Mōʻaukala o ka hoʻōla ʻōlelo ~ Hawaiian Language Revitalization


1983 – A small group of Hawaiian language teacher meet to discuss strategies for perpetuating the Hawaiian language.  The idea of Pūnana Leo schools was born, the idea that the most successful way to perpetuate the language would be to establish Hawaiian Medium schools to save the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi from extinction.  Children would learn the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi through being immersed in a Hawaiian language environment.

1984  – The first Pūnana Leo preschool was established and opened on Kauaʻi, preschools opened in Hilo and Honolulu the following year.

1986 – The nearly 100 year ban on Hawaiian as a language of instruction in public schools is removed through efforts of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo after 3 years of lobbying the State.

1987 – The first Hawaiian Language Immersion Programs (HLIP) under the Department of Education are approved and open under the name Kula Kaiapuni in Hilo and Pearl City.  They are the first indigenous language immersion classes taught in the United States.

1995 – Pūnana Leo o Waimea program is established.

1996 – Kula Kaiapuni o Waimea Hawaiian Language Immersion program is added at Waimea Elementary under the Dept. of Education Papahana Kula Kaiapuni Program.

1999 – The first class of students educated entirely in Hawaiian from Kindergarten through 12th grade graduated from Ke Kula o Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu.  Not since the time of the Hawaiian Monarchy had such an event occurred.

2010 – Kula Kaiapuni o Waimea program at Waimea Elementary is closed at the end of the 2009 – 2010 school year.  Meeting took place to re-establish a program and request that the Charter School Board approve a satellite school of Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu in Waimea.  This is the first time such a school has been approved in Hawaiʻi.

2011 – In August, ʻAlo Kēhau o Ka ʻĀina Mauna, the satellite school of Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, opens at Pūnana Leo o Waimea for Kindergarten and 1st grade students.  2022 will be the schoolʻs first graduating class.


 ʻAha Pūnana Leo

  • In 1980s there were less than 50 native speakers – mānaleo- under the age of 18, there was concern about a living Hawaiian language, the foundation of any culture.
  • In 1982 a group of educators met (Ilei Beniamina, Hōkūlani Cleeland, Noʻeau Warner, Larry Kimura, Kauanoe Kamana, Pila Wilson, and Koki Williams), and following the Maori Kohananga Reo model in Aotearoa, decided the best way to keep the language alive was to teach the babies as they will retain it and continue throughout their lives, first site was in Kekaha, Kauaʻi (1984).
  • There are 13 Pūnana Leo throughout the state.
  • Other Programs include:   on-line language program – Niuolahiki and Hiʻi pēpē    (toddler program 6 week – 3yr. old or Pūnana Leo ready) located in Hilo and      Waiʻanae
  • Main office is a 501(c)3 non-profit umbrella for all the sites, providing fiscal and administrative oversight.
  • There are now over 10,000 speakers of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi!

Pūnana Leo o Waimea 

  • Planning for school began in 1990 with ʻAnakē Keomailani Case.
  • A group of women began meeting to figure out a way to start a Pūnana Leo in Waimea.
  • 1993 a komike makua was formed to do fundraising to start the kula.
  • This group of supporters went door-to-door in Kuhio Village to ask ʻohana to enroll their keiki in this new program.
  • 5 agencies participated in the establishment of the kula
    • Ka Hula Hālau Kealaonāmaupua
    • Nā ʻAikane/Koa o Puʻukoholā
    • Nā Kālai Waʻa
    • Waimea Kūpuna Program
    • ʻAha Pūnana Leo – ʻEkekela Aiona, Lilinoe Young and Ulu Morales
  • Pūnana Leo was est. July 16, 1995