In an attempt to help BYU-Hawaii students learn more about Hawaiian language and culture, university officials announced the Hawaiian Studies program Feb. 12.
The announcement was a culmination of "three years of discussion, thought and prayer," said Eric Shumway, BYU-Hawaii president."Many residents throughout Laie and the North Shore
of OahuT, including me, have anxiously waited for the time when a full Hawaiian studies program would be offered at BYU-Hawaii. This is a great opportunity for the students of today and the future."
Professor William Kauaiwiulaokalani Wallace will lead the new program and develop its curriculum, along with Kamoa'e Walk. They will work closely with educators, students and residents of Laie and North Shore communities in formulating the program's scope.
Students majoring in Hawaiian studies will take four years of Hawaiian language and will participate in several outdoor classroom activities - such as the raising of native Hawaiian plants, canoe building and navigating, and the identifying and studying of historic cultural sites in and around Laie. They will also work closely with the Polynesian Cultural Center.
"This gives - particularly LDS Hawaiians - a way to focus on the language, culture, and spiritual awareness of their Hawaiian people," said Pres. Shumway. ". . . We are acknowledging their language and identity as Hawaiian is important."
He noted that during recent generations the Hawaiian people virtually lost their culture and language. "There were two or three generations of Hawaiian students that were encouraged not to speak Hawaiian," he said.
However, in 1978, Hawaiian became the official language of the state and since then there has been a push to teach the Hawaiian language. A major goal of the Hawaiian Studies program is to produce qualified educators and professionals who can teach Hawaiian in Hawaiian language schools.
BYU-Hawaii announced the new program at a "Hawaiian Studies Celebration" in the Cannon Activities Center, 43 years to the day after the Church, led by President David O. McKay, founded the new college in Laie.
During the program - filled with beautiful music and dance of ancient Hawaii by both young and old, emotion-filled chants, inspiring cultural demonstrations, and messages of support - Brother Wallace recounted his own cultural experiences growing up on the island of Molokai.
"The program will develop and support a network of Hawaiian language and cultural teachers, educators and professionals that will actively preserve and perpetuate positive Hawaiian cultural values and practices," he said.
He added that the program will help native Hawaiians fulfill their need for personal or collective strength. "It will provide native Hawaiian students and community members with a crucial sense of place, be a physical symbol of their cultural identity, and a site of strength and support central to their education and future roles as leaders and teachers."