East Hawaii News

UH-Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani Awarded Ford Grant

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The University of Hawa’i Foundation has been awarded a $190,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to assist the University of Hawai’i at Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, along with two other language projects.

Usually, the Ford Foundation doesn’t support language programs, but because of the overall success of  UH-Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, a one-time grant opportunity was made. The program is known for its renowned language revitalization success.

UH-Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani follows the mission of seeking revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture and to aid other indigenous people who wish to revitalize their own endangered languages and cultures.

“While the college’s efforts have helped lead to the reestablishment of Hawaiian as a living language, the flourishing of Hawaiian art forms, and an increase in cultural identity and pride – much more needs to be accomplished to increase the number of language and culture bearers for the 21st century. This grant recognizes the best practice that can be helpful to other involved with language and culture revitalization,” said Roberta Uno, Senior Program Officer for Arts and Culture at the Ford Foundation.


Director of UH-Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani program, Keiki Kawai’ae’a said, “We are grateful to Roberta and the Ford Foundation for the opportunity to bring together significant work of three important colleagues in Hawai’i.”

The grandfather of the Hawaiian language, Dr. Larry Kimura of UH Hilo’s Ka Hala ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani program, is interested in composing a digital library of Native Hawaiian audio speech behavior samples. These samples, he says, will promote native-like acquisition for Hawaiian second-language learners.

“This grant will enable a start in editing over 550 hours of audio interview recordings that I documented from among Hawai’i’s last fluent native Hawaiian speakers over a sixteen-year period from 1972 to 1988,” Kimura said. “The editing process renders a more pragmatic electronic library of audio selections regarding Hawaiian culture knowledge on a wide range of subjects and a rich register of traditional Hawaiian first language behavior relevant to Hawaiian language and culture classes taught through the medium of Hawaiian. The utilization of this invaluable audio documentation of Hawaiian voice reconnects and rejuvenates new fluent Hawaiian speakers to a higher level of Hawaiian language ability. With the regeneration of strong speakers of Hawaiian, a more vibrant Hawai’i prospers rooted in its own unique language and way of life.”


Two additional projects, Mauiakama and Miuolahiki will receive part of the funding.

Mauiakama is a project of Dr. Kapa Oliveira of the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the Univerisity of Manoa and Kahele Dukelow and Kaleikoa Ka’eo of the University of Hawai’i at Maui College. The project aims to increase Hawaiian language proficiency and engagement by being exposed to traditional Hawaiian sustainability practices, including hands-on place-based fishing, farming, and food preparation, engaging in conversations with native speakers of Hawaiian, and teaching key Hawaiian studies concepts and the significance of Hawaiian Cultural sites throughout Maui.

A collaborative UH-Hilo project with ‘Alika McNicoll of ‘Aha Punana, Niuolahiki is creating content for 40 e-books. These are in addition to the designing and production of print books for students participating in Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani. Niuolahiki extends its culturally-footed language program throughout the world through distance learning, with students throughout Hawai’i, the continental United States, South America, Europe, and Asia.


“Saving languages is part of our knowledge pool. Language contains the way we see the world knowledge that has been created by that specific group, knowledge that is unique to any other place in the world. It connects us to our identity of who we are and where we come from. Lost the language and you lose the culture, the knowledge pool, and that way of seeing and being in the world,” Kaiwai’ae’a explained.

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