IN 1778, 240 YEARS AGO, Capt. James Cook sailed into Hawaiian waters, an arrival that has left an indelible mark on our history, introducing devastating epidemic diseases to a thriving lāhui, eroding traditional government structures and dramatically altering Hawai‘i’s economy.
These changes paved the way for Ka Māhele in 1848, a drastic shift from the traditional land use system to a Western model allowing private ownership. Redistributing the ‘āina led to native land dispossession while foreigners amassed large tracts of land and established vast sugar plantations that grew to dominate the economy. Sugar growers gained political clout, as did successful American entrepreneurs. In 1893, backed by the U.S. military, they overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton commemorated the centennial of the overthrow with the Apology Resolution to Native Hawaiians, formally acknowledging the U.S. government’s role in the coup against Hawai‘i’s last remaining monarch, Queen Lili‘uokalani.
But 2018 represents more than a reminder to refl ect on what’s been lost. This December, the fi rst Hawaiian civic club turns 100. The Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu was established by Prince Johah Kūhiō in 1918 to elevate the status and well-being of his people and preserve Hawai‘i’s culture. Today there are 58 Hawaiian civic clubs throughout the pae ‘āina and on the continent, community-based grassroots organizations committed to uplifting the Hawaiian people.
The 1978 Constitutional Convention four decades ago put into place protections for traditional and customary practices, promoted cultural preservation and created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to address historical injustices and the resulting challenges. The “Con Con” also made ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i an offi cial state language, and Hawaiian language and culture-based education have since gained a foothold in the public school system. Now in its 30th school year, the Hawaiian language immersion program is helping revitalize the language with kaiapuni programs offering instruction in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i to 2,800 keiki a year.
“This year is really about doing right by our people and galvanizing our collective mana,” said OHA Ka Pouhana/ CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe. “This is about unifying the different spectrums of our community, regardless of political ideology, education and cultural background.”
Lā hoʻomanaʻo, the Hawaiian word for “anniversary,” translates into a time to remember, recall, commemorate, reflect deeply on, meditate. This year, 2018 marks several signifi cant lā ho‘omana‘o to refl ect upon. As we acknowledge these historic times, let us ask ourselves, are we better off as a people because of what occurred decades or centuries ago? Would we want to erase any of these events or have these events, good or bad, distinctly shaped our national identity?
The mapping of the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 by Capt. James Cook, when he voyaged through the islands 240 years ago, led to a world system of trade between Europe, the Americas and China. Abraham Fornander, in An Account of the Polynesian Race, Volume 2, p. 186, summed up Cook’s visit as follows:
And how did Captain Cook requite this boundless hospitality, that never once made default during his long stay of seventeen days in Kealakekua Bay… By imposing on their good nature to the utmost limit of its ability to respond to the greedy and constant calls of their new friends … by giving the king a linen shirt and a cutlass in return for feather cloaks and helmets, which, irrespective of their value as insignia of the highest nobility in the land, were worth singly at least from five to ten thousand dollars, at present price … by a reckless disregard of the proprieties of ordinary intercourse.
The process of establishing a private system of land ownership was called Ka Māhele. In 1848, 170 years ago, the king and the chiefs reached an agreement about which lands each would remove their interest from so that the other may own the title. The king received 2.5 million acres and turned over 1.5 million to the chiefs and the people and the Legislature declared these to be the government lands. They retained 984,000 acres and the chiefs combined received 1.6 million acres. All of these lands were “subject or reserved only to the rights of the tenants.” As the tenants received only 28,600 acres, their rights in the crown and government lands are still reserved. The king and the chiefs also reserved the right of the people to access public and private lands to exercise traditional and customary rights.
Jan. 17, 2018 will mark the 125th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by the U.S. government, and November 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of Public Law 103-150, the official Apology of the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States to the “Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination.” (107 Stat.1513)
Throughout the territorial period, distinctly Native Hawaiian organizations continued or were established to exercise the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people and to advocate for our well-being and the perpetuation of our culture. These included the four royal societies – the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Ka‘ahumanu Society, the Hale O Nä Ali‘i O Hawai‘i and Māmakakaua – the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors. Prince Kühiö established the Ahahui Pu‘uhonua o nā Hawai‘i in 1914 and 100 years ago, in 1918, he founded the Hawaiian Civic Clubs which continue to be active on every main island and on the U.S. continent.
State of Hawai‘i constitutional conventions (Con Con) were held in 1950, 1969 and 40 years ago in 1978. In 2018 Hawai‘i’s voters will again be asked if they want to hold a constitutional convention. A lot is at stake for Native Hawaiians if a constitutional convention is held because the 1978 Con Con incorporated several key articles into the constitution that recognize and protect Native Hawaiian rights. First, Native Hawaiians are acknowledged to be a beneficiary of the ceded public lands trust together with the general public. Second, the Hawaiian language is an offi cial language of the state together with English. Third, the state reaffi rms and protects all rights traditionally and customarily exercised by Native Hawaiians for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes. Fourth, the state promotes the study of Hawaiian culture, history and language. Fifth, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was established.
The final event is the awesome, magnifi cent and inspiring eruption of Kïlauea Volcano at Pu‘u ‘O‘o- Kupaianaha, 35 years ago on January 3, 1983, making it the longest-lived reft-zone eruption of the last two centuries. Pele continues to erupt, invigorate and remind us of our heritage as the indigenous people of these islands who, like her, endure and create our destiny. Lonoikamakahiki! Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou!!