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On May 16, 2007, the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai‘i established the Hawai‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge. It is the first new school or college established on the Mānoa campus since 1982, and the only college of indigenous knowledge in a Research I institution in the United States.

Hawaiʻinuiākea has historical roots that go back to 1921 when Hawaiian language was first offered and taught by Frederick W. Beckley. As early as 1926 Hawaiian became a second language elective and much later, in 1985, a Bachelor in Arts in Hawaiian was awarded permanent status. Notable early instructors included John Henry Wise, Reverend Edward Kahale, Rubellite Kinney Johnson, and Samuel Elbert. For more history on Kawaihuelani, Center for Hawaiian Language click here.

Hawaiian Studies was formally established under Liberal Studies in 1970. In 1979 a provisional Hawaiian Studies Program was approved by the Board of Regents and in 1985 was granted permanent status.

But it was the Kaʻū Report in 1986 “on matters related to Hawaiian Studies in the University of Hawai’i system” that amplified the urgency of creating a comprehensive Center for Hawaiian Studies and set the tone for growth in the years to follow.

In 1987 a Center for Hawaiian Studies was established by the Board of Regents and in 1996 a five-acre complex was completed and named after Gladys Kamakakūokalani ʻAinoa Brandt, a passionate and dedicated Native Hawaiian educator. “[This school] is both a symbolic and an actual victory in the more than a century-long struggle of Hawaiians to reclaim the education of our own people in our own culture” (Haunani-Kay Trask, Welcoming Address, January 18, 1997). For more history on Kamakakūokalani, Center for Hawaiian Studies click here.

In the early 1980s, a handful of Native Hawaiian students uncovered the remnants of an ancient ‘auwai (irrigation ditch) in the bushes alongside the Mānoa stream on Dole Street. They discovered that this land, called Kānewai, was highly valued for its kalo (taro) productivity even before Kamehameha conquered O‘ahu and remained a royal possession well after the Great Māhele in 1848. With the guidance of kūpuna such as Harry Mitchell, a traditional ‘auwai system (irrigation system, dated 1400A.D.), lo‘i (irrigated taro terraces), and māla ‘ai (dry planting areas) were reopened, and a hālau (thatched pavilion) was constructed. For more history on Ka Papa Loʻi ʻO Kānewai click here.

In 2006, the Kūali`i Native Hawaiian Student Services Committee released a report titled, “Native Hawaiian Student Services Program Plan”.  The Program Plan offers an overview of challenges facing Native Hawaiians in higher education, identifies support gaps, and outlines a plan for developing a Native Hawaiian culturally-based, data and research-informed student services unit in support of Native Hawaiian student success.  It also reflects the ‘ike of an intergenerational, cross-section of student affairs professionals and programs, existing policies of the University of Hawai`i System and University of Hawai`i Mānoa as well as the analysis of several years of data-based research on Native Hawaiians in higher education.  As a result of this careful consideration and planning, Native Hawaiian Student Services (NHSS) was created and determined to be housed in Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge (HSHK).

To actualize NHSS, Hawaiian Studies faculty, Konia Freitas, lead the effort to gather seed funding and search for a director.  Under her leadership, UH Mānoa was awarded its first U.S. Department of Education Title III Native Hawaiian Strengthening Institutions Program grant in 2007, Kōkua a Puni (KAP).  The following year, Dr. Kahunawai Wright was hired to serve as the NHSS director, a position also advocated by Kūaliʻi.  As a new college, HSHK also went through a reorganization at this time and all student academic services responsibilities were folded into NHSS.  Consequently, our two broad kuleana – to support all Native Hawaiian students pursuing higher education and to support HSHK majors – were defined through this process.

Since 2008, NHSS has grown exponentially as demonstrated by our diverse staff, partnerships, broad scope of programs and services, student-dedicated spaces, and active engagement in knowledge generation and dissemination.  NHSS reflects the ʻike of the original program plan but has developed its own unique identity in the ways that the original program plan is interpreted, implemented, and advanced.


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