We just got back from a two-week VACATION in Hawai`i. I wrote VACATION in all caps because we are usually there on (Doug’s) business. But this time we were taking my mom Vel and her partner Jim on a whirlwind tour of three islands. Whew!
I could write about all of the beautiful scenery we saw (despite an unusual amount of rain, thanks climate change) and the cultural sites and friends that we visited. But I am going to share my impressions of one of the the highlights of MY trip, a visit to the village of Pu`uhonua O Waimanalo, AKA the Nation of Hawai`i. You can read about the village here:
We were there to see Bumpy Kanahele (and you can read about Bumpy here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumpy_Kanahele ) and learn how Pu`uhonua O Waimanalo came about. I encourage you to do so!
Doug first met Bumpy when he was in Hawai`i doing research for his exhibition on Hawaiian sovereignty for the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian. Doug interviewed Bumpy and Bumpy gave Doug an official flag of the Nation of Hawai`i to display in the exhibition.
We were visiting to discuss what Bumpy wanted Doug to do with the flag now that the exhibition is over.
But first we were let through the gates
into the village and were greeted by Bumpy and his nephew Brandon Makaawaawa. We sat around a table in their office and they explained all the great initiatives they have going on in the village.
I have to stop here and say that part of me feels like I have NO business writing about Hawaiian sovereignty. I never knew anything about Hawai`i, had never been there, until I met Doug. I think I kind of knew that Hawai`i had been a monarchy at some time, and understood about the sugar and pineapple plantations, Kind of. I knew that like most indigenous peoples of the world, native Hawaiians got a raw deal. But until I met Doug, and learned about the overthrow of the legitimate Hawaiian government by a group of US businessmen, I didn’t know. I didn’t know about the “Apology Resolution”, signed in 1993 by Bill Clinton, that offered “an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.” I didn’t know that for a long time, Hawaiians were not allowed to speak their language, or to practice their culture. I didn’t know about most of it.
And I am not Hawaiian. Really, I have no personal stake in the game. But I just can’t see injustice and not feel it, and not talk about it. I can’t learn about something that REALLY happened, where people lost their land and their country, and not feel rage. I can’t stand to see the land being bought up by ultrarich people, driving up the cost of housing even more and leaving the Hawaiians with literally nowhere to go.
I know that it’s not my fight. But hopefully – and hopefully, respectfully – as an ally I can try, at the very least, to spread the word. It’s not my place to decide what the best path forward is for Hawaiians, that’s for sure. But I hope that by writing about what happened, and my thoughts, others can at least try to understand what the Hawaiians are going through. Have compassion for their cause, at the very least. And maybe join forces someday. I know that I would if I could.
OK, that said, back to our visit! As someone who works with economists whose overriding passion is economic justice, I got what Bumpy and Brandon and everyone involved in the operation of the village are trying to do. As Bumpy said, political change is slow and hard. The people can’t wait for the political powers that be to see that a solution must be found for Hawaiians. Some in the academic world are trying to fight through the courts. Bumpy and his people are finding ways to become economically independent. They’re into sustainable agriculture and have created a digital currency. They know WAY more about block chain than I do.
We looked over plans for the village, which includes a memorial to the signers of the 1897 Ku‘e Petition (signed by more than 20,000 Hawaiians who opposed U.S. annexation) and many new housing units as well as the agricultural areas.
We then took a tour of the village in in a jeep, stopping at the structure that was built by the producers of the movie “Aloha“, which featured a story-line about Bumpy that was my favorite part of the movie (I like Emma Stone but agreed with many critics that casting her as a character who was supposed to be one quarter Hawaiian and one quarter Chinese was problematic). But I can see why Bumpy would want to do it. If people learned about the sovereignty movement from that movie, all the better. They were also featured in an episode of Hawaii Five-0!
Brandon showed us the Ki plants and told us about his vision for world peace.
It felt so peaceful up there, and so full of promise. So much aloha.
We went back to the office for the obligatory fan pics.
Before we left, Doug asked Bumpy if he would want the flag accessioned into the Smithsonian’s permanent collection and Bumpy said yes, he would like that. So Doug’s going to try. Let’s hope that he succeeds, but more importantly, that it’s the first of many objects collected from the sovereign nation of Hawai`i.
I left feeling inspired, humble, uplifted and grateful. Mahalo nui Bumpy and Brandon.
A hui hou…
ADDENDUM: I want to add this You Tube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKAMtkTjYhY&feature=youtu.be of Bumpy and Brandon talking about the Nation, ,and houselessness, and the history of how they came to be, and what’s happened since, and what’s happening now with Native Hawaiians and the problem of the homeless. I have so much respect for what they are doing. People on the ground, doing the work…that’s what will change the world.