This story will be updated with additional media and information.
(BIVN) – The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo will lead a consortium of three entities to establish a National Native American Language Resource Center over the next five years. The effort was recently awarded a $6.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education.
UH Hilo’s Hawaiʻi ʻImiloa Institute will work in collaboration with the University of Alaska Southeast and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University in Wisconsin to “implement, lead, and advocate for training and resource development for US Indigenous language education pathways.”
“This is not only an acknowledgment of the value of our Native languages but is also a testament to the hard work our community has put into renormalizing our ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi over the past 40 years, while also working to uplift other ʻōlelo ʻōiwi nationally and internationally,” said Kaʻiu Kimura, Director of Hawaiʻi ʻImiloa and UH Hilo’s Ka Haka ‘Ula O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, in a news release. “Our national team is honored to receive this grant, and we are grateful for the support of Senator Brian Schatz, who authored and shepherded the passage of the NALRC Act.”
“Culturally-based instruction is critical to promoting and revitalizing Native languages,” said Schatz, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “This funding will directly support educational institutions like the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in developing resources and fostering collaboration to promote the use of Native American languages across the country.”
University of Alaska Southeast Professor Lance X’unei Twitchell, who earned his Ph.D. at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Keʻelikōlani, noted that, “With the opportunities presented in our shared visions and unity, we grow stronger together and keep one another from feeling alone in our efforts to achieve language stability.”
Dr. Migizi Michael Sullivan, Native American Studies Director at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University, went on to say, “The center will be a place where Indigenous communities and groups can draw inspiration, information on best practices, and share strategies to renormalize the use of our languages, to benefit present and future generations of indigenous people.”
The news release provided this information about the newly formed Hawaiʻi ʻImiloa Institute:
The Institute was established in 2023 as a collaborative effort between UH Hilo’s Hawaiian Language Consortium partners including ʻImiloa Center, Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Resource Center, Mokuola Honua Center for Indigenous Language Excellence, Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, and the ʻAha Pūnana Leo. Building on 40 years of experience in revitalizing and renormalizing the Hawaiian language and supporting indigenous languages around the world, the Institute will further support the P-12, undergraduate and graduate programs, and community engagement throughout Hawaiʻi and other indigenous communities and will serve as an incubator and accelerator to support native language normalization. The Institute strengthens Hilo’s recognition as the worldwide leader in advancing Hawaiian and Indigenous language and culture revitalization.
“This is focused on excellence in indigenous language revitalization,” University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner told the UH Board of Regents during a meeting on Thursday, “and it really positions UH-Hilo as the national leader in this area. It has already demonstrated global leadership.”
“This will be the first ever National Native American Language Resource Center in the country. Kudos to UH-Hilo, the entire team, particularly Kaʻiu Kimura. This has been a baby of Senator Shatz, as well, to focus on this area.”