Celebrating 40 Years of Hawaiian Studies


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By The Office of Hawaiian Education

Photo: Fifth grade students from Kalihi Waena Elementary visited Ho‘oulu ‘Āina
Fifth grade students from Kalihi Waena Elementary visited Ho‘oulu ‘Āina (before the pandemic) and learned to connect with wahi pana in meaningful ways, to include the protocol of acknowledging this mo‘o as they walked through the forest from one ‘ili ‘āina to the next. – Photos: Courtesy of Office of Hawaiian Education

From sacred Maunakea who gathers the rain clouds to the depths of the Kanaloa realm, aloha mai. Kūpuna once said that the fresh water of Kāne is the source of life. And in the sphere of education, the Office of Hawaiian Education (OHE) believes that the life source of the children of Hawaiʻi is Hawaiian knowledge and language.

Therefore, the Department of Education is honored to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Hawaiian Studies Program in this school year 2020-21. The program was established in 1980 as a means to implement the 1978 State Constitutional Amendment mandating that the “State shall promote the study of Hawaiian culture, history and language” (Article X, Section 4). Kūpuna were brought into the classroom and became, as a part of the Hawaiian Studies Program, a pillar in the system to perpetuate Hawaiian culture in elementary and middle schools. This program, now known as the Kūpuna Component, remains a constant source of life-giving water to this day.

Photo: Kimo and Kanani Auwai
Anakala Kimo Auwai, a current kupuna in the Küpuna Component with his mother, ‘Anakē Kanani Auwai, one of the first kupuna in the program at Hale‘iwa school.

Forty years later, as OHE adheres to the belief that “ʻO Hawaiʻi ke kahua o ka hoʻonaʻauao,” or Hawaiʻi is the foundation for education, the Hawaiian Studies Program ensures that kūpuna knowledge continues to flow through the Department of Education. With the intent of expanding the depth and breadth of ʻike Hawaiʻi across all grades and content areas, the ʻĀina Aloha Competencies were developed to support learning communities to tether their curriculum to Hawaiian ways of knowing.

In School Year 2019-20, 44 schools on Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi enlisted as ʻĀina Aloha pilot and test sites with 120 participants across 14 of the 15 complex areas. With such far reaching participation, the initiative goes beyond curriculum content and moves towards weaving together communities, resources, and relationships through and around ʻĀina and Hawaiian knowledge. This school year, despite the impact that COVID-19 has had on learning, OHE has conducted virtual orientations to 398 new participants, not including those who attended presentations at larger conference settings.

As we look towards the future of education, OHE celebrates the Hawaiian Studies Program and remains committed to expanding the presence of Hawaiian knowledge. Broadening the ʻike Hawaiʻi scope, OHE will work with schools to design Hawaiian knowledge into the core of the school by aligning to the ʻĀina Aloha Competencies. Coupled with refinements to the Kūpuna Component, OHE envisions increased impact through meaningful interaction with ʻike Hawaiʻi for more haumāna, kumu and kākoʻo of our public education system. Kūpuna will always be the springs and life-giving source that feed our future generations so when our haumāna become kūpuna, they are truly grounded in a Hawaiian way of knowing.