UH Hilo and UH Mānoa receive support from Ford Foundation

For Exceptional Hawaiian Language Programs

University of Hawaiʻi
Margot Schrire, (808) 956-6774
Dir of Communications
Posted: Mar 5, 2015

Roberta Uno (center with lei) visited Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani at UH Hilo
Roberta Uno (center with lei) visited Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani at UH Hilo

HAWAI‘I - The Ford Foundation has awarded $190,000 to the University of Hawai‘i Foundation to support the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani and two other significant language projects.

While the Ford Foundation generally does not support language programs, they made a one-time opportunity grant because UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani is renowned for its language revitalization success at a time when indigenous languages are dying world-wide.  The college’s mission is to seek the revitalization of the Hawaiian language and culture and to aid other indigenous peoples who wish to revitalize their own endangered languages and cultures.

Senior Program Officer for Arts and Culture at the Ford Foundation Roberta Uno notes, “While the College’s efforts have helped lead to the reestablishment of Hawaiian as a living language, the flourishing of Hawaiian arts forms, and an increase in cultural identity and pride  --  much more needs to be accomplished to increase the number of language and culture bearers for the 21st century. This grant recognizes best practice that can be helpful to others involved with language and culture revitalization.”

“We are grateful to Roberta and the Ford Foundation for the opportunity to bring together significant work of three important colleagues in Hawai‘i,” says Keiki Kawai‘ae‘a, director of UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani program.

Larry Kimura of UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani program, considered the grandfather of the Hawaiian language revitalization movement in Hawai‘i, seeks to develop a digital library of Native Hawaiian audio speech behavior samples to promote native-like language acquisition for Hawaiian second-language learners.

“This grant will enable a start in editing over 550 hours of audio interview recordings that I documented from among Hawai‘i’s last fluent native Hawaiian speakers over a sixteen-year period from 1972 to 1988,” states Kimura.  “The editing process renders a more pragmatic electronic library of audio selections regarding Hawaiian cultural knowledge on a wide range of subjects and a rich register of traditional Hawaiian first language behavior relevant to Hawaiian language and culture classes taught through the medium of Hawaiian.  The utilization of this invaluable audio documentation of Hawaiian voices reconnects and rejuvenates new fluent Hawaiian speakers to a higher level of Hawaiian language ability.  With the regeneration of strong speakers of Hawaiian, a more vibrant Hawai‘i prospers rooted in its own unique language and way of life.”

Mauiakama, a project of Kapā Oliveira of Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Kahele Dukelow and Kaleikoa Kaʻeo of the University of Hawaiʻi at Maui College, seeks to increase participants’ Hawaiian language proficiency and engagement by exposing them to traditional Hawaiian sustainability practices via hands-on place-based fishing, farming, and food preparation, engaging them in conversations with native speakers of Hawaiian, and teaching key Hawaiian studies concepts and the significance of Hawaiian Cultural sites throughout the island of Maui.

Niuolahiki, a collaborative UH Hilo project with ʻAlika McNicoll of ʻAha Pūnana Leo is creating content for 40 e-books in addition to designing and producing printed books for participating Ka Haka ʻUla students. The Niuolahiki program extends its culturally-rooted language program throughout the world via distance learning. Students of the program reside throughout Hawai‘i and the U.S. continent as well as South America, Europe and Asia.

Kawaiʻaeʻa explains, “Saving languages is part of our knowledge pool. Language contains the way we see the world knowledge that has been created by that specific group, knowledge that is unique to any other place in the world. It connects us to our identity of who we are and where we come from.  Lose the language and you lose the culture, the knowledge pool, and that way of seeing and being in the world.”

To find out how you can support the students and programs at UH Hilo, please contact Mariko Miho at (808) 932-7692 or Mariko.Miho@uhfoundation.org. You can also make a gift online


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. www.uhfoundation.org

For more information, visit: www.uhfoundation.org