From the Editor...
Back to the Islands?
I was thinking about all the issues raised by Gregg Porter’s story regarding HARA and the Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards. Because well-known Hawaiian musician Manny Fernandez is now living in Oregon (in Aloha, Oregon no less!) many of his concerns affect us all so I am glad that Gregg, as a voting member of HARA, was able to shed some light.
It’s a sticky question: once we move away from Hawai`i, how do we participate in anything happening in those islands we love? But if we love them so much, then what are we doing so far away from them? Of course, we know all the reasons: jobs, affordable housing, opportunities for the children etc. But Manny decided to move to the “Mainland” after he retired, in order (as he said in an email) to “enjoy traveling in other parts of the U.S. ” Mainland-style living is part of the reason many of us are here. That being said, then how do we interact with what goes on in Hawai`i? And let’s acknowledge what many still living in Hawai`i will add: why should we transplants even play a role?
Then the Kamehameha story came in, on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to rehear the decision made in August 2005 declaring that the school’s Hawaiian-only admission policy violated federal civil rights law. School supporters insist that the policy is necessary to address Native Hawaiian social, educational and economic disadvantages that resulted after the illegal takeover in 1893 and the 9th Circuit Court has agreed to take another look.
And this all became a little clearer to me, especially if you take into account what Nainoa Thompson told us in his recent visit to the Pacific Northwest. Hawai`i, those tiny, isolated islands way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that everyone wants to be a part of, is fragile and threatened, not just environmentally, but culturally. If the Kamehameha Schools is forced to enroll non-Hawaiians, then it opens the door to everyone, and Native Hawaiians will have lost one of their legacies. If HARA opens the door to everyone whether they live in Hawai`i or not, then musicians in Hawai`i will lose an award only for them and have to compete with those in California, Oregon, Washington and beyond.
When I think about the far-reaching implications and ramifications, it becomes easier to understand why many in the Islands are trying to hang on to what they have. Otherwise, Hawai`i becomes just an extension of the West Coast. The question for all of us is: do we want that? Or do we want to help Hawai`i keep its uniqueness?
At the heart of Hawai`i are Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture which influence all of us growing up there. Because the connection to the `āina is of utmost importance to Hawaiians, once we move away from the land, we sever a strong tie. It doesn’t matter if I surround myself up with Hawaiiana and listen to Hawaiian music all day. Once we leave, we are no longer living in Hawaiian culture because try as we might, we can’t duplicate it on the continent. If we want to help maintain that culture in the Islands, then we must not demand those resources for ourselves up here. And if we truly want to remain a part of Hawai`i and enjoy its benefits, then we must also grapple with the social, political and environmental issues that threaten those wondrous islands and join in the fight to hang on.
Maybe we can do some of it from here but the best way I think, is to return. This is ultimately, my plan. How about you?
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