KEKAHA — “Tall” Tracy Fredin came through with the goods, and Tia Koerte’s apprehension over the perpetuation of olelo Ni‘ihau were appeased Wednesday at E Ho‘olaule‘a Like Katou on the campus of Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha public charter school.
The event celebrated and honored na kupuna who brought forth the olelo Ni‘ihau, or Ni‘ihau dialect school, and the collaboration between Ke Kula Ni‘ihau and Hamline University in Minnesota, where Fredin serves as the director of the Center for Global Environmental Education.
Fredin was accompanied by a group of Hamline University people who unveiled a host of literary resource development material based on Kealapito, or pronunciation guide.
“This is a gift that gives in many directions,” Fredin said. “It’s a fun thing to do while working with a vision of getting 1,000 books into the school. We need 1,000 books in the Ni‘ihau dialect. I want 1,000 books in five years. Today, we have about 50 to get started.”
Students at Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha are the writers of the books brought over and spread out over tables for guests, including representatives from the Title 1 Comprehensive Support and Improvement Funds program, who sponsored the project.
“We have the people tell the story,” Fredin said. “We have a team that makes the story come to life. We are pleased to be part of this family. I come from a town smaller than Kekaha, and everything here feels so good.”
Students in kindergarten through second grade took turns reading books they authored to audiences who filled the lumi peta, or school library, and the lumi nui, or big room where school assemblies are held. The readings took place in front of a battery of video cameras recording the readings.
“The students in grades kindergarten through five authored the books with the help of kumu,” Koerte said. “Students in the upper grades helped edit the books, and Hokulani Cleeland did the final checks.”
Koerte said the collaborative effort started more than 20 years ago when Debra Peterson, then working with St. Thomas University, came to Kauai to study the Hawaiian culture through its people, centering her studies on Ni‘ihau after meeting students and school representatives, including teachers and maintenance people.
“The idea of creating books is an important component of resource development,” Fredin said. “We are fortunate that Ke Kula Ni‘ihau staff communicates with our team to ensure accuracy in what is being presented.”
The Wednesday celebration held in the shade of quick tents and the outspread kou trees showcased Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha’s Ni‘ihau language and literary resources, including electronic games, ebooks and an inter-active guide to Kauai. That guide is sensitive to touch and based on the island’s map that was developed in partnership with Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education.
“We have an outreach of this,” Fredin said. “The interactive guides are now placed at the Kauai Museum, and at the Kauai Marriott Resort &Beach Club, next to its outrigger canoe. Thursday, we will be installing a smaller version than the one here at school at the Kokee Museum.”
Fredin said their next project will center around the Ni‘ihau shell and the jewelry created by the Ni‘ihau people.
Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha is commited to the continued development of Ni‘ihau language and literary resources to hoilina mau, or perpetuate, the legacy of kupuna.
“We’ll be back next year with haumana, or students,” Peterson said. “Look for us about this time.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.