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The politics of digitizing Hawaiian language newspapers

(c) Copyright November 23, 2011 by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
and updated during 2012.
All rights reserved

On Tuesday November 22, 2011 Hawaii Reporter published an article entitled "3,000 Volunteers Needed to Bring Historical Hawaiian Language Newspapers to the Internet" That article is copied in full at the end of this essay, and can also be found on the Hawaii Reporter webpage at

A different news report about the project was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Saturday September 26, and attracted several significant comments including a dialog between Ken Conklin and Puakea Nogelmeier (a Hawaiian language expert who is a leader of the project). That September 26 article and the Conklin/Nogelmeier dialog is also copied below, in chronological order.

A combined news report / commentary was published on SFGate, the online blog of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Monday November 28, and is copied below, in chronological order. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, with Associated Press, published yet another article on Tuesday November 29 which generated additional online comments by Ken Conklin and Puakea Nogelmeier.

The September 22 article (actually a news release) solicited thousands of volunteers for a project to make available on the internet the text of Hawaiian language newspapers from the 1800s. The project seems very worthwhile indeed. History is important. Newspaper reports and commentary are valuable primary sources. Hawaiian is a beautiful language worthy of reviving and making accessible to everyone.

But this particular project has all the signs of being political rather than scholarly. It's part of an effort to twist historical fact in support of a Hawaiian sovereignty agenda. It's very sad that the revival of the beautiful Hawaiian language has increasingly been hijacked by sovereignty activists who use it as a political weapon. See the large and detailed webpage "Hawaiian Language as a Political Weapon" at

Most of the history twisting in this new project, and an older project like it, is accomplished by carefully selecting which newspapers and articles to make available and which to ignore. During the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s there were royalist Hawaiian language newspapers but also anti-monarchy and annexationist Hawaiian language newspapers (as well as royalist and annexationist English-language newspapers) competing for readership and political loyalty. By choosing to make available only the royalist items, today's sovereignty activists can provide a twisted impression that all native Hawaiians were staunchly royalist; or that Dole, Thurston, Kinney, et. al. were scoundrels. For example, see an analysis of how the book "Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism" used a one-sided selection of Hawaiian language newspapers to create the impression that native Hawaiians were all royalists:

Just imagine a similar project 100 years from now delving into politics of the period 1990-2012 but focusing entirely on newspapers like Honolulu Weekly, Ka Wai Ola (OHA's monthly rag), Civil Beat, Huffington Post, Peoples Weekly World, Al Jazeera, etc. The news release published November 22 explicitly said the newspaper project, if successful, will digitize only "half of the entire archive of Hawaiian-language newspapers published between 1834 to 1948." Guess which half?

There's good evidence that such history-twisting by omission is likely to be done, in view of a similar project at UH Manoa a decade ago. A grant was given for thousands of dollars to scan and transcribe the important documents related to the Hawaiian revolution of 1893 and annexation of 1898. The grant specified that the documents to be digitized included the Morgan Report. The project managed to complete its work for the pro-royalist Blount Report of 1893 and the anti-annexation petition of 1897, but somehow conveniently ran out of money before it got around to doing the Morgan Report of 1894, which it had also promised to do.

To be useful for researchers, text must be searchable so a computer can look across thousands of pages of documents to find the ones that use specific keywords. To make the text searchable it must be actual text, and not a photograph of an article. The usual way to accomplish that is to use a scanner to make a photo of an original newspaper page, and then to use an optical character reader (OCR) to "read" the text in the photo and convert it into "digitized" text (capable of being copy/pasted and capable of being searched for keywords). But anyone with an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner at home or office knows that OCRs make numerous errors. There are errors even with expensive professional OCRs, especially when old documents (like 19th Century newspapers or books) have fly specks or stains which get translated as letters or numerals, or when charts and tables with dividing lines are involved, or when font styles and print sizes change (as often happens in newspapers, even inside an individual page). It requires a human to recognize and correct such errors.

Since the UH project to scan and digitize documents related to the revolution and annexation intentionally failed to digitize the Morgan Report, two unpaid volunteers, Jere Krischel and Ken Conklin, did the job for them over a period of about half a year, without UH help and without any grant. We scanned the entire 808-page Morgan Report from an original published in 1894. Then we used an optical character reader (OCR) to convert the scanned photo into digitized text, proofread the text, and corrected OCR errors. Summaries were also written for some of the lengthy individual testimonies, and commentaries were written to compare various testimonies against each other or to highlight certain issues of special relevance today. The entire 808 pages (both photos and digitized text for each page), plus summaries and commentaries, are at

Although most of the history twisting for the newspaper project is likely to be done by selecting items favorable to the sovereignty agenda and ignoring items unfavorable to it, some twisting can also be accomplished by overlooking (i.e., removing) words or paragraphs that contradict the sovereignty agenda, or perhaps even inserting extra words which change the meaning of what was originally there.

The Morgan Report webpage places the text of each digitized page side by side with the scanned photo of the original page. The photo can be magnified by clicking on it more than once, thus allowing scholars or skeptical activists to verify the accuracy of the digitized version. For example, see pages 364-365 of the Morgan Report, where the text is accompanied by a photo of the original scanned pages (double-click on the thumbnail photo to enlarge it for easy reading).
The full collection of all 808 individual pages is made available at

The new Hawaiian language newspaper digitization project asks thousands of volunteers to do the work of the OCR. Down with machines! Power to the people! What a great way to build a loyal group of activists who feel a sense of ownership in Hawaiian language and Hawaiian history (as skewed by the project leaders). A volunteer will put a reservation on whichever pages he wishes to re-type (so nobody else unknowingly does the same job), then download photos of those original newspaper pages, use his home computer to manually type the contents into new text documents, and send those new documents to the project supervisors who will check their correctness and then put the contents into the right places in a master database. Voila! The text in the photo has now been digitized, is on the internet, and is searchable. The politically zealous volunteers so dedicated to the cause that they're willing to spend hundreds of hours retyping documents, and their politically zealous supervisors, have plenty of opportunities to literally rewrite history by deletions and insertions as they transcribe photos into text. Failure to provide magnified photos of the original documents side by side with the transcribed text for the newspaper project (as was done with the Morgan Report) would make it very hard for neutral scholars to discover when politically zealous volunteers and editors might have tampered with what was originally there.

The situation is made worse by the fact that very few people are sufficiently fluent in Hawaiian language to be capable of knowing what to look for; and nearly all who are capable obtained their fluency by spending years under the tutelage of people who are sovereignty activists in addition to their knowledge of the language. People who oppose the Hawaiian sovereignty agenda are "politically incorrect", socially undesirable, and likely to be pushed out of academic programs in Hawaiian language, history, or culture.

Hawaiian language scholars are also dragging their feet about creating a robot translator for Hawaiian language, as has been done for more than 50 languages including obscure ones such as Slovenian, Maltese, and Icelandic. One can go to Google to copy/paste any text document, or webpage, from any one of these languages to any other one. The robot does not always translate perfectly, but "close enough for government work"; i.e., accurate enough to capture the important concepts. Hawaiian language scholars apparently want to keep control of translation for themselves and the people they train, as a way of keeping financial and political control over Hawaiian history and culture. The Google translation robot is at

This Hawaiian language newspaper project is clearly motivated by the politics of Hawaiian sovereignty rather than by love for the language or historical scholarship. That fact is shown by the manner in which the news release was publicized and also by its contents.

The article in Hawaii Reporter appears to be a news release written by an unknown author, being distributed by "Bright Line Marketing" which describes itself as "a professional law firm website design & development company that employs attorneys, law students, website designers, CMS developers and programmers. We are based in Sacramento, California. We produce website designs and marketing strategies for law firms all across America. Bright Line Marketing was founded by a third year law student ..." But the company's webpage does not name who that person is. The webpage provides no address, phone, or other means of communication other than e-mail to "info@..."

The news release identifies Kaui Sai-Dudoit as the manager of the Hawaiian language newspaper project. Use Google to find out who is Kaui Sai-Dudoit and Kaui's close working relationship with family member Keanu Sai, the infamous head of the "Perfect Title" real estate scam, the "World Court" sovereignty scam, and the new "Executive Agreements" history scam.

The news release identifies many "organizations and institutions [which] are jumping on board to assist with finances and resources" including some fairly obscure ones like Awaiaulu, and The Pūʻā Foundation (Google them); and others whose racialist agendas we're all familiar with including OHA, Kamehameha Schools, the UH center for Hawaiian studies, etc.

Note also the dates chosen for beginning and ending the project: two holidays of the Kingdom of Hawaii revived in modern times for a contemporary secessionist political impact -- Ka La Ku'oko'a (November 28, Independence Day) and Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea (July 31, Sovereignty Restoration Day). For information about those Kingdom holidays, and how the modern revival of them engages in ethnic cleansing to deliberately exclude Caucasian heroes of the Kingdom without whom those holidays would never have happened, see

Regarding the need to be skeptical whether the transcripts will be accurate copies of the originals: Hawaiian sovereignty activists routinely engage in history-twisting, falsely reporting historical fact, omitting important information, inserting falsehoods, etc. For example, see a webpage disproving the often-heard falsehood that Hawaiian language was made illegal and another webpage disproving the falsehood that President Grover Cleveland issued a proclamation declaring a holiday for prayer and repentance for the U.S. (alleged) role in overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy


Hawaii Reporter, November 22, 2011

3,000 Volunteers Needed to Bring Historical Hawaiian Language Newspapers to the Internet

HONOLULU, HAWAII Awaiaulu, Inc., a local non-profit organization, is seeking 3,000 volunteers from around the world to participate in a unique nation-building initiative that aims to make 60,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers accessible via the Internet. Participants can sign up to hand-type pages of newspaper copy currently housed in Hawai'i archival collections as originals and microfilmed images.

The ambitious project, titled 'Ike Kū'oko'a, or Liberating Knowledge, will launch on November 28, 2011 to coincide with Lā Kū'oko'a (Independence Day as celebrated throughout the Hawaiian Kingdom era), and is scheduled to be completed in approximately eight months. The entire volunteer effort will be managed online using a web-based program, allowing interested individuals to download the files and participate from remote locations. Volunteers are not required to know the Hawaiian language to participate.

"The magnitude of what we are trying to accomplish is unprecedented," said Puakea Nogelmeier, Professor of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, who is spearheading the project. "With the completion of this project, more than half of the entire archive of Hawaiian-language newspapers published between 1834 to 1948 will be searchable on the World Wide Web. In the past 10 years, a small team of paid operators was only able to process 15,000 pages, mostly using OCR technology. We realized that we needed to change our approach and, after careful consideration, decided the best way forward would be to open up participation to anyone who wanted to help."

While funding sources recommended exporting the work to a foreign company experienced in similar digital-text projects, they ultimately determined that exportation would violate the spirit and integrity of the project - and it would produce less usable text.

"Certainly, to coordinate an enormous volunteer campaign requires more resources than simply hiring a company to produce the pages, but we strongly believe the benefit of Hawai'i claiming back Hawaiian knowledge far outweighs any additional effort and costs," said Kaui Sai-Dudoit, Project Manager for Ho'olaupa'i: Hawaiian Newspaper Resource, an innovative program of Awaiaulu, Inc. that makes searchable pages from early Hawaiian language newspaper available on the Internet.

Key benefits noted by organizers include the unparalleled potential for social engagement and the sense of pride, ownership and familiarity for the Hawaiian community and its far-flung supporters.

Interested volunteers can visit for more information. Pre-registration will occur from now to November 27, 2011. General registration will begin on November 28, 2011 and will continue until the project's scheduled completion on July 31, 2012, or Lā Ho'iho'i Ea (Restoration Day in the Hawaiian Kingdom) or until all the work is completed.

Once the project commences, volunteers will be able to log in to the website, reserve a page for typing and hold that page for one week, with the option of an additional one-week extension. If the reserved page is still not completed by the end of the extension, it will return to the unfinished cache, where other volunteers may select it for typescripting. All typed pages will be reviewed for accuracy. The completed project is scheduled to be available for online viewing on November 28, 2012.

Many organizations and institutions are jumping on board to assist with finances and resources in this important Hawaiian legacy project. Organizations include The Pūʻā Foundation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, Hawai'inuiākea: Center for Hawaiian Knowledge, U.H. Sea Grants Hawai'i, and numerous civic clubs and hālau in Hawai'i and abroad. "It's impossible to overstate the value that the success of this project will have, not only for the Hawaiian people, but for those interested in Hawaiian history and scholarship," said Toni Bissen, Executive Director of the Pū'ā Foundation. "We invested in this project to support our own (Pū'ā Foundation's) mission of developing educational resources to serve Hawai'i's communities and reconcile consequences of the overthrow of our monarchy," said Bissen.

Submitted by Bright Light Marketing

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, November 26, 2011

Volunteers sought to digitize Hawaiian-language newspapers

By Star-Advertiser staff

When Westerners first landed in Hawaii the islands were pre-literate, relying on oral traditions to maintain the culture. Within a few decades, however, Hawaiians achieved one of the highest literacy rates in history, printing scores of newspapers and journals in the Hawaiian language. Few examples have survived, and fewer still have been translated or indexed or archived.

At 11 a.m., Monday, Nov. 28 -- the date in 1843 that Hawaii was recognized as a sovereign kingdom by European countries -- dozens, perhaps hundreds of Hawaiians and cultural supporters are expected to gather on the grounds of Iolani Palace to kick off the "'Ike Ku'oko'a Initiative," which seeks 3,000 volunteers from around the globe to archive some 60,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers on the Internet. The idea is that many hands make light work.

The nonprofit educational organization Awaiaulu is organizing the effort. Volunteers will be sent reproductions of Hawaiian-language newspaper pages to retype into text files. At the Monday event, participants are urged to bring their laptops, and Sprint Hawaii will provide Wi-Fi access. The first couple of hundred volunteers will be asked to pose for a commemorative photo at the palace.

"The importance of this volunteer effort cannot be understated," said Hawaiian scholar and musician Kealii Reichel in a prepared statement. "This project will shed further light on the thoughts, emotions and 'ike of our kupuna, and provide another connective thread past and present."

Funding is provided by Pu'a Foundation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, Hawai'i-nuiakea: Center for Hawaiian Knowledge, University of Hawaii Sea Grants Hawai'i and other organizations. Project directors include scholars Puakea Nogelmeier and Kaui Sai-Dudoit.

Volunteer to transcribe pages at Contact Kaui Sai-Dudoit at 953-9217 or


Online comment by Ken Conklin:

The project seems very worthwhile indeed. History is important. Newspaper reports and commentary are valuable primary sources. Hawaiian is a beautiful language worthy of reviving and making accessible to everyone.

The news report repeatedly uses the word "scholar" in identifying the project leaders. But this particular project has all the signs of being political rather than scholarly. It's part of an effort to twist historical fact in support of a Hawaiian sovereignty agenda. It's very sad that the revival of the beautiful Hawaiian language has increasingly been hijacked by sovereignty activists who use it as a political weapon (as is demonstrated by this newspaper's intensely politicized weekly column in Hawaiian language). See the large and detailed webpage "Hawaiian Language as a Political Weapon" at

Most of the history twisting in this new project, and an older project like it, is accomplished by carefully selecting which newspapers and articles to make available and which to ignore. During the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s there were royalist Hawaiian language newspapers but also anti-monarchy and annexationist Hawaiian language newspapers (as well as royalist and annexationist English-language newspapers) competing for readership and political loyalty. By choosing to make available only the royalist items, today's sovereignty activists can provide a twisted impression that all native Hawaiians were staunchly royalist; or that Dole, Thurston, Kinney, et. al. were scoundrels.

Just imagine a similar project 100 years from now delving into politics of the period 1990-2012 but focusing entirely on newspapers like Honolulu Weekly, Ka Wai Ola (OHA's monthly rag), Civil Beat, Huffington Post, Peoples Weekly World, Al Jazeera, etc. The news release published November 22 explicitly said the newspaper project, if successful, will digitize only "half of the entire archive of Hawaiian-language newspapers published between 1834 to 1948." Guess which half?

For a more detailed analysis of this project, including a comparison with the UH project a decade ago to digitize important documents related to the 1898 annexation which intentionally avoided digitization of the Morgan Report, see


Online reply by Puakea Nogelmeier:

Ike Ku'oko'a is exciting, a move to make the Hawaiian-language archive accessible to all, and it's being warmly embraced here and afar. It will allow everyone, scholars and anti-scholars alike, to find articles from the past that are now almost impossible to trace. People, places, politics, practices, and events fill the pages of over 100 different newspapers published from 1834 to 1948. More than just current events, the newspapers became a safe place for people throughout those changing times to document knowledge that had been held in memory for generations. Of over 125,000 pages known to have been printed, only 75,000 have been found and made into digital images. 15,000 of those are searchable after a 10-year effort of OCR and typescripting, but 'Ike Ku'oko'a will make the other 60,000 available in 8 months time. The project will produce well over a half-million pages of typescript, and is too huge to allow for any insidious selection of the contents. Volunteers will type all the newspaper images we can get into their hands, in chronological order - and volunteer reviewers will make sure the typescripts are complete. Editing for typos may take a generation - we (kakou) can do it collectively on line. And that's the wonder of this project - it puts all of the information into the hands of everyone. Opening up the long-dormant archive of Hawaiian history pulls that data off the shelves, and knowledge liberates everyone - Hawaiians, Hawai'i, the whole global community, scholars and anti-scholars alike. It'll be an historic effort, be a part of it. Every typescript will carry the name of the typescripter, and to whom it is dedicated. I encourage everyone to find out more about the project at You can sign up to be notified about the official opening, and can register as a volunteer once the site is open on Monday, the 28th. Almost a thousand have already signed up to be notified, and plan to volunteer, and we've barely begun. Hulo!


Online response by Ken Conklin

Hello Mr. Nogelmeier. I enjoy hearing your place-name pronunciations and mellifluous voice whenever I ride The Bus. I have 3 questions for you.

(1) Will the Hawaiian language newspapers that were pro-annexation be made available, and at the same pace as the royalist newspapers? Remember how the UH project a decade ago to digitize the annexation-related documents somehow very conveniently used up all the grant money to digitize only the Blount Report and the 1897 anti-annexation petition, but simply never got around to digitizing the Morgan Report which contains testimony under oath repudiating the Blount report. And so it fell to me and Jere Krischel to do the entire job of digitizing the Morgan Report by ourselves, as unpaid volunteers.

(2) Will photos of the original pages be made available side by side with the transcribed searchable copies of them, so that anyone can verify the accuracy of the retyping? Check the Morgan Report individual pages online to see how the photos of the original pages are displayed right next to the digitized text, and anyone who double-clicks on the photo icon can see a very readable magnified image of the original page. The full collection of all 808 individual pages is made available at
For example, see pages 364-365 of the Morgan Report, at

(3) Why is there no apparent effort being made to provide a Google robot translator for Hawaiian language? There are more than 50 languages for which the Google robot will create translations from any one of them to any other of them. Some of those languages are far more obscure than Hawaiian, and have equally ambiguous multiple meanings for words and phrases depending on context. Robot translations are often not completely accurate, but are good enough to discover what topic is being discussed, and whether the text is sufficiently interesting to make it worthwhile doing a more accurate translation. So why are the Hawaiian language experts dragging their feet in enabling creation of such an automated translation capability for Hawaiian? The Google translation robot is at


Puakea Nogelmeier replied:

I appreciate the questions posed, as they allow the answers to be in a public forum. In answer to the 3 questions,

1 - ALL of the newspapers that have been found in local and distant archives have been turned into digital images and ALL will be typescripted, in generally chronological order. [having just found some early papers that weren't made into digital images, we'll back up to get those in as they get filmed] We're not being selective at all. Most papers had a political bent or a social focus, and it will be great to have them ALL searchable - by anyone.

2 - ALL of the digital images of the newspapers will be posted on line, and the typescript will always be linked to the digital image. Any responsible researcher would rely on the original rather than the typescript, regardless of how good a job we (kakou) do. Most of the page images are readable, considering their age and condition of the originals.

3 - Computer translation efforts for Hawaiian have been sought out, and are still being pursued. "No apparent effort" belies the efforts that have been made, but no apparent success has come about - yet. Google puts out every new application in 17 (I think) languages so as to not give precedence to English or a few "power" languages, and many software giants are building translation programs for "lesser" languages, but apparently Hawaiian language is not very high on their priority lists. All progress in its time, and while I encourage those efforts at mechanical translation - they'll give at least rudimentary access to the broadest range of the community - it isn't my own project at present. I am still an old-school translator, manually and cognitively bridging from one language to the other.

'Ike Ku'oko'a is a great, very democratic effort for the whole community. It has been referred to as "nation-building" - not in the sense of restoring a Hawaiian government or creating a new one, but in building an expansive network of Hawaiians and all persons who care about Hawai'i.

Me ke aloha,
Puakea Nogelmeier

SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle online), Nov 28 at 11:30 am

Volunteers needed to bring Hawaiian language into digital age

Posted By: Jeanne Cooper

One of the fruits of the continuing Hawaiian cultural renaissance that began in the 1970s is the growing, though still relatively small, number of speakers of the Hawaiian language, and one of the best online resources for learners in my humble opinion is the Ulukau Hawaiian Electronic Library. I've often consulted its compendium of the most respected Hawaiian-English dictionaries at
for the correct spelling, shade of meaning, a sample proverb or origin of a place name. So I'm excited about an opportunity to pay the favor forward, digitally speaking, by helping with another of Ulukau's online resources: Ho'olaupa'i, the Hawaiian Nūpepa Collection.

Mostly images of Hawaiian-language newspapers from 1834 to 1948, the collection was created by Alu Like
(a nonprofit devoted to Native Hawaiian "self-sufficiency"), Hale Kuamo'o
(the Hawaiian Language Center at UH Hilo) and the Bishop Museum.
Starting today, the nonprofit Awaiaulu
is registering volunteers to transcribe 60,000 digital scans from these newspapers into searchable digital files. The project, called 'Ike Kū'oko'a ("Liberating Knowledge"), essentially involves retyping 125,000 pages of news, opinion, features (including poetry), headlines, captions and even advertisements. It's expected to take some 3,000 volunteers who do not need to know Hawaiian eight months to complete.

Highlighting the cultural and historical significance of the project, the official kickoff is being held on Lā Kū'oko'a, Independence Day during the Hawaiian Kingdom era in which many of these newspapers appeared, and the official closing is set for July 31, Lā Ho'iho'i Ea, Restoration Day. Sadly, the choice of days and the involvement of project manager Kaui Sai-Dudoit, a relative of Hawaiian independence activist/political scientist Keanu Sai, has prompted one critic to charge that this must be a pro-sovereignty plot to rewrite history,
allegedly from zealots deliberately mistranscribing documents or, somewhat more plausibly, from their only transcribing the anti-annexationist newspapers and not those more favorable to the U.S.-backed takeover. (Follow the link for Kenneth Conklin's argument to that regard.)

But I had a chance to chat with Sai-Dudoit, a filmmaker and historian, at the recent Iā 'Oe E Ka Lā Hula Festival in Pleasanton, where I first learned of this opportunity to expand dramatically the availability of searchable Hawaiian-language texts. Sai-Dudoit warmly encouraged me to participate in the 'Ike Kū'oko'a project without asking me for my pro-sovereignty credentials first. She also told me of the reconciliation work being done by the nonprofit Pū'ā Foundation,
which is one of the underwriters of the newspaper transcription project and was established 15 years ago "as part of the apology, redress, and reconciliation initiatives of the United Church of Christ and the Hawaiian people for the Church's complicity in the overthrow," according to its Web site.

Another sponsor of the newspaper project is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which in April launched its "database of Hawaiian databases," Papakilo,
which includes more than 225,000 records involving land, government and genealogy, in addition to the newspaper and dictionary resources mentioned above. A story in the mid-April Ka Wai Loa Ola,
the OHA online newsletter, quoted the agency's CEO Clyde Nāmu'o: "The information stored in the database is important to preserve the Hawaiian language, culture and history and lays the foundation for self-determination."

If that sounds like a stealthy way to achieve ethnically based independence to you, then your best resource might be to learn Hawaiian (as Conklin says he has) to be able to decipher and cite historical documents yourself. As for me, I'm just happy to have the chance to peer through a window of the past and to make a linguistic treasure available for students of the present and future.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, November 29, 2011

New technology used to transcribe old pages
Hawaiian-language newspapers are typed for the Internet

By Sarah Zoellick and Associated Press

Centuries ago, monks and scribes gathered in stone buildings to hand-write copies of books by candlelight. On Monday a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving written Hawaiian history began a similar task -- this time using wireless Internet and laptop computers set up on the grounds of Iolani Palace.

The 'Ike Ku'oko'a Initiative began at the palace Monday afternoon, when volunteers were invited to register to help transcribe 60,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers printed pre-statehood to be archived on the Internet.

The pages of the newspapers -- some from as far back as 1834 -- have been scanned in, but "you can't search a digital image," said Puakea Nogelmeier, a Hawaiian-language professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the executive director of Awaiaulu, the nonprofit group that spearheaded the initiative. "This (transcribing) makes it searchable."

Nogelmeier said about 100 Hawaiian-language newspapers were published between 1834 and 1948, creating 125,000 to 150,000 newspaper pages that chronicle island life.

What remains of those documents are the 60,000 pages being typed by volunteers. When they are finished, Nogelmeier estimated, the output will amount to 1.5 million typed pages.

"It's like a treasure trove," said Toni Bissen, executive director of the Pu'a Foundation, a sponsor of the initiative. "It's in their own words. ... It brings to life our people."

Nogelmeier said transcribing the pages will shed light on what Hawaiians were thinking and reporting on during the kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territorial periods.

"This is what the Hawaiians were saying to themselves," he said. "It's for Hawaiians but it's for everybody."

About 2 percent of the archives has been transcribed and translated for use by researchers, Nogelmeier said.

"The rest has been dormant; 98 percent of this is just laying there because it's just too hard to get to."

Using volunteer typists is necessary because funding for a Bishop Museum project ran out, and no computer software program is precise enough to handle the Hawaiian language, said Kaui Sai-Dudoit, outreach program manager. The Hawaiian alphabet has eight consonants, five vowels and diacritical marks like the okina.

"One letter off and it's a totally different word," Sai-Dudoit said.

Sai-Dudoit said it would take about $2.1 million to transcribe the pages without volunteers.

In the 1970s, Nogelmeier said, predictions were that the Hawaiian language would be dead in 10 years.

"Now, 40 years later, it's been pulled back from the brink," he said.

"This (project) links the revitalization of today to the language of before," he said. "Otherwise it's really easy to make a new language."

The initiative hopes to draw 3,000 volunteers to complete the job by July 31, but Sai-Dudoit said there has been so much interest already -- at least 300 people signed up Monday in the first hour of the launch event -- that it might be done sooner.

"It's safe to say this has gone viral," Sai-Dudoit said.

People interested in transcribing do not need to speak Hawaiian because they won't be translating. They will be sent digital images of pages and will transcribe them in text documents.


To become a volunteer transcriber for the 'Ike Ku'oko'a Initiative, register at


Comment online by Ken Conklin

I remember the "good old days" before the Xerox machine was invented. As a researcher working on my Ph.D. dissertation I had a desk in the musty archives of a university library, where I had to use my own handwriting to copy the words printed in old books. But today I could simply use the Xerox machine to make the copy. The volunteers in this project are pushing aside modern technology to do what medaeval monks used to do. Well, I guess it's a way to keep them busy, so they don't "occupy" Iolani Palace or rip the Treaty of Annexation out of the hands of the McKinley statue. There are two ways to digitize a photo of a printed page. The normal way for modern times is to use an optical character reader to convert a photo of printed material into typescript. The OCR makes occasional errors, which a human editor must then correct. The project described here is going back to the medaeval monastery technique. Lacking an optical character reader, a human must do the copying one character at a time. But there will still need to be a human editor to proofread and make corrections, because the people who did the typing might not know Hawaiian and might therefore make the same sort of "dumb" errors which an optical character reader might make. A few years ago a friend living in California used a scanner and OCR to digitize the 808 pages of the Morgan Report from 1893. He and I then took about 6-7 months to do the proofreading and make the corrections and put the whole thing on the internet. To see our work, go to Google and put in Morgan Report Hawaii.


Comment online by Puakea Nogelmeier

The approach we're taking may seem archaic, and it will take 3 or more hours per page to type it, but we've used OCR and trained operators for years, and were able to open up almost 15,000 pages, but there's never been sufficient funding to support it. Even when funded, these are old papers, and the digital images aren't all clear or well-aligned, so OCR makes a lot of errors. Correcting the OCR'd text, especially if done by computer or uninvolved workers, is more time consuming than it is to have it done as carefully as possible by people who care. We can't generate the funding or the enthusiasm to correct the work done cheaply elsewhere, but there's a sense of accomplishment having taken it on as an extended group. There will still be errors - it happens, but we're hopeful that involved people will give it their best. The resource for history and language in Hawai'i will be unparalleled. But another really important outcome will be the connection that this makes for people throughout the Hawaiian community, a community that exists here and around the world, and which includes Hawaiians and all those with a connection and care for Hawai'i. This way people have a chance to give their time to do something that leaves a mark, and each finished page will have the name of the typescripter, acknowledging their part it this big effort. It's old-fashioned, it's tedious, and it'll take up a lot of people's time and energy here and afar, but it's productive and inclusive. I see it as a far better option than just declaring how things should be done, or wishing someone would do it. Once it's up and being used, corrections can be ongoing, but it has to become usable first. I encourage everyone to log on, create an account, and give it a try - be part of a worthwhile endeavor that benefits all.


** It appears that the newspaper transcribing project, or officials in the Hawaii prison system sent out a press release approximately June 12, 2012, describing how female inmates are helping with the project. Perhaps it was hoped that news reporting might yield recruitment of large numbers of new participants. Unfortunately the press release was not made available to the general public. However, at least two news media relied on it to publish news reports during that week. These two published reports are notable for the huge difference in the way they wrote the story. Hawaii Reporter online newspaper apparently published the press release more or less in its original content, including over-enthusiastic language and a straightforward acknowledgment that a main purpose of the project is to do historical revisionism. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser recruited a young writer home for the summer from college on the mainland (check her name in Google), whose name indicates that she is ethnic Hawaiian and whose article is considerably toned down. She obviously spoke with project leaders and with a prison inmate who is participating in the project.

Hawaii Reporter, Wednesday, June 13th, 2012


HONOLULU The Women's Community Correctional Center (WCCC) Trauma Informed Care Initiative today presented "Ua Mau Ke Ea / Ike Ku'oko'a" A learning process that addresses the needs of incarcerated, Native Hawaiians who are affected by historical trauma. The initiative seeks to foster a deeper and clearer understanding of Hawaii's history to enable healing and reconciliation of the past and present so that a better future for Hawai'i's community can be built. This program is made possible through partnerships with community-based non-profit organizations - Awaiaulu and Pu`a Foundation, along with the Department of Public Safety (PSD) Library Services.

Awaiaulu is sponsoring "Ike Ku'oko'a" Liberating Knowledge, the Hawaiian Newspaper Initiative. They are seeking volunteers to transcribe Hawaiian-language newspapers written between 1834 and1948. The transcribed documents will be compiled into a word-searchable database.

"Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed in more than a hundred different papers from 1834 to 1948," said Awaiaulu Project Manager and Documentary Producer Kaui Sai-Dudoit. "By making the whole collection word-searchable, it will open up hundreds of thousands of pages worth of data on history, culture, politics, sciences, world view, and more."

Digital images were taken of the pages and 60,000 pages remain to be transcribed before the due date of July 31, 2012.

"The women incarcerated at the correctional center realize the value of preserving Hawaiian history and many eagerly volunteered to help with this initiative," said Women's Community Correctional Center Warden Mark Patterson. "PSD Library Services donated four refurbished computers that will be placed throughout the facility to allow the female offenders to participate in the transcribing of Hawaiian Newspaper text."

The Pu`a Foundation will be donating copies of its Ua Mau Ke Ea: Sovereignty Endures Collection a comprehensive historical documentary and educational textbook on the legal and political history of the Hawaiian Islands, as well as other Hawaiian history, language and reference resources.

"An important factor in recovery from historical trauma involves culturally appropriate opportunities for Hawaiians to construct and correct, when required, their own histories in comparison to existing sources of information." said Pu`a Foundation Executive Director Toni Bissen. "Through participation in Ua Mau Ke Ea/Ike Ku'oko'a, women at WCCC will more clearly understand and link past events and experiences of Hawaiians and others in Hawai'i to their present positions in the community and the world. This process will foster a deeper and clearer understanding of Hawaii's past, and enable healing and reconciliation of the past and present so that a better future for themselves and for Hawai'i's community can be built."

Textbook author Dr. David Keanu Sai, historical documentary producer Kaui Sai-Dudoit, and Pu`a Foundation Executive Director Toni Bissen lead the presentation today at WCCC.

If you would like to get involved with Awaiaulu's Hawaiian Newspaper Initiative call Awaiaulu Director Puakea Nogelmeier or Project Director Kaui Sai-Dudoit at 845-8918, or go to their website

Submitted by the Department of Public Safety

Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Thursday, June 14, 2012

Inmates transcribe Hawaiian papers

By 'Alohi Bikle /

Inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center are the newest group to join the volunteer task force that is creating an electronic database of old Hawaiian-language newspapers.

About 50 inmates will join the Hawaiian-newspaper initiative, launched last year with the goal of transcribing more than 75,000 of the 125,000 pages from the more than 100 Hawaiian-language newspapers printed from 1834 to 1948.

The project, Ike Ku'oko'a, or "Liberating Knowledge," is sponsored by Awaiaulu Press. The goal is to transcribe about 60,000 remaining pages from Hawaiian-language newspapers by July 31.

Once transcribed, the pages will be compiled into a word-searchable database.

During a presentation Wednesday at the correctional facility in Windward Oahu, inmates who are part of the correctional center's Ke Alaula group confirmed their commitment to help Ike Ku'oko'a reach its goal.


More on the Hawaiian-newspaper initiative, Ke Alaula is a substance abuse therapeutic program that addresses the needs of incarcerated Native Hawaiians who are affected by physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

"The women are excited for this opportunity," said facility warden Mark Patterson.

With 6,000 volunteers from around the world to meet the goal, each person must transcribe up to 10 pages.

"More people are needed," said Puakea Nogelmeier, executive director of Awaiaulu.

"When folks hear of what we're trying to do, they think we're crazy," said Kau'i Sai-Dudoit, project outreach manager for Ike Ku'oko'a. "It's actually pretty easy."

To join the Web-based project, Sai-Dudoit explained, volunteers register on the site, then are assigned a page. The task is to "just type what you see," she said.

Once finished, the page is sent back to Awaiaulu, where proofreaders ensure it is to be added to the database.

Volunteers are called upon every day to complete pages.

The volunteers in the correctional center's Ke Alaula program consider the work part of their therapy to recover from years of abuse.

"They've gravitated to all the cultural practices, like hula, that we offer through the program to help cope and overcome those issues," Patterson said. "Those practices, in addition to the transcribing of the pages, link them to their culture and will help them when they head back into society."

Patterson said 43 percent of the women in the prison are at least part Native Hawaiian, and nearly two-thirds have children who are part Native Hawaiian.

Janice Cockett, an inmate who said she was 17 years into a 20- to 25-year sentence for murder, said she volunteered to transcribe newspapers because she enjoys anything and everything of historical value.

"Once you're incarcerated, history is everything. There's a certain joy and beauty in it," said Cockett, who said she is not Native Hawaiian but was born and raised in the state.

More on the Hawaiian-newspaper initiative,

Hawaii News Now (3 TV stations), July 31, 2012

Volunteers transcribe 15,000 pages of Hawaiian language newspaper

By Kaitlin Kogachi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Transcribing 15,000 pages of Hawaiian language newspaper in eight months might seem impossible, but that's exactly what happened.

Volunteers gathered at Iolani Palace on Tuesday for a mahalo luncheon coordinated by Awaiaulu, a non-profit organization that spearheaded the initiative. The festivities were complete with food and live entertainment, including music from Waipuna, Kawika Kahiapo, and Kupaoa. Kumu Hula Patrick Makuakane and Halau Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu from San Francisco also performed for the crowd. Makuakane and his halau participated in the project and won the halau challenge after completing more than 1,000 pages alone.

Awaiaulu is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading Hawaiian knowledge. They launched the Ike Kuokoa Initiative in November 2011 with the goal of introducing historic Hawaiian language newspapers to the internet. About 6,500 volunteers participated, exceeding expectations of the organizers. Volunteers from as far away as Germany and France helped hand type Hawaiian newspapers, despite having no knowledge of the Hawaiian language.

"Today the focus is really to say thank you. Say thank you to the almost 7,000 volunteers who have helped us, whether you did one page or you did 300 pages," said Kaui Sai-Dudoit of Awaiaulu. "We are sincerely grateful for every one of those pages because we knew what it took for you to come. We knew what it took for you to persevere, to go through a language you didn't understand, and to keep it going."

Although the original goal was to complete 60,000 pages in eight months, Awaiaulu is ending the call for volunteers. Sai-Dudoit and organizers are proud of the efforts thus far, but hope they can continue the project for the sake of future generations.


** Online comment by Ken Conklin

So let's crunch those numbers a little bit. 6500 volunteers completed 15,000 pages. That's an average of 2 or 3 pages per person. If each volunteer had done 9 pages, they would have completed all 60,000 pages. That would have required one page per month per volunteer, on average. Clearly the willpower and self-discipline were lacking.

None of the pages done by the volunteers are available to the public. It's one thing to type the words and send the typescript to the program coordinators, but it takes a lot more work to put each of those pages onto the internet; and then to incorporate the pictures, charts, tables, and graphs that were also part of many newspaper articles; not to mention the different fonts and styles that added meaning to what was printed.

This project was organized by Hawaiian independence activists who started it on the Kingdom holiday "Independence Day" and scheduled it for completion on the Kingdom holiday "Sovereignty Restoration Day" for political reasons which have nothing to do with creating typescripts of old newspaper pages. The project got 1/4 of the typing done, and produced nothing which the public can see yet. That's a pretty fair judgment of the sovereignty movement itself. The project was a publicity stunt, and a vehicle to enlist hundreds of people to participate in a "movement" which is going nowhere. It would be wonderful for historians and scholars if those 60,000 pages of old newspapers from 1834 to 1948 could be made available to the public in digital format which is searchable. Clearly that will not be happening anytime soon, and it will not happen at all so long as the project is run by sovereignty activists whose arrogance and political agenda are more important than serious scholarly work.

KHON TV2, July 31, 2012

Nearly 20,000 pages transcribed from Hawaiian newspapers in 8 months

An 8 month project to transcribe thousands of pages of Hawaiian language newspapers is now complete.

Over 6500 volunteers participated from over 14 countries.

Tuesday, they were honored on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace.

The project started at the end of November, and came to an end today, which is Hawaiian Independence day.

"The significance is that there's a huge body of published material that has never been accessible 400 so this will open up all kinds of hawaiian scholarship," says Puakea Nogelmeier, project organizer.

Volunteers re-typed nearly 20,000 pages of papers dating back to they can eventually be posted online in a searchable format.


** Online comment by Ken Conklin

"Nearly 20,000 pages transcribed"? Nonsense. The project's own website says "15437 of 60,000 pages completed." I know the sovereignty activists love to exaggerate. But this is only about 1/4 of what was expected. And how many of those pages are available to the public? Zero. They have not been uploaded to the internet. The photos, tables, charts, graphs and advertisements that were on those pages must be re-inserted into the transcribed text. It will be good to have those 15437 pages available, even if it's only a small part of what should be done.

It's a shame that the project organizers are Hawaiian independence activists who saw this project as primarily political, being launched on the Kingdom's "Independence Day" and ended on the Kingdom's "Sovereignty Restoration Day." Maybe if the independence crazies had stayed out of the way, the historians and scholars might have made more progress.

Hawaii Insider Blog, SFGate, September 6, 2012

Extra, extra: Hawaiian newspapers inspire dramatic 'Kingdom Denied'

Renowned as a vacationers' paradise, Hawai'i was once a sovereign nation, with accomplished people that enthusiastically fostered their land with great pride. Then, at the close of the 19th century, American business interests led to the overthrow of the kingdom and its annexation to the United States.

That's the short version, but new information teaches us there is more to discover, and more to be told, about the events of those turbulent times. Inspired by newly transcribed Hawaiian newspaper articles from that era, Bay Area kumu hula Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu and performers from his Academy of Hawaiian Arts will present "Kingdom Denied Between the Lines," a dramatic production with song and dance, Saturday at Chabot College in Hayward. With a title evoking feelings of empathy and betrayal, the story of a nation's stripped independence is meant to educate as well as entertain.

"The recent transcription of Hawaiian newspapers known as the Awaiaulu Project, led by Puakea Nogelmeier, a professor of Hawaiian language at UH Mānoa, has allowed us to look further into the history of this period," Ho'omalu explained. "These papers delivered local news and knowledge and were a place of dialogue and public communication for Hawaiian people. It shows the advancement of the Hawaiian people and their excitement for literacy, with a written language and active publications in place just 50 years after the missionaries arrived. It speaks to the intelligence of the Hawaiians."

The production begins in 1874 with paperboys awaiting the arrival of one of the most widely distributed newspapers of the time, Hoku o ka Pakipika ("Star of the Pacific.") The latest headline: King Lunalilo has died without naming an heir. The new sovereign, in accord with the constitution, must be elected by the Legislature. Contesting for the throne is Dowager Queen Emma Kaleleonalani, who has the support of the common people, and David Kalākaua, who wins the election due to his pro-American views and strong ties to chiefs and businessmen.

The show charts the seemingly successful beginning and later turbulent downfall of Kalākaua's reign, including the "Bayonet Constitution" he was forced to sign, which shed much of his authority, excluded a large sector of the native population and granted unequal power to American and European landowners. The scene then shifts to Kalākaua's untimely death in San Francisco, after which his strong-willed sister Lili'uokalani takes the throne. After a struggle to restore a greater degree of sovereignty to the native population, she is forced to resign, while her enemies form a provisional government of which they themselves are the chief officers.

"It is the most theatrical thing we have ever done," said a smiling Ho'omalu, notorious in hula circles for creating his own guidelines. The show features a 22-member cast, with costumes reflecting history and the songs "that honor those times," he noted.

His visionary depiction of historical events includes mele (music) such as "Kalekauila," written in 1874, about the opposition of Queen Emma's supporters to the outcome of the election, and other compositions from the era that came to be known as "Sovereignty Songs," many later outlawed. Ho'omalu, who plays "Dandy" Ioane Ukeke, a man often commissioned by Kalākaua to organize hula performances at 'Iolani Palace, said he carries his own pocketbook-sized copy of many of the songs that was given to him.

After Lili'uokalani yielded her authority in 1893, Royalist supporters led by Robert William Kalanihiapo Wilcox took arms in an attempt to restore the kingdom through civil war a fight that will no doubt induce an emotional reaction in the audience. Hawai'i's last queen was imprisoned in her own palace and while the natives sought justice, representatives from the provisional government won and Hawai'i was annexed. "It was a whole different lifestyle and a different time," Ho'omalu remarked.

The future of the Hawaiian people forever changed with this unsettling chain of events, but their written history, as brought to life in "Kingdom Denied," helps perpetuate a heritage that cannot be annexed. "In the continuing process of transcribing the newspapers we (Hawaiians) are learning more about our own history," Ho'omalu said. "I am inspired by the fact that there has to be more out there, and hope to be remembered by what I pass on."

"Kingdom Denied Between the Lines," 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, Buffington Center for Visual & Performing Arts, Chabot College, Hayward. Tickets are $35 to $70.

Emily Tuupo,

Hawaii News Now, November 28, 2012

Project to transcribe Hawaiian language newspapers finishes up

By Ian Scheuring

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A one-year project to promote the Hawaiian language by transcribing thousands of pages of Hawaiian language newspapers and making them available online wrapped up on Wednesday.

More than 6,500 volunteers helped transcribe 16,000 pages of historic Hawaiian language newspapers that the Ike Ku'oko'a Initiative is transferring into an electronic format, which the public will be able to access over the internet.

Organizers say they fell short of their original goal to finish 60,000 pages, but that plan to continue to edit and eventually translate the material that was transcribed.

"The volunteer typing will stop, so the raw material will go up online the way it is," said Puakea Nogelmeier. "It's searchable, so you can search it, but it's still in Hawaiian."

The material will be available online within a couple days. To find it, head over to

** Online comment by Ken Conklin

1. There were Hawaiian language newspapers which criticized the monarchy and supported the revolution of 1893 and annexation of 1898. Will this project include any pages supporting the revolution and annexation among the 16,000 pages being transcribed? Or will such newspapers be excluded and suppressed?

2. How soon can we expect to see English translations?

3. Why do the Hawaiian language revivalists refuse to cooperate with Google and other robots which provide automated translations among many languages, some of which are quite obscure?


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