Learn, learn, learn. This simple task is one of the most critical requests by Native Hawaiians for visitors. Hawaii is more than a nice Instagram picture. It’s a land of complex history, sacred lands, and cultural meanings.
Contribute to local businesses, as opposed to larger companies that are foreign to Hawaiian islands.
To the average American, Hawaii elicits a fantasy. Palm trees swaying in the light wind. Hot white sands reflect a radiant sun and kiss a crystal clear ocean. Hula dancers wait at the doorsteps to a hotel overlooking the vast Pacific. But this fantasy is just that, and to many Native Hawaiians, their reality is quite the opposite. This continued exploitation of Hawaiian lands and culture to visitors, many of whom fail to appreciate its deep culture and culture, contributes to the systemic colonization of the Hawaiian islands.
“First and foremost, we don’t reject tourists,” begins Kayana Kamoku, a Native Hawaiian who currently resides on the Big Island. “But when our land is treated as a commodity or item of wealth, that’s an issue.” Last year, Kamoku joined hundreds of other protestors to march on Mauna Kea. The development of a 30-meter telescope continues to threaten more than Mauna Kea’s peak (Science Magazine). The telescope is slated to replace what happens to be one of the most sacred realms for the Hawaiian people: a revered place synonymous with a godly shrine (Oha).
Although this is a groundbreaking development currently affecting Native Hawaiians, it is certainly not the only one. Mark Zuckerberg continues to sue Native Hawaiians for pockets of land within, or nearby, his estate forcing a small family to have to bid for their land (The Guardian). On the island of Kauai, at a development site called Keonaloa, a well-known ancient Hawaiian burial ground was excavated to make way for luxury condominiums (MP Hawaii). On a more subtle level, as people from Asia and the mainland continue to immigrate to Hawaii, the cost of living continues to soar, pushing Native Hawaiians out of their very own island because it is no longer affordable (Cultural Survival). “Native Hawaiians who leave the islands for college dream of coming home. It’s a dream to live in the place our ancestors are from,” says Kamoku.
As Covid-19 continues to devastate the United States, Native Hawaiians face another issue: is tourism being put above their health and well-being? Since reopening in October, Hawaii has allowed tourists to bypass the 14-day quarantine if they proved a negative test that was taken prior (Washington Post). And although tourism plays a large part in Hawaii’s economy, Native Hawaiians are one of the ethnic groups hit hardest by COVID-19 (Star Advertiser).
The well-being of Native Hawaiians has been placed on the back burner. Locals receive citations for violating coronavirus regulations, while tourists are encouraged to flout them (NYTimes).
Together, these issues illustrate the umbrella effects of the systemic oppression of Native Hawaiians by American imperialism. Native Hawaiians continue to be pushed around and out of their own homes for the sake of catering to travelers (Cultural Survival). Investigate the motives behind Zuckerberg, the telescope, COVID travel, and the development of sacred burial grounds, and you get one common denominator: money from outside of Hawaii. This contributes to the growing wealth disparity between non-Native Hawaiians and Native Hawaiians, as Native Hawaiians have the highest poverty rate in Hawaii, nearing 13-percent (Maui Time).
Such outside business interests have long interfered in Hawaii. Since the late 1800s, Hawaii has suffered from imperialism. Hawaii’s sovereignty was stolen even though it was a sustainable nation recognized internationally. In 1893, 13 white businessmen staged a coup with the United States to get Hawaii annexed, disguised as a treaty. The coup led to the dissolving of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and in 1898, Hawaii was formally annexed by the United States. (Nisei).
A century later, we need to remember that the mountains and other natural elements that seem to illuminate the photos shared on social media are more than that. As Kayana Kamoku explains, “Our land is more than land. We hold it close to us. It is a cultural identity and community.” Hawaii’s sovereignty deserves to be recognized and respected.