From the Editor...
For Hawai`i’s people, June is the month to celebrate King Kamehameha. Those of us from the islands whether or not we are Native Hawaiian, know all about this great man. From the time we were children, we have made lei to decorate his statues, learned songs to remember his accomplishments and every June 11th, celebrate him with parades and other festivities. There are schools, highways, hotels and even a drive-in on O`ahu named for him! All of us from his home island of Hawai`i are surrounded by Kamehameha’s history, from the Naha stone in front of the Hawai`i County Library in Hilo that reminds us of his strength, to heiau on the Kohala and Kona side of the island that show us his resolve.
So when I stumbled onto the Library of Congress website that listed King Kamehameha as “An Amazing American,” I sat straight up. Kamehameha, an American! While everyone born in Hawai`i since 1898 has American citizenship, I had never in my life thought of King Kamehameha as…an American. I took the time to read over the website, and the more I read, the more I noticed the gaps and negative connotations in the story of this famous Hawaiian as presented by the Library of Congress. As I dwelled on “America’s Story of Amazing Americans,” I became uncomfortable, not only because of its historical inaccuracies, but because of the political implications.
I hope you read Reminiscence of an Ali`i on the front page of this issue, `Onipa`a in the January 2005 issue and September 11, 1897: Patriotism in Hawai`i in the September 2004 issue of the Northwest Hawai`i Times, all written by historian Roy Alameida. Then go to the website to see what the U.S. Library of Congress has written about King Kamehameha for young people with Web access from all around the world. The version in America’s Story is also evidence for Kamuela Ka`Ahanui’s argument (See No Lei Left Behind ) that one of the reasons our Pacific Island students are falling behind is because of the dissonance between what they know from life experience and cultural memory, and what they are learning in schools.
My reaction to America’s Story has nothing to do with the Akaka bill or Hawaiian sovereignty; it is instead, about misrepresentation and not telling the whole story. Does anyone think Queen Lili`uokalani thought of herself as American? So why the King? While I would never presume to speak for Kamehameha, my guess is that he would not have considered himself anything other than Hawaiian.
Today, I can still sing a song that I learned in elementary school in Hilo, about King Kamehameha, the Conqueror of the Islands . But I think his inclusion as “an Amazing American” in America’s Stories is a serious misappropriation of this Hawaiian icon.
Do me a favor. Go to the Library of Congress website (www.americaslibrary.gov) and read for yourself about King Kamehameha, “An Amazing American.” Then tell me what you think. But I would also like to hear from any of you who think he should be included as An Amazing American.
Let’s have a conversation. ~RdC
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