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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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)
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 .
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. 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 and developed an educational CD-ROM on the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement entitled Haunani-Kay Trask: We Are Not Happy Natives (2002). In March 2017, Hawaiʻi Magazine recognized her as one of the most influential women in Hawaiian history.
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. She was born in California, grew up the Koʻolau side of the island of Oʻahu, in the islands of Hawaiʻi, 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.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.
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. 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.“
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. 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.“ 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.$
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.“
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. 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. Trask also claimed that hearings were not being held on the bill with the intention of leaving out important native voices and opinions.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.“
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. Trask was not publicly active in recent years but was under the care of nurses according to her family. She died on July 3, 2021.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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,
On behalf of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, The Mauna Kea Hui and Mauna Kea Aelike/Consensus Building Ohana firstname.lastname@example.org
President Joseph Biden
The White House
Ilze Brands Kehris
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights
OHCHR in New York
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
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
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
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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 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)
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.
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.”
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.
IN 1959 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 1469 under the mistaken belief that the people of Hawaii had exercised their right to self-determination and consented to be integrated into the United States of America. The error aided and abetted the United States in its subjugation and pillaging of the people and lands of the Hawaiian Islands; causing serious injury and trauma to three generations of Hawaiians, depriving them of the right to self-governance and access to and use of their lands and resources. This panel asserts it is time for the UN to meet its obligation to correct its error and ensure just remedy for the sixty years of abuses of the human, civil, political and development rights of the people of the Hawaiian Islands. Sponsored by the International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (Incomindios). Co-sponsored by the Koani Foundation and the Hawaiian Kingdom. 15 March 2021 at 10:00 am, Geneva, Switzerland. MODERATOR • Mr. Robert Kajiwara– President of Peace for Okinawa Coalition, Special Envoy of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ph.D. A.B.D. History Manchester Metropolitan University, M.A. History University of Nebraska at Kearney, B.A. History University of Hawaii at Manoa PANELISTS • Mme Routh Bolomet – is a descendant of the royal line of Kamehameha, the original rulers of the Hawaiian Kingdom. As such, she is an heir to the privately-held lands of the Kamehamehas and advocating for the repatriation of lands that were taken and sold illegally under the regimes of the (US) Territory of Hawaii and the present (US) State of Hawaii. • Professor Alfred de Zayas – is a leading expert in the field of human rights and international law and high-ranking United Nations official: former senior lawyer with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary of the Human Rights Committee, and the Chief of Petitions. Most recently, he served as the original UN Independent Expert for a Democratic and Equitable International Order. He is a professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and has authored a number of books in several languages. • Amb. Isaias Medina III – International Lawyer and former Diplomat at the United Nations and Legal Adviser of UN Security Council presidency; expert and elected Rapporteur at the UN Commission on International Trade Law and UN 6th Committee of International Law delegate; legal expert for the International Law Commission report and Vice President of UN High Level Ocean Conference. Recently appointed Ambassador-at-Large (to the UN and the US) for the Hawaiian Kingdom. • H.E. Leon Kaulahao Siu – is the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Hawaiian Kingdom and prominent advocate and spokesman for Hawaii’s independence. Minister Siu is a frequent participant at the Human Rights Council and other UN bodies. He is working to normalize the Hawaiian Kingdom’s international relations. He is the founder of the Decolonization Alliance based in New York City, and was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
The assessment will result in a prioritized, cost-estimated list of preservation needs for the historic Baldwin Home.
LAHAINA — Lahaina Restoration Foundation was recently awarded a $2,500 grant by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These grant funds will be used to complete a building assessment of the stone and coral block Baldwin Home built in 1835 in Lahaina.
The assessment will result in a prioritized, cost-estimated list of preservation needs for the building.
“Organizations like Lahaina Restoration Foundation help to ensure that communities all across America retain their unique sense of place,” said Paul Edmondson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are honored to provide a grant to Lahaina Restoration Foundation, which will use the funds to help preserve an important piece of our shared national heritage.”
Grants from the National Trust Preservation Fund range from $2,500 to $5,000 and have provided over $15 million since 2003. These matching grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the country to support wide-ranging activities, including consultant services for rehabilitating buildings, technical assistance for tourism that promotes historic resources, and the development of materials for education and outreach campaigns.
For more information on National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Fund grants, visit Forum.SavingPlaces.org/funding.
Lahaina Restoration Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered in 1962. LRF oversees and maintains 13 major historic sites in Lahaina and operates six museums.
The organization also maintains several collections of artifacts, manuscripts, maps, photographs, logs and other materials representative of Lahaina’s rich history. These collections are available to the public and researchers by request.
In addition, Lahaina Restoration Foundation oversees the Old Lahaina Courthouse and maintains public parks and open spaces in historic Lahaina Town. Due to the pandemic, some historic sites may be closed; call 661-3262 for current museum information.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately-funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to protecting America’s rich cultural legacy and helping build vibrant, sustainable communities that reflect our nation’s diversity. Follow the organization on Twitter @savingplaces.
Kong Hee Fat Choy (may wealth and prosperity be yours) and Sen Nien Fai Lock — Happy New Year! Dr. Busaba Yip, cultural director and docent at the Wo Hing Museum, Society Hall and Cookhouse in Lahaina, announced that Chinese New Year decorations will be put up.
LAHAINA — The Chinese New Year (CNY) celebration has been a longstanding tradition at the Wo Hing Museum on Front Street and with the Chinese community of Lahaina. This year it falls on Friday, Feb. 12, and culminates on Feb. 26.
In 1991, the LahainaTown Action Committee first coordinated CNY at the museum. Around 1999, CNY became a big street festival with the closure of the 800 block of Front Street. By 2006, the celebrations were again held at Wo Hing, and since 2012 the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and Wo Hing Society have coordinated the CNY events.
“The Wo Hing Museum has been closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic,” said Dr. Busaba Yip, cultural director and docent at the Wo Hing Museum, Society Hall and Cookhouse.
“Unfortunately, this year, 2021, we will not have a CNY community celebration at Wo Hing or a Lion Dance in Lahaina Town. To keep the tradition alive, we will have an offering and blessings at the Wo Hing Temple during the week of Feb.12, as well as special decorations at the Cookhouse and Society Hall. When visitors walk past Wo Hing, they will view the beautiful red lanterns, CNY scrolls, banners and other decorations.”
To start the Year of the Metal Ox off right, the temple will be following the traditions beginning two weeks before New Year’s Day. They will prepare for the holiday by cleaning and putting up decorations at the Cookhouse and Society Hall with Nin Wah: new year hopeful messages and wishes on little red papers displaying the symbols for good luck, health and happiness.
“Inside the Wo Hing Cookhouse, we will offer some good luck candy and tangerines on an altar for the kitchen god, Joo Guan,” Yip noted.
“The Wo Hing Temple altars will be cleaned, and an offering to the ancestors will be made with oranges, pomelos, tangerines, potted flowers and other items. A special offering and display is set up for the CNY. For example, we will prepare a tray of sweetmeats called Chuen-Hop or Tray of Togetherness. It has eight compartments, each with a special food item significant to the season, such as candied coconut and melon.”
The Ox is the second in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac sign. Oxen were important for planting crops in an agricultural society. They embody stamina and dedication and are known for diligence, dependability, strength and determination. Having an honest nature, Oxen represent ideals and ambitions for life. They attach importance to family and work, representing persistence and honesty. The image of “planting the fields” in 2021 offers a way to prepare for prosperity and times of enjoyment.
CNY is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunar calendar. It is not only the longest-celebrated event but also the most important social holiday of the year.
It is called the Lunar New Year because it marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars. The Lunar New Year begins on the second new moon following the winter solstice and ends two weeks later on the full moon.
A solar year, the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun, lasts around 365 days, while a lunar year, or 12 full cycles of the Moon, is roughly 354 days. That is why the CNY falls on different dates each year in the solar calendar.
Throughout CNY, families reunite and relax together celebrating a year of hard work, They offer wishes of good luck, health and prosperity for the coming year.
Yip shared some good CNY memories from her childhood.
“It is really a time for new beginnings and gatherings,” she reflected. “We looked forward to our celebration by having dinners together with our family and friends. We each received a red envelope with money, called Lai See or Hong Bao. I also remember its teaching: it was for a good start in the new year. We were told not to spend the money from our first Lai See, but to keep the money for the future to take care of ourselves, our parents and grandparents. We learned about saving money and managing it wisely. CNY is always a time to reflect on our lives over the past year and to plan for the future.”
In conclusion, Yip said, “CNY is inclusive and has become popular with people of all nationalities and celebrated worldwide. We would like to send our best wishes and blessings for a good year, a Metal Ox year, and hope it brings positive changes for our lives, families, communities and the world. Kong Hee Fat Choy, may wealth and prosperity be yours; and Sen Nien Fai Lock, Happy New Year!”