Editor’s note: E kaomi ma ʻaneʻi no ka heluhelu moʻolelo ʻana ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

With the help of translators at the University of Hawaii and support from the community, Civil Beat is launching a new special section dedicated to telling stories in the Hawaiian language. 

We are starting out by translating a small archive of previously published Civil Beat stories into ‘ōlelo Hawai’i. And going forward, we plan to translate one new story each week. We also hope to add columnists who can write about the important issues of the day in Hawaiian, and we can translate those into English.

Ka Ulana Pilina Badge Olelo Hawaii

The goal is to invite and connect with readers on a new level, perpetuate the Hawaiian language and identify underreported stories. This is a space for Hawaiian language speakers to read the news in their own language and share perspectives that might otherwise go overlooked.

Ākea Kahikina, a graduate teaching assistant at the UH Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, is one of the translators supporting our endeavor, and he helped us come up with the new section’s name, Ka Ulana Pilina.

“Ka Ulana Pilina describes the role Civil Beat plays within Hawaiʻi’s communities,” he said. “Ulana means to weave, and Pilina means relationship, so Civil Beat, through its highlighting and amplifying our local voices and stories, acts as a weaver of relationships that binds together our experiences as Hawaiʻi residents to create a more informed, more empathetic and more unified Hawaiʻi.”

The addition of news stories in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi gives the community another opportunity to hear from our neighbors about their experiences, Kahikina said. 

Once on the brink of extinction, the Hawaiian language is now taught at dozens of schools in Hawaii and is spoken at home by more than 18,000 people. PF Bentley/Civil Beat/2016

Ha‘alilio Solomon, another translator helping us with this project, is an instructor at the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. He explained why it’s important for a news outlet to offer stories in English and Hawaiian.

“Bilingualism shows inclusiveness, and in this case especially, inclusion of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi stories on this platform shows a respect for the host culture of this place and its language, and also shows an investment in the fate of the language as well as an awareness of the politics surrounding language revitalization,” he said. 

Solomon said he was motivated to participate in this project because it helps to renormalize the Hawaiian language, making it easier to reclaim as it’s pulled into the core of the focus. 

“Inclusion of ʻŌH content aligns with the revitalization and reclamation movements ongoing for the language in a way that helps shift the paradigm in which ʻŌH is characterized as marginal, novel, sexy, exotic — I loathe this word — and decorative,” he said.

This simultaneously repositions and empowers the language in a way that is “functional, communicative, developing, struggling and surviving despite very calculated eradication campaigns,” Solomon said.

In the 19th century, Hawaii had dozens of newspapers, or nupepa, in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i. 

The missionaries introduced most of the publications, boosting literacy while spreading their message. 

The first Hawaiian language newspaper established by a Native Hawaiian came in the 1860s with Ka Hoku o ka Pakipika (Star of the Pacific), published by J.K. Kaunamano, according to a University of Hawaii article. Among its editors was soon-to-be-king David Kalākaua, who earned the nickname “the editor king,” the article says.

But Hawaiian language newspapers died out in the decades following the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani.

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The 1970s Hawaiian renaissance helped save the language from extinction, though it’s still on the endangered list. Activism led to changes in the state Department of Education, and now kids can attend one of almost two dozen Hawaiian language immersion schools and UH offers advanced degrees in the Hawaiian language. 

By 2016, a U.S. Census Bureau report found more than 18,000 people spoke Hawaiian at home in addition to English. Today, you can stream “Moana” in Hawaiian on Netflix.

Translating English language news stories into Hawaiian marks positive change and emerging life of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Kahikina said. 

“It means that our ancestors who have fought for the right to speak their language have succeeded,” he said. “We are now in a time of which these activists could only dream, a time where mainstream news outlets celebrate and hold space for ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and its speakers to be heard and seen.”

The translations for this project are funded in part by the Harry Nathaniel ‘Ohana, Levani Lipton, ‘Ohana Mar and Lisa Kleissner.

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