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Pūnana Leo O Maui Celebrates 32 Years of Hawaiian Language at Ho‘omau 2019

March 12, 2019, 1:38 PM HST · Updated March 29, 6:29 PM
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Pūnana Leo o Maui’s parent group, Nā Leo Pūlama o Maui, is inviting the public to attend the 32nd annual Ho‘omau on Saturday, March 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. Widely known as Maui’s largest celebration of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, or Hawaiian language, the event will include Hawaiian entertainment, cultural demonstrations, craft vendors, a silent auction, ‘awa booths, keiki games and activities, ‘ono food, and performances from more than 700 Hawaiian medium education students.

“This is one of our favorite events of the year because it brings all Maui HME schools together to promote ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i,” Pūnana Leo o Hāna site coordinator Kaimana Cabebe said. “Up until a few decades ago, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i was an endangered language, with only 30 keiki under the age of 18 able to speak ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. With the growth of HME programs and opportunities over the years, there are now thousands of keiki across the state who are fluent in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.”

The Hawaiian entertainment lineup will feature Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winners and Hawaiian immersion supporters including Kūikawā, Hālau Kamaluokaleihulu, ʻAhumanu, Mark Yamanaka, Blayne Asing, Amy Hānaialiʻi Giliiom, Manaʻo Company, and Sudden Rush. The students of Pūnana Leo o Maui, Pūnana Leo o Hāna, Pūnana Leo o Lahaina, and Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Maui will open the day with a series of Hawaiian mele, or songs, realating to this year’s theme. The theme for this yearʻs event is Mai paʻa i ka leo, kū ʻalalā a wawā!, which translates as, Do not withhold the voice, resemble the crow and let it echo!

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Pūnana Leo o Maui is a culture-based learning environment that aims to provide preschoolers with a quality early childhood education entirely through the Hawaiian language. Students learn to speak Hawaiian within just three to four months while also developing social, intellectual, and perceptual motor skills through hands-on learning. These keiki also learn different mele and hula dances, which they perform at the annual Maui County Fair and opening ceremonies at the Old Lāhaina Lū‘au Makahiki Festival. In addition, the keiki and their families participate in traditional Hawaiian activities, including food preparation, kapa making, and limu growing with various organizations like Paeloko and Nohoʻana farms.

Pūnana Leo parents are expected to participate in hui kīpaepae weekly language and culture classes, lā ‘ohana family days, and other activities to encourage learning ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i at home. Pūnana Leo o Maui parents also recently formed Nā Leo Pūlama o Maui, a non-profit group to work toward establishing a Pūnana Leo family language resource center in Wailuku.

The school first opened its doors in 1987 and began educating a mere dozen students. Thirty years later, the Hawaiian immersion preschool now has an annual enrollment of 30 students. The preschool has graduated over 650 students over the years, many of whom have continued on to Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Maui, the Hawaiian immersion program within the Department of Education system.

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“As a Pūnana Leo Maui graduate, I can say without question that this papahana, program, has formed my kahua, foundation, and identity,” Pūnana Leo parent Kaimanamālie Lee Brummel said. “However, now that I am a makua, parent, of a student, I fully understand the breadth and depth of what Pūnana Leo offers – a place where entire families learn and grow in the ‘ike ku‘una Hawai‘i, or traditional Hawaiian Knowledge, of our kūpuna, elders.”

The funds raised at Ho‘omau will support Pūnana Leo o Maui student scholarships, quarterly lā ‘ohana, or family gatherings, provide additional educational classroom materials, as well as teacher professional development needs. Proceeds from Ho‘omau will support HME schools and growing their Hawaiian language programs and initiatives.

Tickets cost $15 presale and $20 at the gate. Children 10 years old and younger will be offered free admission. Tickets are available through Pūnana Leo O Maui’s school and parents, all Minit Stop locations, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Native Intelligence, and the Kanilehua shop at the Queen Kaʻahumanu Center. More information on Hoʻomau 2019 is available by contacting Kahu Kili Nāmau‘u at (808) 244-5676 or online

Enrollment is now open for Pūnana Leo preschools for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year starting Aug. 5, 2019 through June 19, 2020. Families with keiki from ages two-years and eight months to six-years old are encouraged to apply. More information about Pūnana Leo preschools, as well as the application, is available online. The enrollment deadline is April 15.

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