On January 26th I walked off the airplane in Honolulu and realized I was a far way from home. In the Carolina piedmont, where my tribe has lived since the world began, the animals and plants slow down during January to prepare for the fast approaching Spring. On the island of O’ahu, January was bright, warm, green, pink, red, yellow, and blue.
Despite being such drastically different landscapes, O’ahu had a lot to teach about rekindling my relationship with my own land and language. While in Honolulu I met with researchers, community workers, and educators who are revitalizing ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language) and ‘Āina (land).
In speaking with professors at the University of Hawaii I heard about how various reforestation projects are integrating culture and language. I was also able to witness a Hawaiian-centric graduate laboratory which began by giving thanks.
I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the Hoʻoulu ʻĀina Nature Preserve. I toured the gardens learning names and uses for various plants. As we finished the tour someone handed me a saw and led me into a bamboo forest where we spent the remainder of the morning taking down an overgrown bamboo forest to make way for a water conservation system. Immediately afterwards I traveled to one of their partner projects, Roots Cafe, which serves delicious, locally grown foods every Tuesday and Thursday in a local community health clinic.
As I ate I had the opportunity to speak with Ka’iulani Odom about her leadership in the projects and what Hawaiian food sovereignty and language revitalization look like. She explained how language was integrated into all kinds of situations - gardening, cooking, teaching, birth classes, and more. By the end of one week in Honolulu I had already learned many things about indigenous language and food. I only wish I could have stayed for many more weeks!
On the way back to South Carolina I was able to stop in San Francisco for 48 hours. Here I was able to attend the Bay Area Two Spirit Powwow, which was fun and affirming. I also was able to meet up with fellow Dreamstarter, Sara Chase. We enjoyed some Korean BBQ with some of her friends while we discussed how our projects are going. We also shared tips with each other.
I was so impressed to hear about Sara’s project. Our Dreamstarter year isn’t even over and she’s already made her dream of a Hoopa language immersion school a reality! Now she is preparing for future immersion schools.
Hawu’h to Sara Chase and all the other people I visited and learned from during my trip. Hawu’h to Running Strong for making these sorts of opportunities a reality for native youth!
Author: Roo George-Warren