Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kaulana Na Pua - Project KULEANA w/ lyrics & translation

Project KULEANA and Kamehameha Publishing present a collaboration of musical KULEANA.

Written by Ellen Keho'ohiwoakalani Wright Pendergast in 1893. This was a mele of opposition to the annexation of Hawai'i to the United States. Originally this mele was titled Mele ʻAi Pōhaku (The Stone Eating Song) and was also known as Mele Aloha ʻĀina

Kaulana nâ pua a`o Hawai`i
Kûpa`a ma hope o ka `âina
Hiki mai ka `elele o ka loko `ino
Palapala `ânunu me ka pâkaha
Pane mai Hawai`i moku o Keawe
Kôkua nâ Hono a`o Pi`ilani
Kâko`o mai Kaua`i o Mano
Pa`apû me ke one Kâkuhihewa
`A`ole a`e kau i ka pûlima
Ma luna o ka pepa o ka `ênemi
Ho`ohui `âina kû`ai hewa
I ka pono sivila a`o ke kanaka
`A`ole mâkou a`e minamina
I ka pu`u kâlâ o ke aupuni
Ua lawa mâkou i ka pôhaku
I ka `ai kamaha`o o ka `âina
Ma hope mâkou o Lili`ulani
A loa`a ê ka pono o ka `âina
*(A kau hou `ia e ke kalaunu)
Ha`ina `ia mai ana ka puana
Ka po`e i aloha i ka `âina
*Alternate Stanza
Famous are the children of Hawai`i
Ever loyal to the land
When the evil-hearted messenger comes
With his greedy document of extortion
Hawai`i, land of Keawe answers
Pi`ilani's bays help
Mano's Kaua`i lends support
And so do the sands of Kakuhihewa
No one will fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of native civil rights
We do not value
The government's sums of money
We are satisfied with the stones
Astonishing food of the land

We back Lili`ulani
Who has won the rights of the land
*(She will be crowned again)
Tell the story
Of the people who love their land
*Alternate Stanza

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Words of Support for the Alaska Native Languages Bill

(Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

Currently, Alaska is facing its own language landmark. Yesterday, the Alaskan senate passed a bill to make 20 indigenous languages legal languages of the state alongside English. It doesn't change how their government will conduct business, but it offers the legitimacy and credibility that so many indigenous speakers yearn for. Here are some words from the floor:

“I sit here as your peer. I sit here as your equal. We may speak different languages, but mine is just as valuable, just as necessary, and just as useful as yours," -University of Alaska Southeast Native Languages Professor Lance Twitchell
 “Language and culture go together and they cannot be separated,” -Bethel elder Esther Green

“Our language is everything. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the blood that flows through our veins.”
“There’s a statewide movement to prevent the extinction of Alaska Native languages and promote the revitalization of Native languages, and this recognition quite simply means the world to a lot of people...if a symbolic bill can create a sense of energy and momentum and excitement, then the bill in a certain sense achieves its purpose.” -Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka

 “ engage in conversation, learn the language, the heritage of their elders. Learn the stories of what Alaska was, so they know how to make Alaska a better place”

One of the main criticisms to this bill was basically the fear that if they pass it, people will want their indigenous language to be recognized as legally equal to English. Like, they will want the government to actually DO something about it. And that's tough. Speaking from personal experience, it takes a certain kind of crazy to come right out and say "I don't approve of native tongues", but, its takes a certain, different kind of crazy to actually stand up and say "this should be recognized and anything less than equal is unjust and unacceptable." Most people fall into the very quiet grey area, which isn't exactly helpful if you are facing cultural oppression.

(Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

I get so bogged down and annoyed by the red-tape in front of me that I often forget how far Hawaii has come. Hawaiian activists paved the road and made real the dream so many indigenous peoples across the US have in their hearts - to be seen.

In Hawaii, we are constantly struggling to overcome the prevailing notion of Hawaiian as "decorative". Sure, people want to hear it when they visit, but they don't want to have to FUND it with their tax dollars. And though we have laws that symbolically protect our right to speak Hawaiian, we don't have a ton of higher-ups who understand those laws or are willing to enforce and apply them fairly. However, we can teach Hawaiian in public schools, we can write checks in Hawaiian, and we can hear it on the bus, the radio, at church, in the airport, etc. We can argue against forced assimilation and actually have a legal leg to stand on. These paltry offers are in fact pretty big deals, because a lot of indigenous peoples don't even have that much.

At the end of the day, I'm happy for Alaska and I'm proud to live in this imperfect state, with its imperfect system. As long as someone is still fighting, as long as someone is still saying "Aia ma 'ane'i kakou!" then I suppose I can look at it as progress, however slow and frustrating it may be.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sacred Mountain - Mauna Kea, Hawaii

"They" are building a 30 meter telescope (known around here at the TMT project) on top Mauna Kea. Ugh. Kaika came home from school the other week telling me they are building a hotel up there. Frankly, they might as well be.

 ...its the size of a hotel, dear...

The world, Hawaii especially, needs a moratorium on "progress". No more progress, unless it is going to give us clean drinking water or a sustainable food supply for the indefinite future. But seriously, a(nother) thirty meter telescope?! Its almost awe inspiring what "they" are able to get away with despite both public outcry and common sense. I have to kākoʻo and say "no." Then I have to go write another letter...

Both my husband and I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Aunty Pua Case and it doesn't surprise me one bit that she was able to channel her pain into something beautiful and educational - this short film. E nānā, ke ʻoluʻolu, a me kōkua mākou e kiʻai ia Mauna a Wakea.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ryukyuans (Okinawa) and the Question of Mauli

When people ask me about my trip to Okinawa during Christmas 2002, I usually say "Okinawa is the Hawaii of Japan." I spent a week there in college hanging out with friends at a luxury beach-side hotel and checking out the WWII monuments, all the while vaguely aware of an overwhelming US military presence and a bouncy local "dialect" that made it all but impossible to get directions from anyone who wasn't the hotel concierge.

Okinawa is part of a group of islands formally known as the Ryukyu Kingdom. In 1879, during the Meiji Restoration (aka the events leading up to 'crazy imperialist Japan circa 1930'), the Ryukyu islands were formally annexed by Japan and the all-too-familiar assimilation story began. Loss of traditional culture, suppression of native language, indoctrination via compulsory education, etc. The the goal of the Meiji goverment was to make Okinawans believe they were also Yamato (ethnically and culturally Japanese). And where they handed out Japanese names and passports, they curiously would not allow Ryukyuans to hold government office. The message was clear "you are one of us, but you are not equal to go sign up for the military and pay your taxes."

photo cred to

Modern day Japan doesn't recognize Ryukyuans as indigenous people, despite recommendation from the UN and various other third-party groups. The Okinawan language (and the other languages spoken in Ryukyu) is regarded as a "dialect" of Japanese even though they aren't mutually intelligible.

...wait, can you repeat that?

Yep. I said the Japanese government considers Okinawan language a dialect of Japanese even though they are only vaguely similar and nobody who speaks Japanese can understand a damn thing someone speaking Okinawan is saying. I can attest to the truth of this because of an experience I had trying to find the nearest Catholic church on Christmas Eve (sidenote: the church was in a barn, we were a half hour late, and it was a way cool service).

Clearly (at least to me) the classification of Okinawan as a dialect is purely socio-economical. The assimilation of Ryukyuans was motivated by politics and economics leading up to the global disaster that was the Empire of Japan. And it continues to this day because of Japan-US military interests. Unfortunately, Ryukyuan Indigenous Rights Activists have their hands so full with land rights, resource access, and anti-nuclear issues that there is scare time left for language revitalization.

Which leads me to the question of mauli. Hawaiians define mauli as "the unique life force which is cultivated by, emanates from, and distinguishes a person who self-identifies as [a Hawaiian]"(APL) How do we distinguish one group of people as being unique from another, especially when there are powerful ulterior motives for assimilation? What are the benefits of preserving mauli? When we look at the world today, with common rhetoric supporting "global that-and-that" or "internationalism", how do we reconcile that with mauli and the basic human rights of indigenous peoples?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Report Cards & the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola

Report cards came out last week.

so what exactly does a "Hawaiian report card" look like?

Being a public school under the Department of Education, my kids get the standard report card complete with GLOs, MP/DP/SI/WTF, etc. The real exciting part is the nice addendum based on the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola, a philosophical statement written in 1998 that basically provides focus for the goals of Hawaiian education.

Though I've never read the whole thing (this novella of a statement is in Hawaiian, of course) we hear a LOT about the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola. Everything goes back to it. Why are we taking this field trip? Why are we teaching this style of math? Can we use this thing for a fundraising brochure? Is my kid doing "okay" in school? All these questions are addressed with the KHMO in mind.

Students are assessed on the four components of the KHMO: behavior, traditional knowledge, spirituality and language. As a parent, I find this approach more holistic and informative, which is the whole point of a report. To me, these targets smack of "parent-teacher conference fodder", the difference being that here the students are graded on these skills. Which gives them more weight and consequently makes their mastery necessary rather than just desirable.

Driving home from school, Ikaika was lamenting that so-and-so got an award for being "Nani Nawahi" (4.0 students) and he wanted one, too... I asked him why he wasn't and he (correctly) guessed it had to do with lawena (behavior). Upon arriving home, I asked to see his homework and he pulled a crumpled piece of crazy out of his backpack, presenting it to me as if I should be impressed. Upon cross-referencing his report card I found that, sure enough, the grade for maʻemaʻe (cleanliness) was dismal. "This, Son, is exactly why you aren't a 4.0 student."

If school were only about reading, writing, 'rithmatic, Ikaika would be set (he's a bright little guy) - but from a Hawaiian perspective, from the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola, he needs to demonstrate cleanliness. You, Kindergartener, have to be able to organize your desk, put papers away neatly and pick up after yourself in addition to knowing the alphabet and adding/subtracting single digit numbers. Both are equally important for realizing the goal of developing kids into productive, well-educated community participants. Maybe a silver lining of the lack of authentic assessments is that it allows us to focus on things that can't be measured by ETS.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Language Prejudice

"People without linguistic training are seldom aware that they have language prejudices. They commonly make assumptions about the inferiority of some dialects, like AAE (African-American English), and the superiority of others, like British English. They may also draw unfounded connections between "correctness" of standard grammar and logic of thought. When they do this, they ignore decades of linguistic research which show us that "standard" English became the standard for historical or political reasons, not because it was better at communicating. That is, the group who speak a particular dialect have achieved power over groups who speak other dialects. It is the speakers who have the power; the status of the dialect merely reflects the social and economic status of the group using it. People trained in linguistics, unlike lay people, generally consider that all dialects and modes of speech are equal. They are all adequate to communicate any message, at least among people who share the dialect."

This is an excerpt from my good-ole college linguistics text. It is a beautiful sentiment that I want to revisit frequently.

Being an uncommon, indigenous language, Hawaiian often falls prey to this farce of inferiority. The unspoken assumption is that because pre-contact Native Hawaiians didn't compose chants about computers and cars there simply isn't a way to express sophisticated, modern ideas using that language system. This, of course, couldn't be further from the truth.

Any language grows with the people who speak it. So as far as I am a modern, educated (possibly even sophisticated) woman, the language will expand to fit my needs. And the needs of many others who chose to use it to communicate. As English speakers, we take for granted that all the ideas we communicate were somehow bestowed upon us (in English, no less!) rather than arbitrarily assigned when some new concept needed a semantic expression. Sometimes, sitting in meetings at UH Hilo, I am blown away by the translation being fed into my ear. "They said all that?! How/why did this guy even learn the word for 'conglomerate'?"

In my opinion, the super fun part is words that have no direct translation, but instead directly reflect the perspective of the culture through which it is communicated. That, however, deserves its own post.

what was this prophesy in? Elvish? Apparently Mordor had a few inconsistencies with their expectations of the text.