Island life threatened

The Maui News
Thursday, August 11, 2005

The anguish felt by the Native Hawaiian community can't be ignored. The very essence of what makes Maui a premier vacation location is distilled from Hawaiian culture, a way of living on an island with limited resources.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that threatens the admission policies of Kamehameha Schools is just the latest spear aimed at the heart of Hawaiians.

Since late in the 1800s, Native Hawaiians have constituted a minority in their own home. Western diseases had decimated the population, and people from many lands were brought in to work the plantations.

By the middle of the 1900s, Maui was made up of individuals from many cultures. They were united by the realities of living and working on an island, and many of the later arrivals either married into Hawaiian families or adopted more-or-less Hawaiian-influenced lifestyles.

The key to coexistence was respect for the other person's differences. Commonality was found at the workplace, in churches, on playgrounds, and in the fact that nearly everyone had the same day-to-day struggles. It wasn't all sunshine and roses. As the Beamer Brothers' popular song put it: "It's a wonder we can all stay the same place."

Until relatively recent times, those who came to live on Maui found it to their advantage to fit in, to devise a lifestyle that was compatible with the island lifestyle first developed by Native Hawaiians. That lifestyle, tied tightly to the land and the ocean, centered on family, community and an awareness of others.

Today, Native Hawaiians and those islanders who have come to think and feel like Hawaiians find themselves in a maelstrom of changes. Land once open for camping, fishing, hunting or just visiting is rapidly being closed off. New residents demand changes more appropriate to an urban environment. Too many newcomers seem to think Maui is some sort of backward West Coast suburb.

The anguish felt by Native Hawaiians is shared by everyone who respects island traditions and knows that the host culture is the one thing that makes Maui different from all of the world's sea, sun and sand resorts. Aloha is more than a word or a marketing slogan, it's a way of life.

Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.

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