Pride in practice


POSTED: Monday, December 01, 2008

Kamehameha Schools Hawaii is devoted to practicing the Hawaiian culture on a daily basis. Among other practices, students perform daily oli (chants) in an effort to connect students with their culture and to promote pride in it.






NA 'oiwi o Hawai'i


Faculty Adviser
Elizabeth Truesdell


Tori Rapoza and Kayla Stormont


16-716 Volcano Road
Kea'au, HI 96749


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Ninia Aldrich





“;To start every day, students perform an oli kahea asking permission to enter classes,”; KSH Vice Principal Phil Aganus wrote in an e-mail. “;(Teachers) respond with an oli komo inviting our students in to learn.”;

Every morning students line up outside their first classroom, girls on the left and boys on the right, as per traditional Hawaiian protocol. The students chant “;Nehenehe ka 'Ili'ili,”; a chant that was written for the school by Hawaiian-language teacher Hana Pau.

The chant represents the students' quest for knowledge as they ask for permission to enter the classroom.

The teachers, in turn, chant to the students to welcome them into the classroom. Their chant is called “;Ke Mele 'Oli Kahea.”;

“;The chant reminds me that the teacher is the teacher and I have to treat them with respect,”; said senior Caleb Friel. “;I know why it's important.”;

Friel also said the chanting reminds him where he is and why he's there.

“;It means something. If you pay attention to it, with the collective power of it, it means something,”; said history teacher David Bellosi. This is his second year teaching at KSH after moving to Hawaii from California. He said that learning the chant was hard for him because it is a totally new language, but he's still learning.

Though not exclusive to KSH, these cultural practices are not common among high school students anywhere, with the exception of Hawaiian-language immersion schools.

“;I'm pretty sure no one else in the world does it,”; said KSH alumna Kacie Davis.

Kamehameha Schools has a requirement that students have Hawaiian blood, so once accepted into the school, these students are expected to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. These Hawaiian practices are incorporated into the daily routine in order to teach students how to do that.

“;It's great because we're all able to say, 'I'm Hawaiian,' and we're all perpetuating the culture,”; said Davis.

The morning oli is taught to all incoming freshmen either during the summer or during the first quarter of the school year. This makes it a little more difficult for students who enter the school after their freshman year.

“;I thought (the oli) was kind of cool,”; said senior Evan Castro, who moved to KSH at the beginning of his junior year from Waiakea High School. “;It's protocol; you're supposed to do it.”;

Chants are not the only aspects of the Hawaiian culture that KSH students practice on a daily basis. Christianity was also a strong part of the Hawaiian culture after the arrival of missionaries in Hawaii.

“;We also practice daily morning prayers and perform the doxology,”; Aganus wrote, referring to some of the religious practices KSH students are accustomed to.

Students pray with the morning announcements and sing the doxology before lunch every day. According to Aganus, those practices help students develop a strong Christian foundation, a directive of the founder of the school, Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

“;It reinforces our religious beliefs,”; said Hawaiian-language teacher Hanakahi Perreira. “;(It reinforces) the beliefs that Pauahi held dear to her.”;

“;I like the prayer part because it's like a privilege that other people don't get,”; said Friel. He explained that it was nice to be able to practice his religion in school because for many it isn't allowed.

Aside from these daily practices to perpetuate the culture, students are required to complete a semester of Hawaiian culture, a full year of Hawaiian language and a full year of Hawaiian history. Though a year of Hawaiian language is required, students who took the Hawaiian language at the KSH Middle School aren't required to take another class.

All of these requirements aid in the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and the strengthening of Christian beliefs.