This week in keeping with Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawai’i, our Education & Training Assistant Kamaka’ike Bruecher shares her journey.
We are each on our own journey.
I grew up speaking English in Seattle Washington, not knowing much about my family history or culture. When I attended summer immersion camp between grades 5 and 9, I was taught that as young Hawaiians we are part of an age of revitalization and our kuleana is to continue taking care of our language, culture, homeland, and communities. I became more familiar with ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi by learning phrases, words, oli, and mele. After immersion camp sessions ended, I told my Tūtū that I wished to keep learning our language. She was very pleased, and so she gave me all she could.
Tūtū gave me Hawaiian language books, and stories of how she grew up with five generations of our family speaking Hawaiian in our ʻāina kulāiwi. She gave me time to practice speaking with her, and recollection of going to community college in old age to practice Hawaiian with students. She gave me corrections to my many mistakes, and encouragement to keep learning and practicing. I am not yet fluent, but I am on my language journey and thankful for all who have been a part of it or are on their own.
In Washington, there are not many opportunities to learn Hawaiian in person. There are many places Hawaiians are present in the diaspora including hālau hula, hui wa‘a, and cultural festivals. Language classes and resources, however, are not as accessible, so often times people turn to the world wide web to learn. Today it is the internet that keeps us connected. I have met other people who have been learning away from our islands, because no matter where in the world we are, we believe that it is our responsibility to keep our language alive. It takes all of us, everywhere, unashamed, to practice little by little and make our way back into our language together.
Learning our native language is not just about keeping our culture and values alive – it is a way of intergenerational healing. We speak Hawaiian for those who were not able to before us, and for the many who will speak into the future. From my Tūtū’s smile when I ask how her day was, to my mother’s pride in the new words she learns, from practicing oli in the car with my cousins, to the words that will some day flow from my keiki’s mouths with ease.
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi belongs in our families and communities.
We are all on our own journey, but we are also part of a journey together.
~ Kamakaʻike Bruecher