Graduate students in the Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation in front of their poster

Graduate students in the Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation

Prior to the 1820’s and 1830’s, Native Hawaiians passed down stories, songs and cultural traditions orally from generation to generation. Beginning in 1834, the discussions and news began to be chronicled in more than 100 different Hawaiian language newspapers that ran for more than 114 years and produced nearly one million letter-sized pages of text.

In an effort to make this invaluable resource available and accessible to the general public, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Pacific Islands Region (ONMS/PIR) awarded NOAA Preserve America Initiative Internal Funding to the Hawaiian language organization Awaiaulu in partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant Program in 2015. Specifically, the project, Ka Wā Ma Mua, Ka Wā Ma Hope (Using the Past to Inform the Future: English Translation of Hawaiian Language Newspaper Accounts of Unusual Weather Events), focused on newspaper articles that highlighted weather and climate change in Hawaiʻi.

With support from PAIFF, Hawaiʻi Sea Grant developed a website that displays the original Hawaiian newspaper article and also the English language transcription. At this time there is no other academic resource available to the public that includes both the Hawaiian language text and the English transcription. Support of this online Hawaiian newspaper article archive led in part to the establishment of the new Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation.

“As part of a growing effort to reconnect historical knowledge, Ka Wā Ma Mua, Ka Wā Ma Hope provides an important bridge, introducing the extensive Hawaiian-language repository to researchers and scholars in many new fields,” said Professor Puakea Nogelmeier of the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. “The new research that this kind of access will inspire will make knowledge and experience from the past into new tools to use as we plan for the present and future.”

More about the project

The project was a collaboration among ONMS/PIR, Hawaiʻi Sea Grant, National Weather Service, Pacific Risk Management ʻOhana, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, UH Mānoa Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, and Awaiaulu. Funding was also provided, in part, by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Preserve America Initiative Internal Funding, now in its 12th year, supports strategies that represent current and emerging issues facing our nation and NOAA, including climate change and adaptation, cultural engagement, and historical ecology, all themes embodied in this project.

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