The first in a series of three open letters to the citizens of Hawai'i
Me, I'm a Hawaiian. I'm an artist and a playwright. I'm not a
politician, lawyer, or historian. So, I'm gonna tell you here how I
feel from my na'au - my guts.
Then in my next articles, I'll try to unwind my guts to figure out
how I end up feeling this way and possible directions I see open to
My opinion: The things many of you say and do amount to 1,000 little
cuts against us. And these cuts represent a subversive, long-standing
cultural genocide against the Hawaiian people. Cultural genocide
against the Hawaiian people.
Nobody executes us. No one lynches us. No government enslaves our
children or rapes our women. No citizenry chains us up and drags us
from the backs of pickup trucks. No homicidal maniac gassing us. Just
1,000 little cuts to our self-esteem, self-identity, cultural pride -
to our souls.
Rather than obliterating the people, like so many Hitlers have tried,
simply obliterate the glue that binds them: culture. Just enough
slices to leave blood on the scene, but no actual bodies.
Nobody will come out publicly and say, "Screw Hawaiians" - that's not
"Politically Correct." But you and I know many feel this way. It's
cultural genocide in 1,000 little back-yard, back-handed, unofficial
cuts. A slow bleeding to death through 1,000 tiny cuts that no one
knows how to stop and nobody will admit to doing.
So, here's my take on what many of you honestly think and feel, but
dare not say in public. Here are the cuts:
Concerning the two new federal lawsuits continuing the attack on
Hawaiian assets, rights and entitlements, Barrett v. Cayetano and
Carroll v. Nakatan (If they prevail, the Hawaiian Homes Commission,
Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and native Hawaiian gathering rights will
be found unconstitutional), I hear this:
"Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. So what. Damn Office of Hawaiian
Affairs has been a sorry mess since it began anyway. Hawaiians didn't
suddenly die off in great numbers when everyone voted and a
non-Hawaiian got in! Hell, Hawaiians didn't even raise a fuss. And
why should one ethnic group get monies from a pot of land that's
supposed to be everyone's! Bunch of dysfunctional Hawaiians - take it
That's what you think, isn't it? An easy, juicy, seemingly
well-deserved cut to Hawaiian self-governance.
How about Hawaiian Home Lands? I hear:
"Give us a break! What a sorry legacy that's been. Remember Kapono's
song, "Sonny's been waiting." Well, thousands are still waiting,
people still dying on the lists - but the earth doesn't stop turning
and plenty of people are homeless! Why should Hawaiians get singled
out? Why should one ethnic group get land practically free, and cheap
loans to build their houses, while the rest of us Hawai'i-loving,
tax-paying citizens gotta work for ours?
What's up with that? And you know those lazy, stupid Hawaiians are
using the extra money they save on their mortgages on Hawaiian Homes
to do drugs, get drunk, rip each other off, and kick the crap out of
their wives and kids! That's why they stay on the bottom of all those
damn social indicators. Hawaiian Home Lands are Hawaiian ghettos, for
crissakes! Cut it DOWN!"
This is what you feel, isn't it? Cut the closest thing we've got to a
nation, and our self- and social-esteem all in one blow. Excellent
Gathering rights? You grumble:
"Why is everything connected to Hawaiians about taking? Taking state
money, taking state land, taking state resources! Why should they
have a right to go on private property and take, take, take? Isn't
private property as sacred and American as democracy itself? Isn't
this right to own our own land free and clear what our veterans
fought and died for? Cut that one down!"
Come on, admit it, that's what you say to each other at your kitchen
tables and out at the country clubs. Cut off access to maile, heiau,
koa, and pųhaku so we can't define ourselves as different, continue
to force us to assimilate under the guise of "equal rights for all."
Make it illegal to gather the things we need to define ourselves as
different, and then argue that we voluntarily gave up our cultural
practices. Brilliant, "Catch 22" cut.
1,000 tiny slashes that make us unable to be who our kĀpuna told us
we are. By the way, my grand-aunt had to wear a sign around her neck
in elementary school that said, "Do Not Speak Hawaiian to Me."
So the outright murder of Hawaiians doesn't happen - that would be
racist genocide and so un-American. The murder of Hawaiian culture,
though, happens every day, slowly: tens of millions of state dollars
go every year to the Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau, which
sells us, Hawaiians, as the "Host Culture" to market the state, but
there's never been a state-recognized, state-funded hula halau.
The state will pay a highly respected Japanese artist from Maui more
than $300,000 to do a bronze sculpture of a scantily clad, mythic
Hawaiian man offering water to all the tourists at the convention
center, but there was not one native Hawaiian artist commissioned in
the original artwork plan.
The Advertiser stated in a recent editorial:
"... the task for Hawaiians ... for self-determination now is to set
aside the past and work toward a unified future. This means ... less
dwelling on the far-distant past - the overthrow of the Hawaiian
Kingdom - and more attention to the future. What happened happened.
It was an unhappy moment for many, but more than a century has gone
More than 600 years had passed before we "remembered" our
trans-oceanic voyaging and launched the Hokule'a. Hula was banned in
public in the 1800s. Use of our native language was effectually
destroyed by the provisional government in public and private schools
in 1896 and in government in 1900 by the territorial government.
If we can forget the overthrow because it happened in the
"far-distant past," then let's forget Hokule'a, hula, and 'olelo
Hawai'i. Wouldn't like that, would you? So how come it's okay to
"remember" all the things that make money through tourism and
marketing, how come we get to "renew" all the happy, fun stuff: hula,
paddling, voyaging, etc., but are shut down consistently when we
remember the stuff that's going to cost something or make someone
Well-intentioned, educated, sympathetic, influential cuts that mask a
greedy, hypocritical, arrogant, decidedly American ideology. American
ideology is to forget the past because America was largely built on
land stolen through government-sponsored genocide against native
Americans and wealth garnered from slavery. While this generation
benefits, it doesn't want any moral responsibility for those
atrocities. And, in Hawai'i, many flat-out deny any connection
between the past and present: Hawaiians aren't suffering now because
even if wrongs were committed, "... they were done to your ancestors,
and you've benefited greatly by being American."
In other words, "No dead bodies, so shut up!"
The genocide of Hawaiian culture may not be complete for another 20,
another 50 years, but it will happen - unless we re-establish our
People with Hawaiian blood will still be here, but my culture -
distinct and unique from everyone else - will have bled to death.
So, are you, the citizenry of the Aloha State, arrogant enough to
think that without Hawaiian culture this place will still be the
same, that there will still be aloha? I know many of you believe that.
I hear many local people, people who have been here for generations,
people like Uncle Ben who've pulled themselves up outta Kalihi by
their own bootstraps and into Washington Place, people who "feel"
Hawaiian, believe they've got this "aloha" thing down and that we've
become moot: Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture aren't necessary for this
multicultural society. That, to me, is a big gamble. If you're wrong,
and we are necessary, then the residents of Hawai'i will have truly
destroyed paradise - both the land and the spirit.
But you are willing to gamble that, aren't you? Because if we're not
needed then that saves a helluva lot of land and power. Land and
Power. This is all about Land and Power, baby.
So, of course you've got to take down Hawaiian Homes, OHA and
gathering rights. And then you'll take Kamehameha Schools, Queen
Emma's Trust, and Queen Lili'uokalani's Trust too, because that's an
obscene amount of land and power. And why wouldn't you want Hawaiians
to have land and power? "Because if those Hawaiians ever do manage to
unite their sorry asses together, those assets and ali'i trusts will
provide them the financial and political clout to sue us for some 1.8
million acres - with back rent, plus interest - from 1959, when the
Territory made a deal with the U.S. called the "Statehood Act." Hell,
with that kind of land and power consolidation, they could
successfully sue the U.S. for reparations and completely overthrow
the islands' power structure!"
Now you know why there's never been a complete inventory of the ceded lands.
If this isn't what many of you think, then why are we where we are?
Why didn't you speak out against Rice? Why aren't you speaking out
against Barrett, Goemans, Carroll, Burgess, Twigg-Smith, Conklin, et.
al? Responsibility belongs to everyone who lives here, and being
passive does not release you from responsibility.
So, now this educated, moderate, peaceful kanaka is taking the P.C.
gloves off and cutting back. Paper cuts only, mind you. But I gotta
let you guys know, I'm feeling like so much has been, and is being,
ripped from my na'au that I've got nothing to lose.
You wanna "feel" Hawaiian? Come, feel 1,000 tiny cuts. We were once
warriors too, you know - and I hope for all our sakes we aren't
forced to using more than pens because of everyone's passivity or
denial of responsibility and reality.