Hawaiian Language Bills Advance

March 23, 2017, 3:08 PM HST · Updated March 23, 3:36 PM
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Hawaiian language students at Kamehameha School Maui created labels for many products at Pukalani Superette, in the hopes of providing a fun way for the community to learn Hawaiian words.  Today, three bills supporting the Hawaiian language advanced out of the House Higher Education Committee.

Three bills critical to supporting the use of the Hawaiian language in the state educational system passed the House Higher Education Committee this week.

Committee Chair Angus McKelvey (10th District, West Maui, Māʻalaea, and North Kīhei) said these bills, which received overwhelming community support, recognize that traditional Hawaiian culture encouraged the concept of life-long learning.

“These Hawaiian language bills help to create real opportunities for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in our educational system,” said McKelvey. “These measures support the continuing revitalization of the Hawaiian language and classroom instruction in Hawaiian throughout the University of Hawaiʻi system including UH Maui College.”

ʻEkekela Aiona is Executive Director of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the statewide provider of Hawaiian medium early learning with 13 preschools and two infant-toddler programs on Hawaiʻi, Maui, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi.

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Aiona attended the committee hearing to testify on the measures.

“Families begin to experience multi-generational use of the Hawaiian language in their homes,” Aiona said in her testimony. “It is necessary that Hawaiʻi’s state government keep in time with the renormalization requirements of an official language.”

The bills include the following:

SB 848 SD2 HD1 which expands the Hawaiian language college’s functions by authorizing a Hawaiian language medium general education coursework pilot project. It also supports the development of an implementation plan for Hawaiian language instruction throughout the University of Hawaiʻi system and requires UH to report to the legislature each year about efforts to implement education taught using the Hawaiian language.

SB 1294 SD1 HD1 which establishes an Undergraduate Health Sciences Academy at the University of Hawaiʻi to increase recruitment and retention of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and first generation college students.

SB560 SD1 HD1 which asks the University of Hawaiʻi to translate the Hawaiʻi State Constitution into the Hawaiian language.

McKelvey said it is important for people to continue to support these measures by submitting testimony as they now move to the House Finance Committee.

“I cannot thank people enough for supporting the growing use of the Hawaiian language by taking the time to submit testimony,” he said.

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