Tonu & Koa – Project Proposal


Tonu and Koa have invested their lives in the transformative power of indigenous and regenerative art. Together they have created thousands of pieces, created countless projects, and transformed people’s lives. This work is more important than ever as the world faces crises of leadership in social, environmental, and economic arenas. Tonu and Koa are on the cusp of a new phase of their work by collaborating with the University of Hawaii and the Living Treasures project, which aims to protect and preserve indigenous culture and honor the elders who carry these traditions in their very being.

Although their catalog of projects is prolific, Tonu and Koa lack a way to convey the profound scope of their body of work. Their serendipitous and spontaneous interactions have not been documented in such a way to cohesively document the arc of their vocation as artists. They have little to no online presence, and there’s not a collection of stories that demonstrate the impact of their work. While their personal presence is impactful, they need a succinct way to tell their story to a wider audience.

A risk in this area is the tendency to tokenize indigenous people and culture. Other attempts to launch this project have been affected by the content creators’ alternative, and sometimes hidden, agendas. Tonu and Koa need to have creative control over how their story is told. It needs to be told in their own voice.

However, the scope of the project is large, and requires focused attention. Gathering the threads of their story and telling it with clarity and authenticity depends on the organizational skills to collect the information, writing skills to create the literary narrative, and technical skills to build a website and launch a podcast. This is a proposal to do just that.

The project has at least three distinct sub-projects: a book, a website, and a podcast. Each of these can be done individually or in parallel. The web-based of the projects can be done quickly, with several minor milestones that each stand on their own. The book project will take dedicated focused effort over an extended period before a final product is ready to launch, but it will be a tangible object that can be printed and distributed. In addition, there are optional promotional projects (creating a newsletter, social medial outreach) that can be added to extend the reach and impact, particularly of the web-based projects.

I have the skills to complete all of these aspects of the project. I have written extensively, and am in the final stages of publishing my own book on Buddhist philosophy. I have created several websites, and continue to consult on web development and internet marketing projects. I have half-time availability to work on the project for at least the next 3 years. And, most importantly, I value Tonu and Koa’s work, and my intention is to showcase them in their own words, giving them ultimate final say in how they are portrayed.

Book Project

The book is the largest and longest aspect of the overall project. Optimistically it could be completed in some form in approximately one year. Realistically, particularly to flesh the book out with additional research and interviews, would take approximately 3 years.

I envision the book to tell the story of the Alaskan Yellow Cedar, including it’s ecology, harvesting, and the many transitions the wood went through up to the present day and into the future. The many different pieces carved by Tonu and Koa each have their own amazing story about the impact of art. And it serves as the pivot point launching the next phase of their career as thrones for the Living Treasures project.

Phase I – Interviews

Recording extensive audio interviews with Tonu and Koa telling their story. Transcribing the interviews into text form.

Time frame: 3-4 months, depending on the length of interviews, and use of automated or outsourced transcription.

Phase II – Outline & pre-writing

Organizing the content of the interviews and structuring the text into narrative form. Assessing how much additional research and interviews are needed.

Time frame: 6-8 months

Phase III – Additional research and interviews

Researching stories—historical, ecological, and cultural—that build out the literary scope of the book. Additional interviews with Tonu and Koa to add detail. Tracking down and interviewing other people who are characters in the story. Transcribing interviews. Writing.

Time frame: 8-12 months

Phase IV – Rough draft

Extensive writing to create a full draft of the text.

Time frame: 6-8 months

Phase V – Revising and final draft

Sharing draft with readers for feedback. Revising the book for clarity and style.

Time frame: 6-8 months

Phase VI – Publishing

Layout, adding photos, planning for publication and launch.

Time frame: 3-6 months, depending on how much layout needs to be done.


Phase I – Build the basic site

I would build a WordPress based website. I would register the domain ($20/year) and host the website ($50/year for simple hosting, $400/year for robust, scalable hosting). Use a customized stock template to begin with, and we could do a larger redesign later as needed. The website would have an About section, a photo gallery, and contact information; possibly an events calendar.

Time frame: 1 – 2 months

Phase II – Blog

Collect short stories and essays. These could be excerpts or pre-writing from the book. We could invite other people to write short pieces on how the art has impacted them. Each of these can stand alone, or we can collect several pieces and release them gradually over time. Ideally has ongoing maintenance to add new blog entries.

Time frame: 1 – 2 months, ongoing

Phase III – Interactive map

Create an interactive map with pins for the location of art pieces, large and small. Each pin would link to a story with more information about that piece. This could be done in lieu of a blog.

Time frame: 3 months to build customized interactions and troubleshoot, ongoing collection of new entries

Optional – Newsletter and email list

Set up a newsletter service. Create opt-in on the website. Then gradually build the list of people to send announcements to.

Time frame: 1 month, ongoing

Optional – Social media presence

Set up Facebook page and Instagram feed. Requires ongoing maintenance.

Time frame: 1 month, ongoing


This would be built onto the website. Recording interviews with Tonu and Koa, and also anyone else who has been impacted by their art. Interviews could be done online to facilitate long-distance conversations. Interviews would be packaged as podcast episodes and published via the website, and listed in major podcast directories. Requires ongoing attention and maintenance to create new episodes.

Time frame: 3 months, ongoing.


My availability is 20 hours per week ongoing beginning in mid-August. I would like to receive $2000/month retainer.

We can discuss which of these projects are the priority for you, and if you want to do more than one, we can discuss what is the best order to do them in. Some may have an impact on a shorter timeframe, while others take longer to see the results. Details can be negotiated, and you’ll always have final say over the outcome of the project.