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Ford Foundation and UH Hilo

February 19, 2015
  • Ford Foundation and UH Hilo

The Ford Foundation has awarded $190,000 to the University of Hawai‘i Foundation to support UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani and two other significant language projects.

While the Ford Foundation generally does not support language programs, they made a one-time opportunity grant because UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani is renowned for its language revitalization success at a time when indigenous languages are dying worldwide. The college’s mission is to seek the revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture and to aid other indigenous peoples who wish to revitalize their own endangered languages and cultures.

Roberta Uno, senior program officer for arts and culture at the Ford Foundation notes, “While the college’s efforts have helped lead to the reestablishment of Hawaiian as a living language, the flourishing of Hawaiian arts forms, and an increase in cultural identity and pride – much more needs to be accomplished to increase the number of language and culture bearers for the 21st century. This grant recognizes best practice that can be helpful to others involved with language and culture revitalization.”

Dr. Larry Kimura of UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani program, considered the grandfather of the Hawaiian language revitalization movement in Hawai‘i, seeks to develop a digital library of Native Hawaiian audio speech behavior samples to promote native-like language acquisition for Hawaiian second-language learners.

Mauiakama, a project of Dr. Kapā Oliveira of Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, seeks to increase participants’ Hawaiian language proficiency and engagement by exposing them to traditional Hawaiian sustainability practices via hands-on place-based fishing, farming and food preparation, engaging them in conversations with native speakers of Hawaiian, and teaching key Hawaiian studies concepts and the significance of Hawaiian Cultural sites throughout the island of Maui.

Niuolahiki, a collaborative UH Hilo project with ʻAlika McNicoll of ʻAha Pūnana Leo is creating content for 40 e-books in addition to designing and producing printed books for participating Ka Haka ʻUla students. The Niuolahiki program extends its culturally-rooted language program throughout the world via distance learning. Students of the program reside throughout Hawai‘i and the U.S. continent as well as South America, Europe and Asia.

Kawai‘ae‘a explains, “Saving languages is part of our knowledge pool. Language contains the way we see the world knowledge that has been created by that specific group, knowledge that is unique to any other place in the world. It connects us to our identity of who we are and where we come from. Lose the language and you lose the culture, the knowledge pool, and that way of seeing and being in the world.”

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If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.