A documentary produced by KS Kapālama haumāna Liʻua Tengan KSK’21 was one of 35 student films featured as part of the prestigious online Smithsonian National Showcase held in commemoration of National History Day.
Tengan’s 10-minute documentary, entitled, “Hoʻi ka ʻŌlelo: The Revitalization of Hawaiian Language in the Education System,” details the history of the suppression and resurgence of the Hawaiian language in Hawaiʻi’s public schools.
The Hawaiian language was banned as an instructional language in 1896. It took more than 80 years for the Hawaiʻi constitution to be amended to allow the state to promote the study of Hawaiian history, culture and language in schools.
“To destroy a people, get rid of their language,” said Tengan in her narration of the documentary. “Language is both a means of communication and a carrier of the culture. For many families, genealogies and stories were passed down through oral history. When you take away the language, you take away identity and culture.”
The film also highlights the critical roles played by KS alumni Ilei Beniamina KSK’74, Kauanoe Kamanā KSK’69, Larry Kimura KSK’64, No‘eau Warner KSK’72 and others in advocating for the creation of Hawaiian immersion preschools and public charter schools.
The theme for this year’s National History Day is breaking barriers. “I hope that viewers learn that it was a struggle – and that it really took lots of time and effort to get the programs running," she said.
It took Tengan six months to conduct research, interview subjects, write and edit the documentary under the guidance of KSK social studies kumu Sarah Razee. The student filmmaker is the daughter of Ty Tengan KSK’93, associate professor of ethnic studies and anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
“Part of the documentary is also talking about contemporary struggles still happening to normalize Hawaiian in the DOE system and throughout society,” said professor Tengan. “We still have a long way to go.”