Thirty years ago, we were celebrating the opening of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo. Since then we’ve seen much success in the Hawaiian language revitalization movement, especially today.
SB 1235 was introduced and passed through its first committee. The bill would provide public funding to Hawaiian language television.
“We feel that this bill is very important in that it seeks financial support from the government to support our ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in media,” says Amy Kalili, who is the Executive Director of Makauila, Inc.
As the numbers were drawn, Senator Rosalyn Baker shared how much the community was in support of this exact idea. “We had a list of seventy-six individuals in support, 108 form letters in support and about two-dozen individuals in opposition.”
“First, mahalo to the Chair and this committee and to everybody who testified, even though it was in opposition to the bill, but most of the people here in this room had acknowledged the importance of what we do,” testifies Keoni Lee, who is the General Manager of ʻŌiwi TV.
Amy shares that what we do is for the benefit of the whole. “Our work is not inclusive to just Hawaiians. Although the root of it is our Hawaiian language and culture, all of our work is internationally relavent. That is our mission.”
This mission is not what those in opposition testified against, according to Senator Baker. “And I’ll note for the record that the opposition has nothing to do with the merits of Hawaiian language television, it really has to do with the funding.”
“What it does is it splits the baby. It takes the money that goes to these valuable resources, and tries to split it up to all these other resources that have nothing to do with the original intent of what this money came from to begin with,” says Jay April, who is President and CEO of Akakū Maui Community Television.
“The decreased funding we would have would eliminate our operations- it would eliminate both public access as well as anything that the government does,” says Jay Robertson, who is managing director and head of Hōʻike Kauaʻi Community Television.
However, Robertson was open to another alternative: “So I came here really today to see if there is a partnership that could be born, if there’s a way that we could support the initiative.”
Although this idea of a partnership was greatly appreciated, it just isn’t enough to reach the end goal.
“This idea for an independent television initiative, whoever the organization or designate may be, be independent because we serve a different purpose and it needs to be managed by organizations and leadership that are grounded in the Hawaiian perspective in order for it to be successful,” says Keoni. “We built a track record, we built the experience in order to come here today and stand before you and say with confidence that we know what we’re doing, we can do it and we are ready to take on this kuleana of supporting and revitalizing our native language and culture.”
“It’s important to hear our ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in media because it is a sign that our language and culture lives on,” says Kauanoe Kamanā, who is President of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo. “It’s was also very moving to see such great support in the room today.”
Especially with the support of the Chairs and Committee: “SB 1235 chair recommendation is to pass with amendments. Chairs aye, Vice Chairs aye: Senator Nishihara (aye) Senator Soloman (aye) Senator Wakai (aye).”
E ola mau ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiian language shall live on.