Perspectives on Hawaiian Sovereignty
November 18, 2003 4:40 PM   Subscribe

highly recommended: hawaii, by james michener. if you were like me, you probably know nada about hawaii and it's history.
posted by quonsar at 4:55 PM on November 18, 2003

Do they have oil there? If not, well......
posted by Postroad at 5:03 PM on November 18, 2003

Every time my family visits Maui, we make it a point to visit with some of the locals and hear their stories. One interesting thing that has been happening lately is that mainland-educated Hawaiians have been getting law degrees and such and coming back to fight the 100-year leases that the major landowners have, many of which are up for renewal. Supposedly they used to get automatically renewed if nobody showed up to oppose them, but these native lawyers are fighting back (imagine the corporate lawyers' surprise when someone actually shows up in court to contest their claim!) and according to the people we talked with, are starting to achieve small victories in getting control of some of their land.
posted by laz-e-boy at 5:31 PM on November 18, 2003

What a great set of resources. Thanks for putting all this together, Joey!
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:44 PM on November 18, 2003

Good post.

Hawaiian issues are looming big in the news in Hawaii. There are court cases coming up on whether Kamehameha Schools (which only allows students claiming at least one Hawaiian ancestor to enroll) can keep its admissions policy, whether the Department of Hawaiian Homelands can continue to exist, and whether OHA can continue to be state funded.

There's great division among activists over whether to fight for the Akaka bill or not (which would recognize Native Hawaiians as a group with claims on the Federal Government). Some want it so that they can get more support programs. Others are against it because they deny the authority of the federal government, and hope for the U.N. to do something (I think they're dreaming. U.S. will never give up Hawaii, and the majority population that isn't Native Hawaiian will never allow it).

The Republican governor, interestingly, has lobbied hard for the Akaka bill. There are several anonymous holds on it in the Senate, IIRC.
posted by Charmian at 6:05 PM on November 18, 2003

I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Hawaii in 2000. I hadn't heard of the sovereignty movement until then. Maybe I was deafer than most to it because I'd only been in the U.S. for two years at that point, in the midwest and from originally from Canada. I don't think they'll ever get it, but I hope they don't lose anything either. I met a lot of the nicest people there, whether they were native Hawaiian or recent imports from the mainland. I really was amazed at how well the variety of cultures generally mixed. I stayed in locally owned accommodations the entire time and away from the major cities. My time was split up between Maui, Kauai and Hawaii. This was where I stayed on Kauai.

I tried to learn a bit about Hawaii's, at least as much as I could find out from reading Lonely Planet and other guide books. I purchased a couple of local texts when I was there which have sadly been sitting on my shelf since.
posted by substrate at 6:24 PM on November 18, 2003

and of course, there's the whole question of just exactly WHO ARE 'native hawaiians', or has that been settled?
posted by quonsar at 6:27 PM on November 18, 2003

This is the legal nightmare of all time. The Hawaiians, not recognized as a tribe, or as a nation, and not on a reservation, should be treated like native Americans.

However, that would require a treaty, and with whom? There is no clear royal lineage, only a tiny handful of pure blood Hawaiians left. But without a treaty, they cannot legally have things like Hawaiian-only councils, elected by Hawaiians only, that have power over non-Hawaiians.

The nightmare scenario is that all indigenous tribes, including Hawaiians, form a "constitutional convention"-type body to renegotiate ALL treaties with the US. And this is not an entirely hypothetical situation, some efforts have been made in this direction.

I say "nightmare", because even though this is a logical, practical and fair outcome, it is so far beyond the will of either political party that they won't even discuss it. Even cleaning up the BIA is next to impossible.

So let the Hawaiian nationalists continue to put up their silly signs declaring a particular beach "Hawaiian Only" when they waves are really good. It will be at least another generation or two before anything comes of it.

BTW, having seen the remnants of Hawaiian culture and religion, I agree with Kamehameha II that it should have been destroyed.
posted by kablam at 6:35 PM on November 18, 2003

Vermont Sovereignty!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:24 PM on November 18, 2003

I'd rather kablam was destroyed.
posted by substrate at 7:34 PM on November 18, 2003

The ancient Hawaiian culture and religion at its worst were very bloody, but Kamehameha II and others had taken great strides towards changing that. Nothing can excuse the way in which sovereignty was wrested from the Hawaiians, their queen imprisoned, and control turned over to American business concerns.

Sovereignty, land ownership, and the preservation of native sites, culture, and traditions are very important issues. Some groups have clashed, for instance, with the astronomical community which wants to continue developing the summit region of Mauna Kea, one of the most suitable spots in the world for ground-based observatories. Personally, I'm torn between my sympathy for the conservation and preservation efforts and my love of astronomy, and I hope that ways can be found to keep native culture alive in the best ways without uprooting other good things that have come to Hawaii.

I've only been to Hawaii twice--my wife and I stayed on the Big Island and on Maui during our honeymoon, and we visited the Big Island again a year and a half later--but I can say without a doubt that Hawaii is the most diversely beautiful place I have ever seen, and the Hawaiians are the most genuinely welcoming people I've ever met (I refer to Hawaiians in general natives and newcomers alike). Whether or not I ever live there Hawaii will always feel like a home to me. I feel homesick for the islands sometimes when I am not there.
posted by Songdog at 7:58 PM on November 18, 2003

BTW, having seen the remnants of Hawaiian culture and religion, I agree with Kamehameha II that it should have been destroyed.

*thunks kablam on head with great-grandmother's femur.*
posted by quonsar at 8:06 PM on November 18, 2003

Thanks for this post. I'll be visiting Hawai'i soon, and I've been looking for material on Hawaiian history to go along with the usual guide book stuff.
posted by litlnemo at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2003

You didn't ask, litlnemo, but don't miss Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman's excellent guidebooks. We purchased a number of books before our first trip but nothing matched these for accuracy, utility, and plain fun. Have a great trip!
posted by Songdog at 8:30 PM on November 18, 2003

Whoops! Here's the link.
posted by Songdog at 8:32 PM on November 18, 2003

substrate and quonsar: I assume then, that you approve of human sacrifice, murderous taboos with several vicious forms of capital punishment, along with Hula dancing?

Now, granted, if all you know about Hawaiian culture is Hula dancing, you might get all doughy-eyed and go "Oh gosh! Isn't indigenous culture *cultural*!"

Hawaiians are great people, and their leaders were smart, which is why they wanted to abolish their own religion after one glance at *any* other religion, sigh, even missionary Christianity. Hawaiians today deserve a lot better deal then they've been given. And they're probably not going to get one.

substrate: if I misinterpreted your sneering one-liner rejoinder, please let me know with another one-liner. Don't tax yourself by trying to think.
posted by kablam at 8:36 PM on November 18, 2003

I assume then, that you approve of human sacrifice, murderous taboos with several vicious forms of capital punishment, along with Hula dancing?

my bad. i assumed you might deign to show a sense of humor. i was wrong.

oh, and fuck you, kablam.
posted by quonsar at 8:46 PM on November 18, 2003

FYI, Kamehameha II and the end of the kapu system. Some basic info on ancient Hawaiian culture, including human sacrifice. Pelekane Beach, your first stop on your "beaches where human sacrifice took place" tour of the Big Island of Hawai'i! Of course, for your non-human sacrifice related your travel needs, may I suggest taking a peek at Alternative Hawai'i?
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:48 PM on November 18, 2003

Kindly use your imagination to eliminate one of the uses of the word "your" in the last sentence of my last reply. Thank you
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:49 PM on November 18, 2003

Do they have oil there? If not, well......

Actually, it wasn't that there *was* oil, but rather that it was a convenient place to fuel up in the middle of the Pacific. At least that's what I get out of my read of Japanese history. So yes, oil is important to the story, just not in the way you were thinking.

What? You thought Pearl Harbor was for nothing?
posted by ilsa at 9:02 PM on November 18, 2003

quonsar: I realize that I'm a little late to the thread, but Michener's Hawaii is like all of his other books, like a slow painful history laden death. Thank God the books are heavy enough that when you fall asleep and they fall out of your lap they make enough nosie to wake you.
posted by shagoth at 9:10 PM on November 18, 2003

loved em. hawaii, chesapeake, the tell, loved em all. if that's slow painful death, kill me. slowly.
posted by quonsar at 9:27 PM on November 18, 2003

I will never forgive the Hawai'ians for introducing me to poi.

That stuff's almost as bad as polenta.
posted by Dagobert at 3:29 AM on November 19, 2003

As far as "who exactly ARE Native Hawaiians," there are two ways of looking at it.

The first - and this is what the Akaka Bill uses as its definition of "Native Hawaiian" - is a person who is a "direct, lineal descendant of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people" who lived in the Hawaiian islands before the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.

The second goes even farther, saying that Native Hawaiians are those people who descended from residents of the Hawaiian Islands back in 1776, when Captain Cook first arrived.

Sadly, there are too many part-Hawaiians like myself who can't prove our lineage beyond two or three generations. It kept me from getting into Kamehameha, even though on my birth certificate it clearly states that I am part-Hawaiian. And I know, I know - you can put nearly anything on the birth certificate and get away with it.

Oh, and please, remember this: Someone who has ancestral ties to the land = Native Hawaiian. Someone who just happens to live on these rocks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean = Hawaii resident. While some of you haoles might think that just because California residents are Californians, and Texas residents are Texans, Hawaii residents are Hawaiians. It might sound right, but it grates against those who are actually of Native Hawaiian descent. Please keep that in mind.
posted by Blaze_01 at 4:06 AM on November 19, 2003

And kablam did emit from an orifice:
substrate and quonsar: I assume then, that you approve of human sacrifice, murderous taboos with several vicious forms of capital punishment, along with Hula dancing?
I don't recall seeing any human sacrifices, murderous taboos or vicious forms of capital punishment while I was there. Perhaps you visited a different island. Or perhaps a different time. The same can be said for Christianity if you choose to base your view of them at the right point in history. Now, I'm not Christian, I'm also not Hawaiian, but I'm not about to call Christianity a murderous cult any more than I'm willing to call the Hawaiian religion a murderous cult, or Islam, or Judaism. In any event culture is different than religion and you seem to choose to muddle the two.
posted by substrate at 4:49 AM on November 19, 2003 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the link, Songdog. I have the Rough Guide to Hawai'i and one other book with a name that escapes me, but it looks like these books might cover some things the others don't.
posted by litlnemo at 5:54 AM on November 19, 2003

Blaze_01, you have conveniently overlooked the fact that there is a third way of looking at the native hawaiian argument. Many feel that there are NO native hawaiians, as human beings are not indigenous to these islands. All of the people here are FROM other places, and your sense of entitlement based on a date of arrival is misguided. And your usage of "haole" is an artificial separation of human beings, and is offensive.
posted by scottymac at 8:09 AM on November 19, 2003 [1 favorite]

scottymac, if you want to put it that way then you might as well say that no one can be a native of ANY one place. after all, we all immigrated from somewhere. native american indians didn't spring from the earth here in north america during a strong rainstorm, did they? i've read that they actually crossed the bering strait to get to north america. does that mean they aren't really native americans? i think not. they were called native americans because when the westerners got here the indians were already here, hence the native american indian name. there are other examples of this, i believe...perhaps greenland and iceland are good examples? or maybe even the ethnic thai who were really from india?

my point, in case it's a little muddled, is that there ARE native hawaiians. the people that settled the hawaiian islands got there first, they had an established culture and society (however strange and barbaric it may seem now) and they were THERE when the western explorers found the islands. hence the native hawaiian name.

i was born and raised in hawaii. and sad as it may sound, i am 1/32 hawaiian. it's only a fraction but it counts. i was accepted into kamehameha as were many of my cousins. my children, who are 1/16 hawaiian, are also eligible to attend Kamehameha if they can pass the testing and meet the academic requirements. these fractions may seem laughable as most people don't even consider their ethnic background to count when the percentage is so small...but to a hawaiian that small number counts for a lot. that is how watered down the blood actually is.

i married a haole, watering down my blood line even more. that is the way of things now and it has been the way of things since my first full blooded ancestor married a foreigner. which brings me to another point...haole can and is used as a derogatory term, but i believe it actually means 'foreigner'. it can be offensively used, but a word is a word is a word. i grew up hapa haole (half foreign)...this was never derogatory, it's just a way to describe your background.

i really wish that hawaiians were afforded the same rights as american indians but i don't see that ever happening. if they were recognized in the same way, maybe schools like kamehameha wouldn't have to restrict their acceptances and Blaze_01 would have been allowed in. if they were recognized in the same way, perhaps the hawaiian language wouldn't have almost vanished from the face of the earth. if they were recognized in the same way, then perhaps the culture wouldn't be diminished by comments like:

I assume then, that you approve of human sacrifice, murderous taboos with several vicious forms of capital punishment, along with Hula dancing?

if you take the hula dancing out of that statement, he could be taking about any ancient culture, couldn't he?

to all of you that have visited hawaii and had kind words about the islands, thank you! to those that are on the way to visit, have a lovely trip, you won't be disappointed. the land is beautiful and the people are like no other.
posted by s.carrier at 10:37 AM on November 19, 2003 [1 favorite]

substrate: well, if you want to be a relativist, I suppose I could call you and quonsar "orifices", and equate you with being equal to the mouth, nostrils or ear holes. However, that doesn't do you two justice.

All I said at the beginning was that I agreed with the decision of a Hawaiian king that the religion and culture of the Hawaiians should have been destroyed. Sniveling that I "should be destroyed", and now that modern Hawaii isn't like that just shows you neither grasp the issues then or now, and are speaking out of ignorance and intellectual bigotry.

Quonsar is just a radical-agitator 'bot. A good example of why Metafilter needs a killfilter.
posted by kablam at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2003

Hawaii threads have come up on Metafilter before, and yet it still somehow surprises and (generally) impresses me. I always assume that we don't come up on the radar at all, and if we do, it's just for comedic relief. The willingness of some to look at it seriously is heartening.

I also knew there were a handful of posters from Hawaii, but I didn't know there were other part-Hawaiians (Blaze_01, s.carrier).

I know it must sound weird to quantify one's ancestry in fractions. I'm 1/16, my daughter is 1/32, but while she was eligible for Kamehameha Schools, she wasn't admitted (the acceptance rate was close to 1/800 in my district). These fractions and dates seem inexact, and they are, but some measure is better than none. I was long of the school that it was enough to just know you were part-Hawaiian, and not need to prove it. But, like the Akaka Bill, I see the possible value in "working within the system." I even sorted out all my geneology files and "registered" myself and my family - we got nifty ID cards and everything. (When people ask about it, I admit I jokingly say somberly, "That's for when the revolution comes.")

The Kamehameha Schools admission case has been leading the news here for a while, with one ruling out Tuesday and another due out soon. Some of the questions posed above, and the beleagured Akaka Bill, are quite relevant. Sovereignty activists who want more than a formalized relationship with the U.S. modeled after that of Native Americans are fighting the bill, but many desperately want something in place... otherwise, rulings like the most recent one citing "extremely unique circumstances" allowing for "race-conscious" policies are on pretty shaky ground.

The 1993 "Apology Resolution" was no small step forward. But as other legal challenges here have proven, there's still a lot to lose.
posted by pzarquon at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2003

s.carrier - haole has been defined as "without breath" (ha ole), where ha/breath is used in the same sense as in aloha: the breath of life, or the divine breath. The Hawaiians used the word to refer to westerners, because the newcomers seemed to be from a place without this breath. Like all words, the important thing is the spirit in which it is used. I would certainly refer to myself as haole in the context of my non-Hawaiianness, but I would not want to have it used scornfully against me.
posted by Songdog at 11:43 AM on November 19, 2003

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