Categorized | Education

Hawaiian scholars awarded Mellon-Hawaii fellowships

Special to Hawaii 24/7 by The Kohala Center

Three of four scholars selected as 2011–2012 Mellon-Hawaii Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows are from Hawaii Island.

They are Larry Kimura, University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo) assistant professor, Renee Pualani Louis, Ph.D., Geography (2008), University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa), and Oiwi Parker Jones, Ph.D., Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics (2010), University of Oxford, England.

They received the fellowships in recognition of their commitment to the advancement of scholarship on Hawaiian cultural and natural environments, Hawaiian language, history, politics, and society.

Receiving the fourth fellowship was UH Manoa scholar Kekuewa Kikiloi, doctoral candidate in Anthropology.

Larry Kimura

Kimura is a doctoral candidate in the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Program at UH Hilo.

He has worked in the University of Hawaii system for the past 40 years, teaching courses in Hawaiian language and culture. He earned a master’s degree in Hawaiian language and literature from the Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo in 2002.

Kimura was born in Honokaa and raised in Waimea where his Hawaiian-speaking uncles worked as cowboys.

Kimura co-founded Aha Punana Leo in 1983 and helped to establish the first Hawaiian language immersion pre-schools in 1984-85, with the goal of producing native speakers of Hawaiian among preschoolers.

Kimura served as the first director of the Pūnana Leo Pre-School in Honolulu from 1985-1989. In 1987, he helped to establish the State Department of Education Hawaiian Immersion Program.

“Without one’s own language, cultural elements exist in a foreign domain,” Kimura said. “The revitalization of the Hawaiian language through children and families links them to a more confident and powerful Hawaiian core–producing contributing participants for today and tomorrow’s world.”

Kimura’s thesis research will focus on An Analysis of Obsolescence in Native Hawaiian Speech: Comparing Two Generations of Speakers, the Viable Language of the Parent and the Terminal Language of the Offspring. Kimura is mentored by Dr. William H. Wilson of the Ka Haka Ula O Keelikolani College of Hawaiian Language at UH Hilo.

Renee Pualani Louis

Louis earned a bachelors, masters, and a doctoral degree in geography from UH Manoa. When Louis entered the field 20 years ago, her goal was to map Hawaii’s ceded lands using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

She soon became enamored by the place names on the maps she was working with and changed the focus of her research to look more closely at changes in Hawaiian place names over time.

“Hawaiian storied place names reflect Hawaiian spatial knowledge of the environment,” Louis said. “Many Hawaiian place names were performed regularly as conscious acts of remembering genealogical connections, recreating cultural landscapes, and regenerating cultural mores. They constitute a critically important body of Hawaiian cultural knowledge.”

Louis’s book project, titled Sensuality, will attempt to make Hawaiian cartography more accessible to the layperson by interweaving personal narrative with methodology and by presenting information in a playbill format.

Louis is also helping to create a Hawaiian place names Web page that will allow charter school students and community members to learn the stories behind the names of places, in which they live. She is mentored by Evert A. Wingert, Ph.D., Chair of the Geography Department at UH Manoa.

Oiwi Parker Jones

Parker Jones attended Punana Leo o Hilo immersion school when it the opened in 1985. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2003 from Colorado College, and masters and doctorate degrees in Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics from the University of Oxford in England.

“Before I commenced my graduate studies, I asked Uncle Pila, a linguist, how I could make the most of my opportunities to serve the Hawaiian community,” Parker Jones said. “He suggested that I study the sound system of Hawaiian, as it was the least well understood part of the language. So, I have made this into one of my specializations, along with computational linguistics and the study of bilingualism.”

Parker Jones wrote his dissertation on the phonology (sound patterns) and morphology (word structures) of the Hawaiian language, including the relationships between the two.

Parker Jones hopes to publish his dissertation in the Oxford University Press’ Phonologies of the World’s Languages series, which to date lacks any Polynesian language.

Parker Jones’s mentor, Dr. John Coleman, professor of phonetics at the University of Oxford, said, “Parker Jones’ thesis makes substantial new contributions to our understanding of the structure of the Hawaiian language. The fellowship will provide him with much-needed time to publish his work more publicly, either as a monograph or as a series of journal articles. Either way, it is excellent news for his career and will be a wonderful addition to the literature on Hawaiian.”

The fellows were selected by a distinguished panel of senior scholars and kupuna (elders) comprised of Robert Lindsey, Jr., Kohala Center board of directors and Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee; Dr. Shawn Kanaiaupuni, Kamehameha Schools; Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center; Dr. Pualani Kanahele, Edith Kanakaole Foundation; and Dr. James Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“Each year, I am impressed with the high quality and diversity of the Mellon-Hawaii Fellows. These scholars raise Hawaiian scholarship to increasingly higher levels,” Kauahikaua said.

The postdoctoral fellowships of $50,000 each and doctoral fellowships of $40,000 each will allow the doctoral candidates time to complete their thesis work and the postdoctoral candidates the opportunity to publish their original research.

The Mellon-Hawaii Fellowship Program was founded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Kohala Center in collaboration with Kamehameha Schools. In the academic year 2010-2011, the Kahiau Foundation joined in support.

The Kohala Center is an independent non-profit academic center that respectfully engages the Island of Hawaii as a model for humanity. Through innovations in research and education, The Kohala Center sustains the natural environment, strengthens the social fabric, and develops the economy of Hawaii Island, and at the same time, advances the work of the academy.

The Center will support the progress of the four Mellon-Hawaii Fellows in the coming year and will bring the scholars together on Hawaii Island this week and again in November.

For more information about the Mellon-Hawaii Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, visit and select “Current Programs and Events.” The next deadline for prospective applicants is February 3, 2012.

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