The Importance of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By Isaac Keola Swain

Best regards to those of you reading this. My name is Keola and I hail from Waiʻanae. Currently, I am a student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa pursuing a Hawaiian studies degree. Recently, someone asked me this question: “What is the importance of Hawaiian language to you?”

In this column, I want to share with you my thoughts. Our language is a form of identity. Similar to other places, every native people have a language. If you were to travel to Aotearoa, you would hear Māori speaking Te Reo Māori. This can be seen all over the world. Language is critical to the identity of native peoples.

Our language through mele, hula and moʻolelo helps shape our identity as a people.

Here in Hawaiʻi, our language has faced many challenges. We’ve lost many native speakers, our mother tongue was banned, and our home was colonized by foreigners. Due to this, many of our people did not learn our language.

However, today, there is a resurgence of Hawaiian language speakers. We’ve established immersion schools that have inspired people to learn our language. The voices of Hawaiʻi have risen once again! That is why I believe the Hawaiian language is so crucial. The obstacles have been conquered both in the past and up to today.

Isaac Keola Swain is a freshman at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is from Waiʻanae and is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama.