Teaching and Learning from an Indigenous Perspective: Knowledge and Language Revitalization in Hawaii

Project Contributor: Chad Kälepa Baybayan

A consortium of Native Hawaiian schools and education professionals is using the indigenous Hawaiian language as a medium for making connections between traditional and formal scientific knowledge within a Hawaiian paradigm – one that is grounded in practices that allow people to be self-sufficient by sustaining the environments that feed and nurture them. Those environments – the sky, air, rain, rivers, streams, wetlands, shores, reefs, deep ocean, together with people – are part of an everlasting symbiotic relationship that Native Hawaiians recognize, protect, and preserve because doing so sustains the generational cycle of indigenous existence. What researchers would label “biodiversity conservation”, indigenous Hawaiians would simply call the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola, or “the way we live”.

The consortium has spearheaded several initiatives under the project title “Knowledge and Language Revitalization in Hawaii” . The He Lani Ko Luna Community-Based Learning Centre, located on a 10-acre farm run by ‘Aha Pünana Leo (language immersion pre-school), has hands-on learning activities that focus on ‘ölelo (language); lawena (social behaviour and traditional protocols); pili ‘uhanae (spirituality); as well as ‘ike ku‘una, which is traditional knowledge that makes connections to the contemporary world. The College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii, Hilo has long offered regular classes in traditional farming, medicinal herbs, and gathering of native forest products; traditional fishing and aquaculture; and song and dance through performance to celebrate and record orally the history of the Hawaiian people. At the Näwahïokalaniÿöpuÿu immersion school, learning occurs in the Hawaiian language and within a Hawaiian paradigm. The curriculum is grounded in an indigenous perspective and makes connections to mainstream academics through indigenous approaches to learning.

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