Fa­mil­ial Ter­ri­tory

Donne and Chris Daw­son may walk dif­fer­ent paths pro­fes­sion­ally, but when it comes to fam­ily—the peo­ple and cul­ture they hold dear—one thing is cer­tain: ‘ohana comes first for the suc­cess­ful sib­lings.

HILuxury - - CONTENTS - by AL­LI­SON SCHAE­FERS pho­tog­ra­phy by DAVID MURPHEY

Sib­lings Donne and Chris Daw­son

MUCH LIKE THE TRA­DI­TIONAL HAWAI­IAN SAIL­ING CA­NOE, HOKULE‘A, DONNE FRANCES LEINANI Daw­son and her younger brother, Christo­pher Ho‘oka‘amomi Daw­son, are on a mis­sion to ex­pose Hawai‘ i to the world.

Hokule‘a's crew sailed around the world for three years, trav­el­ing 46,000 miles to make stops in 19 coun­tries ral­ly­ing to pre­serve the en­vi­ron­ment and in­dige­nous cul­tures. Th e June 17 re­turn home was a chicken-skin mo­ment for the Daw­son sib­lings, who gath­ered to watch a mod­ern­day Hawai­ian vic­tory un­fold.

Th e brother-sis­ter duo say they too are com­mit­ted to per­pet­u­at­ing their cul­ture as

they nav­i­gate the world of busi­ness with a goal of em­pow­er­ing Na­tive Hawai­ians and cre­at­ing broad so­cial and cul­tural ben­e­fits for Hawai‘i.

Donne in her roles as Hawaii State Film Com­mis­sioner works to en­cour­age film pro­duc­ers to re­flect an ac­cu­rate and cul­tur­ally re­spect­ful isle im­age. The fourper­son of­fice gen­er­ates $250 mil­lion to $300 mil­lion a year for Hawai‘i’s econ­omy.

Chris, founder and chair­man of Hawai­ian Na­tive Cor­po­ra­tion (HNC), and pres­i­dent and CEO of the DAW­SON com­pa­nies, uses his busi­nesses to model Hawai­ian cul­tural val­ues across the globe.

“I’m mak­ing up for lost time. Be­cause of the in­jus­tices and losses of the past, I think it’s in­cum­bent on me to share my Hawai­ian cul­ture and turn peo­ple on to my cul­ture, my Hawai‘i, my peo­ple,” says Donne, a rare blonde, blue-eyed Hawai­ian.

Donne says she’s driven to share Hawai‘i’s unique his­tory, lan­guage, cul­ture, nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and voy­ag­ing legacy with the world. She’s also pas­sion­ate about say­ing “No” to those that want to den­i­grate Hawai­ian cul­ture. She stopped one film­maker from blow­ing up a his­toric heiau and a pro­ducer from cre­at­ing a hu­mor­ous re­al­ity show cen­tered on learn­ing hula, a sa­cred lan­guage for the Hawai­ian peo­ple.

It comes down to kuleana (re­spon­si­bil­ity and priv­i­lege), which is a pow­er­ful value within the Hawai­ian com­mu­nity, says Chris, whose decades of play­ing polo have given him the con­fi­dence and build of a pan­iolo, the Hawai­ian cowboys who were rop­ing and rid­ing be­fore their peers set­tled Amer­ica’s “Wild West.” “If you can, you must,” Chris says. The duo’s mind­set is only fit­ting con­sid­er­ing they are the youngest of four chil­dren born to Don­ald Roy Daw­son and Beadie Kana­hele Daw­son. From their fa­ther, a Cana­dian en­tre­pre­neur who fell in love with a lo­cal girl, they got their can-do spirit. From their mother, they in­her­ited a pas­sion for their cul­ture and to do all things in a pono (right­eous) way. Older sis­ters—both born in Mon­treal, Canada—Lani Daw­son Arena, Chief Ad­vo­cate for the Daw­son


Com­pa­nies; and Malia Daw­son Song, who is a reg­is­tered nurse and serves as the mid­dle school RN for Kame­hameha Schools-Maui Cam­pus, also helped raise Donne and Chris.

Beadie Daw­son is a well-known Hawai­ian at­tor­ney whose pro bono coun­sel in the late 1990s re­sulted in re­form of the Bishop Es­tate trustees, who were ac­cused of mis­man­ag­ing as­sets meant to ed­u­cate Hawai­ian chil­dren.

“She’s half aun­tie, half pit bull . She’s got a mas­sive heart and a big bite,” Chris says of his mom, who en­sured that her chil­dren un­der­stood and could per­pet­u­ate the Hawai­ian cul­ture in a way that pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions couldn’t.

Their grand­mother, An­nie Le­hua Asam Kana­hele, who was born in 1896 in Kona, was flu­ent in the Hawai­ian lan­guage and lived through Hawai‘i’s most tu­mul­tuous pe­riod af­ter the Over­throw of the Hawai­ian King­dom.

“My mother was pun­ished for speak­ing Hawai­ian,” Beadie says. “It wasn’t that my par­ents pre­vented us from speak­ing Hawai­ian, but they urged us to be ex­cel­lent in the world that we were in and that we were mov­ing into.”

Beadie says the Hawai­ian Re­nais­sance of the 1970s mor­phed into to­day’s cel­e­bra­tion of “Hawai­ianess.” Cul­ture per­me­ates into ev­ery as­pect of her chil­dren’s life from busi­ness to their per­sonal pur­suits like hula and polo. Donne Daw­son stud­ied hula on Moloka‘i and is part of Snow­bird Bento’s ha­lau, Ka pa hula o ka lei le­hua. Chris has spent two decades en­gi­neer­ing polo resur­gence in the isles.

“I can­not de­scribe the depths of my pride that my chil­dren re­flect the re­spect and love for their cul­ture,” Beadie says. “In their liv­ing, they are Hawai­ian through and through. We have a long his­tory of Hawai­ian ali‘i and chiefs and com­mon peo­ple in our fam­ily. My kids were al­ways fas­ci­nated by it.”

“I’m a so­cial en­tre­pre­neur—some­one who fo­cuses first and fore­most not on profit, but on cre­at­ing wide-spread so­cial eco­nomic good,” says Chris, who heads Daw­son Tech­ni­cal LLC, a mil­i­tary-con­tract­ing com­pany.

Chris Daw­son started the com­pany in 1994 with two em­ploy­ees and through sheer force of will has grown it into an en­ter­prise with 600-plus staff mem­bers, who work in 11 states on op­er­a­tions through­out the globe.

Friends and fam­ily say Chris is a born en­tre­pre­neur and vi­sion­ary, whose faith and con­fi­dence have al­lowed him to sail through rough seas and find undis­cov­ered lands.

“I faced cat­a­strophic bank­ruptcy three times in the first decade. The dark­est time was when all was on the line, in­clud­ing my house,” Chris says. “I could have lost ev­ery­thing. I learned dur­ing those times that it was most im­por­tant to main­tain your spirit of grat­i­tude. It may just be a test.”

Beadie says she’s en­joyed watch­ing her brave son who al­ways felt he could “lick some­thing no mat­ter what” grow into a “fear­less man.”

“He started out with min­i­mal as­sets and has grown those and just ex­celled as a leader be­cause he’s a risk-taker. His vi­sion makes him look for­ward and see things that no­body else does. He’s grown the com­pany by leaps and bounds,” she says.

Chris has also ag­gres­sively grown polo in the isles and worked to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the sport’s his­tory in Hawai‘i, says Allen Hoe, a long-time fam­ily friend, who is Chris’ men­tor and fel­low polo player.

“When he learned that polo was played in Hawai‘ i be­fore it was played on the main­land and that it was used as a train­ing process for army of­fi­cers in the late 19th cen­tury, he made it his mis­sion to share that in­cred­i­ble story,” Hoe says. “He con­vinced the U.S. Polo As­so­ci­a­tion to look back in their his­tory and re­con­nect the sport with its U.S. Army legacy.”

Hoe says Chris’ in­flu­ence lead to the polo as­so­ci­a­tion and the U.S. Army work­ing to­gether to pro­mote ser­vice men and women play­ing polo.

“Here's this young boy with long hair sit­ting down and chat­ting with the polo as­so­ci­a­tion and Army lead­ers earnestly con­vinc­ing them that this was some­thing worth do­ing,” Hoe says. “He's very per­sua­sive.”

Those that know Donne say she has a sim­i­lar in­ten­sity of pur­pose, whether it's ap­plied to study­ing hula or con­nect­ing peo­ple across cul­tures to pro­mot­ing Hawai‘i au­then­ti­cally.

“Donne has a deep con­nec­tion with her Hawai­ian her­itage and an abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate that mes­sage with peo­ple that are to­tally un­aware of her Hawai­ian her­itage,” Hoe says.

For in­stance, Hoe says he was im­pressed when Donne helped res­cue a fail­ing Makua Cave film project in a mat­ter of hours by con­vinc­ing the U.S. Army to re­lax its re­stric­tions.

“She or­ga­nizes peo­ple and brings out the best in ev­ery­one,” Beadie says. “As a small kid, she was the one that egged us on and pushed us into marvelous ac­tiv­i­ties.”

While Chris' suc­cess lies in cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties by shat­ter­ing bar­ri­ers, Donne's style is more about find­ing path­ways within pa­ram­e­ters.

“They are re­ally clear about what they are cham­pi­oning and they are of­ten in sit­u­a­tions where they are the only Hawai­ians in the room and ev­ery­one wants to rep­re­sent us with­out in­put,” says Maile Meyer, who worked with the duo to es­tab­lish the Daw­son Art project, which has de­vel­oped, pro­moted and mar­keted Hawai­ian artists, whose work is show­cased in the com­pany's cor­po­rate of­fices and in fam­ily col­lec­tions.

Meyer says she par­tic­u­larly ad­mires how Donne ex­cels at de­liv­er­ing a tough mes­sage with a lot of aloha.

“I am pas­sion­ate about things like my brother is, pas­sion­ate about the work I do, pas­sion­ate about my cul­ture, but I have to ex­er­cise and ex­press that pas­sion within a very strict struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment,” she says.

While they go about it dif­fer­ently, each vig­or­ously be­lieves in the im­por­tance of “malama kekahi i kekahi,” a Hawai­ian prin­ci­ple which means, “al­ways take care of one an­other.”

Donne was there for Chris dur­ing his fi­nan­cial strug­gles and he was there for her in April of 2015, when she was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer and had to un­dergo surgery.

“I ad­mire the great bond be­tween Donne and Chris,” Meyer says. “Those two run fast and they run fast to­gether. I al­ways feel slightly ex­hausted if I spend too much time with them. They are global cit­i­zens and Hawai‘i is kind of their rest­ing place.”

The Daw­son sib­lings also take care of their busi­ness fam­ily. Donne has never met a stranger. Chris says his com­pany heav­ily in­vests in em­ploy­ees and their fam­i­lies, their com­mu­ni­ties and their cul­ture.

For in­stance, when the com­pany won a gov­ern­ment con­tract to cut the grass at Makua Val­ley, it be­gun with the Hawai­ian tra­di­tions of blow­ing the conch shell and ask­ing per­mis­sion to en­ter the com­mu­nity.

Re­cently, Chris brought 11 ju­nior em­ploy­ees from the U.S. main­land to Hawai‘i to learn cul­tural val­ues from his mother Beadie Daw­son and to give back to this com­mu­nity.

The Daw­son sib­lings want to im­part that same mes­sage of hope to Chris Daw­son's daugh­ter Kylie Malia, his young son, Kawailoa, and to all who will be­come the next gen­er­a­tion of Hawai‘i's lead­ers. Some­day it will be their turn to forge ahead, and when they do, they should go with courage, pride and the col­lec­tive wis­dom of their is­land ‘ohana.


The Daw­son sib­lings pic­tured with t heir mother, well- known Hawai­ian at t or­ney Beadie Kana­hele Daw­son ( pho t os c our­tesy Donne Daws on).

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