40 years as the 50th state

The Honolulu Advertiser
Sunday, August 11, 2002

By Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.

Tourists perform a "hukilau ceremony" during a lu'au. Some Native Hawaiians now wonder whether their sharing of their culture has come back to haunt them.

I can remember vividly when Hawai'i became the 50th state in 1959.

My father, who was a veteran of the Navy and a devout American, wept and said, "This is the last straw. Hawai'i as we know it is pau (finished)."

Being 22 years old, having my first "real" job as a police officer in the Maui Police Department, I did not quite understand what my father meant until years later. In the early 1960s, I noticed an influx of young haole people coming to Maui. We only saw them as schoolteachers or managers of stores or heads of the plantations on Maui.

The hippie population invaded Maui and built communes all over the island. They converged on Haleakala because of the sanctity and sacredness of the mountain; they performed new-age rituals, even committing suicide in the "bottomless pit."

As a police officer, I had witnessed many events that brought a drastic change to our lifestyle on Maui. Illicit drugs were coming into Maui and the Police Department had to form a vice squad. I served in the Police Department from 1959 until being injured in the line of duty and retired on disability in 1974.

A subtle change took place in the local people's attitude toward newcomers. For the first time in our lives, the doors to our homes had to be locked and fences were constructed to protect our yards. This occurred because the "new people" would just walk into the homes and take what they wanted and take fruit off of trees without asking permission.

Many people who came to Hawai'i to visit decided to make Hawai'i their home. The population started to grow, and along with it land prices started to escalate. The prime agricultural land was being diverted to urban use.

A lot of kuleana lands (lands owned by Hawaiian people) were targeted using the adverse possession law. The Hawaiian movement got started in the late '60s when the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) started to realize that their sacred lands were being taken right from under their noses.

In 1970, Louisa Rice, a cab driver in Waikiki, was given a book called "Hawai'i's Story" written by the last queen, Lili'uokalani. She parked her cab in front of her home and that night it caught fire. the only thing left intact in her car was the book.

She felt it was an omen.

Tourists got impromptu hula lessons at the old Waimea Valley park. Native Hawaiians struggling to hang on to their land and their cultural identity now find that the Hawai'i they once knew has turned into a very different place. For them, the changes have not all been for the best.

She was shocked when she read the book and learned how Queen Lili'uokalani was deposed and imprisoned in her own palace. She also discovered how the United States, with the help of the descendants of the missionaries who had arrived around 1820, coerced the queen and her lawful government. The queen was then forced to abdicate her rule to the United States, which she hoped would return the rule to her.

Later, as the provisional government worked with the United States ministers in gaining control of Hawai'i, Lili'uokalani realized that the Americans would never help her regain her kingdom.

Even after suffering the humiliation of being convicted of treason and imprisoned, Queen Lili'u-okalani still maintained her faith in the Christian religion. In a statement to the president and the Senate of the United States in June 1897, she wrote:

"Therefore I, Lili'uokalani of Hawai'i, do hereby call upon the president of that nation, to whom alone I yielded my property and my authority, to withdraw said treaty (ceding said Islands) from further consideration. I ask the honorable Senate of the United States to decline to ratify said treaty, and I implore the people of this great and good nation, from whom my ancestors learned the Christian religion, to sustain their representatives in such acts of justice and equity as may be in accord with the principles of their fathers, and to the Almighty Ruler of the universe, to him who judgeth righteously, I commit my cause."

This appeal fell on deaf ears, and in 1898, Hawai'i was annexed to the United States. Almost 99 percent of the Native Hawaiian population signed a petition against the annexation.

Louisa Rice's A.L.O.H.A. Association managed to get full support of the Hawaiian population. However our congressional representatives, with the exception of Patsy Mink and the late Spark Matsunaga, did not want to pursue the passage of the A.L.O.H.A. bills for reparations.

Many Hawaiian organizations continued what the A.L.O.H.A. Association had started. These organizations tried to affect the most noticeable areas of Native Hawaiians' impoverished state, in health, education, drug abuse, divorce, child abuse, suicide, alcoholism and incarceration.

In fact, Hawaiian people were always at the top of these statistics prior to the overthrow, annexation and statehood. It is a prime example of what happens to a race of people when their lifestyle is westernized and influenced by foreign "invaders."

Their entire attitude toward themselves and their Islands is drastically changed. For several generations Hawaiians have tried to assimilate with and emulate these "rich haoles." However they realized that they were not treated as equals and never would be.

One only must look at what was done to Hawai'i from statehood to now and see what we lost as Native Hawaiians of this land.

When Ellen Wright Prendergast composed "Mele 'Ai Pohaku," on Feb. 10, 1893, she wrote:

    'A'ole makou a'e minamina,
    I ka pu'u kala o ke aupuni,
    ua lawa makou i ka pohaku,
    i ka 'ai kamaha'o o ka 'aina.

    ("We do not treasure
    the piles of the government's money.
    We are satisfied with the stones,
    the remarkable food of the land.")

She correlated the importance of the 'aina (land) to Hawaiians. We did not care if the government had all the money in the world, what mattered was that Kanaka Maoli had the land, the 'aina provided our 'aina (meals).

The land produced our food. It was an integrated system that served my ancestors until the arrival of the first Westerners in 1778. Since then, the water that flowed from the mountain is diverted to water golf courses. The lo'i, kalo or taro patches, cannot get enough water. The kalo is dying from foreign insects, yet the kalo is supposed to be our native staple food. The ocean does not receive the fresh water it needs to complete the life cycle at the mouth of the stream, and the aquatic life there perishes.

Hawaiians cannot go to the mountains to gather their medicinal herbs and ferns from the forest because it is now private property. Access to the ocean and ancient trails is blocked by luxury homes with high fences.

Our culture is being used by everyone in the world, and words that are sacred to us such as kahuna and aloha are so badly misused by everyone. It is now the "in" thing to use a Hawaiian word because it is "exotic." What is even more comical but sad is that there are those who move here because they "feel" this is their homeland, while those whose homeland this really is move to the Mainland to provide better for their families.

For shame! If anyone can feel Hawaiian, or be "Hawaiian at heart," where does this leave us as true Hawaiians, as Kanaka Maoli?

Our ancient hula is learned and performed in Japan, with taiko drums, no less. People teach hula today and call themselves kumu hula regardless whether they read it in a book or watched a videotape. Those who contribute to behaviors like these have cheapened the sanctity of hula, a rich cultural practice.

We have haoles who love our beaches who chastised me for trying to stop them from running around in the buff. They insist that our ancestors ran around naked, and the missionaries made us put clothes on. The ignorance of these people is shocking.

We have haole people here on Maui who profess to be a kahuna (high priest) and do house blessings, telling people their homes are haunted and there are bones under their homes. They then charge a hefty fee to "bless" the homes. This particular "kahuna" preys on the bones of our ancestors, and that is the most disgusting thing to take place.

There are groups of crystal worshippers who leave their offerings in archaeological sites around Maui and after their rituals dance naked on the beaches, beating drums and dancing around a bonfire. And the powers that be take no action against this type of idiocy.

It is so amazing that people come from the Mainland to "get away from the rat race" and then create the same mess here with the strip malls, with vacant stores, highways with all kinds of lanes, traffic that gets worse and worse. It is so encouraging to read letters to the editor about how tourists are not coming back to Hawai'i because of too much traffic, or because they were not treated well. I say great, the more people leave, the more space we will have on our beaches and everyplace else that these people have encroached upon.

Maybe we can have good taro again, more limu in the ocean, more 'o'opu in the streams. Maybe the houses will be more affordable. Just maybe.

One can ask, what good did statehood do for us as Kanaka Maoli of these lands? Just look around us and say in a very resounding voice: Nothing at all!

And now we have those who threaten Hawaiians with lawsuits, along with "wannabe Hawaiians." They wish to take the koena (left-overs) away from Hawaiians by using the constitutional laws and the Supreme Court.

As the original inhabitants of this land, it is shocking that the same group of people that we "allowed" to come and live here are now literally biting the hand that fed them by trying to take away all entitlements, even the wishes of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and the estate that she left to create the Kamehameha Schools.

We all have to remember that if you take the Kanaka Maoli and the culture from Hawai'i, this will surely be Anyplace, U.S.A., with all its prejudice and no aloha. This is a time for us as native people of this land to stand up and ku'e (resist) the shameful onslaught of using the laws of America to make it harder for us to live in the land that was given to our ancestors thousands of years ago.

Should the Supreme Court rule against us, Hawai'i will never be the same and Kanaka Maoli will rebel. As a kahu (pastor), I pray that these people who are trying to take everything away from us will reconsider what they are doing, not only for our benefit but for everyone who calls Hawai'i their home. I also thank the Lord for the many non-Hawaiians who have immigrated from other lands and who respect our culture and understand the importance of it as it relates to these Islands.

We, as the Kanaka Maoli, need all the support in our efforts to protect, preserve and perpetuate the remnants of our legacy for the generations yet to come.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. is a Hawaiian priest and cultural specialist. Reach him through his Web site.

© COPYRIGHT 2002 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Return to News page

Ho`iho`i Mai