HONOLULU (Feb. 23, 2017) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) posted its first board agenda in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and English, marking the beginning of a new pilot project to publish board agendas in both co-official languages of the state.
“This represents our commitment to normalizing ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi in our daily lives,” said OHA Chair Colette Y. Machado. “ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi was once spoken by nearly everyone in Hawaiʻi – not just in homes, but also in school, in government, and in business. As the language was removed from these venues it almost vanished. The only way to fully revive ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi is to reintroduce it to these spaces.”
The agenda for today’s Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment Committee, which is one of two standing committees of the OHA board, was posted in both Hawaiian and English. OHA’s new pilot project aims to incorporate both languages into agendas for the Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment Committee, and eventually for the full board and its other standing committee, the Resource Management Committee.
“This is an important step forward to give real meaning to the 1978 amendments to the state constitution recognizing the Hawaiian language as one of the two official languages of the state,” said Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe. “And this effort is timely considering that state law also recognizes Pepeluali (February) as Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Language Month).”
While once spoken throughout Hawaiʻi by Native Hawaiians and foreigners alike, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi was considered to be nearly extinct by the 1980s, when fewer than 50 fluent speakers under the age of eighteen remained. A major reason for the deterioration of the Hawaiian language was an 1896 law that required English instruction in Hawaiʻi schools. In practice, this law functioned to “ban” students from speaking ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi at their schools.
Efforts to preserve the language over the years have included ʻAha Pūnana Leo’s Hawaiian language immersion preschools, the Department of Education’s Hawaiian language immersion program and the Hawaiian language programs of the University of Hawaiʻi system.
In 2013, Hawaiian language advocates and OHA asked the Legislature to pass a law permanently naming February as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Mahina. The law – Act 28 – became the first to be published in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi since a 1943 law repealed a statute that required laws to be published in Hawaiian.
OHA board agendas are available online at www.oha.org/trustees.
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