motorcycles and fought in national karate tournaments. My life has been amazing.

“If anyone in my family has to pass, I ask that you take me.”

It was about surrender. Afterward, I felt an enormous weight settle on my shoulders. I wanted to cry: I knew it had something to do with the Islands.

On January 30, 1997, with my oldest sister and a bare acquaintance witnessing all I’d heard and seen, my Grandmothers appeared as spirits and handed me my “Destiny” and “The destiny of the Hawaiian Islands.”

For an hour and a half, they spoke, as I speak to you now.

My Grandmothers said: “We were waiting for you to offer your gratitude–and your life. The timing is perfect.”

They filled that room with unconditional love – I feel it still. The weight that I’d carried for those two days lifted from my shoulders.

My Grandmothers told me of a thousand year old Hawaiian prophecy, and the part I’d agreed to play. They listed every event since childhood that had prepared me for what was being asked of me now.

They said: All that our Islands and our people, had endured for one thousand years had been prophesied. Prophesied too: this huliau – our return to knowing the truth of who we were, and are. With that return, the kanaka maoli would light the path – live the example – for all the peoples on Earth to witness and to emulate.

Up until that night, I had worked for twenty-eight years in heavy construction. I thought life was about work and money. I’d been responsible for paving Washington State freeways; excavating and laying pipe for miles of Seattle’s waterlines. I ran huge work crews, and forests of massive machinery.

In January, 1997, at forty-six years old, I held a contract in my hand to construct the third runway at SeaTac Airport. My share of the net profit was $1,620,000.

Until then the only things I ever read were blueprints…and Hot Rod magazines. I could not have imagined that over these next years I would study Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Winston Churchill, Goethe, Einstein, and Freud. The grandmothers called it my, “ten years of grooming.”

My Grandmothers said: “We will make you as strong mentally, as we make you physically. You are being sent as a child, with nothing to unlearn.

“Once you have heard all the lies, you will know the truth. But you must give away everything you love.”

I gave away everything that I thought, until then, was important. I gave the house, the seven cars, and every memento from childhood to middle age – to friends and family. The almost $2 million contract, I tore up, unsigned. I handed power of attorney to my sister, with orders to get rid of every cent: no savings, no investments, no credit cards and no secret fall-back stashes.

What kind of man could say “No!” to his grandmothers?

On February 1, I awakened and knew that I’d never have another drink again. On February 2, I awakened and knew I’d had my last cigarette. On February 3, I went to work and didn’t know how to speak – because in heavy construction, every other word was… It was as though someone had lifted a computer chip from my brain. They were all gone.

Two weeks later I returned home to Hawai’i with only one small duffel, $100 in my pocket, and the light of my Grandmothers’ love inside me.

For ten years I  lived the required, “Grooming.” I  lived on each of our populated Islands,in tents on beaches and in a sixteen year old Camry. For ten years, I listened to the Grandmothers’ words, studied the ancient chants, read widely in libraries, and most importantly of all, lived a life of faith on the `āina – the land –  among our people.

I have learned how to ask, and how to listen for the answers in the wind and the waves, the rain and the clouds. I learned to wait patiently for my answers. I learned, gradually, to live as our ancestors lived: the Hūnā.

My Grandmothers said: “In every culture on Earth, God gave keys to survival. Hawaiians will return to theirs. It is about reminding every soul what they were given at the beginning of time.”

My grandmothers are your grandmothers! People don’t know what they’re capable of. Hawai‘i is the place that’s been called out in prophecy – not Germany, not Alaska – it’s here. But our people don’t have a starting line or a finishing line. It spreads from here: bringing people together to acknowledge something larger than ourselves. I’m not a healer – I promote a return to Source. Huliau: The time is now.


“For almost 13,000 years, all native Hawaiian children were named by their ancestors. Often it was transmitted to the child’s parents in a dream. Within that name, lay the destiny of the child. But because in our language one word has many shades of meaning, it remained the lifelong responsibility of that child to imagine, understand, and then live that destiny. For 150 years on our Islands, missionary law forbade our people their own names: All first names were required by law (until 1972) to be Christian. In that way, it was hoped, we would be denied the pathway to our destinies – and our unity as a people.”

Iokepa Hanalei ‘Īmaikalani claims his own true name, and the prophesied destiny he undertook. His full name translates: “The best from heaven (who is God) has chosen him, to work, to bring the people together.” His work of the last almost-eighteen years, and HULIAU—THE RETURN VOYAGE is the fulfillment of his name.


Inette Miller ‘Īmaikalani has been an international journalist and author her entire adult life. For many years she has taught a writing workshop.

She’d been a single mother for thirteen years, when on vacation from her family’s home, she met ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Īmaikalani. Their destined meeting took place at an ancient heiau – a sacred ancestral gathering spot – on Kaua‘i, at sunrise on Christmas morning, ten months after ‘Iokepa abandoned every scrap of material wealth for his “Walk of faith.”

She wrote the story of her overwhelming immersion into the authentic kanaka maoli culture in the book: GRANDMOTHERS WHISPER: Ancient Wisdom – Timeless Wisdom – A Modern Love Story.  The book won: Book of the Year, Visionary Award 2011.  Her new book – THE RETURN VOYAGE: 95,000 Miles on the Paths of Our Ancestors –  continues the journey where the early book left off.

She writes:

“I was a Jewish woman, living a wonderful, professional life in a progressive Northwestern city – Portland. I’d been rearing two bright and loving teenage sons since they’d been toddlers, alone. We lived in a fabulous glass-walled, hilltop home with views of the distant mountains by day, the shimmering city lights at night. I was a writer, a workshop teacher, a good friend, a responsible daughter. My home was filled with laughter, fine food, better books, and antiques I’d collected over thirty years. I wasn’t looking to change my life. I knew I was blessed.

“I took an impromptu winter vacation to Hawai‘i – a reward to myself for three years work on a just completed manuscript – and a rare break from the boys. I was looking for sun, respite, and solitude. I was led instead to ‘Iokepa Hanalei ‘Īmaikalani, a powerful, silver-haired, brown-skinned kanaka maoli (aboriginal Hawaiian) who spoke regularly with his long dead grandmothers – and in the blink of an eye, my life was transformed.

“A year later: I had no home, no books, no money, no career, and no friends nearby. I lived like the stranger I was in Hawai‘i. I slept in tents on public beaches, often illegally. I owned and carried no more than would fit into an aging Toyota Camry. I often went hungry.

“When I left Portland, I left a trail of friends and family who feared I’d stepped off the deep edge of Middle Earth. They were not far from the mark.

“Their fears, I now know, weren’t solely for my physical well-being. It was my dependence they grieved – my sacrifice of self for a powerful man’s journey.

“I spent the next year fulfilling their worst fears. I went on vacation for a week and I stayed for a lifetime.”

It has been for Inette, a faith-challenging rite of passage into Native Hawaiian culture. She has embraced it for the love of her husband, her belief in his people, and the certainty that every experience and gift of her own life and culture – were the destined preparation for what is asked of her now.