Filmmaker Chris Kahunahana is blazing a trail for Native Hawaiians in film and TV.
He opens up about his new film “Waikiki” and challenging Hollywood’s portrayal of his homeland.


Charissa Isidro – Updated Oct. 31, 2021 / Published Oct. 29, 2021 / DailyBeast



Chris Kahunahana has been trying to make films for nearly 30 years.

Finally, his debut feature Waikikihas seen the light of day, first screened to audiences at the Hawaiian International Film Festival amid the ongoing pandemic in December of 2020. It is credited as the first narrative feature-length film written and directed by a native Hawaiian filmmaker.

In Hawaii, there is no shortage of stories to tell. “Our traditions were passed down orally. So storytelling is just a part of what we do as Hawaiians,” he says.

The shortage is in the funding.

“Making this film was a challenge, next to impossible,” Kahunahana explains. “You have to have perseverance.” For viewers, it probably isn’t immediately obvious that the film was done “run and gun” style over a period of seven long years. To his credit, Kahunahana makes up for his lack of resources with sheer enthusiasm for his craft.

Hawaii is one of the most expensive states to reside in, with a high cost of living coupled with a low median income. Kahunahana says there’s a lot of talent within the “small but mighty” Hawaiian filmmaking community, but many are forced to work other jobs while balancing a film production just to stay afloat.

This is the norm for kānaka maoli filmmakers, as Native Hawaiians call themselves in their language. But Kahunahana had something to say. He gave up a glamorous life curating art shows in San Francisco and New York, running underground, independent film festivals, and owning a nightclub in Honolulu, to chase his filmmaking dream. From there, Waikiki was born.

The film is influenced by the people and places in Kahunahana’s life in Hawaii—it’s the side that non-Hawaiians don’t often get to see. Waikiki centers on Kea (Danielle Zalopany), a strong yet sympathetic native woman on the run from an abusive boyfriend and juggling multiple jobs when she accidentally rams her van into a man in Honolulu. Eventually, we see Kea reach her lowest point: houseless, broke, and in deep physical and emotional pain. For those who aren’t getting it: Kea is Hawaii.

“The trauma that she experiences, Hawaii as our ʻāina [land] has experienced,” Kahunahana explains. He describes the decimation of the Native Hawaiian population at the turn of the century, in which a people who numbered almost 1 million was reduced to less than 40,000. It’s a sobering reminder of the effects of colonialism on an island that has been a state for less than a century.

“We are the ones who are here of our kūpuna [ancestors] who survived genocide. The fact that we’re still here we have a responsibility to speak on this. Our families had to fight to stay alive,” Kahunahana says. “I feel blessed with the opportunity and platform to say something.”

Hundreds of years after the genocide of Native Americans, Hawaiians were subjected to the same treatment. The overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom led to the separation and indoctrination of Hawaiian children, criminalization of the Hawaiian language, and thus a rupturing of Hawaiian value systems, culture, and identity.

Kea represents the results of that violence. Societal issues like addiction and displacement are enormous concerns while Native Hawaiians are plagued with the highest rates of incarceration and homelessness on their own land.

“We can’t afford to live here,” Kahunahana says bluntly. “Our religion is based on the land. How do you be Hawaiian without the land?”

And there’s a reason why the film itself is called Waikiki, a nod to the hegemonic tourist industry in Hawaii, fueled by Hollywood’s portrayals of the islands as a dreamy paradise where Native Hawaiians are friendly, hospitable and perpetually in service to the beloved white savior-visitors and their “exotic fantasies.” Today, this notion of a Hawaiian paradise has become a lucrative industry raking in billions of dollars in revenue a year. Kahunahana hopes to turn this delusion on its head.

Waikiki was the first American experiment in tourism, the “crown jewel” as Kahunahana calls it. But it was an important and beloved land for Native Hawaiians too, “the place where our queens went and had houses on the beach.”

In the Hawaiian language, waikīkīi means “spouting water.” The area was deemed special for its exceptionally fertile lands which allowed plant and sea life to thrive, guided by the ahupuaʻa system and the fishing and farming techniques developed by Hawaiians who tended them for generations. “Nature provides everything,” he asserts.

The way Kahunahana talks about the connection between his people and their land is exceedingly evident in his film: “The land is the chief, the land is primary… We take care of the land, the land takes care of us. The land is aina, that which feeds us, which grows us. We come from the land in our cosmology, in our genealogy. We trace our roots back to the land. That’s our mother. We have an intimate relationship with the land that spans time and space. So when we see the desecration, exploitation of our resources for a fake economy which doesn’t value nature intrinsically… it’s offensive to us.”

It’s almost painful to listen to the way Waikiki was then formed: a canal built over fertile lands to control the flow of water in order to construct fake beaches for the plethora of resorts and hotels that make Waikiki what it is now.

“Without having stopped the flow of the natural water systems, they couldn’t have their trademark Waikiki,” Kahunahana explains.

Unlike the Hawaiian Waikīkī, “the marketed American version of Waikiki is an exploitation of Hawaii—this place, paradise,” where, he says, the economy is based on an extraction of Indigenous resources and the subservience of Indigenous people.

“I don’t know anybody who hasn’t been a waiter, valet, or bus boy. That’s what that industry provides, not living wage jobs… Tourism and the military, our largest industries, are extractive and exploitative.”

Now there are “10 million asses shitting into our water systems,” Kahunahana says. “That’s not sustainable… we can’t grow food for 10 million people. That’s not our correct responsibility and relationship to our land.” It’s antithetical to a culture that prized it’s responsibility to the land and was self-sufficient before contact with outsiders.

And Hollywood is absolutely complicit in the oppression faced by Hawaiians. The film industry was used as a propaganda arm to justify the illegal annexation of Hawaii, the labor exploitation of Hawaiians, the ongoing militaristic destruction and robbery of sacred lands, and the unsustainable tourism on the islands.

It’s exactly why shows, most recently and notably HBO’s The White Lotus, absolutely need better representation in their writer’s rooms to give a more nuanced and in-depth look at the people whose lands are being occupied. Characters like “Lani” and “Kai,” secondary and tertiary roles who often feel like afterthoughts with no real arcs, are merely used as surface-level plot devices to lend the series a layer of wokeness. In past films portrayed on the islands, folks of Asian and Native descent were often deemed interchangeable. Even in cases where Natives were represented in larger numbers on film crews, they were still shut out from positions of power.

“In Hollywood, we’ve never been the main characters in our stories,” Kahunahana says.

He understands why many choose to work on these shows, even if it means doing a disservice to the representation of their culture or participating in the cultural erasure perpetrated by white showrunners.

“We need to feed our families,” Kahunahana says. “Sometimes we’re forced to participate in the exploitation of our culture. It’s tragic, but I don’t fault them at all. We all have our own different kuleana, different responsibilities.”

It’s why he’s fiercely motivated about being successful as a filmmaker: to show that there is a path available for kānaka maoli in film, and that they do have the right to demand more from those in Hollywood who are eager to use Hawaii as a backdrop for their HBO fantasies.

“Hawaii isn’t just a paradise,” Kahunahana says. “It’s not Brown Disneyland.”

He points to the film industry in New Zealand and their relationships with Māori filmmakers as a model of another Indigenous Polynesian population that has seen worldwide success. Kahunahana argues that Native Hawaiians should have access to a percentage of the annual revenue generated from tourism on the island, and that cultural consultants, as well as a Hawaiian “Brown Book,” a resource to help filmmakers work alongside Hawaiians with proper sensitivity towards the land and the people, should be made mandatory for any traveling film crews. He doesn’t just mean this for Hollywood, though. He believes all the “entitled visitors” would benefit from a fuller experience of Hawaii in all its grief and glory.

Kahunahana doesn’t know what that might look like exactly, but he knows what it shouldn’t be: “You can’t brownwash it. You can’t just throw a Hawaiian word on it and pretend like it’s not an exploitative business.”

That is a sentiment among many natives regarding Hawaii’s statehood and the duplicitous process that led to the annexation of the 50th state: a process that was non-existent. Over the years, the Land Back and Hawaiian Sovereignty Movements have only grown, and Kahunahana is certainly supportive of the cause.

“At the quote-unquote annexation, because there’s no treaty of annexation… Annexation is a document created between two independent bodies, saying yes, we’ll become part of you. That doesn’t exist; it’s a fallacy. How Hawaii quote-unquote became part of the United States was The Newlands Resolution, a joint resolution passed in the United States Congress… That’s like if me and my friend wanted your house and write each other a fricken deed for your house. So all of a sudden, now we’re your territory? That’s not even legal, internationally. You can’t just go write a deed for somebody’s shit. In anybody’s law that’s just not right.”

Apart from being overtaken by businessmen to build water-intensive sugar plantations and the pineapple crops which have become almost symbolic of the islands, Hawaii was also famously used as a military buffer state during World War II. Case in point: Pearl Harbor. While plantations no longer dominate the islands as labor-intensive operations; they’ve become idyllic tourist destinations, not unlike the antebellum slave-owning plantations of the South. Similarly, the military’s presence endures, making Hawaii one of the most densely militarized states under U.S. control. The island of Kahoʻolawe, considered sacred land, was long used as a bombing range for the Air Force, and the Navy only stopped live-fire exercises in 1990.

Kahunahana, in an acerbic tone, raged against the “sweetheart deals” that promoted the total desecration of Hawaiian land while leaving Native Hawaiians without resources and forced to prove their Native-ness over “blood quantum” rules that would otherwise shun them from claiming their stake in what little land was left over for Hawaiians to live on. Now, with the wrath of climate change wreaking havoc on cities across the world, Kahunahana can’t help but ask: “Who’s the better steward of the land?”

“We watched them for 200 years fucking it up,” he says. “The whole planet would benefit from Natives holding the land.”

One experience, specifically, brought home the importance of this: his time on Mauna Kea.

“It’s illegal that they have anything on Mauna Kea at all,” Kahunahana argues. “Did they ask us to give them those roads? All these backdoor deals. It’s funny how the Hawaiians always get screwed out of our land. It’s just regular. Oh yeah, there you go, the ‘fake state’ stealing more land.”

It’s an ongoing struggle made much more difficult by the militarized response to the activists, and the parachute journalism brought on by an uninformed media writing misinformed articles to well-informed liberal readers who really believed that Native Hawaiians simply needed to stop being mad over a telescope and believe in science.

“People think the wrong was done at the overthrow but it’s still happening,” Kahunahana says. He described living for six months on Mauna Kea volunteering as part of the Native media arm, ready to help in any way he could—even if that meant putting his body on the line to be arrested.

“Give me a camera, man,” he says. “Put me in the middle of it. I’m just gonna hand you my memory cards. That’s how we operated for six months. [Department of] Land and Natural resources, fucking SWAT tactics—it was the largest mobilization of law enforcement in the state of Hawaii to arrest Hawaiians, protecting our land. So whose interests do they have in mind?” he asks.

“Being up there… I was able to further understand why these things are important. The sacredness of the Mauna, it’s wao akua, the realm of gods and spirits. It’s kapu… we didn’t even go up there. Kahuna, Ali’i, only for spiritual purposes did we go up there at all,” he continues. “No sites of archaeological existence. It’s god space.”

Much more, it was the brutal policing that happened on the mountain that stuck with Kahunahana, as remnants of his righteous anger reveal itself during our conversation.

“Their tactics, the psychological tactics, creating false alarms, spreading disinformation… keeping us up all night shining lights into the kūpuna tents so old people can’t sleep. I was emboldened by people’s commitment. We take our cues from the Mauna. The Mauna’s there forever; we are connected to that forever. No amount of money is going to sever us from our connection to the land,” he tells me.

“She calls, we’re there.”

Many times, Kahunahana remarks on the resilience of his people, and his admiration for the younger generations is palpable. “I think it’s great that the youth are youthing,” he says, referring to the many ways young Hawaiians have taken to social media to express their culture loudly and proudly. “That’s their interaction with the world, their voice… They haven’t learned to be cynical. So I think it’s beautiful and empowering.”

His focus is on the money—to provide a space for those coming up in the industry who can help grow the vibrant and independent kānaka maoli film community, and contribute to a “culture of funding” that helps up-and-coming filmmakers believe in more possibilities for their stories.

And Kahunahana continues to accomplish much in his own right, working on four different creative projects—from an installation piece for Hawaiian arts in Honolulu that focuses on Mauna Kea, to a near-future episodic series that tells the stories of Polynesian climate refugees and the birth of the first human AI hybrid. He’s also directing two major motion pictures with two amazing production teams that are fully funded and slated to shoot in the next year.

“A Hawaiian to direct Hawaiian stories,” he says, as if he almost can’t believe it’s happening to him. “Times are changing and producers are seeing the value in hiring Indigenous directors to direct Indigenous stories.”


History in French Polynesia

The South Pacific Ocean came to Europe’s attention during the latter half of the 18th century with the theory that an unknown southern land — a terra australis incognita — lay somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. It must be there, the theory went, for otherwise the unbalanced earth would wobble off into space.

King George III of Great Britain took interest in the idea and, in 1764, sent Capt. John Byron (the poet’s grandfather) to the Pacific in HMS Dolphin. Although Byron came home without discovering terra australis incognita (though he found some Tuamotu islands), King George immediately dispatched Capt. Samuel Wallis in the Dolphin.

HMS Dolphin – 1751

Instead of a southern continent, Wallis discovered Tahiti. Surely he and his crew could hardly believe their eyes when they sailed into Matavai Bay in 1767 and were greeted by Tahitians in more than 500 canoes, many loaded with pigs, chickens, coconuts, fruit, and topless young women. The latter, Wallis reported, „played a great many droll and wanton tricks“ on his scurvy-ridden crew.

Matavai Bay

Less than a year later, the Tahitians similarly welcomed French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Although he stayed at Hitiaa, on Tahiti’s east coast, for just 10 days, Bougainville was so enchanted by the Venus-like quality of Tahiti’s women that he named their island New Cythère — after the Greek island of Cythera, associated with the goddess Aphrodite (Venus).

Bougainville took back to France a young Tahitian named Ahutoru, who became a sensation in Paris as living proof of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory that man was, at his best, a „noble savage.“ Indeed, Bougainville and Ahutoru contributed mightily to Tahiti’s hedonistic image.

Ahutoru – The first Tahitian man in Europ

Captain Cook’s Tours

After Wallis arrived back in England, the Lords of the Admiralty put a young lieutenant named James Cook in command of a converted collier and sent him to Tahiti. A product of the Age of Enlightenment, Cook was a master navigator, a mathematician, an astronomer, and a practical physician who became the first captain of any ship to prevent scurvy among his crewmen by feeding them fresh fruits and vegetables. His ostensible mission was to observe the transit of Venus — the planet, that is — across the sun, an astronomical event that would not occur again until 1874, but which, if measured from widely separated points on the globe, would enable scientists for the first time to determine longitude on the earth’s surface. Cook’s second, highly secret mission was to find the elusive southern continent.

Cook set up an observation point at the end of a sandy peninsula on Tahiti’s north shore, a locale he appropriately named Point Venus. His measurements of Venus were somewhat less than useful, but his observations of Tahiti, made during a stay of 6 months, were of immense importance in understanding the „noble savages“ who lived there.

Matavai Bay and Point Venus, Tahiti, Augt 24th 1849

The Observatory, Point Venus, Otahytey, 1792 (w/c) by Tobin, Captain George (1768-1838)

Using Tahiti as a base, Cook went on to discover the Society Islands northwest of Tahiti and the Australs to the south, and then fully explored the coasts of New Zealand and eastern Australia. After nearly sinking his ship on the Great Barrier Reef, he left the South Pacific through the strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea, which he named for his ship, the Endeavor. He returned to London in 1771.

During two subsequent voyages, Cook discovered several other islands, among them what are now known as Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, New Caledonia, and Norfolk Island. His ships were the first to sail below the Antarctic Circle. On his third voyage in 1778-79, he traveled to the Hawaiian Islands and explored the northwest coast of North America until ice in the Bering Strait turned him back. He returned to the Big Island of Hawaii, where, on February 14, 1779, he was killed during a petty skirmish with the islanders.

James Cook Pacific voyages

With the exception of the Hawaiians who smashed his skull, Captain Cook was revered throughout the Pacific. He treated the islanders fairly and respected their traditions. The Polynesian chiefs looked upon him as one of their own. Cook’s Bay on Moorea bears his name. Elsewhere in the South Pacific is a Cooktown, a Cook Strait, any number of Captain Cook’s Landing Places, and an entire island nation named for this giant of an explorer.

Death of Captain James Cook, George Carter, 1783,

Mutiny on the Bounty

Based on reports by Cook and others about the abundance of breadfruit, a head-size, potato-like fruit that grows on trees throughout the islands, a group of West Indian planters asked King George III if he would be so kind as to transport the trees from Tahiti to Jamaica as a cheap source of food for the slaves. The king dispatched Capt. William Bligh, who had been one of Cook’s navigators and was later in command of HMS Bounty in 1787. One of Bligh’s officers was a former shipmate named Fletcher Christian.

Tarita Teriipaia and Marlo Brando

Their story is one of history’s great sea yarns.

The Bounty was late arriving in Tahiti, so Christian and the crew frolicked on Tahiti for 6 months, waiting for the next breadfruit season. Christian and some of the crew apparently enjoyed the island’s women and easygoing lifestyle, for on the way home they staged a mutiny on April 28, 1789, off the Ha’apai islands in Tonga. Christian set Bligh and 18 of his loyal officers and crewmen adrift with a compass, a cask of water, and a few provisions. Bligh and his men miraculously rowed the Bounty’s longboat some 4,830km (3,000 miles) to the Dutch East Indies, where they hitched a ride back to England.

Meanwhile, Christian sailed the Bounty back to Tahiti, where he put ashore 25 other crew members who were loyal to Bligh. Christian, eight mutineers, their Tahitian wives, and six Tahitian men then disappeared.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Pandora eventually rounded up the Bounty crewmen still on Tahiti and returned them to England. Three were hanged, four were acquitted, and three were convicted but pardoned.

H.M.S. Pandora – FEB. 17 1851

In 1808, the captain of an American whaling ship happened upon remote Pitcairn Island, between Tahiti and South America, and was astonished when some mixed-race teenagers rowed out and greeted him not in Tahitian but in perfect English. They were the children of the mutineers, only one of whom was still alive. A handful of the mutineers‘ descendants live on Pitcairn to this day.

Bligh later collected more breadfruit on Tahiti, but his whole venture went for naught when the slaves on Jamaica insisted on rice.

Guns & Whiskey

The Bounty mutineers hiding on Tahiti loaned themselves and their guns to rival chiefs, who for the first time were able to extend their control beyond their home valleys. With the mutineers‘ help, a chief named Pomare II came to control half of Tahiti and all of Moorea.

The U.S. ship that found the mutineers‘ retreat at Pitcairn was one of many whalers roaming the South Pacific in the early 1800s. Their ruffian crews made dens of iniquity of several South Pacific ports, including Papeete and Nuku Hiva in what is now French Polynesia. Many crewmen jumped ship and lived on the islands, some of them even casting their lots — and their guns — with rival chiefs during tribal wars. With their assistance, some chiefs were able to extend their power over entire islands or groups of islands.

Along with the whalers came traders in search of sandalwood, pearls, shells, and sea cucumbers (known as bêches-de-mer), which they traded for beads, cloth, whiskey, and guns and then sold at high prices in China. Some established stores became the catalysts for Western-style towns. The merchants brought more guns and alcohol to people who had never used them before. They also put pressure on local leaders to coin money, which introduced a cash economy where none had existed before. Guns, alcohol, and money had far-reaching effects on the easygoing, communal traditions of the Pacific Islanders.

While the traders were building towns, other arrivals were turning the bush country into coconut and cotton plantations. With the native islanders disinclined to work, Chinese indentured laborers were brought to a cotton plantation in Tahiti in the 1860s. After it failed, some of the Chinese stayed and became farmers and merchants. Their descendants now form the merchant class of French Polynesia.


The Fatal Impact

The European discoverers brought many changes to the islands, starting with iron, which the Tahitians had never seen. The Tahitians figured out right away that iron was much harder than stone and shells, and that they could swap pigs, breadfruit, bananas, and the affections of their young women for it. So many iron nails soon disappeared from the Dolphin that Wallis restricted his men to the ship out of fear it would fall apart in Matavai Bay. A rudimentary form of monetary economy was introduced to Polynesia for the first time, and the English word „money“ entered the Tahitian language as moni.

Much more devastating European imports were diseases such as measles, influenza, pneumonia, and syphilis, to which the islanders had no resistance. Captain Cook estimated Tahiti’s population at some 200,000 in 1769. By 1810, it had dropped to fewer than 8,000.

Bringing the Word of God

The reports of the islands by Cook and Bougainville may have brought word of noble savages living in paradise to some people in Europe; to others, they heralded heathens to be rescued from hell. So while alcohol and diseases were destroying the islanders‘ bodies, a stream of missionaries arrived on the scene to save their souls.

The „opening“ of the South Pacific coincided with a fundamentalist religious revival in England, and it wasn’t long before the London Missionary Society (LMS) was on the scene in Tahiti. Its missionaries, who arrived in 1797, were the first Protestant missionaries to leave England for a foreign country. They chose Tahiti because there „the difficulties were least.“


Polynesians, already believing in a supreme being at the head of a hierarchy of lesser gods, quickly converted to Christianity in large numbers. With the exception of Roman Catholic priests serving in the Marquesas Islands, the puritanical missionaries demanded the destruction of all tikis, the stylized statues representing ancestors, which they regarded as idols. With the exception of authentic Marquesan carvings, most tikis carved for the tourist souvenir trade today resemble those of New Zealand, where the more liberal Anglican missionaries were less demanding.

The missionaries in French Polynesia also insisted that most heathen temples (known as maraes) be abandoned. Many have now been restored, however, and can be visited.

Maraes temple

The Tricked Queen

The Protestant missionaries enjoyed a monopoly until the first Roman Catholic priests arrived from France in the 1830s. The Protestants immediately saw a threat, and in 1836 they engineered the interlopers‘ expulsion by Queen Pomare IV, the illegitimate daughter of Pomare II, who had succeeded her father’s throne.

When word of this outrage reached Paris, France demanded a guarantee that Frenchmen would thereafter be treated as the „most favored foreigners“ on Tahiti. Queen Pomare politely agreed, but as soon as the warship left Papeete, she sent a letter to Queen Victoria, asking for British protection. Britain declined to interfere, which in 1842 opened the door for a Frenchman to trick several Tahitian chiefs into signing a document that in effect made Tahiti a French protectorate.

Queen Pomare retreated to Raiatea, which was not under French control, and continued to resist. On Tahiti, her subjects launched an armed rebellion against the French. This French-Tahitian war continued until 1846, when the last native stronghold was captured and the remnants of their guerrilla bands retreated to Tahiti Iti, the island’s eastern peninsula. A monument to the fallen Tahitians now stands beside the round-island road near the airport at Faaa, the village still noted for its strong pro-independence sentiment.

Giving up the struggle, the queen returned to Papeete in 1847 and ruled as a figurehead until her death 30 years later. Her son, Pomare V, remained on the throne for 3 more years until abdicating in return for a sizable French pension for himself, his family, and his mistress. In 1903, all of eastern Polynesia was consolidated into a single colony known as French Oceania. In 1957, its status was changed to the overseas territory of French Polynesia.

A Blissful Backwater

French Polynesia remained an idyllic backwater until the early 1960s, except for periodic invasions by artists and writers. French painter Paul Gauguin gave up his family and his career as a Parisian stockbroker and arrived in 1891; he spent his days reproducing Tahiti’s colors and people on canvas until he died in 1903 on Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas Islands. W. Somerset Maugham, Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rupert Brooke, and other writers added to Tahiti’s romantic reputation during the early years of the 20th century. In 1932, two young Americans — Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall — published Mutiny on the Bounty, which quickly became a bestseller. Three years later, MGM released the first movie version, with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton in the roles of Christian and Bligh, respectively.

In 1942, some 6,000 U.S. sailors and marines quickly built the territory’s first airstrip on Bora Bora and remained there throughout World War II. A number of mixed-race Tahitians claim descent from those American troops.

Movies & Bombs

The backwater years ended in 1960, when Tahiti’s new international airport opened at Faaa. Marlon Brando and a movie crew arrived shortly thereafter to film a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty. This new burst of fame, coupled with the ability to reach Tahiti overnight, transformed the island into a jet-set destination, and hotel construction began in earnest.

Even more changes came in 1963, when France established the Centre d’Experimentation du Pacifique and began exploding nuclear bombs on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls, in the Tuamotus, about 1,127km (700 miles) southeast of Tahiti. A huge support base was constructed on the eastern outskirts of Papeete. Thousands of Polynesians flocked to Tahiti to take the new construction and hotel jobs, which enabled them to earn good money and to experience life in Papeete’s fast lane. Between 1966 and 1992, the French exploded 210 nuclear weapons in the Tuamotu Archipelago, about 1,208km (750 miles) southeast of Tahiti, first in the air and then underground. Their health repercussions are still being debated.

Nach der Explosion einer französischen Atombombe 1971 schwebt dieser riesige Atompilz über dem Mururoa-Atoll. (dpa)

Led by New Zealand, where French secret agents sank the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985, many South Pacific island nations vociferously complained about the blasts. That same year, the regional heads of government, including the prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia, adopted the Treaty of Rarotonga, calling for the South Pacific to become a nuclear-free zone. After a lull, French Pres. Jacques Chirac decided in 1995 to resume nuclear testing, a move that set off worldwide protests, a day of rioting in Papeete, and a Japanese tourist boycott of French Polynesia. After six underground explosions, the French halted further tests, closed their testing facility, and signed the Treaty of Rarotonga.

To Be — Or Not To Be — Independent

In 1977, the French parliament created the elected Territorial Assembly with powers over the local budget. A high commissioner sent from Paris, however, retained authority over defense, foreign affairs, immigration, the police, civil service, communications, and secondary education.

Local politics have long centered on the question of whether the islands should have even more autonomy while remaining French, or whether they should become an independent nation. Politicians have been equally divided roughly into „pro-autonomy“ and „pro-independence“ camps. On the other hand, neither side wants to give up all that money from Paris!

An additional grant of local control followed in 1984, and in 2004 the islands shifted from an „overseas territory“ of France to an „overseas collective within the French republic.“ The local Assembly gained increased powers over land ownership, labor relations, civil aviation, immigration, education, and international affairs; that is, within the South Pacific region. (The legal status changed again in 2007, this time to an „overseas community,“ primarily so that France could enact laws specific to its territories and not have them apply equally in metropolitan France.)

The 2004 law called for fresh Assembly elections. In a surprise upset, a coalition led by Oscar Temaru, the mayor of independence-leaning Faaa, narrowly ousted longtime pro-autonomy President Gaston Flosse, who had ruled with an iron fist for more than 20 years — during which he also made several fortunes.

Temaru, who espouses independence over a 15- to 20-year period, was in office less than 5 months before being toppled by Flosse, who ruled for only 4 months until special elections on Tahiti and Moorea returned Temaru to the presidency. Temaru hung on until ousted at the end of 2006 by Gaston Tong Sang, the mayor of Bora Bora and an ally of Gaston Flosse. The presidency again became a game of musical chairs in 2008, when Flosse and Temaru teamed up to boot Tong Sang, only to see him return less than 2 months later. Not amused by the local shenanigans, French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to turn off the money tap if Tong Sang were again removed. As I write, the mayor of Bora Bora is still the president of French Polynesia.

Polynesien Gallery

HMS Dolphin
Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret
Samuel Wallis
Treaty of Rarotonga

DNA offers a new look at how Polynesia was settled

I found an interesting article in the Science News written by Bruce Bower about the Polynesian voyager in the Southsea. Bower wrote earlier already some more intersting  article about this. I will put them all in this post.

I can still remember very well, when as a young child, I leafed through the old books of foreign countries and saw a black and white photo, including sketches of these huge, monster stone sculptures from Easter Island. It was impressive. Even if I still see this today, I have to ask myself who were these people who created such sculptures? I don’t know anything else in the South Seas where such stone figures were built? Do you? Admirable. Even today we still don’t know the purpose, the meaning of these statues. I think it’s just terrific, almost terrifying in a way …..

Voyagers migrated to islands sprinkled across a large area of the Pacific within about 500 years
image of a row of statues on Easter Island
Eastern Polynesia’s settlers rapidly voyaged across a vast area starting nearly 1,200 years ago, a new genetic study finds. Groups with a shared ancestry may have carved massive statues on easternmost islands, including these on Easter Island. Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images Plus


Polynesian voyagers settled islands across a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean within about 500 years, leaving a genetic trail of the routes that the travelers took, scientists say.

Comparisons of present-day Polynesians’ DNA indicate that sea journeys launched from Samoa in western Polynesia headed south and then east, reaching Rarotonga in the Cook Islands by around the year 830. From the mid-1100s to the mid-1300s, people who had traveled farther east to a string of small islands called the Tuamotus fanned out to settle Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, and several other islands separated by thousands of kilometers on Polynesia’s eastern edge. On each of those islands, the Tuamotu travelers built massive stone statues like the ones Easter Island is famed for.

That’s the scenario sketched out in a new study in the Sept. 23 Nature by Stanford University computational biologist Alexander Ioannidis, population geneticist Andrés Moreno-Estrada of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Irapuato, Mexico, and their colleagues.

The new analysis generally aligns with archaeological estimates of human migrations across eastern Polynesia from roughly 900 to 1250. And the study offers an unprecedented look at settlement pathways that zigged and zagged over a distance of more than 5,000 kilometers, the researchers say.

“The colonization of eastern Polynesia was a remarkable event in which a vast area, some one-third of the planet, became inhabited by humans in … a relatively short period of time,” says archaeologist Carl Lipo of Binghamton University in New York, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

Improved radiocarbon dating techniques applied to remains of short-lived plant species unearthed at archaeological sites are also producing a chronology of Polynesian colonization close to that proposed in the genetic study, Lipo says.

In the new investigation, researchers identified DNA segments of exclusively Polynesian origin in 430 present-day individuals from 21 Pacific island populations. Island-specific genetic fingerprints enabled the scientists to reconstruct settlement paths, based on increases in rare gene variants that must have resulted from a small group moving from one island to another and giving rise to a new, larger population with novel DNA twists. Comparisons of shared Polynesian ancestry between pairs of individuals on different islands were used to estimate when settlements occurred.

In an intriguing twist, the DNA evidence “is consistent with the [statue] carving tradition arising once in a single point of common origin, likely the Tuamotu islands,” Moreno-Estrada says. Polynesian ancestry on all the islands with massive statues traces back to the one island in the Tuamotus where the researchers were able to obtain Indigenous peoples’ DNA.

The Tuamotus include nearly 80 islands situated between Tahiti to the west and other islands to the north and east where settlers carved statues. The latter outposts consist of the Marquesas Islands, Mangareva and Rapa Nui. Another late-settled island where inhabitants carved statues, Raivavae, lies southwest of the Tuamotus.

Settlers reached the island of Mataiva in the northern Tuamotus by about 1110, the researchers suggest. Statue makers navigated northward and eastward from Mataiva or perhaps other Tuamotu islands to as far east as Rapa Nui — eventually curving back west before arriving at Raivavae — around the same time as an earlier DNA study suggests eastern Polynesians mated with South Americans (SN: 7/8/20). (It’s not clear whether South Americans crossed the ocean to Polynesia or Polynesians traveled to South America and then returned.)

Ioannidis and colleagues’ conclusions generally support prior scenarios of Polynesia’s settlement, but some disparities exist between their genetic evidence and earlier archaeological and linguistic findings, writes archaeologist Patrick Kirch of the University of Hawaii at Manoa in a commentary published with the new study.

For instance, the new DNA analysis overlooks extensive contacts that occurred across eastern Polynesian in its early settlement stages, Kirch says. Analyses of closely related eastern Polynesian language dialects and discoveries of stone tools that were transported from one island to another point to substantial travels and trading throughout the region during that time.

Kirch, who has previously suggested that these long-distance contacts in eastern Polynesian influenced stone carving traditions, calls the new proposal that people with a shared ancestry brought stone carving to Rapa Nui and other islands “a provocative hypothesis.”

And there’s still no answer to one major question regarding the settlement of the islands, says molecular anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, who didn’t participate in the new research. No current line of evidence can resolve the mystery of why, after spending nearly 2,000 years on Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, Polynesians began voyaging thousands of kilometers eastward in search of new lands.


Easter Islanders sailed to Americas, DNA suggests

Sea crossings occurred well before European contact, genetics of present-day people indicates
Easter Island statue
HEAD EAST People living on Easter Island, known for its carved giant stone statues, sailed to and from the Americas before Europeans reached their South Pacific home, new genetic evidence suggests. Natalia Solar
Bruce BowerBruce Bower


Behavioral Sciences Writer
Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences since 1984. He often writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues. Bruce has a master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Following an internship at Science News in 1981, he worked as a reporter at Psychiatric News, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association, until joining Science News as a staff writer. In 1996, the American Psychological Association appointed Bruce a Science Writer Fellow, with a grant to visit psychological scientists of his own choosing. Early stints as an aide in a day school for children and teenagers with severe psychological problems and as a counselor in a drug diversion center provided Bruce with a surprisingly good background for a career in science journalism.

A Brief History of Pirates in Hawaii

True or not ??

Unlike the Caribbean, there hasn’t been a long history of pirate activity in Hawaii. But there is one incident, one that many believe was the last large-scale pirate attack in the territories of the United States, which is truly unbelievable. So unbelievable, in fact, that while the raid was documented by a California newspaper, we’re not totally sure it’s true, as we cannot find other supporting documents. Whether or not it’s true, it’s certainly an intriguing story. Here is the account of the Great Pirate Raid of Honolulu, as reported by the Daily Alta newspaper of San Francisco on December 15, 1884.

This tale begins with the sighting of an unnamed boat, most likely a whaling vessel, off of Diamond Head (Oahu) on December 1, 1884 at around 2:00 PM. The boat soon turned towards the horizon and disappeared from view. However, it returned to Oahu in the evening and moored off the coast of Honolulu, seemingly in distress.

At about 9:00 PM, Colonel Curtis Iaukea, the Collector of the Port, and four men hopped on a small boat to investigate the vessel. At roughly 9:30, when Iaukea’s boat suspiciously didn’t return, a second boat was sent out. It also seemed to have just vanished.

At 10:00 PM, the real action begins. Five boats, filled with armed men, pushed off from the moored vessel and approached land, docking on a wharf. A few fishermen saw the armed men and ran into town, alerting the authorities. A local newspaper reporter heard the fishermen’s stories and walked down to the wharf. He was immediately captured and hogtied. At this point, it was reported there were 70-to-80 armed pirates marching in the streets. Three police officers were soon captured and taken to Nolte’s Coffee Saloon on Fort Street. The Pirates placed armed guards at the door and told the customers no harm would come to them.

At about this same time, a tall, red-bearded pirate captain entered the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and told the innkeepers that no one would get hurt and no one would be robbed, but he wanted the keys to the hotel. The innkeepers obliged and were soon locked up with the rest of the hotel’s inhabitants.

All the action thus far in the night was happening down on the waterfront, away from King Kalakaua and his palace. In the palace, the king was hosting a dinner reception for Attorney General Neumann. Among the guests were the king’s ministers and General A.B Hayley, Commander-in-Chief of the Hawaiian forces. King Kalakaua had a private army of about 40 people, called the “King’s Own”, who were resting in their barracks. There were also armed guards at every entrance of the palace, per the usual.

Once the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was secured, the pirates marched directly to the palace. There, the palace guards, unaware the city was under siege, opened the gates and were immediately overpowered by the pirates. It wasn’t long before the pirates stormed the palace and surrounded the dinner party. General Hayley was able to escape and quickly rallied the King’s Own in an attempt to protect the king. The King’s Own, however, was no match for the pirates and almost immediately laid down their weapons. The king and his dinner guests were rounded up and locked in the dining room.

Now the pirates were free to roam the palace. They stole everything they could walk out with, including a priceless, sacred feather cloak that belonged to the Kamehameha’s.

Very systematically, the pirates tracked down the city’s most prominent businessmen. The first visit was to the home of Frank Pratt, the public registrar who kept the keys to the treasury. He was taken from his bed and forced to open the vaults of the treasury. Inside the vault were $700,000 in Hawaiian currency and $200,000 in American silver and gold.

Following Pratt, the pirates stole $500,000 from the safe of well-known banker C.R. Bishop and $300,000 from local business W.G. Irwin and Co. All told, in less than nine hours, the pirates were able to loot the town of over $2.5 million and large quantities of silver.

Machetes and Rajãos and Taropatches, Oh My!

Country Musicians, from A History of Madeira, 1921 (Collection of John King)

In this month’s From the Vault, we look back at John King’s 2008 Ukulele Yes! article, shedding light on some of the early history of the ‚ukulele and its predecessors in late-nineteenth century Hawaii.

from the vault Aug 24, 2021
In a 1922 article published in Paradise of the Pacific, João Fernandes (1854-1923) was given credit for having been the first person to play the ‚ukulele in Hawaii and, by extension, for being the father of the global ‚ukulele phenomenon. Having ridden the crest of the Hawaiian music craze across North America in the late 1910s, the uke washed up on the shores of post-war Europe, poised to be reinvented on both continents as an instrument of the Jazz Age.

“Hawaii’s first ‚ukulele player, somewhat bent under the weight of many years but a lively fellow for a’ that, taps bits of tin all day in a gloomy room high above Honolulu’s downtown streets.“ Paradise of the Pacific

Fernandes was born on the Island of Madeira in 1854; he sailed, a young man of 25, on the british ship Ravenscrag in 1879 and arrived in Honolulu after a voyage of four months and 22 days by the Cape Horn route.

Ravenscrag 1898

The British ship, the Ravenscrag sometimes spelled “Ravenscraig”, arrived from Madeira to the port of Honolulu on Saturday, August 23, 1879. She brought a total of 423 souls – 135 men, 115 women, and 178 children to Hawai’i. On board this ship a musical instrument known in Madeira as the braguinha, better known as the ‘ukulele’ was brought to Hawai’i. On that day Hawai’i had its first taste of ‚ukulele music.

João Fernandes
Borrowing an instrument “with scale marks all the way down to the hole and with the top left unpolished to improve the tone,” João Fernandes strummed away “to his heart’s content … and in almost less time than it would take to tell he had completely captivated the music-hungry Hawaiians.” Two weeks after their disembarkation, the Hawaiian Gazette noted that “a band of Portuguese musicians, composed of Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts. The musicians are true performers on their strange instruments, which are a kind of cross between a guitar and banjo, but which produce very sweet music in the hands of the Portuguese minstrels.“
The Daily bulletin. June 21, 1888

The interviewer observed that João “knew his ‚ukulele thoroughly. While in his native land, he had successively mastered the taro patch fiddle (a five-stringed instrument), the guitar and ukulele. ‘First I learn the taro patch,’ explains the old man. ‘I study it fifteen days. That cost me fifteen cents in my country. Then I learn the guitar. I study that a year. So when I start the ‚ukulele, I know much about it already. I take only a few lessons to learn, for my fingers know by playing other instruments.’

“In Portugal, they call ‚ukulele ‘cavaquinhos’—that means ‘small piece of wood.’ They call him ‘machete de braga’ or ‘braginho’ in Madeira. But when the kanakas hear him they call him ‘ukulele’—‘jumping flea.’ – João Fernandes

Taro patch fiddle, or taropatch, was the Hawaiian name for the Madeiran rajão, a small guitar with five strings of metal (1 & 4) and gut (2, 3, & 5) tuned re-entrantly, DGCEA, and used primarily to accompany the voice or in ensemble with machete de braga, guitar, and ‚cello.

The only surviving didactic work for the instrument is a small book of chords in diagram form that surfaced at Funchal (Madeira’s capitol city) in the 1930s. To confuse matters, the Hawaiians also called the four-string machete de braga a taro patch fiddle. Accounts from the last quarter of the nineteenth century typically make no distinction between the two instruments, calling them both taropatches while sometimes noting the number of strings.

Ranz de Vaches arranged for two machetes by Manuel Joaquim Monteiro Cabral, ca. 1850

The machete de braga or simply machete, was a smaller instrument than the rajão with four gut strings, tuned DGBD. In Madeira, the machete lived two lives, one as a strummed instrument used by the peasantry for accompanying popular songs and dances out-of-doors, and the other as an aristocratic melody instrument played by professionals or talented amateurs in the ballrooms and salons of Funchal, where its bright timbre was easily heard over the relatively low frequencies of the guitar, rajão and ’cello. Machetes were advertised for sale in Honolulu as early as 1885, soon after the Madeirans from the Ravenscrag fulfilled their three-year contracts with the sugar industry and began returning to Honolulu from plantations on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Sometime prior to 1894, musicians in Hawaii forsook the traditional machete tuning, adopting the re-entrant tuning of the first four strings of the rajão instead. The reason for this is unclear, but when Edward Holstein published his primer “Chords of the Taro-Patch Guitar” at Honolulu in 1894 the change was already a fait accompli.

„The taro-patch guitar and ‚ukulele. These musical instruments are very popular amongst the natives of the Hawaiian Islands and almost all of their homes contain one or more of them, which they use on all occasions for singing and dancing. These instruments are made of the celebrated Hawaiian wood, named Koa, and are susceptible of a very high degree of Polish. The Ukulele Guitar is smaller than the Taro-Patch Guitar and has but four strings, the tuning of which is the same as the Taro-Patch deprived of the fifth string.E. C. Holstein [Fig. 3].

Despite the change in tuning, the machete cum ‚ukulele continued to be used as an accompaniment for singing and dancing in Honolulu, but the songs and dances were increasingly Hawaiian rather than Portuguese. This rapid assimilation of the ‚ukulele into the Hawaiian heart and psyche was one of the hallmarks of the Hawaiian renaissance that took place during the reign of King David Kalakaua (1836-1891). Trained in music from an early age, the king encouraged his subjects to participate in their once suppressed and vanishing culture, ultimately preserving great shards of it for future generations of Hawaiians.
Augusto Dias
(1842 – 1915)

Enter João Fernandes. “We would go to the king’s bungalow,” he explained. “The king wouldn’t stay in the palace—just when there was business. Lots of people came. Plenty kanakas. Much music, much hula, much kaukau, much drink. All the time plenty drink. And King Kalakaua, he pay for all!” But Kalakaua went far beyond just being the life of the party. He contributed materially to the cultural restoration of the kanaka maoli through his publications on Hawaiian mythology, his musical compositions and patronage of organizations and individuals, like the Royal Hawaiian Band and instrument maker Augusto Dias (1842-1915).

“Trained in music from an early age, [King Kalakaua] encouraged his subjects to participate in their once suppressed and vanishing culture, ultimately preserving great shards of it for future generations of Hawaiians.

According to Dias’ daughter, Christina, the king would visit her father’s loja or shop which was just a block away from ‘Iolani Palace on King St. Since Kalakaua spoke no Portuguese and Dias spoke no English or Hawaiian, Christina would translate for the two men as they discussed instrument making.

During his coronation in 1883, Kalakaua introduced a new form of the hula, christened hula ku‘i. Nathaniel Emerson (1839-1915) described the dance as “perhaps the most democratic of hulas, and given the demand for some pleasing dance combining grace with dexterity, a shake of the foot, a twist of the body, a wave of the hands, the hula ku‘i filled the bill to perfection. The very fact that it belonged by name to the genus hula, giving it, as it were, the smack of forbidden fruit, only added to its attractiveness. From the date of its introduction it sprang at once into public favour.”

King Kalākaua

Emerson also observed that “the instruments generally used in the musical accompaniment of the hula ku‘i are the guitar, the ‚ukulele, the taro-patch fiddle, or the mandolin; or a combination of these may be used.”

Kalakaua also employed a quintet of singers, known simply as the King’s Singing Boys. Robert Louis Stevenson’s step-daughter, Isobel Strong (1858-1953), who lived in Hawaii in the 1880s and was a frequent guest at ‘Iolani Palace, remembered the Singing Boys as “that little group that played for him [Kalakaua] at our suppers and private parties. There were five of them, the best singers and performers on the ‚ukulele and guitar in the whole Islands.”

The group remained closely identified with Kalakaua, even after his death and the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani (1838-1917)—and the subsequent abolition of the Hawaiian monarchy. In 1893, following the revolution, a visiting journalist wrote a report on a musical performance that ended with “a number given by a native quintette known as King Kalakaua’s Singing Boys. Their contribution was a song in Hawaiian, written for the occasion, in which the missionaries and Provisional Government were soundly rated.”

“My wife no like the ‚ukulele,” confessed Fernandes sadly. “She stay home, she want me stay home too. I go out all night, make her very angry. Much pilikia. So—well, by’m bye I put ‚ukulele in trunk and forget him. Ukulele pau for me.“

In the end, it was small groups of performers like the King’s Singing Boys that popularized Hawaiian music and the ‚ukulele on the Mainland. In a countless series of engagements spanning two decades—beginning with the Volcano Singers at the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 and ending with Henry Kailimai’s quintet at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915—Hawaiian musicians performed for millions of Americans on both coasts leading inevitably to the Hawaiian music craze of the late 1910s. When João Fernandes agreed to be interviewed in 1922 the ‚ukulele was world famous but not without its detractors.

Fernandes died in 1923, less than a year after his interview with Paradise of the Pacific. He was buried alongside his wife at Makiki Cemetery on the slopes of Punchbowl Crater beneath a marker that bears but a single word: “Father.”


Author, historian, and performer John King taught classical guitar at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. He released several acclaimed ‚ukulele recordings: John King Plays Bach and Royal Hawaiian Music. „No one knew or loved the ukulele like John King. His understanding of the instrument was immense and he shared his knowledge generously.“ -James Hill

John Robert King (October 13, 1953 – April 3, 2009)

Enriched with information Gérard Koch

In Memorie of Haunani-Kay Trask

What terrible news reached me yesterday in Switzerland. I didn’t want it to be true, but when I saw the news from Hawaii today, it was a reality. Haunani-Kay Trask walked peacefully across the rainbow yesterday and arrived in the other life. For me personally it is a heavy blow that I liked, sorry I loved this woman with power, her ideologies, how she fought for her country and her natives. Respect for Haunani for giving her life for her students, teaching them about Hawaiian culture and history. It is a loss for me to lose this woman because I was planning to interview her next year when I fly back to Hawaii. It also teaches me not to hesitate and wait …. If it is an imenser for me, sorry I am at a loss for words, what is it for a loss for Hawaii? Indescribable! I am with her in my thoughts and am with the Hawaiians. I am really sorry. Yes, I’m not Hawaiian, only my former wife was Hawaiian, but she learned so much about Hawii … I also have more friends in Hawaii than here in Switzerland. My deepest, sincere, sincere condolences to your family, friends and your very close ones! Also my condolences to all Hawaiians. I can feel the pain of my friends in HAwaii and I am with them.

I just took Wikipedia and from the Universitity of Hawaii, but I will soon but a documentary together .

19990408 CTY – Haunani K. Trask. SB photo by George F. Lee

Haunani-Kay Trask (1949 – July 3, 2021) was a Hawaiian nationalist, educator, political scientist, author, and professor emeritus at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Trask was the producer of the award-winning documentary Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation (1993), winning nine different awards in three different countries.[1] Trask helped to establish the Gladys Brandt Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Trask authored two books, Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory (1984), and From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi (1993). She also published two books of poetry, Night Is a Sharkskin Drum (1994) and Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1999). Trask co-wrote and co-produced the award-winning documentary, Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation[2] and developed an educational CD-ROM on the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement entitled Haunani-Kay Trask: We Are Not Happy Natives (2002).[3] In March 2017, Hawaiʻi Magazine recognized her as one of the most influential women in Hawaiian history.[4]

Early life

Haunani-Kay Trask was born the first daughter of Haunani Cooper Trask and Bernard Kaukaʻohu Trask. Trask and her family are descendants of the Piʻilani line of Maui and the Kahakumakaliua line of Kauaʻi.[5] She was born in California, grew up the Koʻolau side of the island of Oʻahu, in the islands of Hawaiʻi,[6] and came from a politically active family. Her paternal grandfather, David Trask Sr., was chairman of the civil service commission and the police commission in 1922, served as the sheriff of Honolulu from 1923 to 1926, and was elected a territorial senator from Oʻahu in 1932.[7] Mililani B. Trask, her younger sister, is an attorney on the Big Island and was a trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs created by the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention to administer lands held in trust for Native Hawaiians and use the revenue to fund Native Hawaiian programs.[citation needed]

Politics and education

Early politics and education (1960–1984)

Trask graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1967. Trask attended the University of Chicago but soon transferred to the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she completed her bachelor’s degree in 1972 and also received a master’s degree in 1975 and a PhD in political science in 1981. Her dissertation was revised into a book entitled Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory and was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 1986.[citation needed]

Trask attended the University of Chicago, and during her time in Chicago, she learned about and became an active supporter of the Black Panther Party.[5] During her time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trask also participated in student protests against the Vietnam War. Because of these experiences, Trask wrote that, as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she „began to understand how capitalism and racism sustained each other.“[5]

During her time studying politics in her graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trask began to engage in feminist studies and in a feminist world. During this time, she even considered herself to be a feminist.[5] Trask wrote that „in the feminist imagination, life was honored and power reshaped into an enabling force for the protection of both the human and the natural world.“[5] This belief around feminism led Trask to write her first publication titled Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory which was a revised version of her doctorate dissertation.[citation needed]$

Later politics (1990–2004)

Later in Haunani’s work, she denounced her role as a „feminist“ because of the mainstream focus on American and Whiteness, being more aligned with Transnational Feminism. She wrote: „I recognized that a practicing feminism hampered organizing among my people in rural communities. Given our nationalist context, feminism appeared as just another haole intrusion into a besieged Hawaiian world. Any exclusive focus on women neglected the historical oppression of all Hawaiians and the large force field of imperialism. Now that I was working among my people, I saw there were simply too many limitations in the scope of feminist theory and praxis. The feminism I had studied was just too white, too American. Only issues defined by white women as „feminist“ had structured discussions. Their language revolved around First World „rights“ talk, that Enlightenment individualism that takes for granted „individual“ primacy. Last, but in many ways most troubling, feminist style was aggressively American.“[5]

Trask opposed tourism to Hawaiʻi and the U.S. military’s presence in Hawaiʻi. In 2004, Trask spoke out against the Akaka Bill, a bill to establish a process for Native Hawaiians to gain federal recognition similar to the recognition that some Native American tribes currently possess.[8] Trask felt that this bill did not do justice to Native Hawaiian people because it allowed the U.S. Government to control how it is that Native Hawaiians are able to engage with their statehood without recognizing Hawaiʻi as a nation of its own.[9] Trask also claimed that hearings were not being held on the bill with the intention of leaving out important native voices and opinions.[9]


Haunani-Kay Trask was a founding member of the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She served as the Director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies and was one of its first tenured faculty members.[2] During her time at the university, Trask largely helped to secure the building of the Gladys Brandt Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, which would become the permanent center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.[2] In 2010, Trask retired from her Director position at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, but continued to teach native political movements in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific, literature and politics of Pacific island women, Hawaiian history and politics, and third world and indigenous history and politics as an Emeritus Faculty member.[10]


In 1990, a University of Hawaiʻi philosophy major named Joey Carter wrote in an editorial in the Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi student newspaper against the use of the Hawaiian word haole, claiming that the term was derogatory and that the word ‚haole‚ is used the same way that the ‚n-word‚ has been used against African Americans in United States history.[11] Trask wrote an article in the Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi in response to Carter’s claims: „Mr. Carter is a privileged member of American society because he is haole, whether he acknowledges his privilege or not. His very presence in Hawaiʻi, and before that in Louisiana, is a luxury provided him through centuries of white conquest that visited genocide on American Indians, slavery on Africans, peonage on Asians and dispossession on Native Hawaiians.“[12]

Personal life

Trask was the longtime partner of University of Hawaiʻi professor David Stannard.[13]

Trask’s uncle, Arthur K. Trask, is an active member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of Hawaiian rights. David Trask, Jr., another uncle, was the head of Hawaiʻi’s white collar public employees‘ union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, an affiliate of AFSCME, and an early proponent of collective bargaining for Hawaiʻi’s public employees. Trask’s grandfather, David Trask, was a member of the legislature of the Territory of Hawaiʻi for twenty-six years as a Democrat. He was a key proponent of Hawaiʻi Statehood.[14] Trask was not publicly active in recent years but was under the care of nurses according to her family.[15] She died on July 3, 2021.[16]

Hearts are heavy across Hawaiʻi and the world as many mourn the death of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Professor Emerita Haunani-Kay Trask. Loved ones confirmed the exemplary Native Hawaiian scholar died on Saturday, July 3.

Trask who retired in 2010, started her extensive academic career at UH Mānoa in 1981 as an assistant professor in the American studies department with expertise in feminist theory and Indigenous studies. She is credited with co-founding the contemporary field of Hawaiian studies and went on to become the founding director of the UH Mānoa Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Haunani-Kay Trask and David Stannard protesting staff firings at Bishop Museum, 1985. (Photo credit: Ed Greevy)

“Professor Trask was a fearless advocate for the Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) and was responsible for inspiring thousands of brilliant and talented Hawaiians to come to the University of Hawaiʻi,” said Dean Jonathan Kamakawiwoʻole Osorio. “But she also inspired our people everywhere to embrace their ancestry and identity as Hawaiians and to fight for the restoration of our nation. She gave everything she had as a person to our Lāhui and her voice, her writing and her unrelenting passion for justice will, like our Queen, always represent our people. E ola mau loa e Haunani Kay Trask, ʻaumakua of the poet warrior.”

“Dr. Trask was a visionary leader of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the founding director of Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Mānoa. She served her career as tenured professor in our department inspiring critical thinking and making important contributions in areas of settler colonialism and indigenous self-determination. More importantly, she was a bold, fearless, and vocal leader that our lāhui needed in a critical time when Hawaiian political consciousness needed to be nurtured. Our center mourns her passing and sends our aloha and to the Trask ʻohana. Our department remains committed to carrying on the legacy of Professor Trask in educating and empowering the lāhui,” Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies Director Kekuewa Kikiloi said.

“The Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office mourns the tremendous loss of Kumu Haunani-Kay Trask. We pause and reflect on her leadership and honor her as one of the founders of this office; as one of the members of the seminal 1986 Kaʻū Task Force and its subsequent report, the first of four Native Hawaiian reports to recommend and advocate for the creation of an office such as ours,” said UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Affairs Program Officer Kaiwipuni Lipe. “Furthermore, UH Mānoa’s designation as a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center—a campus that shows the potential to be a major player in jettisoning racism and preparing the next generation of leaders who will do so—builds on the foundation that Kumu Haunani helped to set at this university. She had an unwavering commitment to speaking truth to power and was a leader in normalizing that on our campus and throughout our communities. She was and continues to be a lamakū—a leading light—for all of us. Aloha wale ʻoe e Kumu Haunani, ē. E moe mālie aku ʻoe i ka pō loloa.”

In April, Trask was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. The induction, set for spring 2022 will place her alongside other notable lifetime members including John Adams, Charles Darwin, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. It is one of the highest honors bestowed in academia.

“The University of Hawaiʻi mourns the loss of Professor Haunani-Kay Trask, a profound mind who was one of our most influential teachers and scholars,” said UH President David Lassner. “She provided all of us at UH and in Hawaiʻi with opportunities to learn and grow as we each reconsider our roles and kuleana in Hawaiʻi. Her relationship with the University of Hawaiʻi was complex, and we are a better institution for her passion, insights, criticisms, advocacy, contributions and influence. My deepest condolences to her life partner, Professor David Stannard, her ʻohana, the generations of students she taught and mentored over the years, and all who loved her.”

Trask, a Windward Oʻahu native was a critical voice in what she called, “the modern Hawaiian movement” and the broader Hawaiian sovereignty movement. Throughout her career she advocated for issues which support Indigenous nations around the globe. She worked with leaders in Indigenous communities from throughout North America to the Māori of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and the Basque people of Spain among others. Her international reputation led to her addressing United Nations gatherings in Geneva, Switzerland and Durban, South Africa.

Haunani-Kay Trask (Photo credit: Brett Uprichard)

Nourish the next generation

Stemming from a notable lineage of politicians and civil servants in Hawaiʻi, Trask made it her mission to fight for kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) rights and lands, all while encouraging the younger generation of kānaka attending the university to embrace their heritage.

In 2019, Trask received the Angela Y. Davis lifetime achievement award by the American Studies Association. The honor recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the public good. Trask also graced USA Today’s Women of the Century, which highlights women across the nation and U.S. territories who have motivated and inspired others.

Her legacy also lives on through the David E. Stannard and Haunani-Kay Trask Endowed Scholarship in American Studies which supports UH Mānoa American studies students who are pursuing research in Indigenous and/or Pacific Island studies.

The movement continues…



Related Posts:

Selected works

  • Eros and Power: The Promise of Feminist Theory (1984)
  • Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, Documentary Film (1993)
  • From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi (1993)
  • Night Is a Sharkskin Drum (1994)
  • Light in the Crevice Never Seen (1999)
  • Haunani-Kay Trask: We Are Not Happy Natives, CD-ROM (2002)


  1. ·  Kuhia Smith, Sunshine (July 3, 2021). „Beloved kumu, Hawaiian activist Haunani-Kay Trask dies at age 71“. KITV. Retrieved July 4, 2021.

External links



Urban Archaeology of Honolulu, Part II

A quick tour through the highs and lows of post-World War II Honolulu planning.

As World War II wound down in late 1944, Hawaii Gov. Ingram Stainback, responding to the wartime housing shortage, released a report assessing the need: 56,000 Hawaii residents lacked adequate housing, 30,500 new private dwellings were needed, but only 780 units were planned. Things got so bad in Honolulu that Thomas Square, Kapiolani Park and two private golf courses were considered as sites for emergency housing.

Meanwhile, the city squabbled with the territorial government over highways to the Windward Side, with Honolulu Mayor Johnny Wilson preferring a tunnel route up Kalihi valley, and the Territorial government, armed with federal funds, preferring to tunnel and improve the old Pali highway through Nuuanu. This argument lasted until both tunnels and two modern highways were built in the late 1950s.

The tunnel arguments merged into another city/state standoff, this one over the so-called mauka arterial. The city wanted four lanes, the state six. The six-lane mauka arterial was carved through downtown in 1953; with statehood, it became H-1, aka the Lunalilo Freeway.

The makai arterial, Nimitz Highway-to-Ala Moana Boulevard, was completed in the mid-’50s.

“Room for development” reads the caption on this 1952 Honolulu Star-Bulletin photograph, now in the collection of the Hawaiian Historical Society. Taken near Piikoi Street looking makai toward the recently completed Hawaiian Life Insurance building on Kapiolani Boulevard. Courtesy Hawaiian Historical Society

As of 1955, Honolulu’s population was 353,000. The City and County of Honolulu employed 4,157 with an annual budget of $25 million. Civil service workers had become their own political interest group, as UH historian Donald Johnson pointed out in his thorough history, The City and County of Honolulu: A Governmental Chronicle, in 1991.

Housing tracts bloomed deep in the valleys and up the ridges and on the windward side, creating an insatiable demand for stretched-thin city services, while multi-unit walk-ups — or “motel housing” — spread across central Honolulu, still technically a garden city.

A Standard Oil refinery proposed for Honolulu harbor atop Sand Island illustrates the comparative governmental brutishness of the time. Republican Mayor Neal Blaisdell, in office from 1955 to 1969, supported the plan, which, astoundingly, cleared the City Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. But the community rose up, and debate raged for three years. Lewis Mumford, author of the 1938 critique called “Whither Honolulu,” wrote from New York that Oahu residents ought to have their heads examined if they allowed such a thing, while Democratic mayoral candidate Frank Fasi made a name for himself opposing it. Finally, in 1957, Standard Oil decided to locate its $40 million refinery far off to the west, way downwind of town, at Campbell Estate’s new industrial park in Kalaeloa.

Powerful residents again rose up when high-rise hotels threatened to march nearly to the Diamond Head lighthouse. And again they prevailed.

Public concerns about air pollution, slum clearance, traffic, sewage and chaotic planning led Oahu voters to approve a new City Charter in 1959. The charter created a four-year-term legislative City Council out of the old Board of Supervisors.

With statehood, Elvis and five-hour jet service from the West Coast, Waikiki — and Honolulu — was ready to soar.

Quickly and without much deliberation, the newly constituted council approved Waikiki’s first true skyscraper, hotelier/architect Roy Kelley’s 23-story Reef Towers on Lewers Street. Other towers followed, prompting concerns about “concrete canyons” in Waikiki. “The sky’s the limit,” observed skeptical editorialists at the Honolulu Advertiser, catching the zeitgeist. With statehood, Elvis and five-hour jet service from the West Coast, Waikiki — and Honolulu — was ready to soar.

The new charter also called for a general planning document for all Oahu, finally adopted as the Oahu General Plan in 1964, after a court order forced the city to act. Quickly cobbled together out of 55 regional plans by the administration of pro-growth Mayor Blaisdell,  the plan was criticized for codifying the “spot zoning” so typical of Honolulu governance. It included outlandish ideas like a string of artificial parklands built on reefs, a deep-draft harbor and power plant at Kahaluu, and 350-foot height allowances all over the island.

To combat the city’s worsening traffic, Blaisdell began to look beyond the already deployed tactics of street-widening, one-way streets, more parking lots, etc. Talk about mass transit began in the mid-’60s, about a transit line running from Pearl Harbor to Waialae and beyond, as suggested in the Oahu Transportation Study.

Weak and uneven enforcement of the city’s patchwork of building and zoning codes led to widespread abuse. Mayoral candidate Fasi decried corruption among bureaucrats, “pay-to-play” entered the lexicon and the city carried on with no major prosecutions of anyone.

Blaisdell’s mayoralty was capped by passage of the Comprehensive Zoning Code of 1968, a good example of what is called Euclidean, or single-use zoning, wherein different land uses are separated from each other, and grouped together by use. The CZC and its successor, the Land Use Ordinance, are why there are still no supermarkets near that big pile of residential towers at Kapiolani and Date, and why suburban Hawaii Kai, Mililani and Kapolei make no effort to promote walkability. Like Los Angeles, Honolulu’s genetic mother ship, the automobile ruled — and rules — the place.

Right before the CZC was enacted, developers and individual landowners, anticipating new restrictions on what they could build, made a mad dash to secure building permits. This explains the haphazardness of high-rise/low-rise neighborhoods in Moiliili, Makiki, Punchbowl, the Kinau corridor and Waikiki.

The “makai arterial” takes shape in 1951 as old harborfront Queen Street is transformed into Ala Moana Boulevard. Courtesy Hawaiian Historical Society

Fasi, a brash renegade in Hawaii politics, served Honolulu as mayor for 22 years in two separate stints: 1969 to 1981 and 1985 to 1994. As much as he presided over the two biggest building booms Honolulu had ever seen, in the late-‘60s/early-‘70s and in the late-‘80s, he had a big impact. He got the windward wetlands of Kawainui and Heeia protected from the feverish imaginings of the ’64 General Plan and cancelled the industrial designs on Kahaluu. He built the controversial, 900-unit Kukui Gardens affordable rental complex downtown.

Revisions to the city’s charter under Fasi carved Oahu into eight districts with each district having its own “development plan.” Localized zoning and subdivision laws had to comport with a district’s development plan, just as a development plan has to comport with broad policy objectives laid down in the general plan. To this day, public review and revision of the development plans, now called “sustainable community plans,” are subject to seemingly constant tactical battle; exemptions are the rule rather than the exception.

Additionally, Fasi designated six special districts within Honolulu requiring special care and special rules: Chinatown, the Capitol District, Punchbowl, Thomas Square, Waikiki and Diamond Head. The goal was to set building height limits to protect view planes, protect historic sites and establish streetscape and architectural guidelines that will preserve the inherent qualities of the districts.

The ramshackle warehouse/residential quarter at Kakaako was an unimproved hole in the middle of Honolulu that was slated to get special-district status during Fasi’s tenure. A city ordinance was enacted calling for thousands of housing units, low-rise and high-rise, with about 80 percent of the district’s sprawling acreage to be somehow reserved for low-, moderate-, and middle-income households in a mixed-use plan. But in 1976, the state abruptly stepped in and transferred Kakaako planning and development over to the state’s own newly formed agency, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, and we now have what we now have.

In 1977, the city designated the Ewa Plain as the site of Oahu’s “second city” on lands owned by Campbell Estate, which finally broke ground as the City of Kapolei in 1990. The land trust was required by law to liquidate in 2007.

Mayor Frank Fasi designated six special districts within Honolulu requiring special care and special rules: Chinatown, the Capitol District, Punchbowl, Thomas Square, Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Another successful grassroots revolt, this one led by bodysurfers and housewives, occurred in the 1980s at Oahu’s southeastern corner, where landowner Bishop Estate had city-backed plans to build a resort and suburbs along what has become known as the Ka Iwi coast, now beloved for its wildness.

Fasi’s managing director, Jeremy Harris, a former Kauai County councilman, automatically became mayor when Fasi resigned to run unsuccessfully for governor in 1994. Subsequently elected mayor three times, Harris became a lightning rod for public frustration about mismanagement in city government.

Plagued by scandal early in his term and mercilessly teased for his attempts to prettify Waikiki by widening sidewalks, installing vintage-looking street lamps, and sprinkling the area with bronze sculptures picked from a catalogue, Harris nevertheless had some good ideas and a messianic zeal for his city that he pulled together under a process he called “envisioning.”

His administration imposed “urban growth boundaries” to stop sprawl and protect most agricultural lands — except for those that had already been indicated for future development by landowners. Harris led the ongoing efforts to revitalize Chinatown and pushed for more “mixed-use” zoning.

About a thousand people showed up on a Saturday night in November 1998 at the new Hawaii Convention Center for Harris’ open-call conference called “21st Century Oahu: A Shared Vision for the Future.” The turnout alone was remarkable, showing that Oahu residents actually cared about planning their city. Out of the conference 19 volunteer “visioning groups” were spawned around the island. City planners asked them to come up with local improvement projects that might help enhance their communities — and awarded them each $2 million from city capital improvement funds to pay for them.

Initial results — new canoe halau, new signage, beautified community gateways, a string of coconut trees planted all along the Waianae coast — were cosmetic if not transformative, and some community activists resented the additional work, the endless meetings and the overlap with the existing Neighborhood Board system. Harris’ ambitiously planned and finely detailed, mid-density, mixed-use ideas for the central King/Young/Beretania spine of central Honolulu — to be served by a bus rapid transit (BRT) system he proposed — ran up against the dense checkerboard of private ownership and feisty homeowners in the area and went nowhere. (The majority of Honolulu house lots are very small, under 10,000 square feet.)

The reign of Mayor Mufi Hannemann (2005 to 2010) and his successors — Peter Carlisle in 2010 and Kirk Caldwell (2013 to present) — has been chiefly marked by an effort finally to bring mass transit to south Oahu in the form of heavy elevated rail.  The project has sucked all the air out of the planning room as the city pursues transit-oriented development, diverting most planning and development energies into the installation of a wholly new linear city composed of high-density nodes at key station stops along HART’s 20-mile route from Ala Moana Center out to open fields east of downtown Kapolei.

It’s a completely new paradigm.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Kirk Caldwell took office in 2010. In fact, Peter Carlisle was mayor from 2010 until defeated by Caldwell in the 2012 election.

About the Author

  • Curt Sanburn
    Journalist Curt Sanburn has written about Hawaii affairs for over 20 years. Raised in Honolulu, the Iolani School grad (’73) lives near Land’s End in San Francisco but returns to his home state frequently.

The Urban Archaeology of Honolulu

To understand where Honolulu is going, it’s helpful to understand where it’s been — and what its chronic problems look like.

In the early part of the 20th century the seaport of Honolulu, capital of the American Territory of Hawaii, Queen of the Pacific, was more substantial than a town — but less so than a city.

Lewis Mumford, the architecture critic for New Yorker magazine, was unimpressed. After a visit in 1938, the 41-year-old, who went on to become an internationally known cultural critic, ascribed no rhyme or reason to Honolulu. Its arrangement of streets and houses was “higgledy-piggledy” while its growth pattern was “spotty and erratic,” he wrote.

Picture it: Just after World War I, downtown Honolulu and Chinatown bustled next to the steamship-clogged harbor where sugar and pineapple were shipped off to the mainland, swapped for lumber, machinery and everything else the Territory needed. Nuuanu stream was an open sewer, and outward urbanization was an unsupervised and unplanned free-for-all; Honolulu home rule, in the form of a city/county government and a mayor, was just a decade old.

Queen Street, 1920s
On the waterfront: Queen Street (now Nimitz) at Nuuanu Avenue, 1920s. Courtesy Hawaiian Historical Society

Stream-fed and tidal wetlands dominated much of the lowland plain between Punchbowl and Diamond Head. The only public parks of any note were Aala and Kapiolani, and Thomas Square. The elite sought out the cool mauka comforts of Nuuanu, Makiki and College Hill, while poor farmers crowded into Kapalama and Kalihi. Middle-class subdivisions were popping up in the Pawaa, Sheridan and McCully tracts along the high ground of King and Beretania streets, serviced by electric trolley cars of the Honolulu Rapid Transit company.

The old royal estates at Waikiki were subdivided into cottages and small hotels. Many Hawaiians huddled in Kakaako. In the far-off east, a sprawling grid of streets and small residential lots, slowly filling with houses, stretched from Kapahulu up and over Kaimuki’s hump all the way to Waialae, while a few villas clung to Diamond Head.

Anticipating the eventual completion of the wetland-draining Ala Wai Canal in 1928, the advisory City Planning Commission mapped out a wide boulevard looping from downtown southeast across the vacant lowlands to the intersection of Kapahulu Avenue and Waialae Road. Suggestions for the roadway’s name included “Missionary Highway” and Kapiolani Boulevard, according to historian Donald Johnson in his panoramic history, The City & County of Honolulu: A Governmental Chronicle (1991).

Along with the new roadway, the commission mapped in most of central Honolulu with neighborhoods hewing to regular gridded street patterns. The map included a new waterfront park, Ala Moana, to replace the scrappy shore between Waikiki and Kewalo Basin and opened in 1934. Another park was sketched in for the mauka side of the Ala Wai Canal. The map was approved by the Honolulu Board of Supervisors in 1923. Still, speculators and landowners, particularly the big land trusts, made a mockery of the city’s unenforceable best-laid plans: streets were often narrowed and bereft of sidewalks or drainage. When storms hit, many low-lying neighborhoods became mud puddles.

The global depression of 1929 put the brakes on the Territory’s economic growth and quickened the population drift from the fields into town. As in the plantation camps, city neighborhoods defined themselves ethnically, and housing often mimicked familiar plantation cabins. A homeless encampment at Kewalo Basin was called “Squattersville”; a tourism executive suggested it be turned into a tourist attraction, a “typical Hawaiian village.”

The later 1920s and 1930s saw several prestige building projects completed — Aloha Tower, the U.S. Post Office and Federal Building, Honolulu Hale, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and the Alexander & Baldwin, Dillingham and Theo H. Davies headquarters downtown; the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki; a Beaux-Arts quadrangle at the University of Hawaii; and McKinley, Roosevelt and Farrington high schools.

Horseback riders of the Honolulu Hunt Club on a riding course along the Ala Wai Canal, circa 1930s. Hawaii State Archives

In 1938, the Honolulu Board of Parks invited Mumford to travel from New York to Honolulu to survey the burgeoning port and make recommendations. The critic wrote up his thoughts in the pamphlet “Whither Honolulu?” Packed with earnest, sometimes obvious bottom-line prescriptions, it remains a touchstone document in Honolulu’s urban archeology.

After praising Honolulu’s “unrivaled situation” and describing it as a “stage for a complex and beautiful human drama,” Mumford reassured his readers that one of the good things about “overgrown” Honolulu was that it had not gotten “out of hand.” Most of the city was made out of wood, he consoled, so it could be altered and modernized relatively easily. Faint praise.

Mumford forcefully condemned Honolulu’s lack of orientation toward the ocean and lack of public access to it. He blamed the city’s street layout — that hasn’t changed a whit since. He called out the city’s ineptitude for its failure to exploit the trade winds in both building siting and street layout, for the overcrowding in filthy slums in central areas, and for its “ill-kempt” development patterns.

“No systematic attempt has apparently been made, during the last 30 years, to correct the haphazard methods by which the land has been platted and connected together,” he wrote.

A true progressive, he defended the rational use of land-use police powers by a municipality: “The American city has ample constitutional means for controlling the density of population and extent of land coverage in the interest of public health and hygiene.”

But, then as now, variances and exemptions to feeble plans and land-use laws the government did manage to enact were the rule and not the exception. Corruption was pervasive. The Board of Supervisors (today’s City Council) was nicknamed the “Board of Subdividers,” much like today’s city Department of Planning and Permitting is sometimes called the Department of Permitting and Permitting.

Another parallel: Mumford bemoaned the “hideous bottle-neck of congestion” between east and west parts of the city whose cause he imputed to simple bad planning.

Analogizing Honolulu as a beautiful woman, Mumford observed that she “relies on her splendid face and body to distract attention from her disheveled hair, her dirty finger nails, or her torn skirt.”

One of Mumford’s most seriously wrong predictions in “Whither Honolulu?” was that the city’s population, which had more than quadrupled between 1900 and 1940 from 39,000 to 179,000, would start to stabilize, due, he argued, to the dampening effects of the economic depression, the looming threat of war, and advances in contraception. The stipulation justified his opposition to wasteful suburban sprawl and to the “reckless fantasies,” “makeshift planning,” “jerry building,” and “amateurish improvisation” that go with it.

Rather than sprawl, the city must renovate itself, Mumford urged, make itself “permanently attractive as a human home.” In defense of the rural Windward Side, Mumford opposed the much-dreamed-about Pali highway/tunnel project, which didn’t get going until the late 1950s in any case. In anticipation of tourism’s growth, he endorsed the idea of a regional planning authority.

And always, Mumford promoted parks as the “very spearhead of comprehensive urban planning.” Parks as district-defining greenbelts, parks as linear oases to revive the city’s abused and channelized streams. He advocated for playground parks, wild parks, primeval parks, formal-garden parks, “Oriental” parks. Parks are, he noted, great and healthy places for “amatory explorations for young lovers.”

Furthermore, he urged that allowances be made at some beaches for nude swimming, as in England. “One of greatest delights of bathing in the sea or the sun is the enjoyment of the untrammeled contact with these elemental forces.”

Diamond Head 1920s
Diamond Head from Round Top with College Hill in the foreground and the University of Hawaii campus in the middle, 1920s. Courtesy Hawaiian Historical Society

Mumford concluded his report with this: “Out of the shabbiness and messiness of the present city, a new order may emerge; and out of its natural charm, a maturer beauty — more deeply humanized, more friendly to human desire — may be constructed. Only two things are lacking: not the power of execution but the imagination to conceive and the courage to desire.”With the trauma of Pearl Harbor and World War II, Honolulu’s sloppiness got worse, not better. Oahu’s wartime population doubled. Then, in late ’45-early ’46, everyone just as quickly left, abandoning mountains of surplus. According to Johnson, the military released countless temporary buildings of all types for repurposing. With lumber and other materials scarce, “people bought them, moved them, and began using them for homes and storage facilities throughout the city,” Johnson wrote. The Territory packed Iolani Palace’s grounds with wartime sheds that, as offices, lasted through the 1950s. Quonset huts were ubiquitous on Oahu well into statehood as a kind of shabby chic…but then, Honolulu had always been a no-need kind of place.

In the similar, disapproving phrases of Mumford and Johnson — “lack of courage,” “lack of vision,” “amateurish improvisation,” “reckless fantasies,” “no great imagination,” “haphazard residential development,” “higgledy-piggledy” — we hear a few simple facts: the first edition of the Oahu General Plan wasn’t adopted until 1964, and the City and County of Honolulu did not have a comprehensive zoning code in effect until 1968.

About the Author

Curt SanburnJournalist Curt Sanburn has written about Hawaii affairs for over 20 years. Raised in Honolulu, the Iolani School grad (’73) lives near Land’s End in San Francisco but returns to his home state frequently.

Standing Up to the US Government

Today I received this mail from my Hawaiian friend Leon Siu, Minister of Foreigne Affairs, of the Hawaiian Kingdom, with three pdf as an attachment. These lines are so impressive that I want to share them with you. The perseverance, the peacefulness and the friendliness with which the Hawaiians fight for their right to become an independent state again is impressive. Hawaiian history is so exciting, compressed into such a short period of time, which also influenced world history. Be it in politics or in the technical future. Hawaii had electric lights and a telephone early on, where we still had candles and message runners in Europe and the USA. The history of Hawaii has fascinated me for 10 years and I am very interested in it. I go to some archives in Europe, the USA or even in Hawaii. I see a lot of documents, but so far I haven’t seen a single document where the Hawaii Kingdom has agreed to be part of the United States. I only see writings where they are constantly defending themselves, including writings from the USA itself, where it is described that what they have done is not correct and not legal. But the US has always shifted its border a little in its favor. It is obvious everywhere, only the other states are silent, because they could fall into the reprisals of the USA. I haven’t read everything yet, but a very exciting book that I found in Amsterdam is: „American Empire a global History“ by A.G. Hopkins, ISBN: 978-0-691-19687-9.

Read American Empire Online by A. G. Hopkins | Books

I don’t want to advertise books, but I find it very exciting and enriching. If you also look at the old PUCK drawings, you can see how Oncel Sam looked pretty good for himself, regardless of what the other states said or thought.

Back to my mail received today:

Aloha Friends,

Hope you are all faring well.  Our campaign to Free Hawaii is progressing very well. There is a lot of excitement and optimism as the campaign grows and people become more engaged with moving our nation forward.

You may find this of interest. It is just one of the many actions our people are pressing on a daily basis.

We knew that President Bidenʻs administration would be likely renew the Federal Governmentʻs efforts to scuttle our independence movement by “granting” “Federal Recognition” of Hawaiians as an indigenous American Indian tribe. Having successfully defeated Washingtonʻs many schemes to “tribalize” our people for more than 20 years, we began planning on how to do it once again.

Sure enough, two proposals were floated soon after Bidenʻs inauguration, but we were able to shoot them down. Then, with much fanfare, it was announced that US Representative Deb Haaland, a Native-American woman, would be the new US Secretary of the Interior. That is indeed good news and cause for celebration for Native Americans… but not so much for Hawaiians as there is a sinister scheme to try to subjugate us into US citizenship. However, we see this as a great opportunity to emphatically remind Washington and the world that WE ARE NOT AMERICANS… native or otherwise.

About three months ago, I asked the most senior elder/leader of the protectors of Mauna Kea if he would speak to the other elders (kupuna) about sending a letter warning Secretary Haaland (and others in Washington) not to even try to tribalize the Hawaiian people.

The elders came through with not just a letter to Secretary Haaland (ccʻd to many US leaders), but a great press release and a story in Indian Country Today… all coordinated to “drop” on the same day. PDFs of the three items are attached.

A hui hou, Leon

PDF – 1

Debra Haaland
Secretary of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20240
Re: Native Hawaiian rights
March 15, 2021

Aloha Pumehana Secretary Haaland:
We send our deepest aloha and prayers for your success in your newly appointed position. The many tasks ahead for you will be challenging, so, we pray the mana (strength and power), hopes, and faith of your ancestors, and those of many Indigenous nations in North America and other parts of the world, go with you. Congratulations and blessings as you embark on a monumental, historic undertaking.
I am Kealoha Pisciotta, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) cultural practitioner and spokesperson for three Hawaiian groups (Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Mauna Kea Hui and the Mauna Kea Aelike/Consensus Building Ohana) that stand for the protection of Mauna Kea, the Hawaiian people and our culture. Although the work many of us do is regarded primarily as traditional and cultural, in Hawaii, protection of sacred sites and practice of traditional ways overlap with our struggle to survive. And by necessity, our work is also political, because the matter of Hawaiian sovereignty is central to that struggle.
It is in this capacity that I reach out to you. As you see, President Biden and others in his administration, the Hawaii congressional delegation, and the United Nations have been copied on this communication. I trust that you will receive this letter in the spirit it is intended, as it is in advance of you potentially enacting processes in the Department of Interior (DOI) regarding policies that impact Native Hawaiians. We believe that to be a precarious venture at best and a continuation of the long litany of U.S. violations against Native Hawaiians and our country.
The groups I am speaking on behalf of, and many Hawaiians who are not affiliated directly with specific Hawaiian groups or organizations, are aware of Congressmen Ed Case and Kai Kahele’s intention to seek reparations for the Hawaiian people. We are also concerned that there may be another attempt to create a Native Hawaiian federal entity similar to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization legislation, known as the Akaka Bill. So, it is incumbent upon us to seek intervention in order to protect our rights and offer you at least a modicum of historical and cultural knowledge about us and our struggle for sovereignty. We have considered the possibility that our actual history, our truth as a people and a nation, has been excluded from what you have been told. If that is incorrect, and you are cognizant of all that is contained herein, I apologize for the presumption. However, we thought it best to err on the side of caution because of our nearly 130-year long experience with the United States government.

Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻaina i ka pono means the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. That is the motto our ali‘i (king) uttered as both a divine prayer and a decree, at a time when more than 90% of our people were being killed off by Western diseases. Every Hawaiian living today is a descendant of the 40,000 who survived the massive changes and varying forms of colonial violence during the 19th century, including the U.S. backed overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and the Hawaiian Kingdom’s government, and the U.S. takeover and occupation of our country that began in 1898. The theft of our land and sovereignty has been ceaseless since 1893, and has come to include mass desecrations of our burials and sacred sites.
We write to you, not just because you are the Secretary of the Department of Interior, but because you are an Indigenous woman from a community with firsthand knowledge of devastating acts perpetrated against Native peoples by the United States.
What follows here is a partial list of acts committed against the Hawaiian people, with the intention of either dispossessing us and extinguishing our sovereign rights, or covering up the theft of those rights. We offer it here so that you have the Indigenous, cultural Hawaiian and national Hawaiian experience of our history and what has brought us to where we are today.
1893 – U.S. backed overthrow
1895 – Hawaiian language banned from schools and government buildings
1898 – U.S. annexation
1959 – “Statehood” vote and Admissions Act *1
1978 – Creation of Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)
1993 – Apology Resolution
2000 – Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill)
Secretary Haaland, the suffering of Native Hawaiians, which includes shorter lifespans, terrible health and education statistics, a 50% diaspora, an outrageously disproportionate number of incarcerated and impoverished, all of these have been used against us. Whether by state or federally employed Hawaiians or non-Hawaiians, the dire circumstances endured by Hawaiians because of the settler-colonial reality we exist in has been promoted as a reason to create a formal federal entity. But the harm done to us is because of the theft of our rights, which began with the overthrow, a crime the United States admitted to in the 1993 Apology Bill.
We, the Hawaiian people, have never relinquished our claims to our land, our nationhood and our right to live, die and be buried in our homeland. We have, in fact, protested against the American takeover since before it was formalized; one of the clearest examples of our ongoing resistance is the 1897 Ku‘e Petitions signed by more than 90% of our population. Yet, our rights are violated daily, our graves and sacred sites are destroyed, our culture and land are exploited for profit; every large industry in Hawaii is here at our expense, while we are forced out.

*1 Both the Apology Resolution (Public Law 103-150) and the Admissions Act of 1959 (Public Law 86-3) are admissions against interest or to put another way these U.S. documents continue to affirm (1) that Native Hawaiians never relinquished our title and claims to our lands as Subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom and (2) that the Admissions Act affirm that the title to our land is only held in trust by the State of Hawaii for the purposes of the BETTERMENT OF THE CONDITIONS OF NATIVE HAWAIIANS and the General Public. This means Native Hawaiians continue to be the right holders of all the lands of Hawaii.

You may recall the mass protests that took place in recent years for the protection of our most sacred site, Mauna Kea, from the astronomy industry, specifically the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Secretary Haaland, there are hundreds of instances just during the 21st century, wherein Hawaiians have had to fight in and out of U.S. courts to protect our culture and our rights.
We urge you to take a much needed and long overdue closer look at the Hawaiian reality. During the 2014 DOI hearings in Hawaii, thousands of Hawaiians testified in person and were opposed to becoming a tribe, like our kupuna who signed the 1897 petitions were opposed to becoming American. Our real history is not what is portrayed by the United States government and media. We are a people who have always protested the U.S. occupation of our country. And we have the right to self-determination as an Indigenous people and as the heirs to the nation that was wrongfully taken over by the United States.
We, the Hawaiian people, have never consented to the U.S. occupation of our beloved country.
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻaina i ka pono was appropriated by the so-called State of Hawaii, along with our land and culture. But that does not change the meaning of it. The ʻaina isn’t just land, it is that from which we Hawaiians are born, it is that which feeds us, it is that which we will return to when we walk on to the afterlife. The land is our sanctuary, our source of life. We are the land, and the land is us.
Secretary Haaland, I thank you very much for your time and attention to this critical issue in this most critical time in our history. An electronic copy of this letter has been sent to your office so that the hyperlinks are easily accessible; all associated web addresses are listed below. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly with any questions. I am willing and grateful to be of service in helping you understand the plight of Hawaii and her Native people.
In Aloha We Remain,
Kealoha Pisciotta
On behalf of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, The Mauna Kea Hui and Mauna Kea Aelike/Consensus Building Ohana

  • President Joseph Biden
    The White House
  • Ilze Brands Kehris
    Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
    OHCHR in New York
    UN Headquarters
  • Antony Blinken
    Secretary of State
    United States Department of State
  • Merrick Garland
    Attorney General
  • Senator Brian Schatz
  • Senator Mazie Hirono
  • Congressman Ed CaseCongressman Kai KaheleGovernor David Ige
  • Scott K. Saiki
    Speaker of the House
  • Ronald D. Kouchi
    President Hawai’i Senate
  • Carmen Hulu Lindsey
    Chair, Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Web addresses for hyperlinks referenced above in the letter:
U.S. backed overthrow:

Hawaiian language banned from schools and government buildings:

U.S. annexation:

“Statehood” vote and Admissions Act:

Creation of Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA):

Apology Resolution:

Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill):

1897 Ku‘e Petitions:

Hawaiian burials:

Exploitation of Hawaiian land and culture:

Mass protests:

Mauna Kea:

Thirty Meter Telescope:

Response from United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) verifying Hawaiian allegations:

2014 DOI Hearings in Hawaii:

United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

U.S. occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom:

Testimonies to the U.S. Department of Interior Eerily Similar to Voices of the Past


DATE: March 16, 2021

Hawaiian cultural practitioners, community leaders and activists who speak for Hawaiian rights and the protection of Mauna Kea, send letter to Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, in advance of a congressional proposal for Hawaiian reparations.
Media Contact: Jazzmin Cabanilla
Email: kekaiolena@gmail.com

In a letter to Secretary Haaland, Kealoha Pisciotta, a cultural practitioner who, for more than two decades, has led efforts to stop new construction of telescopes on Mauna Kea, congratulated Haaland for her historic role at the Department of Interior. The letter also addressed Hawaiian trepidations over federal legislation to be proposed regarding the Hawaiian people. Issues raised stem from reports in the press that Congressman Kai Kahele, along with Congressman Ed Case, plan to seek reparations for Native Hawaiians. Many, including Pisciotta, view this move as another way to enact legislation similar to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, known as the Akaka Bill.
Written on behalf of several Hawaiian rights groups, Mauna Kea Moku Nui ‚Aelike/Consensus Building ‚Ohana, Mauna Kea Anainahou, and the Mauna Kea Hui, the 6-page long letter calls upon Haaland to take a deeper look at the Hawaiian people’s history.
It states, “The theft of our land and sovereignty has been ceaseless since 1893,” and includes a list of historical events that have been detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the Hawaiian people, starting with the U.S. backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The list also includes the 1959 “statehood” vote and the 1993 Apology Resolution, and mentions the Obama Administration’s 2014 DOI hearings in Hawai‘i, when “thousands of Hawaiians testified in person and were opposed to becoming a tribe, like our kupuna who signed the 1897 petitions were opposed to becoming American.” The Kūʻē Petitions were signed by more than 90% of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s citizenry, and successfully helped Hawaiian advocates in Washington, DC stop the second attempt to pass a Treaty of Annexation through the U.S. congress.
Ku Ching, a Hawaiian kupuna, lawyer, and longtime activist, who is also a member of the Mauna Kea Moku Nui ‘Aelike/ Consensus Building Ohana, was asked why the petitions matter. He said, “Hawaiians never agreed to be part of the United States or become American citizens. The Hawaiian Kingdom was an internationally recognized nation on par with the U.S. Although the U.S. took control of our country in 1898, they did that against the will of the people. Those petitions are proof of that. There never was a Treaty of Annexation, and under international law, that means Hawai‘i remains an independent nation that is illegally occupied by a foreign power.”
Hawaiian challenges to U.S. claims of jurisdiction over Hawai‘i date back to when the U.S. took control, but have been taken to the United Nations and The Hague in recent decades. And the question of whether or not Hawai‘i is an occupied State or part of the U.S. has been a main component of the sovereignty movement during the 21st century. It is a serious issue for Native Hawaiians, who face federal and state attempts to erode their rights and find themselves embroiled in political and legal battles over the Crown and Government lands of the kingdom. Many of the sacred sites that people, like Pisciotta, spend their lives protecting, such as Mauna Kea, are part of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Crown and Government lands.
When Pisciotta was asked why she thought sending a letter to Haaland now, instead of after Kahele and others propose legislation, she answered, “If it were only that simple. But it is anything but [simple] because
Hawaiians are inundated with state and federal attacks on our sovereign rights as a Native people, and as a nation, with every successive administration. And Kai [Kahele] isn’t in Washington, DC, to represent the lahui (Hawaiian Nation). He is there as an American who is of Hawaiian ancestry, not as a Hawaiian national. Our rights to self-determination are directly related to our rights to be our own nation. We are Indigenous, yes, but we are also descendants of kingdom citizens. Congressman Kahele swore an oath to the U.S. constitution, not the Hawaiian Kingdom. But more than that, so many generations of Hawaiians have spent their lives fighting, whether to protect our sacred sites or to stop the American government from enacting legislation aimed at dissolving our aboriginal title to our land base. So, the groups I am speaking for thought it best to be proactive rather than reactive. We know what is coming because Congressmen Case and Kahele said as much in the press.”
Pisciotta’s sense of urgency echoes an attitude that is prevalent among many Hawaiian activists. After years of protests and court battles to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) from being built on Mauna Kea, Hawaiians are weary of the government’s refusal to acknowledge their rights. Citing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Pisciotta said, “The United States is a signatory on the UNDRIP. The U.S. also knows that it has no provable legal jurisdiction over Hawai‘i or the Hawaiian people, because if that country did have jurisdiction it would provide us with a copy of documentation proving it. Now is the time for Hawaiian rights to be acknowledged and respected, not covered up with more federal and state so-called legal machinations, like the fake annexation. Hawaiians cannot afford to wait and see what the United States is going to do. We need to decide what is best for us. It is our deepest, most humble hope that because Deb Haaland is a Native woman, she is willing to hear the truth about what has happened to Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian people.”

For more information go to:

Mauna Kea Anaina Hou:

‚Aelike/Consensus Building Ohana:
https://www.facebook.com/protectmaunakea/posts/d41d8cd9/3284922808243476/ Mauna Kea



For stories of people, places and events of interest in Indian Country – California Valley Miwok Tribe

Native Hawaiians to Deb Haaland: 'We're not Native Americans' - Indian Country Today
Honolulu march against TMT – July 21, 2019 – photo credit Laulani Teale
Native Hawaiians to Deb Haaland: ‚We’re
not Native Americans‘

As Native Hawaiian people, ‚We are the navigators‘
Anne Keala Kelly
Apr 12, 2021

“Aloha Secretary Haaland, and congratulations on your historic, groundbreaking position at the
Department of Interior as the first Native American to hold a cabinet seat. Now that we have
dispensed with the pleasantries, allow me to introduce myself. I am Kanaka Maoli, and I’m
writing to remind you that the United States of America has been holding the Hawaiian Nation
hostage for over a century. So, please don’t explore ways to further the cover-up by paying us off
or racializing us into becoming a tribe. We want to exercise our rights through selfdetermination,
not American pre-determination.”
Okay, that isn’t how Hawaiian activist, Kealoha Pisciotta, actually worded her letter to the new
head of the Department of Interior. But that might be how it came across when Haaland finished
reading it.

Native Hawaiians to Deb Haaland: 'We're not Native Americans' - Indian Country Today
Kealoha Pisciotta on Mauna Kea

My irreverent humor aside, Pisciotta’s letter is an important communication for Haaland to
receive for some really good reasons, one being that it advocates for Hawaiian rights, something
that has been denied us since the U.S. takeover. Another is that it came from a Hawaiian leader
who is not employed by the state or federal government. There is a line between Natives who
work for the government and those who do not.
Haaland is on the other side of that line, and boy does she have her work cut out for her.
She now runs an agency that is one-part protection, and three parts exploitation and destruction.
The DOI has been the delivery system for some really nasty laws and policies that have been
anti-Native and anti-Mother Earth.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (previously known as Office of Indian Affairs, that was originally
part of the War Department), the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management and nine other land and resource-related bureaus are DOI’s responsibility. Most
federal leasing of land and water for extraction by the energy industry is through the DOI. And
now that Americans are ravenous for green-renewable energy, lithium is the new gold and
mining is a priority. Elon Musk and other billionaires are enormously grateful, but I digress.
Many Natives, myself included, hope that Haaland, being a Native woman, can take some of the
edge off that bloody blade white people have been carving up Turtle Island with since the
Mayflower docked.
But Hawaiians, as a people, need to keep expectations real. Deb Haaland is eighth in line to the
oval. She is a key player in the American business of government, not the Hawaiian struggle for
self-determination, which is the focus of Pisciotta’s letter.
Sent to Haaland on behalf of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, the Mauna Kea Hui and the Mauna Kea
‘Aelike/Consensus Building Ohana, three groups composed of cultural practitioners and
activists, Pisciotta also cc’d some heavies in the letter. At the top of that list are President Biden
and the UN’s Secretary-General. Talk about putting it out there.

Native Hawaiians to Deb Haaland: 'We're not Native Americans' - Indian Country Today
Kealoha Pisciotta delivering petition against the TMT; more than half a million people have signed it; (Photo: Laulani Teale)

The letter highlights some often-cited historical wrongs committed by the U.S. against
Hawaiians, starting with the U.S. military coup of 1893 that ousted Queen Liliuokalani.
Then it winds its way to, “You may recall the mass protests that have taken place in recent
years.” And don’t forget the 2014 DOI hearings when “thousands of Hawaiians testified in
person and were opposed to becoming a tribe, like our kupuna who signed the 1897 [Ku‘e]
petitions were opposed to becoming American.”
To further emphasize what the U.S. pretends not to know, Pisciotta added a truth-bomb cherry to
that sundae, with “We, the Hawaiian people, have never consented to the U.S. occupation of our
beloved country.”
But Pisciotta’s motivation for presenting Haaland with the skinny version of “Hawaiian
Sovereignty 101” is as important as the letter’s content. She wrote it because Congressman Kai
Kahele, who was sworn into office with his hand on Senator Akaka’s bible, said that he and
Congressman Ed Case will push for reparations.
One can only speculate how absurd the dollar amount will be when geniuses in DC calculate
“fair” compensation for the theft of our nation-state, our land, our rights and our dignity. And
any deal would reanimate the Akaka Bill or manufacture something else like it, resulting in
pseudo federal recognition of Hawaiians, and more false justification for keeping the Hawaiian
nation in chains.
Although reparations aren’t the same as a lawsuit, the idea of paying off Hawaiians brings to
mind the pitiful settlement from Eloise Cobell’s monumental case against the DOI.
When it comes to Indigenous peoples, the American tradition has been to withhold as much
justice as possible, and then lie about it. With regard to Hawaiians, the goal of the U.S. hasn’t
changed one iota since the first criminal act it perpetrated in 1893. And it is not likely to change
now because a new Hawaiian is in congress or a Laguna-Pueblo is running the DOI.
Pisciotta and others are standing at the frontline in advance of another attempt by the U.S. to
extend generations of injustice into an eternity of injustice.
Collectively, as a force of one, those Hawaiians are proof that we don’t have to wait for, and then
react to, the American agenda.
We can assess the threat and acknowledge the urgency without waiting for validation from the
state or the media. We can practice self-determination now, use the wisdom of our experience
and take evasive action before the axe is swung.
Hawaiians have been on the receiving end of nearly 130 years of American aggression. There
have been some very dark times, and there will likely be more. But we have the mana of
ancestral memory to draw from. We can look at the horizon with eyes and minds that hold
generations of knowledge about the winds and the currents. Our people used to navigate by the
stars from the deck of a canoe in the middle of the largest ocean on earth with no canned food or
electronic gadgetry. And the darker the night the better they could see their way.
That’s us guys. We determine our own fate. We are the navigators.

anne keala kelly
By Anne Keala Kelly

Anne Keala Kelly is a filmmaker, journalist and writer. Her articles and op-eds have appeared in the
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, The Nation, Honolulu Weekly, Honolulu Civil Beat, Hana Hou! Magazine, Big
Island Journal, and Indian Country Today. Her broadcast journalism has aired on Free Speech Radio
News, Independent Native News, Al Jazeera English, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Democracy Now!,
The Environment Report, and more. And her film, „Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i“
has received international film festival awards. (annekealakelly.com)


There Are Many Ties Between Hawaiians And Micronesians

Traditionally, the lines between Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia never existed.

By Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp / September 28, 2018

Contrary to popular belief, Micronesians are not recent immigrants to Hawaii. They actually predate even the arrival of the Japanese to Hawaii, but one will notice in particular that in the state’s narrative of celebrating different waves of immigrants to the plantations, Micronesians are left out, though they have a long history with Hawaii and with Native Hawaiians.

Besides being related by Austronesian linguistics and DNA evidence, the line between Polynesia and Micronesia was not imposed by either Micronesians nor Polynesians, but by competing colonial powers in the Pacific. The truth of the matter is that there are Micronesian cultural outliers in what is now thought of as the “Polynesian triangle” and there are Polynesian cultural outliers in what is now regarded as Micronesia and Melanesia.

Traditionally, the lines between Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia never existed. We were all connected by the ocean of Kanaloa, or as my kupuna would say, the womb of Hina-i-ka-moana. They, like other Pacific Islanders, are our cousins.

Celebrate Micronesia at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. 28 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Celebrate Micronesia at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, March 2015. The author submits that there are many historical and cultural ties between Hawaiians and Micronesians. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Although one can suspect that there were voyages and exchanges between Hawaii and Micronesia periodically as noted in the Kualii genealogy chant of the 17th century, Hawaii and Micronesian historical ties — as far as written accounts — go back to the 1850s. In 1852, the American Board of Foreign Missionaries — the same Calvinists that came to Hawaii in 1820 — set up a mission station in the Carolines (now in the northwestern Marshall Islands). A group of a couple of American missionaries along with a half dozen Native Hawaiian missionaries initially set up the mission. Native Hawaiian missionaries slowly created missions in Pohnpei, Kosrae, the Marshalls and Kiribati (then called the Gilberts Islands).

Those long skirts that local people in Hawaii make fun of Micronesian women are products of Native Hawaiian missionary teachings in that time period of the 1850s and who themselves got it from American missionaries a generation prior. Niihau women in fact, until recently, dressed similarly.

One of the more famous Hawaiian missionaries was Bennett Namakeha, uncle to Queen Emma and first husband of the future Queen Kapiolani, who became one of the mission administrators for these Christian missions in Micronesia. He and his wife stayed in Kiribati and visited Pohnpei and Kosrae before he died in 1860. So Queen Kapiolani herself was acquainted with Micronesia having stayed there for several months with her first husband.

In 1877, 55 Kiribati (which is part of Micronesia) and 31 Rotuma (which is part of Melanesia but are closer to Samoan culturally) immigrants were brought in as plantation laborers on The Stormbird. This marked the first wave of Micronesian immigrants to Hawaii — which is almost never mentioned in Hawaii history books. Fifty-five Micronesians from Kiribati arrived and were greeted by King Kalakaua at the pier. The following year, The Stormbird would bring 124 Micronesians to Hawaii along with three Rotumans.

For the next eight years, over 1,500 Micronesians were brought to Hawaii along with about a thousand Rotuman, Fijians, Solomon Islanders and Papuans. So there was a substantial population of Micronesians and Melanesians in Hawaii in the 1880s. Many of these early Micronesians did not return to the homelands but mixed with Hawaiians and adopted Hawaiian names. Sometimes, they would adopt the Hawaiian wifeʻs last name or the last name of a Native Hawaiian missionary who baptized them or chose a last name that began with the letters “e” or “p,” similar to how the Chinese adopted Hawaiianized last names starting with the letter “a.”

Cultural Byproducts

Another byproduct of this exchange is the introduction of certain hair comb designs, new lei making designs, the iconic coconut “bras” and the thinner raffia “grass skirts” by the Kiribati workers to Hawaii. Although other Polynesian groups did have coconut bras, it was the Micronesian immigrants who introduced them to Hawaiians and Hawaiians who adopted its use for more modern hula and for tourists.

By 1884, plantation recruitment in Micronesia stopped for various reasons including that Micronesian plantation workers had a habit of running away from the plantation and being hidden by Hawaiians. Hence why Portuguese and Japanese were brought in as they would have a harder time running away and blending with the Native Hawaiian population — so the plantation owners thought. Another reason was that Spain and Britain and later Germany began to take more of an interest in colonizing Micronesia and that caused diplomatic issues with the Hawaiian government. This, however, did not stop the chiefs of Butaritari and Tapiteuea in Kiribati from requesting a Hawaiian protectorate or complete annexation as their chiefs believed that they would be treated more fairly by King Kalakaua than some European colonial administrator. Nothing came out of this as Britain would decide to annex Kiribati.

Instead of dehumanizing Micronesians, we need to find ways to bridge cultural misunderstandings and create safe spaces for dialogue.

As a side note to show the aloha that King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani had for these Micronesian plantation laborers, their chiefs and community leaders were normally invited to his birthday celebrations at Iolani Palace and the electrification of Iolani Palace celebration on June 1, 1887.

This history does not include 20th-century immigration, the infamous role of U.S. colonialism in that region nor the phenomenal contributions that Satawal navigator Mau Piailug made to the Hokulea.

Every new wave of immigration will always face problems and be stereotyped. When groups such as the Samoans, Filipinos, Portuguese and Chinese arrived in Hawaii, they were stereotyped and made fun of. But by embracing them into our community and learning from each other, these same groups became a fabric of modern Hawaii and provided us with scholars, politicians, entrepreneurs and delicious food. Instead of dehumanizing Micronesians — which I will repeat have historically first migrated to Hawaii in 1877 — we need to find ways to bridge cultural misunderstandings and create safe spaces for dialogue.

About the Author

Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp

  • Adam Keawe Manalo-Camp is a Native Hawaiian cultural historian. With roots both in Papakolea Homestead and in the Philippines, he is also a writer, blogger and researcher.