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White House proposes new guidance to elevate Hawaiian language

In honor of February being Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, or Hawaiian Language Month, the Department of the Interior released new guidance on the use of the Hawaiian language, with the intent to spotlight Hawaiian culture. 

The new Departmental Manual chapter aims to demonstrate the government’s commitment to prioritizing Indigenous knowledge and culture in conservation stewardship, according to Kauai Now.

“Prioritizing the preservation of the Hawaiian language and culture and elevating Indigenous Knowledge is central to the Biden-Harris administration’s work to meet the unique needs of the Native Hawaiian Community,” said Secretary Deb Haaland in a press release. “As we deploy historic resources to Hawaiʻi from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Interior Department is committed to ensuring our internal policies and communications use accurate language and data.”  

The new guidance emerged from virtual consultation sessions last year, with input from ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi advocates, instructors and practitioners, according to Kauai Now

The measure outlines that department bureaus and offices who engage with the Native Hawaiian community must follow the guidance on the Hawaiian language when referencing places including cultural sites, geographic places and government facilities, Kauai Now reported. 

This initiative aligns with the Biden-Harris administration’s aim to strengthen relationships with the Native Hawaiʻian community, such as through their work with the Kapapahuliau Climate Resilience Program and Hawaiian Forest Bird Keystone Initiative, the press release noted. 

Island News reported that Hawaiʻi House Rep. Diamond Garcia hopes to further efforts to promote Hawaiian cultural practices through House Bill 2540, which would mandate public school students in Hawaii to pass two years of Hawaiian language. 

“Per the Hawaiʻi State Constitution, ‘Olelo Hawaii is one of two official languages in Hawaiʻi. If Hawaiian is an official language then it MUST be a requirement of learning in Hawaiʻi public schools,” said Garcia to Island News.

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