“Every month, every day, every conversation is an opportunity to use the language of our kupuna." - Kaleo Wong, Kauluakalana
Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi or Hawaiian Language Month is celebrated in hopes to raise awareness about the importance of preserving and revitalizing the Hawaiian language. This annual event serves as a reminder of the resilience of the Hawaiian people and their ongoing efforts to reclaim, revive, and celebrate their language and culture.
Keiki weeding kalo in Kailua, Oʻahu; Kauluakalana’s Ka Pahuhopu Summer Program (2022); Picture captured by Shylah Soon
The Hawaiian language is currently on the verge of extinction in our society, therefore, with Hawaiian Language Month at hand, it is an important time to honor the past, celebrate the present, and embrace the future use of this indigenous language and its cultural significance.
In this blog post, we will further discuss the detriment done to the Hawaiian language and the ways in which many are trying to restore its usage, importance, and meaning within the community.
The first printed Hawaiian alphabet
The History of Hawaiian Language
Hawaiian language has been continuously declining ever since the introduction of colonization, which brought suppression, and the imposition of foreign languages. By the 19th century, alongside the overthrow of Hawaiʻi (in 1893), western influences stressed the importance of English and made it the dominant and prioritized language in schools greatly disserving future generations of Native Hawaiians. It was evident that the Hawaiian language was in danger of extinction back then, and now it is affecting us all today. Recognizing this, efforts were made in an attempt to revitalize the language and culture. The establishment of Hawaiian language immersion education programs such as Punana Leo in the 80s, and nonprofit organizations like Kauluakalana in 2019 has helped to educate the community in cultural practices and the use of language. They are also significant pillars that reinforce and sustain Hawaiian language users and speakers today.
The Importance of Hawaiian Language
Hawaiian language and Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi in a holistic sense serves a great purpose within the Native Hawaiian community. Not only does it create a supportive framework for cultural revitalization, it fosters a connection to land and the environment. Through the use of this language, Native Hawaiians can express their reverence for the land, sea, plants, and animals in addition to traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable practices. This allows for the opportunity to transmit ancient knowledge of their ancestors to the next generation; something that was stripped away in schooling policies of the 19th century. Hawaiian language also reveals its importance through valuable wisdom, teachings, and cultural practices that were once performed by those who came before. Through strenuous efforts, language revitalization continues to empower the Native Hawaiian community to reclaim control over their cultural narrative and shape their own future.
Two ʻōpio harvesting kalo near Kawainui, Kailua; Kauluakalana’s Ka Pahuhopu Summer Program (2022); Picture captured by Shylah Soon
Hawaiian Language Today
Hawaiian Language can be self-taught or applied in many different everyday cases. Signing up for community service workshops that involve the use of Hawaiian language is a good way to start. In fact, YouTube also has many free and available videos that incorporate examples for people to practice pronunciations and conversational phrases. The online dictionary of https://wehewehe.org/ is another easily accessible way for people to discover Hawaiian words. In addition, specific products with the use Hawaiian can also be found on the Hawaiiverse online store by searching up the phrase “Hawaiian Language Month.” Here are a few of many products that you can find!
Weekly calendar/notepad with the Hawaiian words for each day, week, and month to familiarize yourself with. This is a good way to learn and educate yourself with some Hawaiian words as this product is intended to be viewed daily and weekly.
A very well-designed sticker that can be used and placed anywhere, especially on water bottles like this one! It directly translates to “the Hawaiian Language shall live!” A great product to start off Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.
A book series of Hawaiian gods and goddesses with stories that are deeply connected to Hawaiian culture. The stories are not written fluently in Hawaiian, but it still uses Hawaiian words and names that are good for familiarity and educational knowledge. Kamapuaʻa is definitely one of my favorites! You can find other stories on our Hawaiiverse online store.
If you would also like to support many of our other Native Hawaiian businesses during Hawaiian Language Month and discover the amazing products that they produce, please navigate directly to our Business Brand Page. Our local brands have a variety of products that can fit all of your needs so don’t hesitate to check them out!
Kauluakalana and their various cultural activites with keiki during the Ka Pahuhopu Summer Program (2022); Kailua, Oʻahu; Pictures captured by Shylah Soon
While Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is a positive, empowering movement, it also serves as a bittersweet reminder of how the Hawaiian language, culture, and people suffered in past times due to colonization. Founder of nonprofit Kauluakalana, Kaleo Wong, says that “every month, every day, every conversation is an opportunity to use the language of our kupuna. The designation of February as Hawaiian Language Month is a reminder to us all of our kuleana to learn, speak, and normalize our language of our homeland.”
Many people like Kaleo Wong believe that language is integral to the heritage of the Native Hawaiian people and will bring us all back together. Throughout this month-long celebration we stand alongside the Hawaiian community and encourage you all to honor, embrace, and promote the importance and beauty of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.
Written by: Shylah Soon