Episode 9: Hawaii
Director: Tracey Deer
“Perhaps just like anything that starts off brand new, it gets difficult at times…But…in the face of every obstacle, every problem, we never gave up… we had the next generation in mind. The benefits are for them, not just for those of us in the here and the now.” - Kalena Silva, director Ke’elikolani College of Hawaiian Language
The once banned Hawaiian language is now the only indigenous language officially recognized by any state in the United States. This recognition paved the way for a complete education in the Hawaiian language. From early childhood education to post-graduate studies, Hawaiians may choose to complete their full education in the Hawaiian language.
“It’s gonna be worth it for them (my children). And because of them that’s what drew me into learning the language. Being the mother that didn’t know nothing and couldn’t help and having her child correct her. What parent wants that?”- Kealohanui Kelekahi, mother
A ninety-year ban on teaching Hawaiian in the school system left the language in a weakened state. In 1983, with few children capable of speaking the language, a group of parents created Punana Leo, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing Hawaiian. Today, there are 11 language nests for infants and toddlers and 21 public Hawaiian immersion schools from kindergarten to high school located throughout the islands. Mother Kealohanui Kelekahi shares the story of her decision to relocate so that her daughters could attend an immersion school and learn the Hawaiian language and culture.
“It is a great responsibility to help preserve the spirit and life of the people. That’s why I got into this.” - Hiapo Perreira, assistant professor & doctoral candidate
From early childhood education to post-graduate studies, Hawaiians may choose to complete their full education in the Hawaiian language. The University of Hawaii in Hilo offers over 50 different courses divided between Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies. And for those without the time to attend a Hawaiian language course at school, there is Niuolahiki, online language classes.
“Through this program, the importance of the language will be seen and the number of speakers will grow. There is hope.” - Amy Kalili, host of Aha’i ‘Olelo Ola news segment
Today, Hawaiian is heard on a main television broadcaster in the form of a daily news segment in the Hawaiian language. Aha’i ‘Olelo Ola was first aired on KGMB9, Hawaii’s oldest television broadcaster, in January 2008. The program was initially a one-week venture to help raise awareness of the 25th anniversary of Punana Leo, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the Hawaiian language. But community feedback was so positive that the segment remained a permanent part of the station’s morning show.