ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi Departmental Manual

Secretary Haaland in Hawaii

DOI Releases New Guidance to Bureaus and Offices on the use of Hawaiian Language

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has released a new comprehensive Departmental Manual chapter aimed at improving its use of Hawaiian language.


Department bureaus and offices that engage in communication with the Native Hawaiian Community or produce documentation for places, resources, actions, or interests in Hawaiʻi will use the new chapter as a guide for various identifications and references, including flora and fauna, cultural sites, geographic place names, and government units within the state. 


In a news release Secretary Deb Haaland commented on the administration’s efforts in Hawaiʻi saying that, prioritizing the preservation of the Hawaiian language and culture and elevating Indigenous Knowledge is central to the Biden-Harris administration’s work to meet the unique needs of the Native Hawaiian Community. As we deploy historic resources to Hawaiʻi from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Interior Department is committed to ensuring our internal policies and communications use accurate language and data.”  


The announcement, made on February 1, 2024, coincided with Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian language month, and furthers the Interior Department’s recent commitment to integrating Indigenous Knowledge and cultural practices into conservation stewardship.  


In June 2023, the Department has committed nearly $16 million as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to prevent the imminent extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds. The Hawaiian Forest Bird Keystone Initiative prioritized actively engaging Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and experts through consultation, knowledge sharing, protocol and traditional practices at each major stage of a conservation action. This not only contributes to the overall forest bird recovery efforts but also sustains the Native Hawaiian Community’s biocultural relationship with the forest birds.


The Hawaiian language guidance was developed collaboratively within DOI and informed by ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi practitioners, instructors, and advocates. The Department’s Office of Native Hawaiian Relations conducted two virtual consultation sessions in 2023 with the Native Hawaiian Community to review and gather input on the guidance.

The guidance recognizes the evolving nature of ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi and acknowledges the absence of a single authoritative source. While the Hawaiian Dictionary (Pukui & Elbert 2003) is designated as the baseline standard for non-geographic words and place names, Department bureaus and offices are encouraged to consult other standard works, as well as the Board on Geographic Names Database. 

For more information, visit the Office of Native Hawaiian Relations website.