Leslie Susan Ko
Hawaiian rich and ancient culture depends on plants, and still depends on them today. Native plants played a vital role in all aspects of life related to ancient Hawaiian culture. Learning about native Hawaiian plants and their medicinal and cultural uses has the capacity to connect Hawaii’s cultural past with its present, stemming the the loss of both cultural knowledge and native plants, thereby promoting genuine continuity with “old” Hawaii.
Leslie Susan Ko hails from a lineage of traditional Hawaiian healers. Her grandfather, Young G. Ping (Kahoupokapu) relocated to Sacramento from Maui in 1908, making him the first Native Hawaiian traditional healer of his generation to relocate and work with Hawai’ians and Chinese in Central California. Leslie was trained by her great-uncle “Papa K” Kepilino until his passing in 2006. Leslie went through the tradition of ‘uniki (traditional rite of passage/graduation) with both Papa K and Kahuna Ho’ola Frank Kawaikapuikalani Hewett, with whom she continues to work and study. Leslie is the founder of the Holistic Honu Wellness Center in Berkeley, where she authored a collection of fundamental classes and programs in traditional Hawaiian health practices.
As a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2014, Leslie worked with apprentice Angel Aulani Yu, training her in the medicinal uses of native Haiwaiin plants by creating a visual database and instructional app. Angel also mastered other cultural applications of the plants by creating specific implement from scratch, such as puniu (coconut drum), ‘uli’uli (rattle), ‘ohe kapala (bamboo stamps), dyes, and by cultivating a small garden.