Indigenous language leaders from across the world gathered at the Univeristy of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language for the Mokuola Honua Global Center for Indigenous Language Excellence (GCILE) inaugural symposium.

The symposium was an opportunity for various indigenous groups to convene and discuss strategies for language revitalization and normalization as well as identify areas for collaboration.

“The symposium was a rare opportunity for representatives of indigenous languages all over the world to share in strengthening the wellbeing of the native languages of our homelands,” said Larry Kimura, associate professor at Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani. “An indigenous self-determining educational approach was a pivotal component examined, where for some countries a thriving native language of the home has no place in their non-indigenous language education system. While for other places, advancing the indigenous language and philosophy as the medium of formal education begins to increase the wellbeing of a people and their dying population of indigenous language speakers.”

Global collaboration, rooted in Hawaiʻi

Attendees included representatives from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Sámpi (Norway), Greenland, Scotland, First Nations (United States), Indonesia, Kenya, Nicaragua and Hawaiʻi.

GCILE is bringing people together to collectively develop duplicable best practices that can be used throughout the world. So the inherent impact of what will take place in this center is literally going to have a global impact,” said Amy Kalili, coordinator for the Mokuola Honua GCILE.

The symposium began with a visit to Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, Hawaiʻi’s flagship preschool-12th grade Hawaiian-medium education campus, to learn about pedagogical approaches and curriculum development.

“The innovations of Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu in terms of early literacy, third language teaching, oratory development and applied learning in a cultural context were specifically mentioned as impressive by a number of participants,” said William “Pila” Wilson, chair of Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani’s academic programs division. Wilson added that many participants from various American tribes were interested in the school as they are working to develop their own schools using strategies and research developed at Nāwahī.

Following the visit to Nāwahī, symopsium attendees returned to Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani for panel discussions about how policy, education and media relates to language revitalization and normalization.

“The symposium provided an extended venue for furthering our global understanding of indigenous language issues, best practices and solutions through education, media and policy,” said Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director for Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. “As a larger global community, we can garner those collective efforts as synergy towards strengthening the vibrancy of our indigenous languages.”

Attendees share their language through chant. (photo credit: ʻŌiwi TV)