The Dalai Lama called Native Hawaiians "special brothers and sisters" to the Tibetan people and stressed the importance of indigenous people preserving their language and culture during a trip to the Bishop Museum on the second day of his Hawaii visit.
"I’m hearing your own stories," he said. "From that level, we are truly special brothers and sisters."
"In order to keep your culture alive, language is very essential," he said.
He also urged people to protect nature despite improvements in technology that make some believe they can control nature.
"Our survival depends on it, so respect nature," he said.
A chant and preschoolers singing a song in the Hawaiian language greeted the Dalai Lama when he arrived at the museum at about 9:10 a.m.
Allison Gendreau, chairwoman of the Bishop Museum board, presented His Holiness with a lei made from the orange blossoms of the kou trees on the Bishop Museum grounds.
Nineteen children, ages three and four, from the Hawaiian immersion school Aha Punana Leo o Honolulu performed "Hele Au," a song about their school.
The Dalai Lama put his palms together to greet the children and nodded his head with the music.
Flanked by his entourage, many in dark suits and one other in monk’s robes, the Dalai Lama toured the museum.
"We feel like we’re blessed to share our olelo (language) of our aina with him," said Alohilani Ho, director of the preschool. "We hope that we touched him just as much as we were touched to be able to meet him.
We feel that our keiki were blessed to have the opportunity to sing for him."
She added, "my heart was beating so fast."
Bishop Museum staff also presented the Dalai Lama with gifts of a mahiole, a traditional Hawaiian headgear worn by chiefs, and a kapa, made from bark from the trees at Bishop Museum.
The Dalai Lama put on the helmet, made of ‘ie’ie vine rather than bird feathers, to some laughter and said, "although I visit, I think a few times, using this hat, first time."
"This is a sign you accept me as a Hawaiian."
Afterward, he visited Iolani Palace, where he was greeted by Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of Iolani Palace, and Abigail Kawananakoa.