Island Voices

Aborigine history is similar to Hawaiian

Honolulu Advertiser
Thursday, April 26, 2001

By Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
A Hawaiian culture practitioner on Maui

At Prime Minister John Howard's invitation, I recently attended the opening of the National Museum of Australia, where I represented the United States and the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands.

Dignitaries from around the world attended the Canberra festivities. An estimated 30,000 people went through the museum doors on opening day.

The honor was bittersweet because the United States does not recognize the kanaka maoli of Hawai'i as being the indigenous people of this land.

Australia's history is highlighted and focuses on the aboriginal people of the land and how they survived for over 60,000 years. At one time (before Western contact), they had over 500 distinct groups or tribes, living on the entire area now called Australia. The fauna and flora sustained them, and their cultural and spiritual gods took care of their well-being.

When the Europeans "discovered" their land, the aboriginal values were ignored, as the promise of wealth in gold, diamonds and other "material" brought out greed. The values of the indigenous people were ignored, and the land was mined, blasted and desecrated.

The aborigines were driven off their land, and at one point were considered vermin and hunted for sport. The survivors could not practice their culture, their women were sterilized and their children were taken away and put in government-controlled programs.

The aborigines survived in places no one else could. Using their primordial skills of co-existing with nature, they survived into modern times. Their population has grown, and they have sought education in Western law and are now demanding reparations in land and money. They are also demanding to be recognized as an individual nation. They are seeking self-determination, which is similar to what our Hawaiian people are going through.

It is amazing how we live on opposite sides of this Earth, yet we as natives of these lands have suffered similar fate in the hands of colonizers who saw Hawai'i for its material wealth. Like Hawai'i, the missionaries came first, the businessmen came after and that was the beginning of our downfall as natives of the land.

The aborigines suffered more physical harm; however, our pain is similar in losing our birthright.

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