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Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

UH Hilo site of world’s first Ph.D in Hawaiian

In conjunction with the annual visit by the Board of Regents, the University of Hawaii at Hilo today announced the start of its new Ph.D. in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization.

The Ph.D. program is the first of its kind in several categories. It is the first Ph.D in Hawaiian anywhere. It is also the first Ph.D. in the U.S. in any Native American language; the first Ph.D.in the world specifically focusing on indigenous language revitalization, and the first Ph.D. offered at UH Hilo.

“We are absolutely thrilled by this development,” said Chancellor Rose Tseng. “This is so fitting that Hilo's first Ph.D. be in Hawaiian. Our Hawaiian program is a world leader in language revitalization that has brought much national and international attention to our campus.”

UH Hilo's Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani is the only college in the U.S. operated through a Native American language. The College grew with the Pūnana Leo Hawaiian language movement that began in the 1980s. It was officially established in 1998 to include development of Hawaiian immersion teacher education, a laboratory school, and graduate education in Hawaiian.

Accrediting agency approval for the Ph.D. was obtained in response to a larger Hawaiian Studies funding initiative for campuses throughout the State, according to Senator Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“Saving the language was always the top priority of our kūpuna,” Hee said. “It began with the babies in Pūnana Leo. We have now reached the highest possible credential within the university system. It has been an amazing journey.”

The Ph.D. program focuses on individuals who are actively involved in the revitalization of Hawaiian and other indigenous languages. The first group of students includes a Māori educator as well as four individuals active in teaching Hawaiian language. Faculty from throughout the U.S. and other parts of the world are contributing to the program through distance education programming, visiting faculty positions, and joint research projects.

Dr. Kalena Silva, director of Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, is looking forward to the impact of the new Ph.D. and other graduate programs on the revitalization of Hawaiian.

“Linguists are predicting that some 2,500 indigenous languages could go extinct in this century, but we are not going to let Hawaiian be one of them,” Silva said. “For the past 25 years, we have operated our program by making Hawaiian our language of professional and personal interaction at all levels—not just an object of study, but the full language of all operations of our College and our personal daily life. This Ph.D. represents a new stage in our development by providing a means for us to maintain Hawaiian as our base language while expanding on a multilingual international level. ”

For more information about the new Ph.D in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization or any other programs offered by Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani, contact the College at (808) 974-7342 or http://olelo.hawaii.edu/dual/orgs/keelikolani/ .


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