"Ohana" binds us together

“Ohana!”  That’s what Tanya Wiley, a Boise-based budget analyst for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services wants you to know about her heritage. 

Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family - including the broader community and connections which binds us together.  The word stems from oha and ana.   Oha refers to shoots of taro plants, which Hawaiians cut and replant. Ana relates to regeneration.

As we celebrate Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) heritage month, Tanya, who is a Hawaiian-born and raised Filipino-Portuguese American, reflects on her childhood, and explains ohana, the aloha spirit and her connection to humanity.

Growing up on the big island in a Filipino family she never felt alone. 

“I miss the gathering of locals and the bond we shared,” says Tanya who danced hula on the big island at family gatherings in handmade costumes her mother sewed.   “Twenty or thirty people at a family dinner was normal” and it wasn’t always blood relatives.

Tanya sitting in her handmade hula costume.
Tanya sitting in her handmade hula costume.

“I was taught to always feed and take in strangers,” said Tanya, describing how her community instilled in her the aloha spirit, which equates to respecting all living things, honoring ancestors, and helping family, friends, and strangers.

Raised on the ohana principle, the passion fish hatchery employees exhibit and the work they do to support healthy and self-sustaining populations of fish resonated with her and factored into her decision to work for FWS.  Ohana ensures the family has what they need to survive and live joyfully.

The National Fish Hatchery System, created to address collapsing fisheries and boost production of food fish to feed families, annually raises and stocks 100 million fish to support recreational fishing and Tribal subsistence fisheries.

“Raising fish so the community can eat and enjoy life fits in well with my ohana beliefs,” she says.

When asked if ohana can be practiced by non-Hawaiians, she explained that embracing diversity and inclusion is a way of life for people from Hawaii and being from Hawaii doesn’t mean you are of Hawaiian descent.  In fact, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Filipino residents account for 24.7% of the state’s population.  Everyone can practice.

My message to humanity is to “embrace Aloha and rid the world of hate,” she says. 

It can start out small. Idaho is already embracing Hawaii values and culture. The Owyhee Mountains residents see from Interstate 84 are named after Hawaiians. Owyhee and Hawaii are two different spellings for the same word.

Tanya, who is new to the Boise area, plans to share her ohana and aloha spirit with the Idaho community when she fishes on the weekends, spends her time on the water, explores public lands and rides the BLM Idaho trails on the family 4-wheeler.

She’ll be sharing a lot of love.

Tanya Wiley, a Boise-based budget analyst for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.
Tanya Wiley, a Boise-based budget analyst for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.


Jennifer Hayes, Public Affairs Specialist