Letter to the Editor | September 2023


State of Hawaii [Hawaiʻi] ?? Hawaiʻi Island [Island of Hawaiʻi]??

Welina mai,

What follows may be deemed too picky by many or some, but nuance and details are important, as we learn when mele, oli, and ʻōlelo are studied.

First, let’s recognize two entities: the Hawaii Board on Geographic Names (HBGN), and the US Board on Geographic Names (USBGN). The Hawaii Board sends information regarding place names to the US Board. The US Board generally accepts recommendations of the Hawaii Board for changes, corrections, or new place names.

When our Statehood Act, Public Law 86-3, March 18, 1959 [S. 50], was passed by Congress, “Hawaii” was spelled without an ʻokina, as was usual at the time. On July 2, 1959, Governor William Quinn, wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, conveying the results of a vote on June 27, 1959, asking if Hawaii should immediately be admitted to the union. The vote was

132,773 (for) and 7,971 (against) of a total population of about 622,000. On Aug. 21, 1959, President Eisenhower signed Proclamation #3309, admitting Hawaii to the Union. All without an ʻokina.

To remedy those misspellings, a Congressional Bill needs to be introduced, passed, and signed that will correct the spelling of “State of Hawaii” to “State of Hawaiʻi.” Until then, all federal institutions must use “State of Hawaii,” as listed in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database of the USBGN, in their publications.

The USBGN GNIS database also lists “Island of Hawaiʻi” as the official name of Moku o Keawe. Island of Hawaiʻi, rather than “Hawaiʻi Island” must be used. Many, many institutions in Hawaii choose to use “Hawaiʻi Island,” rather than the correct Island of Hawaiʻi.

We hope that these oversights are corrected.

Me ke aloha,

Bobby Camara
Keaʻau, Island of Hawaiʻi, State of Hawaii