Resolution seeks to add more Native Hawaiian culture, language to Hawai‘i County Council invocations

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A measure to allow more Native Hawaiian culture and ʻōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) to be part of the Hawaiʻi County Council’s regular meeting proceedings has taken a step forward.

Resolution 391, introduced by Council Chairwoman Heather Kimball, received a 9-0 favorable recommendation on Tuesday from the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations and External Affairs.

The measure seeks to incorporate Hawaiian language and cultural practices into council meetings by adding kahu and kumu to the list of who can perform the invocation. Kahu is a person in a position of responsibility or authority in Native Hawaiian culture such as an ʻāina steward, spiritual leader or cultural practitioner. And kumu is a teacher of Native Hawaiian cultural practices.

A prayer is offered before calling the council’s regular sessions to order. Invocations now are given by a minister, or church leader, who is approved by the council chairperson. The invocation also is non-denominational.


February is Mahina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian Language Month, which celebrates and encourages the use of the Hawaiian language. In observance, Kimball was thinking about who could provide an invocation next month.

She introduced Resolution 391 after being reminded by Council Services, a division within the Office of the County Clerk that supports Council proceedings, that according to the current rule only ministers can deliver the pre-meeting blessings.

“It seems crazy to me that we couldn’t bring a kahu or a kumu in to do that invocation for us,” Kimball said.


Given actions the council has taken in the past to support Native Hawaiian culture and language, Council Vice Chairman Holeka Inaba was “grateful to Council Chair Kimball for bringing this forward and creating this avenue for future ʻōlelo Hawai‘i to live here at the Council.”

Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas said: “As somebody who sees spirituality and our connection to the divine, especially as it relates to cultural practices and the rejuvenation, regeneration and reconnection to our host culture and the cultural practices here, this just really hits home for me.”

Committee Chairwoman Sue Lee Loy said many of the meetings she attends on the mainland no longer include a prayer. Instead, their invocations are more words of inspiration. She said perhaps changing the rule to include more than just prayer could be fitting.


The resolution now heads to the Jan. 24 regular Council meeting for final approval.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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