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Mauna Kea or Maunakea?

Maunakea

Maunakea as seen from Mauna Loa. Photo by John Tonry.

Why have we changed the spelling of Mauna Kea to Maunakea? While the name Mauna Kea (white mountain) is simply descriptive, “Maunakea” is a name that in Native Hawaiian tradition is short for “Mauna a Wākea,” the mountain of Wākea, one of the progenitors of the Hawaiian people. Maunakea is believed to connect the land to the heavens.

The UH Hilo School of Hawaiian Language recommends the one-word spelling, and recently the Office of Maunakea Management started using the one-word spelling (but their abbreviation remains OMKM). According to Stephanie Nagata, director of OMKM, the name Maunakea has been accepted by the official Hawai‘i Board on Geographic Names, and the federal government has also accepted the name change, so new maps will now use the one-word name.