My Story-Darlene Kanahele, Ni’ihau

Darlene is one of only several hundred Ni’ihau Hawaiians, who grew up on this privately owned Hawaiian Island. The Hawaiians on Ni’ihau live simple lives, close to our ancestral values. This tiny Island is the last remaining place on earth where our native tongue is spoken exclusively.

We were camped next to Darlene at a county beach park. She told us her story:

“Of course, our children from Ni’ihau speak only

Hawaiian. But when my children enrolled in public school on Kaua’i (where many of us come to work), they were all automatically placed in ‘Learning Disabled’ classes— just because they didn’t speak English.

“Once they were labelled, they were kept in “Special Ed classes” throughout their school years.

“This is why,” she told us, brimming with frustration. “We fight so hard now for our Hawaiian Language Immersion schools. It’s also why I returned to school and became a teacher–to keep this from ever happening to our children again.”

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