The State of Hawai`i
Some Troubling Issues
By Rochelle delaCruz
As Hawai`i begins planning for its 50th year as the 50th State in the Union, underground rumblings of discontent and unhappiness with how the islands have evolved are surfacing in various ways.
This is evident in the caution with which planners are treating the anniversary, scheduled for August, 2009. Hawai`i was formally admitted as an American state in 1959, but last summer when statehood supporters gathered to celebrate at ` Iolani Palace, they were shouted down by Hawaiian nationalists who were insulted by this celebration of statehood at the palace. It was there at `Iolani Palace that the last Hawaiian monarch Queen Lili`uokalani, was held under house arrest after she was illegally deposed in 1893 by a cabal of American businessmen, and statehood for some in Hawai`i is still a sensitive issue.
In an effort to avoid more conflict, Governor Linda Lingle and Hawai`i legislators want to start planning early but are already being cautioned about calling it “a celebration.” Bills in both the State House and Senate recently passed to appropriate $250,000 for an event to be planned by a commission that will attempt to include all the factions. But it will not be an easy task.
Protests have been getting louder surrounding some troubling issues that have been steadily growing. With the cost of an average house in the islands now hovering around $500,000, many islanders cannot afford to buy a home, while developers are building more high-priced houses and condominiums for the wealthy who continue to migrate to Hawai`i, some to live in their luxury homes for only a few months out of the year. On the other hand, homelessness is on the rise and Native Hawaiians have been on long- waiting lists to get land for homes promised them by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands since it was formed in 1920. Hawaiian homelands have opened up slightly in the past few years, only to suffer a setback when the bill to reauthorize funding for Native Hawaiian housing was recently rejected by the U.S. House of Representatives in “a special procedure for uncontroversial legislation.” (But the bill is not dead and likely to pass later.)
As a result of the widening gap, there have been protests and legal action taken against proposed developments on many of the islands. Activists on Molokai have been very vocal in their opposition to the development of Lā`au Point, the southwest tip on the dry side. On Hawai`i island, lawsuits against an exclusive development near historic Kealakekua Bay have slowed down the building of multi-million dollar homes on designated agricultural lands, and on the other side of the island, activists in Ka`ū have been organizing to stave off development efforts in that remote area not far from Ka Lae (South Point.) Residents on Kaua`i are also unhappy with the building of luxury homes on Keāliakealanani, another development on agricultural lands. After the rise and fall of pineapple, most of Lāna`i is now privately owned and has become a place of exclusive private resorts and luxury homes. And even on O`ahu where overdevelopment has been a long-standing reality, there have been protests at Turtle Bay Resort against a plan to build five more hotels along that north coast.
Many of the concerns center around the rural character of these areas and the loss of a way of life. Infrastructure has not kept up with the rapid construction of hotels, condos and subdivisions, and traffic and pollution are a problem. Last year’s breach of the Ka Loko dam on Kaua`i and the Ala Wai sewer break on O`ahu is evidence of too many people in too many buildings and not enough regulation of resources.
Another area of cultural erosion has been the onslaught against Native Hawaiian institutions. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was forced to allow non-Hawaiians to run for trustee when Freddie Rice from a kama`āina haole family, sued the state. The case ended up at the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. The 2000 Rice v Cayetano ruling was a landmark decision and emboldened those in Hawai`i opposed to Hawaiian-only policies.
Currently the Kamehameha Schools, a private institution set up by the will and trust of Princess Bernice Pauahi to educate Hawaiians, is being challenged by a non-Hawaiian who was refused admission. In December 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the 130-year institution in Kamehameha Schools v John Doe, but in March 2007, attorneys for John Doe asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling. Since student “John Doe” has moved on to college, this is about the determination of some non-Hawaiians to gain access to Pauahi’s legacy.
However, in a brief to the Supreme Court, the school contends that there are no constitutional grounds for the high court to review the lower court ruling upholding the Hawaiians-first admissions policy.
“Nowhere in the United States does there exist another school like Kamehameha Schools, which is entirely private and not-for-profit, and which carries out a remedial educational mission for the benefit of the children of an indigenous people with whom Congress has a special trust and political relationship,” says the brief.
The Court is expected to respond in a few weeks to both filings.
Another sign of frustration and unrest is the recent altercation between two families on O`ahu which has been drawing many comments in Hawai`i newspapers.
In Waikele near Waipahu, a parked car was accidentally hit by an SUV. A teenager in the parked car got out and began fighting with the woman from the other vehicle. The teen’s father joined in, as did the woman’s husband, resulting in the husband and wife ending up in the hospital. At issue was not so much the accident, but the shouting of “[expletive] haole” by the teenager. The SUV that ran into the car was driven by a haole military couple and the family sitting in the parked car was local. According to reports, the haole wife allegedly threw the first punch at the boy after hearing the epithet and then her husband and the boy’s father joined into the fracas. In island newspapers, the public has been debating whether or not this is an example of “racial prejudice” and anti-haole sentiments in the Islands.
The 16-year old local boy is being handled by Family Court but his father was indicted on second-degree assault charges. He has pleaded not guilty and his attorney says that the reference to “haole” is about behavior rather than race. The family, unhappy that this has turned into a racial incident, maintains that the public has not gotten the true story of what happened in the parking lot in Waikele, but insists that it was not about race.
In the one hundred and ten years since the American annexation of Hawai`i and the fifty years since statehood, there have been on-going efforts to fit island life into an American frame. But in many ways, it has not succeeded and life in the islands has not been as easy and carefree as perpetuated by myths and movies.
The next fifty years should be interesting.
Pwo ceremony conducted for 1st time in decades
From the Polynesian Voyaging Society
The voyaging canoes Hōkūle`a and Alingano Maisu left Pohnpei at the beginning of March for Chuuk then Satawal, home of Mau Piailug. Hōkūle'a was the lead canoe on this leg with Nainoa Thompson as Captain and Navigator, but also on board were other navigators including three other crewmembers from the original 1976 voyage: Billy Richards, John Kruse and Snake Ah Hee. A large crew of 22 sailed to see and honor their teacher master navigator Mau. After a week, they spotted Satawal on the horizon and the next day went ashore to a beautiful welcome from the people of this tiny island one mile long and half-a-mile wide with a population of about 500. The crew was greeted by the three chiefs of the island and Mau. After two days of preparation and visiting, the men who would go through pwo (pronounced poh) were sequestered in the traditional men's house. On Sunday, before noon, the pwo ceremony began, conducted by Mau.
Pwo is a graduation of sorts. You are chosen for pwo, you do not ask for pwo. It is given after you have proven you can sail and navigate. Mau is the last on the island of Satawal who knows how to conduct the sacred pwo ceremony, and it is said it was the first pwo on Satawal in decades and the first pwo for foreigners ever. The pwo was given to Shorty Bertelmann, Chadd Paishon, Chad Baybayan, Bruce Blankenfeld and Nainoa Thompson, all of Hawai'i and all students of Mau. It was also given to 11 men of Satawal, including Mau's son Sesario who sailed on the Maisu from Hawai'i and who will take responsibility for the Maisu in Micronesia. The elders say that those who go through pwo, which includes a series of chanting and rituals, must carry love, respect and light. They focus with all their mind and heart and allow that and only that to guide them to their destination. Following pwo, the chiefs were presented with gifts, Mau was presented with gifts from across Polynesia and finally he was gifted with the Alingano Maisu. The following day Mau and his family hosted the crewmembers for a dinner.
After the moving events on Satawal, the canoes left forYap where the Maisu will remain. The Hōkūle`a is continuing to Palau and then Okinawa on its way to Japan, where its estimated date of arrival is May 1st. You can follow the journey by visiting the website www.pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) is coordinating an Education Program for the
A Japanese real-estate multimillionaire is giving eight of his million-dollar homes in Hawai`i to low-income Native Hawaiian families.
Genshiro Kawamoto, one of the richest men in Japan, owns 22 homes in the exclusive Kalaha neighborhood in Honolulu where the average home is worth $5 million. He said that it was better to give houses to help Hawai`i’s homeless than to just hand out cash.
One of the receipients, Dorie-Ann Kahale and her five daughters, moved from a homeless shelter into one of Kawamoto’s mansions. They became homeless two years ago when the landlord raised the rent from $800 to $1,200 a month for their apartment. The Kahales can live in the Kawamoto white, columned house with circular driveway rent-free for up to ten years but must pay utility bills.
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