Welcome from Aunty Aggie!

Welcome to the Waianae Comprehensive Health Center.  We Aloha all the people that come through, we Aloha all the people that come and visit us, then go back and give the Aloha to everybody out there.  Me Kealoha Pumehana from all of us here to all of you out there with warm love.

Biography of Aunty Agnes "Aggie" Kalaniho'okaha Cope

Profile and Accomplishments


Agnes Kalainho’okaha Cope (Aunty Aggie) was born on November 7, 1924.  She is the daughter of Henry T. Mengler, from Eleele, Kauai, and Sarah Kalaniho’okaha Hakuole Mengler, from Kipahulu, Maui. 
Aunty Aggie grew up in Honolulu and attended Farrington High School.  She went to Honolulu Business College and the University of Hawaii where she studied Education.  She taught English at Waianae High School; and elementary education at Waianae and Nanaikapono Elementary schools.  She then went on to become an arts instructor.

The global and local community has come to know the depth and long lasting impact of Aunty Aggie’s contributions through her many years of dedicated service and leadership as a vanguard of the Native Hawaiian renaissance.  Whether founding the Waianae Coast Cultural Arts Society (WCCAS) or chairing the state wide Native Hawaiian Health Care System, or serving as a role model for new teachers, Aunty Aggie’s perseverance in the face of adversity and change has set the benchmark internationally for native peoples’ development in the areas of health, art and cultural preservation, and education.  Aunty Aggie has said that her greatest accomplishment is “being with the culture for over 50 years.”

Encouraged by her ohana, Aunty Aggie studied the arts, specifically hula, music, and singing.  She had the distinguished honor of being chosen as the last student under the masterful tutelage of the esteemed Kumu Hula Lokalia Montgomery.  On her retirement, Kumu Hula Montgomery selected Aunty Aggie to be the recipient of her wealth of knowledge.  In turn, Aunty Aggie has gone on to ensure that many others have benefited from this knowledge.  Like her Kumu Hula, Aunty Aggie has touched many lives with her own teachings and beautiful performances of the hula.

The Waianae Coast Culture and Arts Society (WCCAS)

Aunty Aggie founded the WCCAS in 1967 after extensive lobbying of the Hawaii State Legislature and Honolulu City Council for funding.  She has provided leadership as the Society’s Executive Director since its inception.  The WCCAS mission is to practice, preserve, and perpetuate all ethnic cultures in Hawaii, particularly the Hawaiian culture.  Emphasizing education, the WCCAS was one of the first cultural centers in the state to take artists into communities.  It was also the first cultural center to hold annual concerts for the Waianae Coast community.  Although the WCCAS was established specifically for the members of the Waianae Coast community, people from all parts of the state have attended (and continue to attend) various activities offered by the best cultural practitioners in Hawaii.

Aunty Aggie’s life-long commitment to fostering excellence in Hawaii’s unique arts and cultures has resulted in numerous master artists being received by the Waianae Coast community.  A Aunty Aggie’s 80th birthday fundraiser for the WCCAS, the Honorable Daniel Inouye remarked, “Through the WCCAS Aggie Cope succeeded in awakening the proud spirit of a talented and skilled people.  With such a cultural grounding, all things become possible and achievable.  “Aunty Aggie has been a pioneer in promoting culture and the arts in Hawaii for well over four decades.”

In 1986, the WCCAS published Ka Poe Kahiko o Waianae:  Oral Histories of the Waianae Coast of Hawaii.  A celebration of the Waianae Coast community, this book documents the rich culture of contemporary Hawaii through the eyes, hearts, and voices of kupuna.  This unique record set the stage for a wealth of research on indigenous peoples (by indigenous peoples) that has emanated from tertiary institutions like the University o Hawaii over the past two decades.  As Director of the WCCAS, Aunty Aggie, along with John Dominis Holt, played a lead role in the research, compilation, and publication of this book.  The pride she has in her community is reflected in her contribution; “But I aloha the Waianae Coast, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha – all the way out to Makua.” (p. 176)

 Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC)

Aunty Aggie has also made significant contributions to improving the health care system for Native Hawaiians.  Among her accomplishments is her active role in founding the WCCHC, which has as its mission the provision of complete comprehensive health and related services to all residents of the Waianae District.

As a traditional healer and member of the Center’s Kupuna Council, Aunty Aggie, along with other master practitioners, helps promote and preserve traditional Native Hawaiian healing and cultural practices.  These include lomilomi (Hawaiian massage therapy), laau lapaau (herbal medicine), laau kahea (spiritual healing), and hooponopono (conflict resolution).  The Council also plays a critical role in providing guidance on Native Hawaiian traditional healing at the community, state, and federal levels.

In 2006, Aunty Aggie was honored, alongside Senator Daniel Akaka and his wife Millie Akaka, for her role in supporting the development of the Center.

Papa Ola Lokahi Public Health Care Program

Among her other health-related accomplishments is her active involvement in the Papa Ola Lokahi Program, a public health program that serves to improve health care access for Native Hawaiians, thereby improving their health status and well-being.  The program itself encompasses a multitude of foci, such as health research, health education, community health centers, and traditional Native Hawaiian healing and practice.  As a practitioner of laau kahea and a member of the original Kupuna Council of Healers established in 1988, Aunty Aggie has brought to the program her perspective as a traditional Hawaiian healer.

Aunty Aggie was the Papa Ola Lokah Board Chair for ten years.  During this time, she helped to move the program through some significant organizational periods including the passing of founder Pinky Thompson.  She also guided the program through the sensitive discussions of addressing Hawaiian healing practices within communities and with the State Legislature.  As well, she served as kupuna to the Federal Health Care Partnership.  In her work with Papa Ola Lokahi, she has said that she brings to the table “…the compassion as a Hawaiian, and the ‘stick-to-iveness’ of..” her German heritage.

Ke Ola Mamo Native Hawaiian Health Care System

Aunty Aggie also represents Ke Ola Mamo, the Native Hawaiian Health Care System serving the island of Oahu.  She served as its president for five years.  Former United States Congressman Ed Case once said to Aunty Aggie,  “You are leaving no greater legacy than your vision of the preservation and future of the native Hawaiian people.”


Hookulaiwi Partnership for Native Hawaiian Education

As a former teacher in schools in the Waianae Coast community, Aunty Aggie holds the belief that educators who have strong backgrounds in Hawaiian language and culture; who are well versed in the English language and culture; and who have expertise to research and develop new theories, pedagogy, and curricula that reflect the needs of the Hawaiian community are the key to raising the educational achievement of Native Hawaiians, both you and old.

The Hookulaiwi Partnership is a grassroots educational revitalization initiative that includes the Waianae Coast community, Hawaii Department of Education, the Office Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  It is a multifaceted effort designed to prepare outstanding teachers and educational leaders, particularly those of Native Hawaiian ancestry for schools in Hawaiian communities.

Aunty Aggie serves as a Nanakuli Waianae community representative on the Hookulaiwi Advisory Board that oversees program development, implementation, and evaluation.  In this capacity, she provides guidance on a variety of initiatives.  Currently, she is assisting with a research project designed to identify elements that bring about school success for Native Hawaiian children, as well as, for children from other diverse and “at-risk” groups.

Other Accomplishments

Testifying to her vast knowledge, connection to, and relationships with the various communities in which she works, and her faithful dedication to what she holds dear, Aunty Aggie has been and is currently chair of numerous organizations.  Among others, she served as chair of the Waianae Model Cities Program, Kalani Honua Cultural Center of Hawaii, City and County  Culture and Arts Commission, and the Waianae Rap Center.  Aunty Aggie has also served on several community boards, including those of the Hawaii Ohana Project, Alu Like, and Waianae Civic Club.

Awards and Honors

Aunty Aggie has been honored in a multitude of ways for contributions to the culture and arts, education and health.  In 1998, she was presented with the prestigious Alfred Preis Award by the Alliance for Arts Education.  The award “recognizes an individual who has demonstrated in word and action a lifetime commitment to arts and arts education for Hawaii’s children and their families.”  Also in 1998 she was presented with the Campbell Estate Koa Award for her Lifetime Achievement in Culture and the Arts.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has also recognized Aunty Aggie as a “living treasure”.  This was in recognition of her life-long contributions to the Hawaiian people and for her unwavering support of organizations that seek to serve Hawaiians.  As Senator Daniel Akaka told her, “You are a legend in your own time”

In May 2008, St. Andrew’s Priory School’s Board of Directors honored Aunty Aggie with the “Queen Emma Award.”  The award honors those who live the legacy of Queen Emma and who are role models for the students of St. Andrew’s Priory.

Aunty Aggie also accepted the 2008 Native Hawaiian Health Award presented by Papa Ola Lokahi.  Accompanied by members of the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Aunty Aggie was heralded as a traditional healer and a respected health educator.  Aunty Aggie received a standing ovation when her impressive lifelong accomplishments in improving Native Hawaiian health were listed by Hardy Spoehr, Executive Director of Papa Ola Lokahi.  At the ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center, Aunty Aggie urged the audience to “show kindness and compassion to everyone regardless of ethnicity.”

Aunty Aggie is so esteemed, and her influence so far-reaching, that the Hawaii Health Foundation named an award after her.  The Brown & Bakken World Health Award, notably “The Aunty Aggie Cope Community and Cultural Health Award”, is give to individuals and organizations instrumental in promoting community, statewide and world health.  Recipients of this award have included notables such as Hawaii Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.