One People, One Lāhui: The Mantle of Nationhood


Photo: Colin Kippen

Aloha mai kākou,

Our lāhui is a nation; the Kānaka Maoli who descend from the original inhabitants of Hawaiʻi. We who descend from voyagers.

Armed overthrow, wanton theft, raging disease, and forced assimilation over 245 years could not do away with our nation. Now, the market and the ledger conspire to do what boldfaced colonialism could not.

On islands that supported a population of one million Native Hawaiians pre-contact, the average ʻŌiwi cannot own their own home. In one of the most fertile environments on Earth, a cart full of fresh food is enough to break a Hawaiian ʻohana’s survival budget. If this is Hawaiʻi capitalism in 2023, it is the devil’s arithmetic. Hundreds of thousands of Native Hawaiians have been carried away. Half are living on the continent.

But make no mistake: although our people are being displaced, our nation is growing again. Quickly.

There are now almost 700,000 Native Hawaiians, up from 400,000 at the turn of the millennium. Our demographic revival is stunning. Can we match it with social, cultural, and political revival too?

Hawaiʻi needs all the warriors she can muster to bring about this change.

A Native Hawaiian on the continent can lobby their congresspeople. As constituents, they, not us, are the ideal messengers for our lāhui. A Native Hawaiian on the continent can donate to social justice at home. Costs on the continent are lower; they just may have more to give. We should have high expectations of our kin living abroad, and they should have high expectations of us.

History is strewn with groups forced to live in diaspora. The Jewish and Armenian peoples are two who were evicted from homelands, the Near East to Eastern Europe, over millennia. Some eventually made their way to the continental U.S., yet a connection to a shared culture and history continued. The desire of Armenian Americans and Jewish Americans to support historic homelands has manifested itself in advocacy and aid – for Armenia and for Israel – that continues to this day.

And let us not forget the Koreans and Chinese who came to Hawaiʻi. From these shores, they organized to free their motherlands.

Hawaiʻi, our ancestral homeland, will always be first in Hawaiian hearts. We who have the privilege of remaining at the piko of Hawaiian civilization should exemplify inclusive leadership.

Let us recognize Hawaiians on the continent as an integral part of the nation. Let us provide opportunities for those in exile to support our advocacy for the lāhui and for Hawaiʻi. Let us consider ways to keep our kin connected to their culture, and to furnish their children with an authentic, living understanding of their Hawaiian identity.

Hold the diaspora close. If we limit ourselves to a parochial vision of “Hawaiianness” circumscribed by purity tests, we risk losing our brethren to the slow death of assimilation.

Instead, take up the mantle of nationhood. We are, and must remain, one people.

Colin Kippen
Ka Pouhana Kūikawā | Interim Chief Executive Officer