Two UH Hilo Hawaiian language leaders honored by State Legislature

UH Hilo Hawaiian language kumu Larry Kimura and Kanani Māka‘imoku honored for their leadership in reviving and teaching ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

By Susan Enright.

On the steps of the capitol, educators and preschool children from Pūnana Leo and K-12 students from the various DOE and charter Hawaiian immersion schools (1,200 students), teachers, parents, Kamehameha Schools, and UH supporters joined the celebration as the State Legislature celebrated 40 Years of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as a state language. Feb. 16, 2018. Click photo to enlarge.
Larry Kimura, center, stands with senators (l-r) Russell Ruderman, Josh Green, Lorraine Inouye, and (back) Kai Kahele. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

As part of a celebration held last week Friday at the capitol where the State Legislature recognized 40 Years of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as a state language, five Hawaiian language kumu (teachers) were honored for their leadership in reviving and teaching ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language) and teaching other subjects through ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i in island schools statewide.

Among those honored were two kumu from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo: Associate Professor Larry Lindsey Kimura and Assistant Professor Kananinohea “Kanani” Kawai‘ae‘a Māka‘imoku. Both are members of the faculty at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

Also receiving honors were Ku‘uipolani “Ipo” Kanahele Wong (UH Mānoa), Papaikanī‘au Kai‘anui (UH Maui College) and Lolena Nicholas (Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language).

(Front, l-r) Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, Papaikanī‘au Kai‘anui, Kanani Māka‘imoku, Larry Kimura, Lorraine Inouye. (Back, l-r) Russell Ruderman, Ipo Kanahele Wong, Lolena Nicholas, Kai Kahele, Josh Green.

Earlier in the day, Governor David Ige signed a proclamation at an event called Wewehiokalā, declaring Ke Au Hawaiʻi, Year of the Hawaiian (see Oiwi TV video: Wewehiokalā: Proclamation of the Year of the Hawaiian at Washington Place.) The event was followed by a Lā ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian Language Day at the legislature.

“It was a joyful and full day with the preschool children from Pūnana Leo and K-12 students from the various DOE and charter Hawaiian immersion schools—1,200 students—teachers, parents, [Kamehameha Schools] and UH supporters,” says Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, director of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani.

Larry Kimura

In a media release from the Hawai‘i Senate Majority, Larry Kimura is recognized as a pioneer of the ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i movement who has worked tirelessly for its revitalization for almost 50 years.

A longtime ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i activist, Kimura is often described as the “grandfather” of Hawaiian language revitalization in modern Hawai‘i. His work can be traced back to the conception of core foundational educational programs in the 1980s that launched the rebirth of the Hawaiian language.

Among Kimura’s most notable work, he was co-founder of the non-profit ʻAha Pūnana Leo that established the first Hawaiian medium preschools in the 1980s, a cornerstone in language revitalization efforts. He spent 16 years creating audio documentation of the last native Hawaiian language speakers, a vital connection for modern speakers. He founded the Ka Leo Hawai‘i Hawaiian language radio talk show in the 1970s and 1980s and wrote curriculum for Papahana Kaiapuni Hawai‘i (the Hawaiian immersion program) in the public schools, where he developed course material and trained teachers to teach their subjects in Hawaiian language statewide.

Kimura helped conceive and now serves as chair of the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee to create new Hawaiian words. He is also a prolific Hawaiian poet and songwriter.

Kananinohea Kawai‘ae‘a Māka‘imoku

A graduate of Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Hawaiian immersion school in Keaʻau, Kananinohea Kawai‘ae‘a Māka‘imoku is recognized as the first immersion graduate to return as a Hawaiian immersion teacher where she taught for fifteen years. Māka‘imoku is now helping to prepare new immersion teachers across the state in the Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education Program at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani.

“Growing up, Kanani’s home language was Hawaiian at a time when only a handful of children outside of the Niʻihau community spoke Hawaiian,” says Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, her mother. “Today Kanani and her husband Aaron continue the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi legacy with their two children, Hāweo‘ulakaumaka and Kahaʻeaikaulukoa Māka‘imoku, who attend Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu. Kanani and Aaron are part of a growing number of families who are raising their children through Hawaiian.”

Kawai‘ae‘a notes that Hawai‘i county reports 29.9 percent of its families speak Hawaiian in the home.

“Kanani is a product of the Hawaiian revitalization movement,” she adds. “As many other graduates, she is working hard to carve her own way and make valuable contributions towards the advancement and renormalization of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi for the next generation.”

Feb. 23, 2018: This post was edited to clarify that the recognition was done by both the State House and Senate, to add to the sections on Larry Kimura and Kanani Māka‘imoku, and to update the last two quotations in the piece.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is 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.