Members of U.S. Congress visit UH Hilo to discuss university’s Indigenous culture and language revitalization programs

New Mexico’s U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, along with Hawai‘i’s U.S. Reps. Ed Case and Kai Kahele, discussed UH Hilo programs with faculty and staff. Fernández and Case serve on the U.S. House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.  

Groups stands for photo.
Three U.S. representatives who visited UH Hilo on Aug. 13, 2021, stand with UH Hilo faculty and staff. (From left) Executive Director of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center Ka‘iu Kimura; Assistant Professor Kanani Māka‘imoku; Professor Pila Wilson; Director of Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a; U.S. Congressman Ed Case (Hawai‘i); Associate Professor Larry Kimura; U.S. Congresswoman Theresa Ledger Fernández (New Mexico); Executive Director of ‘Aha Pūnana Leo Namaka Rawlins; Lehua Miller from the offices of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani; and U.S. Congressman Kai Kahele (Hawaiʻi). Photo courtesy of Kai Kahele.

By Susan Enright.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Aug. 13, 2021, to discuss the university’s Indigenous culture and language revitalization programs.

Congressman Kai Kahele (Hawai‘i) hosted Congressman Ed Case (Hawai‘i) and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (New Mexico) for a visit to Hilo, including a stop at the UH Hilo campus.

Rep. Leger Fernández is chair and Rep. Case is a member of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. The subcommittee is part of the House Committee on Natural Resources and oversees matters ranging from land management to social welfare and energy use.

The group toured the UH Hilo campus and visited Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

“The opportunity to have both of Hawai‘i’s representatives and Rep. Leger Fernández meet with us at Ka Haka ‘Ula was very encouraging relative to the distinctive mission of the college for Indigenous language revitalization, both here in Hawai‘i and on a national level,” says Pila Wilson, professor of Hawaiian studies.

“Representative Kahele has first hand experience in having his children enrolled in our Hawaiian medium laboratory school and spoke to the strength of our program,” says Wilson.

Wilson says Case talked about his experience in following the college’s efforts over the past four decades and his positive impressions of the progress that has been made. Leger Fernández was emotionally moved by the work of the college and expressed her strong support for Indigenous language survival and its connection to work with other language minorities throughout the United States.

“Having these three crucial congress people visit the college was a great honor and provided an opportunity to further connect to federal initiatives on behalf of Indigenous languages and the larger language-related movements for minority populations,” says Wilson.

Group stands for photo at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.
U.S. Representatives Ed Case, Teresa Leger Fernández, and Kai Kahele visit ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Aug. 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of Kai Kahele.


Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

Share this story