Ige Proclaims 2019 Year of Indigenous Language
Members of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature’s Hawaiian Caucus joined Governor David Ige on Friday, Feb. 8, in proclaiming 2019 as Year of the Indigenous Language. The proclamation was issued to recognize the value of Native Hawaiian language restoration and revitalization.
ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi is both the Indigenous language and an official language as recognized by the Constitution of the State of Hawaiʻi. Earlier this month, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2019 as the “Year of the Indigenous Language.” Its purpose is to draw attention to the critical loss of Indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize, and promote Indigenous languages.
Hawaiʻi’s indigenous language, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, went from less than 30 speakers under the age of 18, in 1984 to a thriving language with an estimated 25,000+ speakers today.
Leaders with Mokuola Honua say the Hawaiian language movement has become a model for indigenous language revitalization with community-driven efforts like the ʻAha Pūnana Leo and other agencies and institutions.
According to the proclamation, there are about 7,000 languages spoken worldwide today, “and conservative estimates suggest more than half of the world’s languages will become extinct by the year 2100.”
The 1978 Hawai’i State Constitutional Convention designated ‘Olelo Hawai’i as an official state language, making Hawai’i the only state in the nation that has designated a native language as one of its two official state languages.
In 1987, the State Department of Education established the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program, Ka Papahana Kaiapuni Hawai’i, and today, 23 K-12 schools deliver instruction exclusively in Hawaiian until grade 5, whereupon English is formally introduced.
In his proclamation, Governor Ige said, “Indigenous languages are central to the identity of indigenous peoples and are crucial to the protection of their fundamental human rights, peace, reconciliation, literacy, diversity, heritage, understanding of the environment and sustainable development.”
He continued saying, “We must continue to preserve our native languages so that our history will never be lost.”