What a difference just four decades can make! In 1983, fewer than 50 haumāna spoke ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Our beloved language was on the brink of extinction, a consequence of discriminatory suppression after the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.
Fast forward to today, where ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has enjoyed a notable resurgence, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of educators and activists. When the State of Hawaiʻi deemed February as Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi in 2013, the recognition further encouraged and increased public awareness of the native language. Now, there are over 26,000 self-identified ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi speakers, with 3,380 students currently enrolled in 28 kaiapuni schools! Additionally, there are more than 798,000 users learning Hawaiian on the language app Duolingo!
In a 1918 letter to the editor of Nupepa Kuokoa, one reader asks “is it right to neglect our mother tongue?”
At Kamehameha Schools, we know that a robust connection to Hawaiian culture fortifies the well-being of our haumāna. It is when students are confident and empowered in their Hawaiian identity that they can truly thrive. This is why we celebrate Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi – it is a reminder of the importance of perpetuating Hawaiian culture and an opportunity for us to celebrate the resilience and beauty of our heritage.
Throughout the month of Pepeluali, you will have many chances to learn ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and connect with learners.
Since 2020, Ola Ka ʻĪ events (meaning “The Language Thrives”) have popped up across the islands, inviting the public to celebrate Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi with educational activities, entertainment, games and speech competitions. With enjoyment for the whole ʻohana, find a gathering near you! Our next CreativeMornings Honolulu event will celebrate Hawaiian culture and language on February 23 at 8:30 a.m. at SALT at Our Kakaʻako.
You will also encounter ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi at your local town centers like SALT, Kapālama Kai, Kahala Mall and Windward Mall, all on ʻĀina Pauahi. Look for translated sayings throughout these centers and practice them during your next outing.
E ola mau ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi! – Long live the Hawaiian language!
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