Preserving the Ni‘ihau Dialect Through Student-Created Books

Posted on Jul 1, 2024 in Main

Preserving the Ni‘ihau Dialect Through Student-Created BooksOn the West side of Kauaʻi, a small but determined charter school is working to preserve a language important to its community. Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha, the only ‘Ōlelo Ni‘ihau immersion school in the state, has empowered its students from preschool to 12th grade to author more than 400 books in the Ni‘ihau dialect of the Hawaiian language since 2018, creating a vibrant literary legacy.

The school’s mission is to strengthen and perpetuate the Ni‘ihau dialect of Hawaiian among the children and youth of the Ni‘ihau community. Poʻo Tumu (Principal) Tia Koerte said, “there were zero materials published in our language; a lot of it was handwritten or delivered orally.” Koerte explained that this lack of resources led them to partner with Hamline University in Minnesota to create books that would resonate with her students.

Each year, every student from preschool to 12th grade authors at least one book. Koerte and her team select a different genre and topic for students to write about each year.

“It is also important to see our language written in different forms, not only to challenge our students in writing in different forms, but also to ho‘opa‘a (to solidify) that and make sure that as time passes on and people pass on, it is now kept – mālama ia (nurtured), in all of these books that are published,” said Koerte.

Their goal is to publish 1,000 books in ‘Ōlelo Ni‘ihau, ensuring that the Ni‘ihau dialect continues to thrive for generations to come.

(Note: The Ni‘ihau dialect does not use diacriticals, however, the Office of the Governor editorial style is to include them.)

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