Each Pepeluali (February), the University of Hawaiʻi honors Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, also known as Hawaiian Language Month. This annual tribute, established in 2013 through Act 28 signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, aims to elevate and fortify Hawaiʻi’s native language.
In celebration, the Hawaiʻinuiākea School for Hawaiian Knowledge (HSHK) at UH Mānoa is collaborating on Ola Ka ʻĪ (Hawaiian language thrives), a series of free community events on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu and Maui. These events promote ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi or Hawaiian language through music, games and entertainment.
“A foundational principle for Hawaiʻinuiākea is our ongoing commitment to the revitalization and renormalization of our language, identity and ancestral knowledge,” said Malia Nobrega-Olivera, director of strategic partnerships at Hawaiʻinuiākea. “The ʻōlelo noʻeau (proverb) that guides our work is found in Ka Puuhonua o na Hawaii…and it says, ʻike ʻia ke kanaka ma kāna ʻōlelo (a person is seen, understood, recognized through their language).”
HSHK has been a key organizer of Ola Ka ʻĪ since its launch in 2020, with ʻAhahui ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and Kanaeokana as co-sponsors. The 1978 amendment to the Hawaiʻi Constitution recognized ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as one of the State’s official languages. Nobrega-Olivera highlights that learning the Hawaiian language extends beyond linguistic acquisition; it delves into understanding a culture, its people, the land and more.
One of the notable features at Ola Ka ʻĪ events is the Hoʻokūkū Haʻi ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, a Hawaiian language speech contest. Students from kindergarten to college showcase their memorization and recitation skills, with judges evaluating pronunciation, intonation and overall delivery reflecting the essence of the passage.