Hiapo Perreira, Associate Professor of Hawaiian Language and Literature

Associate Professor Perreira recovers traditional Hawaiian oratory. His work plays a vital role in the overall revitalization of the Hawaiian language by providing another context for Hawaiian expression.

Hiapo with many lei standing with group of faculty and family.
Members of the College of Hawaiian Language community celebrate with Hiapo Perreira and his family at his dissertation defense in 2011. (Courtesy photo)

Posted March 18, 2013; updated April 20, 2018.

Hiapo Perreira
Hiapo Perreira

Hiapokeikikāne Kichie “Hiapo” Perreira is an associate professor of Hawaiian language and literature at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. His research focuses on the recovery of traditional Hawaiian oratory.

Perreira received his master of arts in Hawaiian language and literature and his doctor of philosophy in Hawaiian and indigenous language and culture revitalization from UH Hilo.

“My research is unique in that classical Hawaiian oratory enjoys almost no literary legacy from which to build upon,” he says. “In paying attention to traditional writing styles exhibited in Hawaiian language newspapers and other forms of classical writing, I pieced together a system with which to revitalize what I believe to be a form of traditional Hawaiian oratory.”

Perreira says the revival of traditional Hawaiian oratory has the potential to play a vital role in the overall revitalization of the Hawaiian language by providing yet another, more formal context for Hawaiian expression. He says the most surprising discovery of his inquiry is finding “absolutely no written legacy specific to traditional Hawaiian oratory,” and that his most significant contribution to the literature is the revival of the tradition. He hopes his work sparks a “vibrancy of Hawaiian oratory and traditional literary styles throughout the Hawaiian language community.” He says the revival of Hawaiian oratory could perhaps serve as an example for the revitalization efforts of other native peoples worldwide.

conducting traditional ceremony for soon to be graduates of Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Hawaiian Language Laboratory School
Hiapo Perreira (standing, in yellow) conducts a traditional ceremony for soon-to-be graduates of Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Hawaiian Language Laboratory School.

Perreira was the recipient of a Mellon-Hawaiʻi Doctoral Fellowship in 2010, and received his doctor of philosophy in Hawaiian and indigenous language and culture revitalization from UH Hilo in 2011. He wrote his dissertation on traditional Hawaiian oratory and his method of revitalization. Since becoming associate professor in 2010 at UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language where he began as a lecturer in 1996, Perreira has developed a Hawaiian literature and oratory strand of academic courses. He developed three upper division courses on Hawaiian literary analysis, an introduction to advanced Hawaiian literature, and a course on the research and performance of traditional Hawaiian oratory.

Book cover, ocean motif with the words: Hooulumahiehie Ka Moʻolelo Hiwahiwa o Kawelo Edited by Hiapokeikikane Kichie Perreira
Ka Moʻolelo Hiwahiwa o Kawelo published in 2009.

In 2009, Perreira edited Ka Moʻolelo Hiwahiwa o Kawelo (Bishop Museum Press).

Originally serialized in the Hawaiian language newspaper Kuokoa Home Rula from January 1909 to April 1910, this new edition of KA MOʻOLELO HIWAHIWA O KAWELO presents Hoʻoulumahiehie’s text in modernized Hawaiian with notes and an introduction by Native Hawaiian scholar Hiapokeikikane Kichie Perreira.

Hoʻoulumahiehie’s telling of the Kawelo story is the longest and most comprehensively written in Hawaiian on this larger-than-life historical figure, from his exploits as a youngster to his battle for rule of the island of Kauaʻi. Hoʻoulumahiehie masterfully weaves haʻakoʻko‘i (formal) and kauhale (informal) styles of language, utilizing oratorical expressions, exhaustive explanations, precise terminology, and conventional discourse — an addition to the corpus of Kawelo literature that is unparalleled in scope, depth, and literary history. This work is intended as a useful guide for high school and college students, as well as other serious students of the Hawaiian language seeking a more comprehensive understanding of Hawaiian cultural practices.

Perreira had a 57-page article accepted for publication in the journal Hūlili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being (2013). From the abstract:

The scope of the paper, based on the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola Philosophy of Hawaiian Being, centers on the explication of meiwi moʻokalaleo (Hawaiian ethno-literary devices) and hualekikona (lexical-items). When applied to the study of traditional Hawaiian literature, meiwi moʻokalaleo and hualekikona provide a contemporary way to analyze literary pieces, not only for cultural content, but more importantly for style and makeup. Proficiency in this respect can have a great impact on the enrichment of Hawaiian speech in general, and can contribute greatly to the composition of a neo-classical Hawaiian literary corpus (pāpāʻōlelo, moʻolelo, kākāʻōlelo, etc.), thus preserving traditional Hawaiian style for posterity.

More academic articles underway: one on a specific type of ancestral worship found in the story of the high chief Kaweloleimakua, and the other on metaphorical referents in Hawaiian sacrificial offerings. Perreira also has book project underway: one on ethno-literary devices and lexical items as exhibited in a traditional full-length story on the high chief Lonoikamakahiki; the other on his dissertation.

Perreira points out that his academic work is but one part of his contribution to the revitalization of Hawaiian language and oral tradition.

“In conjunction with my academic activities, I am a fluent speaker of Hawaiian who promotes this living language with all other speakers of Hawaiian,” he says. “My wife is fluent and we are raising our daughters in Hawaiian. They are both students in the Hawaiian medium educational program here in Hilo. Our oldest is in the first grade at Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu [Hawaiian language immersion school], and our baby is in the Hiʻipēpē infant-toddler program of the Pūnana Leo o Hilo Hawaiian preschool.”

“I not only engage in academic activities, I live my academic activities,” he says. “I not only study language and culture revitalization, I live it. My family and I join other families and individuals across the state in choosing Hawaiian as our primary choice language of life.”

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