E ola ka olelo Hawaii

2019 was declared by the United Nations as the International Indigenous Year of Languages. This declaration is to help “raise awareness of languages, not only to benefit the people who speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make for our world’s rich cultural diversity.” Language is a verbal expression of cultural beliefs, memories, and traditions and is the foundation for Indigenous peoples.

Like many Indigenous languages around the world,  ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi has a history of suppression. Following the overthrow of their kingdom, Native Hawaiians became a minority in their own homeland, marginalized in the new political economy. By 1898 kānaka maoli were punished for speaking their native language. Generations of Hawaiians unable to pass on their knowledge to their children, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi became an endangered language. Without Hawaiian expression, the Hawaiian way of thriving as a lāhui was dramatically disrupted.  Added to depopulation and loss of lands, this led to cultural conflict and despair, causing loss of cultural and health practices.

In the 1970s, the Hawaiian language revitalization movement began. With perseverance, determination, and mana instilled by their kūpuna, the leaders of the movement nurtured our endangered language to strengthen and grow. Today, there are 12 Pūnana Leo preschools and 21 Hawaiian immersion and Hawaiian medium education schools statewide. The University of Hawaiʻi system offers college degrees in Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian medium education. 

 Click on image to view:  ʻĀhaʻi ʻŌlelo Ola: ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: A Brief History


ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi was recognized as one of two official state languages in Hawaiʻi, and in 2012, an amendment to the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes § 8-24 provided that the month of February be designated as “ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Month”. This measure was the first Act to be codified in Hawaiian and English, and stated: “Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: E ʻike mau a e kapa ʻia ana aʻe ka mahina ʻo Pepeluali ʻo ia ka ‘Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi’ i mea e hoʻomaikaʻi a e paipai aku ai i ka ʻōlelo ʻana o ua ʻōlelo Makuahine nei lā.”

The month of February shall be known and designated as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Month to celebrate and encourage the use of Hawaiian language.

In honor of “Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi” and the United Nations’ Year of the Indigenous Languages, Papa Ola Lōkahi will be sharing messages that highlight ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian well-being.  POL has also launched a trimonthly Hawaiian language class for the Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems across the pae ʻāina.

E ola ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i  ~  The Hawaiian language shall live

 ~ Nāpua Casson

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