Sealaska Heritage

NEWS_SHI to sponsor lecture on Hawaiian approach to language revitalization

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Talk is third in a series of Native language lectures

January 30, 2020

(Flyer) (About the Lecturers)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a free language lecture on Monday that is part of a new series of talks aimed at sharing teaching techniques and connecting language professionals working to perpetuate Native languages.

In their talk, The ‘Aha Pūnana Leo Approach To Hawaiian Language Revitalization, Drs. Kauanoe Kamanā and William Wilson, president and director of the nonprofit ‘Aha Pūnana Leo, will describe how the organization moved forward to reach the state’s current level of language vitality. Included in that description will be the role of networking with other Native peoples, including Alaska Natives, in assuring programmatic success.

TheʻAha Pūnana Leo is credited with beginning and sustaining the current Hawaiian language revitalization movement. When the movement began, full proficiency in Hawaiian was restricted to those born before 1920 and to a small population of 200 on a remote island. There were fewer than 50 children under 18 able to speak the language fluently. Today nearly 4,000 children are enrolled in schooling through Hawaiian and the language is the most widely reported non-English home language of children in the state.

The ʻAha Pūnana Leo has been at the forefront of language revitalization in the country and a leader for other Indigenous groups, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the Hawaiians for the model and lessons that they provided to Sealaska Heritage when we began our language revitalization efforts near 20 years ago,” Worl said.

The lecture is scheduled 5 pm, Monday, Feb. 3, at SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lectures will be videotaped and posted on SHI’s YouTube channel. Presenters will also be interviewed for SHI’s new language podcast “Roots & Stems,” and the audio will be posted shortly after the lecture. 

About the Lecturers

Dr. Kauanoe Kamanā is a founding member of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo and serves as its president. She was born in Honolulu and raised in Kalihi and Kalamaʻula, Molokaʻi. She is the director of U.H. Hilo’s P-20 Hawaiian medium education laboratory school Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu. As a teacher and administrator, she works with students, teachers and families to re-establish the vibrancy of Hawaiian language and culture in Hawaiʻi. Kauanoe believes that we all have a role in carrying the legacy of Hawaiian language into the future.

Dr. William H. “Pila” Wilson is a founding member of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo and serves on its board of directors. Pila was born in Honolulu after his parents came to Hawaiʻi during World War II. Pila teaches at Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani Hawaiian Language College at U.H. Hilo. His professional expertise includes Hawaiian grammar, the history of the Hawaiian language, and language revitalization. Pila has played a key role in developing state laws for education through Hawaiian and in establishing U.S. federal policies to protect and promote Native American languages.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,