Kaniʻāina: A Treasure Trove of Hawaiian Voices

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By the Student Workers of the Kani‘āina Project

Hear the kani. He pūkoʻa kani ʻāina, a coral reef grows into an island. It is thought that coral reefs grow into islands, and when the waves ebb and flow onto the shore, the noises that emerge are an indication of life itself. In the Hawaiian pae ʻāina, despite the relentless crashing of the waves of time on its shores, the voices of the Hawaiian people are still resonant as a declaration of a flourishing lāhui through the Hawaiian language, ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

Kaniʻāina, Voices of the Land, is a digital repository project in partnership between Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani and the Department of Linguistics at UH Mānoa that strives for the documentation and preservation of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi through gathering, disseminating, and mobilizing over five decades of speech from Hawaiʻi’s last native Hawaiian speakers.

With the continual growth of successful cutting-edge immersion-based language education and statewide interest in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi usage at all levels, as well as a corpus of over 1,000 hours of native speech archives, Kaniʻāina provides access to Native Hawaiian speech and transcripts through a bilingual web interface on Ulukau.

Photo: Ka Leo Hawaiʻi Guests
Mea hoʻokipa o Ka Leo Hawaiʻi, ʻo Larry Lindsey Kauanoe Kimura me kona mau hoa kamaʻilio ʻo Lahela Ridenour lāua ʻo Joseph Wenuke Makaʻai, March 29, 1987. – Photos: Courtesy

This includes the renowned radio broadcast Ka Leo Hawaiʻi which is composed of 525 hours of recordings with Native Hawaiian mānaleo, speakers of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as their primary language. Ka Leo Hawaiʻi is an invaluable resource and a treasure trove of Native Hawaiian scientific, linguistic and cultural knowledge that is freely accessible to the Hawaiian-speaking public at www.ulukau.org/kaniaina.

Currently, Kaniʻāina is preparing additional audio and video Hawaiian language collections, such as the Nā Hulu Kūpuna and Mānaleo TV video series, that will be announced in the near future.

Photo: Kaniʻāina student interns
Undergraduate Hawaiian language majors and Kaniʻāina student interns like Kauāakeakua Segundo and Kaʻawaloa Kauaʻula (who helped write this article) are learning about archiving and preserving the knowledge gifted to our lāhui in the recorded voices of the mānaleo.

Kaniʻāina was created with the help of our funders, The National Science Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation, which recognize the importance of the revitalization and continuation of the Hawaiian language and culture. Our funders enable us to offer mentorship opportunities for Hawaiian language and linguistics students through undergraduate research experiences and coursework on language documentation while learning about archiving, preservation, and getting a first-hand look at the knowledge that Native Hawaiian language speakers have gifted us through this treasure chest of voices. Primarily accessed during school hours, Kaniʻāina has become a valuable resource for the Hawaiian language, especially for Hawaiian language medium students and teachers who use it for class instruction, curriculum, and to strengthen the ʻōlelo and mauli Hawaiʻi of our new generations of Hawaiian speakers.

Be sure to visit the Kaniʻāina website at www.ulukau.org/kaniaina as the resounding kani of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi is heard throughout the pae ʻāina of Hawaiʻi during this special month of February. E ola ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi!


This article was written by student workers of the Kaniʻāina project: Kaʻawaloa Kauaʻula, Kauāakeakua Segundo and Bruce Torres Fischer, with the assistance of Dr. Larry Kimura at Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, UH Hilo.