Hawaiian Language and Literature

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The M.A. in Hawaiian Language and Literature was UH Hilo’s first graduate program and the first focusing on a Native American language in the United States. The program is designed for students who have already achieved fluency in spoken Hawaiian and competency in reading modern and historical Hawaiian texts. Student cohorts are accepted every three years. Currently, the college offers only a Plan A degree, which requires a thesis.

Hale Kuamoʻo

The Hale Kuamoʻo Center for Hawaiian Language and Culture Through the Medium of Hawaiian is the support and research division of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. The Center encourages and supports the expansion of the Hawaiian language as a medium of communication in education, business, government, and other contexts of social life in the public and private sectors of Hawaiʻi and beyond. The Center's programs include:

Curriculum Development, Media and Telecommunications Services

  • Development, production and distribution of instructional materials for implementation in Hawaiian medium schools
  • Hawaiian language research and development
  • Media and Telecommunications
  • Hawaiian Medium Inservice
  • Leo Ola (Summer Institute)
  • Kākoʻo Kula (School Site Support)
  • Kākoʻo Kaiapuni Hawaiʻi (Teacher Inservice)

Hawaiian Medium Laboratory Schools

Legislation establishing Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language provides for laboratory school programs to include Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu (on Hawaiʻi Island), Ke Kula ʻO Samuel M. Kamakau (on Oʻahu), Ke Kula Niʻihau O Kekaha (on Kauaʻi), Ke Kula ʻO Kawaikini (on Kauaʻi) and other sites as appropriate. All laboratory programs reflect Ke Kumu Honua Mauli Ola Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian educational philosophy which asserts Hawaiian cultural identity as the basis of education and participation in contemporary life. Hawaiian is the medium of instruction and communication among students, staff, and administration at the laboratory schools, which focus on college preparation, environmental and health studies, sustainable agriculture, and teacher training.

Extension of the laboratory school program to other sites is facilitated by a consortium between the College and the ʻAha Pūnana Leo.


Outreach currently includes work with the Hawaiian community both locally and abroad, as well as with other native peoples, especially those of North America and the Pacific. Hale Kuamoʻo is also the Secretariat for the Polynesian Languages Forum which unites the developing indigenous languages of 13 Polynesian governments.

Academic Division

The academic division of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language emphasizes language acquisition, linguistics, traditional culture and education in a Hawaiian medium environment. The Hawaiian Studies Division currently oversees:

Hawaiian Studies Program

The Hawaiian Studies Program is one of the most innovative baccalaureate programs at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, offering two options for study, each focused on a Hawaiian-based cultural continuum:

  • The continued development of Hawaiian culture within a Hawaiian language context; and
  • The monitoring of the direction of Hawaiian culture.
  • This program basically serves four groups of students:
    • Those taking courses for their own interest and to fulfill University requirements;
    • Those minoring in Hawaiian Studies;
    • Those pursuing certificates in Hawaiian language or culture; and
    • Those majoring in Hawaiian Studies.

In addition, our program provides a unique educational opportunity for students interested in culture, economics, politics, sociology, linguistics, music, anthropology, biology, geography, history and dance.



The primary mission of the B.A. program in Hawaiian Studies, developed mainly through its “perpetuating the culture” option, is to produce fluent Hawaiian language speakers who embody Hawaiian culture in their lives and who are committed to perpetuating Hawaiian language and culture. A secondary mission of the program, developed mainly through its “monitoring the culture” option, is to produce graduates with a broad knowledge of Hawaiian language and culture in relationship to the social or natural environment of Hawaiʻi.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate oral and written comprehension and grammatically correct use of Hawaiian at the ACTFL levels as follows:
  • HAW 101-102 - Novice High
  • KHAW 103-104 - Intermediate Low
  • KHAW 203-204 - Intermediate Mid
  • KHAW 303-304 - Intermediate High
  • KHAW 403-404 - Advanced Low
  1. Speak and write with a degree of fluency adequate to carry on a life and career speaking Hawaiian.
  2. Apply knowledge of the language to give an effective speech in Hawaiian (minimally at the ACTFL level of Advanced Low)and to write an effective academic paper in Hawaiian of at least four thousand words on pertinent topics that is organized succinctly with an introduction, body, and conclusion that includes footnotes and citations.
  3. Explain and apply to concrete situations the Hawaiian outlook on the world, as expressed in the basic philosophy of the college, Ke Kumu Honua Mauli Ola.
  4. Practice appropriate Hawaiian cultural behavior (e.g. protocol, body language, participation in the ceremonies of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani).
  5. Locate and utilize library, on-line and community resources to write a cohesive academic paper, prepare a presentation, or give appropriate diversiform speeches.
  6. Identify and explain major aspects of the grammatical & phonological structure of a sample of Hawaiian.
  7. Identify, explain, and perform major aspects of Hawaiian chant (oli), music (puolo), and dance (hula) within respective courses and College-wide activities.
  8. Identify specific important aspects of the evolution of the Hawaiian language (both historically and contemporarily), and its relationship to the current cultural, social, and political standing of Hawaiians.
  9. Identify and explain Hawaiian cultural concepts specifically related to the physical Hawaiian environment as exhibited in course syllabi of HWST 111, 211, and 213.

The Atmosphere

Students in the Hawaiian Studies Program come from several islands and play a key part in its direction. The classroom atmosphere stresses mastery of Hawaiian culture and its active use, particularly the Hawaiian language. All upper-division Hawaiian culture, linguistics and performing arts courses are taught in Hawaiian. The program also emphasizes the importance of contact with the community. Toward this end, majors are required to take at least one course taught by a community expert and to complete the exiting seminar class that focuses on community involvement. Permeating Hawaiian Studies in Hilo is a sense of responsibility for Hawaiian culture, a commitment that is shared by faculty and students alike. Those interested and concerned with Hawaiʻi’s future will find Hilo to be a stimulating and enjoyable place to live and study.

  • Academic Advisor—Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the academic advisor to go over scheduling of classes and to discuss any difficulties they are experiencing in their classes and/or with their instructors. Students are also directed to tutoring programs to assist them in their studies and to other counseling programs on campus to assist them with personal issues.
  • Hawaiian Language Tutors—Hawaiian language tutors are available.
  • Guest Speakers—Presentations by a wide variety of guest speakers on Hawaiian language, culture, social and political topics are held each semester.
  • Discussions—Student/faculty “talk-story” sessions about current issues within the Native Hawaiian community are also held each semester.
  • Internships and Volunteer Opportunities—To assist students in career planning and in learning about upcoming work/volunteer opportunities in a Hawaiian Studies field, a program including internships to Hawaiian language places of employment such as the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, Hale Kuamoʻo, ʻImiloa Astronomy Education Center, Hawaiʻi Department of Education, and Lyman Museum is currently nearing completion.

The Future

Hawaiian Studies is a new field that plays an important role in the direction of life in Hawaiʻi. In response to amendments to the Hawaiʻi State Constitution, public schools and government departments are presently developing programs to promote Hawaiian culture, language and history for the general public, in addition to implementing new programs for people of Hawaiian ancestry.

There are jobs in the ministry, law, land surveying, the entertainment industry, education, agriculture, journalism, the media, fish and game management, and social services that require a background in various aspects of Hawaiian Studies. In the private sector, individuals are establishing businesses in food and beverage, fashion, publishing, and telecommunications with a Hawaiian Studies foundation. There are many exciting opportunities now and in the future for those dedicated to the goal of Hawaiian Studies: meeting the rapidly increasing demand for Hawaiian language, knowledge, skills, and expertise in all areas of social, economic, and political life in Hawaiʻi.

Currently, the area of greatest expansion is found in schools taught entirely through Hawaiian. These Hawaiian medium/immersion programs are conducted by the ʻAha Pūnana Leo and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education. The ever increasing need for teachers and curriculum for these programs provides fine employment opportunities for those committed to Hawaiian cultural continuity.

The Hale Kuamoʻo Center for Hawaiian Language and Culture Through the Medium of Hawaiian provides special support services for Hawaiian education programs. The creation and expansion of the center, together with the Hawaiian language and culture efforts throughout the UH system, have created a demand for new faculty and staff with Hawaiian Studies credentials.

Clearly, opportunities in the field of Hawaiian Studies are both broad and limitless, because Hawaiian Studies is part of a major change in modern Hawaiian society. Today, people are actively cultivating that which is Hawaiian, not only on the job, but at home and in the community as well. Hawaiian Studies will help you to fit into the Hawaiʻi of the future. And because this change of attitude is not limited to Hawaiʻi, but is found throughout the Pacific and the world, Hawaiian Studies will help graduates to relate better to others on a global level. Hawaiian Studies is a field with a bright future!

A minimum of 120 semester hours is required for the B.A. degree. Majors must fulfill 41 to 43 semester hours and may choose to emphasize either of the two primary options of the program.  All semester hours must be completed with a grade of “C” or better. The minor requires 23 semester hours. Certificates require from 19 to 23 semester hours.

Faculty and Staff Teaching HAW Courses

Faculty and Staff Teaching KHAW Courses

Faculty and Staff Teaching HWST Courses

Faculty and Staff Teaching KHWS Courses