ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi has always been a supple and beautiful tool for describing our world, it is a language that is viable in school, government and business, as well as everything else in between. And in the traditions of our ancestors, our haumāna are using it to advance their scientific and historical knowledge.
In the beginning of April, four students with projects in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi advanced to this year’s Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair put on by the Hawaiʻi Academy of Science, and then less than a week later, twelve haumāna with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi projects competed in the Hawai’i Council for the Humanities’ Hawaiʻi History Day.
Since 2015, at least one ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi project has advanced to the statewide science fair, and for History Day, the competition went from having one to two projects in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi per year to a whopping 13 this year. This surge prompted Hawaiʻi History Day’s organizers to create an ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi category for the first time ever in their 29-year history.
All of the History Day projects came from one school, Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Public Charter School, from Hawaiʻi Island, and the History Day organizers have already heard from other schools on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi about wishing to compete as well, so expect the number of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi projects to explode in coming years.
As Dorie Langi, a retired teacher from Kahuku who has worked with History Day for the last 20 years, said, “Hearing those students do their interviews with judges in Hilo, in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi brought tears to my eyes. I was very, very touched, spiritually. This has been a national contest all these years, but this year, with these students, it felt like it brought a depth of culture and Hawaiian identity we had never felt before. It felt like bringing in family.”