E ola mau ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i
October 14, 2019 5:30 PM   Subscribe

On August 14, the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i recognized the constitutional obligation of the Hawai‘i state government to provide reasonable access to immersion language education in the Hawaiian language (‘ōlelo Hawai‘i), under Article X Section 4 of the Hawaiian Constitution.

The court's opinion details the history of the suppression of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i following the 1893 US invasion and subsequent annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and its subsequent revival in the 1970s Hawaiian Renaissance that gave rise to the 1978 Hawaiian Constitution. As the opinion (PDF) concludes:
A well known Hawaiian proverb states “I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope,” or, “In the past, lies the future.” The spirit of this adage motivated the framers’ adoption of article X, section 4 of the Hawai‘i Constitution, which imposes on the State a duty to provide for a Hawaiian education program in public schools that is reasonably calculated to revive the Hawaiian language. Because the evidence in the record demonstrates that providing reasonable access to Hawaiian immersion education is currently essential to reviving the language, it is an essential component of any such program.
The plaintiff had moved with her children to Lana‘i island, where Hawaiian immersion programs were not available.
Clarabal unsuccessfully requested that the school assign an educational assistant to assist one of her daughters after she was reprimanded for responding to a written assignment in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. Clarabal began attending some of the meetings between the school principal and the stakeholders’ group regarding the creation of a Hawaiian immersion program, and in late April 2014 she was informed that her younger daughter had been accepted into the school’s first immersion class, which would be held the following school year. When the 2014-15 school year began, however, no Hawaiian immersion class commenced.
The plaintiff was represented by attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, whose press release cites the ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i proverb "I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo no ka make" (previously).

Among those on hand to watch the Supreme Court oral arguments in the case were students from a Hawaiian-language immersion program.
This case was important to them because it centered on ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, a critically endangered language, and the right to an immersion education. In an ironic start to the case, the clerk who called and introduced the case, stumbled over the proper pronunciation of Hawaiian names. Many in the gallery shifted their gaze uncomfortably, as it perfectly framed the issue and exposed the current dispossessed state of our native language.
Further reading:
posted by Not A Thing (6 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
This is truly wonderful news. I moved away from Hawai'i over 20 years ago, as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement was just getting started; I wish I could be there now to see this continued revival. And the more people on the Mainland know about the history of America's treatment of the kanaka maoli, the better. A fellow teacher and I in Portland are running a Hawaiian club - Franklin Ohana - for our students, and our not-so-secret agenda includes educating them on the oppression of Hawaiian culture and the current renaisance.
posted by kikaider01 at 7:30 PM on October 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

That’s fantastic news
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:22 AM on October 15, 2019

posted by lokta at 4:40 AM on October 15, 2019

There was a cool story on NPR yesterday for Indigenous People's Day about a community that started their own Hawaiian immersion school from scratch.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:30 AM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

This makes me happy; reminds me of attempts to save the Irish language, which are finally getting better. Also I have family ties in Hawaii, and my grandchildren are part Asian-Hawaiian. Any attempt to honor a culture and language that was suppressed is healing.
posted by mermayd at 7:26 AM on October 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I read Daniel Immerwahr's How to Hide an Empire this past spring, and one of the central theses he expands upon in the book is English language as a central tool of U.S. empire-building, especially in Hawaii.

I'm so glad to read this news.

(And, to be honest, I hope to read news that Hawaii regains sovereignty in my lifetime.)
posted by sobell at 10:21 AM on October 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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