Hawaiian Language Lives On

Immersion graduates celebrate

`Olelo Hawaii filled the Molokai High School Hawaiian Immersion graduation ceremony, and dozens of lei rose to the noses of the graduates last Friday evening.

The ceremony was the culmination of five students’ knowledge of Hawaiian language and culture: Kekukuimawaenaokamokumaikekuahiwiakalaniikekai  Kaiama-Lenwai, Kealakai Alcon, Keakaokalani Kaiama, Ka`imiola Sagario and Kailana Eheu`ula Ritte-Camara.

Each graduate spoke in Hawaiian for about 10 minutes in front of an audience of 100 people at their garden at Molokai High School. The students also recited their “Oli Mo Okuahuhau,” or genealogical recitation.
Kealakai Alcon gives a speech in Hawaiian at the 2011 Hawaiian Immersion Program graduation. Photo by Mark Hayden.Kealakai Alcon gives a speech in Hawaiian at the 2011 Hawaiian Immersion Program graduation. Photo by Mark Hayden.
They made a kihei – Hawaiian shawl – using kappa motifs, and their kumus tied the kihei around their shoulder, symbolizing the completion of their studies. Parents also placed lei hulu, a feather lei around their students’ necks, symbolizing the artistry of the Hawaiian people.

For some of the students, it’s been a lifelong journey of learning the Hawaiian language and culture through the immersion program. Kaiama began the Hawaiian immersion program in eighth grade.

“They teach the importance of family in your life and the language,” she said. “I want to perpetuate the language through my own songs.” Kaiama said she plans on taking some college courses on Molokai before attending the University of Hawaii at Hilo to study music and Hawaiian language.

“I’ll take any chance I can get to study the Hawaiian language,” Kaiama said.

Kaiama-Lenwai’s mother, Kaleo, is elated that her son is graduating from the immersion program. He has been in the program since kindergarten and inspired his mother to take Hawaiian language classes at UH Maui College-Molokai for two years. Now, they speak `olelo Hawaii at home.

“The important thing is that back then, our language was forbidden,” she said.  “Now we are able to speak freely, so we can teach them about our culture and language, so it doesn’t die off.”

Larry Segario said his daughter, Ka`imiola, has been immersed in the Hawaiian program since preschool.

“It’s awesome to see the [Hawaiian] language and culture thriving on Molokai,” he said.

Contributed by Molokai Dispatch