Author David Harrison’s new “The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages,” is a must-have for you linguist and passionate indigenous speakers out there. The media such as the L.A. Times and the Huffington Post has been writing about this amazing piece of literature.
“A language that was on the brink of extinction can and actually has been revitalized. I think a very formidable success story is the Hawaiian language.”
– David Harrison
In Harrison’s book he mentions that the Hawaiian language was down to a small number of speakers and was in an advances state of endangerment. He commented saying that if things had not changed then Hawaiian might have been extinct today, but the community pit forth an enormous effort.
Harrison did his research and shared with his readers that when native Hawaiian speakers were trying to bring the language back they created nests, they raised a new generation of youngsters (such as myself) speaking the language and now there are speakers of Hawaiian all around Hawaii.
He also stressed on the idea of how there are native Hawaiian speakers of all ages, not just older grandparents, which was the case in the beginning, but now Hawaiian is even becoming one’s first language.
Harrison mentioned on an interview that he always hears critics saying that “It’s inevitable that these languages will die, so why even try?” In response Harrison believes that it’s simply not true and the Hawaiians as well as the Mohawk and Cherokee have proved that to the world.
Personally, I have just started reading this book and if you are very passionate about linguistics and cultures I suggest you pick it up.
In the beginning of March I believe that ‘Aha’i ‘Olelo Ola the Hawaiian language news program that covers issues, people, and events from a uniquely Hawaiian perspective conducted one of their best stories yet. The story focused on Hawaiian activism through music and its messages and here is the actual news program All genres of music in general play a uniquely important role in people’s lives because of the messages they have to offer. This story included a pair of various Hawaiian musicians whose music involves the pulse of the Hawaiian activism movement.
If you are not familiar with the History of Hawai’i before it was a state you should know that in the late 19th century through the early 20th century the kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown by the United States. At first, the U.S. made many strict laws such as banning the Hawaiian language and cultural practices, but now they have changed drastically, but there are still strong Hawaiian activist that are fighting for the freedom of Hawaii as if it was their own country.
The story started by introducing Jon Osorio a Hawaiian musician famous during the 1980’s for composing music that created deep messages focusing on the activism in Hawaii trying to create social change. One of Osorio’s famous songs entitles, “Hawaiian Soul” talks about the issue regarding the island of Kaho’olawe that was taken under the U.S. Navy in the fifties and how the Hawaiian community feels that it is an injustice for the Navy to just leave the island dirty and useless.
Osorio mentioned that nowadays people are saying that there is not enough meaningful music related to Hawaiian activism in the music industry, but Osorio disagrees pointing out Sudden Rush a group of Hawaiian rappers that write and perform songs promoting a conscious awareness for Hawaiian rights. According to Osorio, “The Hawaiian activism is about reclaiming the language.” Growing up with Hawaiian being my first language and being extremely immersed in the culture, I believe that a lot of local Hawaiian music consists of messages related to Hawaiian activism issues and injustices and how we as a Native Hawaiians can better these issues.
Here is a music video of a song entitled “EA” which means sovereighty and independence written and composed by Sudden Rush and is one of my favorite songs by them: