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Island Scholar

Published January 3, 2024 | 1 min read

By Olivia McCommons

The Design

The Commission of Fine Arts recommended a reverse design for the 2025 Native American dollar, which will honor Native Hawaiian scholar, author, composer, and dancer Mary Kawena Pukui (1895-1986). Of the 10 designs submitted to the U.S. Mint for consideration, the commission chose one that portrays Pukui holding a kukui nut lei with a stylized illustration of water in the background. Whichever motif Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen approves will be paired with the series’ common obverse—a portrait of Sacagawea.

Who Was Pukui?

Pukui led a successful career at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, producing numerous authoritative works, including more than 50 published titles and 150 songs and chants that educated the public about the Hawaiian language and culture. She also coauthored a comprehensive Hawaiian dictionary, along with a two-volume resource on Hawaiian customs and traditions. Many of her valuable works remain popular throughout the state. 

A version of this article appears in the February 2024 issue of The Numismatist (