The 47th Annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

Next week from April 24th through the 30th the 47th Annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is coming back to Hilo, Hawai’i again. I’m sure everyone in Hawai’i is familiar with the Merrie Monarch Festival but if you aren’t it is week-long cultural festival that honors King David Kalakaua.

Kalakaua was credited with restoring many Hawaiian cultural traditions during his reign, including the Hula (Hawaiian dance). The Merrie Monarch is the biggest Hula competition in the world.

Many Halau Hula (Hula Groups) who attend the competition come from all over the world including the U.S. mainland, Japan, and other Polynesian countries such as Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, etc.

Besides the Hula competition itself there are craft fairs, art shows, hula shows, and a grand parade through Hilo town.

The Merrie Monarch has seven Hula competitions, the Kane Overall (Best out of the men), Wahine Overall (Best out of the Women), the Kane Kahiko (Mens Traditional Hawaiian), Wahine Kahiko (Womens Traditional Hawaiian), the Kane ‘Auana (Mens Modern Hawaiian), Wahine ‘Auana (Womens Modern Hawaiian), and Miss Aloha Hula, which as an individual competition amongst the best women dancers.

My favorite competition to watch every year is the Miss Aloha Hula competition because it shows individual talent amongst the best women dancers. Last year my friend Kapua Desa got second place for Miss Aloha Hula and I would like to share her amazing Hula Kahiko performance.

Here is sneak-preview of the Merrie Monarch Festival competitors as they prepare themselves. Brought to you by  ‘Ahai ‘Olelo Ola

Hawaiian Immersion Schools Threaten to Boycott State Test

This month the Honolulu Civil Beat which is an online news service that provides a forum where citizens of Hawaii can learn, understand, debate, and discover important issues facing the state wrote an article about an ongoing issue with immersion schools.

HCB reporter Katherine Poythress wrote an article about how Hawaiian immersion schools are threatening to boycott the Hawaiian Aligned Portfolio Assessment  for various reasons.

The issue is that the HAPA test was given to 290 of both third and fourth graders in Hawaiian immersion schools and results show that the students got significantly low scores. Hawaiian immersion school teachers actually score their students own test, but after looking over the questions in the test they are boycotting the state assessment saying that the Hawaiian translation is inaccurate and unfair.

The HAPA is now being reviewed because it is said to not comply with federal standards. As of today there are about twenty Hawaiian immersions schools enrolling 1,500 K-12 students who learn traditional academic subjects through the Hawaiian language and culture, having Hawaiian be their first language, learning English in the fifth grade and throughout the rest of their education.

Having been in Hawaiian immersion schools all my life I would have to say that it was quite a challenge when I had to take the SAT and the ACT testing. But now having these types of assessments in which the tests are in both the Hawaiian and English language is great, just needs improvement.

Maoli Film Festival – Papa Mau

The Hawaii Independent is a Hawai’i corporation that is the only locally-owned source of daily local news with a broad base of local member-owners. The Hawaii Independent focuses on Hawaii news, culture, and community only.

The Hawaii Independent wrote an article about the Kumu Kahua Theater hosting the Maoli festival for the first time. The Kahua Theater is dedicated to producing and sharing works by Hawaiian writers and about the Hawaiian culture as well as other Polynesian cultures.

The Maoli festival consists of six short films by Hawaii directors that will be showed on Friday, May 6th, 2011. The first film is “Chief,” which is about a fallen Samoan chief, a tragic death, and a tsunami. The second film is entitled “Piko” and shows indigenous visual arts. Third, “Stones,” is a film about a Hawaiian legend about a couple. Fourth, “Blue Tarp City” is a film about disempowerment and community passion in Hawaii. Fifth, “Lychee Thieves” is a humorous film about interactions among culturally and ethnically diverse people in Hawaii.

The last film is “Papa Mau,” directed by Na’alehu Anthony, who is a Hawaiian filmmaker and co-founder and CEO of ‘Oiwi TV. Papa Mau was released in 2010 and I had the opportunity to watch it already and I think it is very interesting because I am familiar with the people in the film.

Papa Mau is a documentary about Mau Pialug, the Micronesian navigator who taught Nainoa Thompson everything he knows about voyaging by following the stars like out Polynesian ancestors.

What I enjoy most about this film is that it has clips in which the Hawaiian language is incorporated. If I attended Kumu Kahua Theater’s Maoli film festival I suggest you keep your eye open for Papa Mau.

Here is a sneak-preview of Papa Mau:

Grammys Cut Hawaiian music category in overhaul of awards

The Honolulu Advertiser had an article in the paper on April 6, 2011by the Associated Press to announce that the Grammys are eliminating 31 music album award categories. This has been the biggest overhaul in the 53-year history of the Grammys.

“It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy and preserves the great esteem of with its held in the creative community, which is the most important element,” Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said. Basically Portnow is saying that by eliminating these categories it would make the Grammys more challenging and competitive.

Tia Carrere won this year’s Grammy for best Hawaiian music album but this Grammy category has been eliminated. Other categories that were dropped from the Grammys include best Native American album, rap performance by a duo group, etc.

Portnow pointed out that although they are getting rid of many categories, most of the categories that are being eliminated can still win in other categories, making it more challenging for artists to win. Hawaiian music could still win in the new best regional roots music category, which consists of more genres.

People in Hawai’i greatly value Hawaiian music, especially because there was a time when our ancestors could not listen or produce Hawaiian music and having the best Hawaiian music album eliminated off the Grammy’s gives me a discouraging feeling. But I am still looking forward to the Na Hoku Hanono Awards which is the Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts.

Online Hawaiian Information Resource Center

On April 4th, 2011, KITV Four News, Hawaii’s number one news channel broadcasted a story about an online Hawaiian resource center. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) partnered up with many entities to combine several databases containing land and government records, geneology indexes, and historic Hawaiian language newspapers into one resource called Papakilo Database.

“So folks that need to do historical research, like from the neighbor islands for example, you have to literally fly to Oahu to get some of this research done. Because the documents are digitized and now online, no longer will you have to do that,” OHA Chief Executive Officer Clyde Namuo said.

The project has taken several years and at least $400,000 from OHA alone. Those involved said it was a cost-effective effort. Papakilo will continue to be a project in progress and as more information comes up they will add it to the database. Officials are planning to add World War I service records and some statistics from 1826 – 1929 later this year.

Other database partners include Awaiaulu, Bishop Museum, DL Consulting, Hawaii State Archives, Ho’olaupa’i, Kaiwakiloumoku Hawaiian Cultural Center, Kumu Pono Associates, The Nature Conservacy, and Ulukau.

I believe this is a great resource that the Native Hawaiian community could use. I’ve only seen a few old Hawaiian language newspapers but they were only dated back to the 1930’s. I’m very interested in these newspapers because my great grandfather used to write for Ka Lama Hawai’i, one of Hawaii’s oldest Hawaiian language newspaper.

Indigenous Tweets

Speakers of indigenous and minority languages around the world are struggling to keep their languages and cultures alive.  More and more language groups are turning to the web as a tool for language revitalization, and as a result there are now thousands of people blogging and using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter in their native language.

For you indigenous bilingual twitter fans out there do you ever wonder if you could connect to other people around the world that speak the same indigenous language that you speak? Well the web now has what is called Indigenous Tweets, where bilingual individuals can tweet in their own indigenous language.

The primary aim of Indigenous Tweets is to help build online language communities through Twitter.  The site makes it easier for speakers of indigenous and minority languages to find each other.

I’m not talking about your regular Spanish and French languages, but Ka ‘Olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language), Kreyol Ayisyen (Haitian Creole language), Maori (Native language of New Zealand), Chamoru (Native language of Guam), Cymraeg (Welsh language), and other indigenous languages that are not used and known too much around the world.

The main page lists all of our supported languages 70 languages. Find your language in the table, click on the row, and you will be directed to a new page that lists up to the top 500 Twitter users in your language.

This is meant to be a kind of “menu” of people who tweet in your language whom you might want to follow on Twitter.    If you click on someone in the table, it will open a new window or tab with their Twitter profile, so you can see some of their recent tweets and decide if you want to follow them or not.

Ka ‘Olelo Hawai’i has 24 users and 555 tweets so far. I noticed that this is a great way for businesses and organizations in the Hawaiian community to connect with each other because there were lots of companies that were users.

“Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell

“Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell

“Unfamiliar Fishes,” is author Sarah Vowell’s new book that focused on what happened when a small group of protestant missionaries sailed from Boston Harbor in 1819 with the goal of saving the souls of the Native Hawaiian people.

Vowell has a great passion for traveling and learning about the history of the places she travels to, therefore this is her third book on U.S. history. The reason she used the words “unfamiliar fishes” was because throughout the book you will stumble upon unfamiliar Hawaiian words such as Kalakaua and Liliuokalani.

“Hawai’i went from having no written language here on the islands to seventy-five percent of all Hawaiians learning to read and write their native language,” said Vowell.

I am currently reading this book and I think it has a lot of humor and facts about the history of Hawai’i and the American Annexation in Hawai’i in 1898 which I found most interesting to read about. Vowell mentioned in the beginning of the article there were an estimated 300,000 native Hawaiians in 1778 Captain James Cook, the first Christian/non-Hawaiian can ashore. By the year 1990, the population of Hawai’i was a minority being a mix between native Hawaiians and Asia descent.

I believe that this is a great book for those interested in Hawaii’s language history because Vowell mentions how Protestant missionaries wanted to help save the Hawaiian language by creating a written language for the natives. Because of this, we now to this day have a written language that people in Hawai’i are learning every day.

Hawaiian immersion schools are teaching the written and oral language and we even have a Hawaiian Language Online Dictionary. Overall, if it was not for the missionaries that traveled to Hawai’i, then the Hawaiian language would not be alive now and Vowell stresses on the specific of this time in history in her novel.

Here are articles about Vowell’s book:

NPR Article

The Kansas City Star Newspaper Article

Here is a link of a video interview with Vowell:

“Money spent on promoting Hawaiian Language is money well spent”

“Money spent on promoting Hawaiian Language is money well spent,” is a recent article published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on Wednesday March 23, 2011 by Wilson Manuwai Peters, a New York based Hawaiian language consultant.

Peter started off the article by stating that the Hawaiian language is starting to be used in the tourist area a lot. The example he used was when travelers arrive and depart at all state airports and how there is an audio message in the Hawaiian language played in the cabin upon arrival to Hawai’i. In one of my other blogs you can watch the in-flight video.

“If we acknowledge the critical role the Hawaiian culture plays in fueling the visitor industry, then the importance of keeping the Hawaiian language vibrant and in use by residents should be prioritized and looked upon as a meaningful investment that supports the revitalization of the native language and long-term health of Hawaii’s economy.”

– Wilson Manuwai Peters

This part from the article is my opinion in a whole; “The beauty of the Hawaiian language imbues the experience with the spirit of the people and land; no marketing dollars can rival that.” I think that using the Hawaiian language gives a positive effect to so many different aspects in Hawai’i, not just the culture. Growing up speaking the Hawaiian language and culture I would have never thought that I could benefit financially in the future.

Peters mentioned in his article that the money that is being spent on teaching and reinforcing the Hawaiian language is “money well spent.” Therefore, Hawaiian immersion schools are a great way to start off the new generation so they can be bilingual individuals to better our future economy.

“Creating a demand for Hawaiian-speaking employees in the sector will increase the number of Hawaiian-language speakers in the state,” added Peters at the end of the article. In my eyes, this is what it’s all about! As great as how the Hawaiian language is helping Hawai’i’s economy, getting the people of Hawai’i back to speaking their native tongue is what internal benefit of Hawaiian language education.

Link to Article

91st Annual Kamehameha Schools Song Contest

Like immersion schools, Kamehameha Schools uses Hawaiian culture and language as the foundation to their academic system, but is not taught through the Hawaiian language and they have an Admissions Policy  of a preference of students with Native Hawaiian ancestry only.

A big event for Kamehameha Schools is their Annual Song Contest , this year celebrating their 91st anniversary. The competition involves each class competing, each gender class competing, and other small awards.

“The objectives of the song contest are to build up the repertoire of the best in Hawaiian music for the cultural heritage of any student who attends Kamehameha; to develop leadership, cooperation and good class spirit; and to give students the use of their signing voices and to give them pleasure in signing as a means of expression.”

– Laura Brown (Director of Music at Kamehameha Schools from 1926-1947)

There are six different awards awarded at the song contest which you can find on Kamehameha Schools website. All songs performed are in the Hawaiian language. The song contest is also broadcasted statewide in Hawai’i and streamed live off the internet, so I was able to watch it while in California when it streamed on March 18, 2011.

My favorite award to always look out for is the Richard Lyman Jr. ‘Ōlelo Makuahine (Mother Tongue) Award because being fluent in Hawaiian I expect this performance to be the best. This year my favorite class was of course the senior class, both girls and boys who won the Charles Edward King Cup. I enjoyed when they sang “E Maliu Mai” by a well known musician in Hawai’i, Irmgard Aluli. This performance was very beautiful describing Aluli’s matrimonial masterpiece and one of my favorite Hawaiian love songs. Here is the video below:

Ka Leo ‘Oiwi – New Hawaiian Language Sitcom

A brief background of ‘Aha Punana Leo the Hawaiian Language Program that was founded in 1983 with a dream that the Hawaiian language during that time on the edge of extinction might survive for future generations is the foundation of Hawaiian immersion education, having a few elders and less than fifty children under the age of eighteen at the time being fluent in Hawaiian.

A little over a year ago, ‘Aha Punana Leo has applied and successfully received a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) which is an organization that promotes the goal of self-sufficiency and cultural preservation of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Native Pacific Islanders organizations. It was a 2.1 million dollar grant in which ‘Aha Punana Leo created three projects and Ka Leo ‘Oiwi was one of them.

‘Oiwi TV is the first and only Native Hawaiian television station that offers programming from timely news, documentaries, children’s programming, and Hawaiian language instruction with a mission to strengthen the Hawaiian identity and normalize the Hawaiian perspective through mainstream media.

Ka Leo ‘Oiwi is one of the projects funded by the ANA grant used by ‘Aha Punana Leo and broadcasted through the ‘Oiwi TV network. Ka Leo ‘Oiwi is basically a new sitcom that teaches Hawaiian language in a social setting that may seem informal but very informative by teaching the Hawaiian language.

Throughout this first year of the grant, Ka Leo ‘Oiwi has created thirteen episodes and they will be launching their first episode in the next month. This sitcom involves three characters who are young native Hawaiian speakers who live in a beach house and the episodes will include everyday conversations, such as cooking and hanging out with friends. Within these regular conversations, the characters will incorporate Hawaiian language in everything they do in order to slowly teach viewers Hawaiian.

When I was in elementary I remember I used to watch a Hawaiian language sitcom that only lasted for two years that was called Kulaiwi that had a grandmother that speaks Native Hawaiian that would write lessons on the board and teach Hawaiian language. In my opinion, Ka Leo ‘Oiwi is a better way for people to adapt to because there are young actors and the situations will be easier for the new generation to understand with these fresh ideas.