College of Hawaiian Language Marks New Chapter

February 16, 2011, 5:30 AM HST · Updated February 16, 7:49 AM
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By Wendy Osher

The Kualono service was developed by the University of Hawai'i at Hilo in 1995 to service Hawaiian language speaking communities world-wide.

A blessing and groundbreaking ceremony was held over the weekend for the first phase of a permanent facility to house programs and operations for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke’elikolani College of Hawaiian Language.

The project is made possible through a $28 million appropriation during the last legislative session to initiate construction. Plans for a building to house the University’s expanding Hawaiian Studies programs, was identified as a need more than 20 years ago. Director Kalena Silva said the new 37,000 square foot building will not only address the college’s growing pains but lay a foundation for the future.

“We also look forward to raising our profile on the international stage by hosting gatherings with indigenous people who look at our programs as potential models for language revitalization in their communities,” said Silva.

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The new two-story structure will be situated on a three acre parcel on Nowelo Street, near the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. Plans call for six classrooms, a Performing Arts Auditorium, a library, media resource room, and computer lab. Construction is slated for completion in 2012.

The opening ceremonies included a genealogical presentation of native speakers from different districts of Hawaii Island, who assisted in teaching Hawaiian language at UH Hilo and Hawaii Community College, beginning in 1960. Lydia Makuakane, the eldest living of the group, led a procession to the groundbreaking site at the piko, or central core of the parcel, where rocks from the site’s four corners were blessed.

“This building promises to be both functional and extraordinarily beautiful, with profound symbolic and spiritual elements,” said Chancellor Donald Straney. “It’s a building to match the quality of the programs offered by the College of Hawaiian Language,” said Straney.

(Supporting information courtesy the University of Hawaii)

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