Since childhood, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) has served as a guiding compass for ʻIwalani Kūaliʻi Kahoʻohanohano, senior specialist of internal communications at Hawaiian Airlines. Raised in Hilo on the Island of Hawaiʻi, Kahoʻohanohano grew up surrounded by ʻohana (family), hoaloha (friends), and kumu (teachers) in the native Hawaiian community who gifted her a language that continues to shape her understanding of the world.
Now 30 years old, Kahoʻohanohano is known as one of Hawaiian Airlines’ core storytellers, with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian culture as her work pillars. For several years, she has produced digital and editorial content highlighting our employees’ dedication to welcoming our guests, sharing warm and authentic Hawaiian experiences, and perpetuating company values, including lōkahi (unity), mālama (care), poʻokela (excellence), and hoʻokipa (hospitality).
In continuing our celebration of mahina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi on Manaʻo, we sat down with Kahoʻohanohano to learn about her approach to sharing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi with others. To read more blog stories in the series or about past ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi initiatives at Hawaiian Airlines, click here.
Manaʻo readers can also visit our Instagram channel and participate in our weekly social media sweepstakes, which encourage followers to learn ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi from employee-created videos for a chance to win a prize.
Meet ʻIwalani Kūaliʻi Kahoʻohanohano
Can you share the moʻōlelo (story) about your experience with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi?
Ma koʻu wā kamaliʻi i komo ai māua ʻo koʻu makuahine i ke aukahi hoʻōla ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ma o ka ʻAha Pūnana Leo a me ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Keaukaha. He limahana ʻo ia ma ia manawa a he haumana papa mālaaʻo au, a ʻoiai he mea nui ka pilina ʻohana i ke ola maoli o ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ma waho o nā lumipapa a i waena o ke kaiāulu, ua aʻo like māua ʻo koʻu makuahine, a pēlā nō i aʻo ai koʻu kaikunāne iā ia i komo i ka Pūnana Leo o Hilo kekahi. E like me ka hapanui o nā ʻohana Hawaiʻi, ʻaʻole i ʻōlelo ʻia ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ma koʻu ʻohana no ʻelua hanauna. Nui koʻu mahalo i koʻu makuahine no kona hoʻoholo ʻana e aʻo mākou i ko kākou ʻōlelo Makuahine o Hawaiʻi nei.
My Hawaiian language journey started when I was in kindergarten. My mother enrolled me at Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Keaukaha (a Hawaiian immersion school) when she became employed by the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, the entity spearheading the Hawaiian language revitalization movement. At the core of its vision of "e ola ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi - the Hawaiian language shall live," is a mission to incorporate family engagement into the education model to normalize the Hawaiian language beyond the classroom. I was fortunate to learn alongside my mother and later my brother, who attended Pūnana Leo o Hilo (a Hawaiian immersion preschool). Like most families in Hawaiʻi, mine didn't speak the Hawaiian language for two generations. My mother's commitment to revive a lost language is why we know the mother tongue of our Hawaiʻi, and for that, I am super appreciative.
How has the language resonated with you growing up, and how does it continue to influence your life?
ʻO ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi kekahi ʻano e Hawaiʻi ai ka Hawaiʻi. Ua pōmaikaʻi au i ka hiki ke aʻo i ka ʻōlelo o koʻu mau kūpuna ʻoiai ma o ka ʻōlelo au i aʻo i koʻu kuleana - ʻo wai au, no hea mai au a me ke ʻano e hoʻihoʻi ai au i koʻu ʻohana, keu hoʻi ke aukahi a me nā kaiāulu e pili pū ana iaʻu. He mea ka ʻōlelo a me ia mau hiʻohiʻona a pau ona i kūikawā i ko Hawaiʻi nei a noʻu ponoʻī iho nō, he mea ia e alakaʻi ana iaʻu ma koʻu ola, ma nā hana a pau aʻu e hana ai. Ua hiki nō ke paʻa ia ʻike nei ma o nā ʻano like ʻole ʻē aʻe, eia naʻe, ʻo ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi koʻu kahua a ma muli o kēlā e paʻa ai au ma ke kuanaʻike, ka lawena, ka ʻike kuʻuna a me ka pili ʻuhane he Hawaiʻi. ʻO ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ka mea e hoʻopili ana iaʻu i nā pōʻaiapili a pau e pono ai au ma ke ʻano he kanaka.
The Hawaiian language is one aspect of being Hawaiian. For me, it's my foundation that continues to provide an understanding of who I am, where I come from, and how I will continue to give back to my family - both immediate and extended, especially my Hawaiian language speaking ʻohana. The Hawaiian language and the qualities embedded in it are unique to Hawaiʻi and a compass that continues to guide me on my path in life. The Hawaiian language continues to connect me to people and places that help to keep me on track. Many people connect to Hawaiʻi and their kuleana (responsibility and privilege) in many different ways. I'm grateful that for me, it's my ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and its metaphysics that are unique to Hawaiʻi.
How do you share the language with others?
He ʻelele au o ke aukahi hoʻōla ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Ma koʻu puka ʻana mai Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu aku, ua komo au i ke Kulanui o Hawaiʻi ma Mānoa a ma waho o nā papa ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi ua pōmaikaʻi pū au i ka hana ma ʻĀhaʻi ʻŌlelo Ola, ʻŌiwi TV a me Palikū Documentary Films, he mau papahana hoʻi e hoʻōla ana i ka ʻōlelo, moʻomeheu a pilina kanaka ma o ka pāpaho. ʻAneʻane ʻumi makahiki o kaʻu hana ʻana me ia mau papahana nei a komo akula i ka hana ma ke Keʻena Kuleana Hoʻokipa o Hawaiʻi. Ma ia puka ʻana oʻu mai ka pūnana ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi aku i ʻike maoli ai au i ke ʻano e alakaʻi pū ana ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a me nā hua a pau a ka ʻAha Pūnana Leo i nā honua a pau ʻē aʻe o Hawaiʻi a komo nui ka haʻaheo i loko oʻu a me ka ʻiʻini e kākoʻo e like me ka mea hiki ma nā pōʻaiapili a pau e pili ana iaʻu. Ke nui hou aku nā lālā o ia kumu nui e hoʻākea ana i ka lehulehu, a laila e ola maoli ana ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi iā kākou.
I am just one part of the larger revitalization movement, so everything I do reflects the greater whole. When I graduated from Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu (a Hawaiian immersion school) and attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, I worked at ʻĀhaʻi ʻŌlelo Ola (our first broadcast news conducted entirely in the Hawaiian language), ʻŌiwi TV, and Palikū Documentary Films. Together, these entities were an extension of the language revitalization movement, as they were normalizing ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian culture, and community relations in media. After working there for nearly 10 years, I applied to work at the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority. This move outside of the language nest was difficult for me because I felt like I was leaving my family. However, I soon realized that other entities in our community also use ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as a guide, like I do, in their work. I've since gained a new sense of pride in my language and the Hawaiian language community because of how it continues to impact others. In turn, I've gained a genuine desire to assist those who seek the same connection that I was privileged to have through the Hawaiian language in all areas of my life. As this connection continues to extend into our communities, only then will our Hawaiian language become normalized, and that is how I am contributing to my ʻohana and its Hawaiian language movement.
How do you integrate Hawaiian language into your work at Hawaiian Airlines, and how has your dedication to the language shaped how you approach your job?
ʻOiai au ma ke keʻena hoʻokaʻaʻike ma ka Hui Mokulele ʻo Hawaiian ʻo ka hoʻokaʻaʻike, hokona, mālama pilina kanaka a hoʻopuka pāpaho kaʻu hana. Ma o ia mau kiʻina hana e pā ai a ʻume ʻia ai nō paha ka lehulehu ākea i ka hāpai i ka ʻōlelo ma kekahi ʻano. Pono e ʻike ko ka lehulehu i ke ʻano e pili ai ka ʻōlelo iā lākou, ka waiwai o ka ʻōlelo i ka nohona kanaka o ko Hawaiʻi. Nui koʻu mahalo i ka Hui Mokulele ʻo Hawaiian no ke kākoʻo ʻana i ke ola o ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a me ka moʻomeheu a nohona Hawaiʻi i loko o kā kākou hana a me ke ʻano a kākou e lawelawe ai i kēia kuleana o kākou – he ʻelele hoʻi o Hawaiʻi a puni.
My role at Hawaiian Airlines extends to communications, marketing, public relations, and media. Through these channels, we have the opportunity to have an impact on the broader community and potentially entice more Hawaiian language champions. For the Hawaiian language to grow, people need to see how the Hawaiian language applies to their lives and the life we live in Hawaiʻi. I appreciate the commitment that Hawaiian Airlines has in providing more opportunities for these connections to flourish onboard and among our ʻohana at Hawaiian Airlines as a company that represents Hawaiʻi.
What is your hope for the future of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi at Hawaiian Airlines?
Lana koʻu manaʻo e ʻike ka poʻe limahana a ʻōhua i ke ʻano e hoʻopili ai ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi iā lākou i ka ʻāina, ko kākou home hoʻi, a me kona poʻe i mea e hoʻolana (hou) ai ko kākou kuleana i ia mau mea. ʻO kekahi haʻawina nui aʻu i aʻo ai ma o ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, ʻo ia ka wā e alakaʻi ai a me ke ʻano e hahai ai kekahi. Ma nā ʻano pōʻaiapili like ʻole o ke ola, aia nō ka holomua i ke ʻano e komo ai kākou i ka hana. Hiki ke hoʻopuka wale i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a ola ka ʻōlelo, eia naʻe, ola maoli ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi i ke ʻano o ka noʻonoʻo o ke kanaka a me kāna hana e hoʻōla ana i ia mau ʻōlelo, he Hawaiʻi.
One of the lessons the Hawaiian language has taught me is understanding when to lead and how to follow. Success is an outcome of how we put in the work. As an example, we can speak the Hawaiian language and it'll live on. However, I believe it’s when we have intention behind the words we speak and carry it out through our actions, that only then will the Hawaiian language truly thrive. My hope then is that we, those within our company and those we serve, find a deeper connection to our homeland and its people through the Hawaiian language and through this connection to place and community, that we continue to strive to fulfill our kuleana as stewards.
What would you recommend for anyone beginning to explore ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi?
‘Oiai he haumana puka au mai ke kula kaiapuni ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a he hua au o ke aukahi hoʻōla ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, ua pōmaikaʻi au i ka ʻike a lohe pinepine i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. Ua pōmaikaʻi pū au i ke kākoʻo o koʻu ʻohana a me koʻu kaiāulu. ʻOiai ua nui hou aku nā ʻohana ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi i kēia lā, ua ulu ka nui o ke kākoʻo i waena o ke kaiāulu kekahi, keu hoʻi nā kumuwaiwai. Paipai au i ka poʻe e makemake ana e aʻo a me nā kānaka ʻakahi nō a hoʻomaka i ke aʻo e hoʻomau. E hoʻohana i nā huaʻōlelo a māmalaʻōlelo i paʻa mua iā ʻoe a laila e hoʻopili i kou ola. Mau nō koʻu ʻano he haumana ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a nui koʻu mahalo i ke ola maoli o ka ʻōlelo, keu hoʻi ma o nā waha o ka lehulehu ākea. Eia kekahi mau kumuwaiwai aʻu e hoʻohana ana a i kēia lā: ʻŌiwi TV (He hāmeʻe au ma kēia pūkaʻina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a he lauoho ʻōmilomilo koʻu) a me Niuolahiki na ka ʻAha Pūnana Leo. E ʻimi i ke kumu o kou aʻo ʻana a pēlā nō e kūpaʻa ai ma kou aʻo ʻana. Noʻu, he kuleana ia a he mea ia e kūpaʻa ai au ma koʻu kahua he Hawaiʻi ma Hawaiʻi a puni ka honua.
As a graduate of the Hawaiian language immersion program and larger Hawaiian language revitalization movement, I was fortunate to have been surrounded with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. I also know first-hand how important it is to have a support system. For me that was my community and my mom and brother at home. The number of Hawaiian language-speaking families has since grown and therefore, so has this community support. Resources are more accessible, and I encourage all who want to learn or are learning, to move forward. Start with using what you know and apply what you learn to your life. I’m still learning myself and love watching the Hawaiian language and people speaking it grow. Here are some of the resources I still use today: ʻŌiwi TV (yes, that is me in a Hawaiian language learning series with curly hair) and Niuolahiki via ʻAha Pūnana Leo. Just remember your 'why' and it’ll keep you on track. The Hawaiian language for me offers a worldview unique to my Hawaiʻi that keeps me grounded anywhere in the world and reminds me of my kuleana as a change agent.