E Ola Ka Olelo Hawaii The Hawaiian language Shall Live

It took place slowly, over years. It was well-organized and had a very lofty goal in mind. It took schemes that made it look like they were your most trusted friend. In the end it worked. January 17, 1893 Queen Liliuokalani the last reigning monarch of Hawaii had been removed from her throne, the islands of Hawaii had been annexed to the United States and with much sorrow and grieving the Hawaiian flag had been lowered and the Stars and Stripes raised to take its place.

To make sure that the future of Hawaii did not remain Hawaiian the language was banned in 1896. Now this was not to say it was banned at home or the streets but it was banned in the schools. Children were punished if they spoke their native language in class or were caught speaking it on the playground.

Some say the parents refused to speak the Hawaiian language to the children because they wanted them to learn how to become a part of the new society that was taking over the islands. I can only speak from my experience with my parents. My parents spoke Spanish. In the 1950’s there was much prejudice against the Spanish and others in San Francisco where I lived. My parents fear of me experiencing any type of physical backlash for my ethnicity  caused them to only speak Spanish to each other. I was not allowed to talk about anything that was not American, such as what we ate or celebrated. My mother wanted me to be American so that I would be safe.

I believe this would have been true also of the Hawaiian families in the past. One of the drawbacks of doing this is a sense of shame. I felt this all through my younger years because of this ban my mother had put on me and many Hawaiians had felt this too. The Americans were successful in making their way of life to seem the superior.

Through much work a group of Hawaiian people were successful in the 1970’s to get that ban taken off the books. Of course by then there were very few people who spoke the Hawaiian language. But by 1978 it was now made the official language of the state. In 1995 Hawaiian Immersion schools started to spring up. Children started from preschool and now can go all the way into college speaking and learning the language and culture.

I’m very happy to say that two of my grandchildren are in a Hawaiian Immersion school and once a year I look forward to the opportunity to attend what is called  “La Kupuna Day” where all of the elders in the students families are honored. This is in keeping with the Hawaiian tradition that looks on the elders as very valuable educators. The Hawaiians did not look on their older people as doddering old fools or always giving unwanted advise. They looked to them as those who could draw from their years of experience and impart wise advise. Hence La Kupuna Day.

And so the day begins.


In the Valley of Palolo in Honolulu is one of the Hawaiian Immersion schools called Ke Kula Kaiapuni O Anuenue. (Hawaiian Surrounding Environment School of the Rainbow.)

According to the school guidelines; “The school serves two important missions. First is to help the students learn to the best of their ability. Second is to preserve the Hawaiian language and culture and to maintain those things that make Hawai’i, Hawai’i.”

The students are all seated in their chairs outside waiting for their Kupuna to arrive. The program begins with the honoring of the family by giving them leis. Each studentʻs Kupuna is named and the student then goes and gives us leis.

Isn’t he adorable? I just had to have his photo

Here he is giving his grandmother a lei

We have just received leis from our grandchildren

Then the children entertained us with dance and music

Even my grandson and his class danced hula for us

The Hawaiian language is everywhere throughout the school. This sign tells the children what is proper when using the bathroom. At the top of the list is to remember to speak Hawaiian.

As well as the language the culture is being revived. This is called a Loʻi. Taro, the main staple of the Hawaiian people is grown here by the children who then make poi from it. And let me tell you, tasting fresh made poi makes all the difference in the world.

The Taro Plant

The taro plant was not just a root that the Hawaiians ate. It was their family. It gave them life. Indeed poi has just about every thing you need to maintain perfect health. The plant was also planted in groupings like a family. When planted in this way the leaves grow big and strong. When planted by itself they are smaller.

It is such an honor to be a part of this “family” in this school. To be thought of so highly and honored this way. My only hope is that these children will be able to bring their culture back. Then and only then will the world know what the “Aloha Spirit” really is.

May these schools thrive and prosper.

For a bit more information on the language and overthrow (http://coffeetimes.com/language.htm)

10 comments on “E Ola Ka Olelo Hawaii The Hawaiian language Shall Live

  1. ÇAĞATAY says:

    Summer has come to my country.

    Blog could not look for a long time.

    I wish you good day.


    • I’m sorry Cagatay, I’ve not had time to do research and when I try to do a simple blog I get carried away. I’ll try to get something out this weekend. Hopefully it will be on the Heiau’s, the temples of the Hawaiian priest (Kahuna)


  2. Sartenada says:

    Great photos. It is important that Hawaiin language is being preserved. Language is a key to traditions!!!

    To us Finnish people Hawaiian language is easy to pronounce and read. It has many words which are Finnish, but not having the same meaning.

    When I was on the island of Oahu in the 70ties, I was impressed from the word Kalakaua Avenue. When adding two P: s, then it is Finnish word Kalakauppa. That means in English Fishmonger. Another example is found in Your answer to Sheila. The word Puna is Finnish and means red. In one of Your photo reads the word Lumi meaning in English Snow.

    Thank You for this interesting post.


  3. Gorgeous photos and it is fantastic to see the language and culture flourishing, we lose so much when one culture takes over and suppresses another.


    • Thank you for dropping by. I think one of the best things I’ve seen brought back is the ancient hula. Tourist think it is grass skirts and hula hands but it is so much more and so thrilling to see in those ancient styles of dress. I’ll have to try and do more on that one day.


  4. Janice says:

    What a beautiful day, and lovely photos Karen. I agree that it is so important to bring back language and culture, and for these young people to be proud of who they are and where they come from. Being interested in language and culture myself (I’m currently doing a modern language degree, specialising in French and Spanish with some linguistics thrown in) I know of lots of examples of ‘minority’ languages that have been driven to near extinction and are now resurging. In Franco’s Spain the regional languages of Catalan, Basque, etc were forbidden, just as Hawaiian was. In Wales, and formerly in Ireland too. It’s a by-product of empire. Luckily, your grandchildren are the beneficiaries of today’s philosophy and practice, whereas you were cut off from a huge part of your own culture and heritage by very well-meaning parents who wanted the best for you and knew that then, this meant behaving and becoming American.


    • I just canʻt believe all the things you are involved in. You must be so organized. Yes, without language you loose your culture. Iʻm just happy there is a resurgence. Thank you for taking the time to look in.


  5. May they thrive and prosper, indeed! Thanks, Karen, for the background information and wonderful photos – and the dose of awareness!


    • Isn’t it interesting how little we know about things around us until we experience them. I was very surprised about the language when I started at the museum. I was even more shocked when I was at my grandsonʻs first Punanaleo (preschool language nest) and found out that the language ban was still on the books in the 1970’s.

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you looking in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s