The Role of Place in Native Hawaiian Identity (Kana\u02bbiaupuni, Shawn Malia).pdf - This Land Is My Land The Role of Place in Native Hawaiian Identity

The Role of Place in Native Hawaiian Identity (Kanaʻiaupuni, Shawn Malia).pdf

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Unformatted text preview: This Land Is My Land: The Role of Place in Native Hawaiian Identity Shawn Malia Kanaÿiaupuni and Nolan Malone Native Hawaiians are genealogically connected to ka pae ‘äina Hawai‘i as both the ancestral homeland and the elder sibling of Hawaiian aboriginals in traditional belief systems. This relationship is integral to Native Hawaiian identity and is distinctive from that of other groups who live and work in the Hawaiian Islands. This article examines the significance of place to Native Hawaiian identity and cultural survival. It discusses the physical, spiritual, genealogical, and sociopolitical/ historical ties to land and sea that nourish Hawaiian well-being and are evident in Hawaiian epistemologies. Despite the strain on these ties and challenges to identity from population decimation and displacement, multicultural mixing, and migration, place is still the key connection linking Native Hawaiians to each other and to an indigenous heritage. As current consumptive patterns continue to destroy the ecological and natural balance of Hawai‘i, critical questions emerge about Hawai‘i’s future and the rightful place of Native Hawaiians in our homeland. correspondence may be sent to: Shawn Malia Kanaÿiaupuni, Research and Evaluation, Kamehameha Schools 567 South King Street Suite 400, Honolulu, Hawaiÿi 96813 Email: [email protected] Hülili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being Vol.3 No.1 (2006) Copyright © 2006 by Kamehameha Schools. 281 Hülili Vol.3 No.1 ( 2006 ) S ome critiques of contemporary geographic growth patterns point out the rise of placelessness across U.S. landscapes. Relph (1976), in a provocative analysis of this phenomenon, argues that place has been a critical foundation of human cognition and identity throughout history. He shows how contemporary urban and suburban (and most recently, exurban) growth patterns have diminished the unique, historical, and cultural meanings of place to human society today. This point may bring no argument from most Americans who may not feel any overwhelming ties to a particular place, who are quite mobile in today’s global society, and who, in fact, may be quite accustomed to the increasing standardization of places, such as strip malls, retail, food, and service chains. Add to this the relative homogeneity of most suburban architectures and the constantly shifting topography of metropolitan landscapes. The objective of this article is to expand our understanding of the significance of place to race and ethnic diversity and to demonstrate how place continues to be an unequivocal focal point in the identity processes of some social groups and individuals today. Specifically, we examine these processes in the context of the pae ÿäina (archipelago) of Hawaiÿi and Native Hawaiian identity.1 Our study builds on prior studies indicating that place—the consciousness of land, sea, and all that place entails—is fundamental to indigenous identity processes (Allen, 1999; Battiste, 2000; Kamakau, 1992; Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992; Kanaÿiaupuni & Liebler, 2005; Memmott & Long, 2002; Meyer, 2003; Mihesuah, 2003). Although this analysis of the relationship between place and identity centers on Hawaiians, it offers important insights that may extend to other indigenous groups or cultures whose members are highly intermarried and mobile, whose language is endangered, and whose culture is known more widely in its commercial tourist, rather than authentic, form. Under these conditions, place is critical to the cultural survival and identity of a people, as we illustrate in the case of Native Hawaiians. Place is intertwined with identity and self-determination of today’s Native Hawaiians in complex and intimate ways. At once the binding glue that holds Native Hawaiians together and links them to a shared past, place is also a primary agent that has been used against them to fragment and alienate. Yet, place, in all of its multiple levels of meaning, is one light that many Hawaiians share in their spiritual way-finding to a Hawaiian identity, one that is greatly significant to their existence as a people and culture, both past and present. And so begins our exploration into the various meanings of place to Hawaiian identity today. 282 kana‘iaupuni | place and native hawaiian identity In addition to indigenous theories of place, this study is informed by other perspectives on the role of place in racial identity and ethnicity. For example, certain geographers view place as the context within which racial partnering, residential choices, and family identification processes are differentially distributed across spatial categories (e.g., neighborhoods, cities, metropolises; Peach, 1980; Wong, 1999). By “spatializing” household patterns of family formation, mobility, and other behavioral characteristics, we can understand where (and why) they survive and flourish. Research shows that Hawaiÿi, for instance, is one of those places in the United States that is spatially significant for its flourishing intermarriage rates (Lee & Fernandez, 1998; Root, 2001). Perspectives in anthropology add to our understanding of the concept of identity as it relates to place. Saltman (2002) defines the relationship between land and identity as the dynamic area within which social realities are acted out in individual cognition and perception. For example, identity may be the shared understandings between persons of the same culture that enable them to rally together for a political cause. In relation to place, Saltman (2002) argues, “identity achieves its strongest expression within the political context of conflicting rights over land and territory” (p. 6); evidence of the latter is certainly found in the story we tell here. Our study draws on indigenous perspectives of place and identity that interweave the spiritual and the physical with sociocultural traditions and practices. As Memmott and Long (2002) explain, whereas Western explanations view places purely in terms of their geomorphology (with little human influence), indigenous models view people and the environment as overlapping and interacting. For example, unlike the way “Western thought classifies people and their technology apart from nature,” indigenous knowledge and beliefs may include ancestral heroes with special powers who helped to shape land and marine systems (Memmott & Long, 2002, p. 43). Likewise, both weather and agricultural or other natural events may be influenced through human rituals, song, dance, or other actions performed in specific places. And, between places and people occurs a sharing of being: Places carry the energies of people, history, and cultural significance; in turn, people carry the energy of places as some part of their being (Memmott & Long, 2002). The concept of place in Hawaiian perspective reflects understandings found throughout Pacific voyaging societies and shares certain similarities with other Native American and aboriginal cultures (Lindstrom, 1999; Martin, 2001; Memmott & Long, 2002; Schnell, 2000). “Place, in this case the home of the Känaka Maoli 283 Hülili Vol.3 No.1 ( 2006 ) S ome critiques of contemporary geographic growth patterns point out the rise of placelessness across U.S. landscapes. Relph (1976), in a provocative analysis of this phenomenon, argues that place has been a critical foundation of human cognition and identity throughout history. He shows how contemporary urban and suburban (and most recently, exurban) growth patterns have diminished the unique, historical, and cultural meanings of place to human society today. This point may bring no argument from most Americans who may not feel any overwhelming ties to a particular place, who are quite mobile in today’s global society, and who, in fact, may be quite accustomed to the increasing standardization of places, such as strip malls, retail, food, and service chains. Add to this the relative homogeneity of most suburban architectures and the constantly shifting topography of metropolitan landscapes. The objective of this article is to expand our understanding of the significance of place to race and ethnic diversity and to demonstrate how place continues to be an unequivocal focal point in the identity processes of some social groups and individuals today. Specifically, we examine these processes in the context of the pae ÿäina (archipelago) of Hawaiÿi and Native Hawaiian identity.1 Our study builds on prior studies indicating that place—the consciousness of land, sea, and all that place entails—is fundamental to indigenous identity processes (Allen, 1999; Battiste, 2000; Kamakau, 1992; Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992; Kanaÿiaupuni & Liebler, 2005; Memmott & Long, 2002; Meyer, 2003; Mihesuah, 2003). Although this analysis of the relationship between place and identity centers on Hawaiians, it offers important insights that may extend to other indigenous groups or cultures whose members are highly intermarried and mobile, whose language is endangered, and whose culture is known more widely in its commercial tourist, rather than authentic, form. Under these conditions, place is critical to the cultural survival and identity of a people, as we illustrate in the case of Native Hawaiians. Place is intertwined with identity and self-determination of today’s Native Hawaiians in complex and intimate ways. At once the binding glue that holds Native Hawaiians together and links them to a shared past, place is also a primary agent that has been used against them to fragment and alienate. Yet, place, in all of its multiple levels of meaning, is one light that many Hawaiians share in their spiritual way-finding to a Hawaiian identity, one that is greatly significant to their existence as a people and culture, both past and present. And so begins our exploration into the various meanings of place to Hawaiian identity today. 282 kana‘iaupuni | place and native hawaiian identity In addition to indigenous theories of place, this study is informed by other perspectives on the role of place in racial identity and ethnicity. For example, certain geographers view place as the context within which racial partnering, residential choices, and family identification processes are differentially distributed across spatial categories (e.g., neighborhoods, cities, metropolises; Peach, 1980; Wong, 1999). By “spatializing” household patterns of family formation, mobility, and other behavioral characteristics, we can understand where (and why) they survive and flourish. Research shows that Hawaiÿi, for instance, is one of those places in the United States that is spatially significant for its flourishing intermarriage rates (Lee & Fernandez, 1998; Root, 2001). Perspectives in anthropology add to our understanding of the concept of identity as it relates to place. Saltman (2002) defines the relationship between land and identity as the dynamic area within which social realities are acted out in individual cognition and perception. For example, identity may be the shared understandings between persons of the same culture that enable them to rally together for a political cause. In relation to place, Saltman (2002) argues, “identity achieves its strongest expression within the political context of conflicting rights over land and territory” (p. 6); evidence of the latter is certainly found in the story we tell here. Our study draws on indigenous perspectives of place and identity that interweave the spiritual and the physical with sociocultural traditions and practices. As Memmott and Long (2002) explain, whereas Western explanations view places purely in terms of their geomorphology (with little human influence), indigenous models view people and the environment as overlapping and interacting. For example, unlike the way “Western thought classifies people and their technology apart from nature,” indigenous knowledge and beliefs may include ancestral heroes with special powers who helped to shape land and marine systems (Memmott & Long, 2002, p. 43). Likewise, both weather and agricultural or other natural events may be influenced through human rituals, song, dance, or other actions performed in specific places. And, between places and people occurs a sharing of being: Places carry the energies of people, history, and cultural significance; in turn, people carry the energy of places as some part of their being (Memmott & Long, 2002). The concept of place in Hawaiian perspective reflects understandings found throughout Pacific voyaging societies and shares certain similarities with other Native American and aboriginal cultures (Lindstrom, 1999; Martin, 2001; Memmott & Long, 2002; Schnell, 2000). “Place, in this case the home of the Känaka Maoli 283 Hülili Vol.3 No.1 ( 2006 ) or indigenous people of Hawaiÿi, transcends physical realities of land. It is the honua (whenua, henua, fonua, fanua, fenua—the words meaning “earth” in Mäori, Marshallese, Tongan, Samoan, and Tahitian languages, respectively); it signifies relationships, spanning spiritual and kinship bonds between people, nature, and the supernatural world (Kanahele, 1986)” (Kanaÿiaupuni & Liebler, 2005, p. 689). The understanding conveyed by indigenous writings spanning the Pacific is that place breathes life, people, culture, and spirit (Oliveira, 2005; Stillman, 2002; Tusitala Marsh, 1999). Place is, we argue, a key force in the interplay of internal and external influences on contemporary Hawaiian identity processes. In the discussion that follows, we demonstrate how the strength of ties to the land influences Native Hawaiian identity processes through physical, spiritual, genealogical, and historical forces. We examine some of the challenges to identity stemming from displacement, separation from the land, and migration away from Hawaiÿi. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of place to identity processes for Hawaiian children and describe ongoing efforts in education that draw on the relationships to places as a tool for cultural survival. Setting the Historical Context of Place Native Hawaiians were the first discoverers of the 1,500-mile long Hawaiian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. They migrated to Hawaiÿi by sea using advanced navigation skills, where they survived and flourished for thousands of years prior to Western contact (Bushnell, 1993). Native Hawaiians evolved a complex system of resource management, developing sophisticated knowledge bases and skills to survive on these remote islands with limited resources. kana‘iaupuni | place and native hawaiian identity (Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992, p. 2). In these beginnings, the Hawaiian archipelago is intimately connected to Känaka Maoli through genealogy, culture, history, and spirituality. The natural elements (land, wind, rain) and creatures of the islands are considered primordial ancestors; they are the older relatives of living Känaka Maoli. Both share an interdependent, familial relationship that requires mälama (care) and kiaÿi (guardianship) for the older siblings who, in turn, provide for the well-being of the younger siblings (Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992; Kanahele, 1986). Historically, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four chiefdoms until the late 18th century, when King Kamehameha I consolidated them through conquest.2 United under single rule, the archipelago then modernized rapidly through economic commerce in sugar, pineapple, shipping, and related industries. By the late 19th century, Hawaiÿi was a fully recognized nation-state with multiple international treaties, including with the United States (Daws, 1968; Perkins, 2005). During the same century, however, two things were occurring that devastated Native Hawaiian ties to the land. First, Native Hawaiians were progressively becoming a minority in their own homeland (see Figure 1). Estimates suggest that the native population, deeply afflicted by Western disease and to a much lesser extent, warfare, dropped by at least 90% in the 100 years following Captain Cook’s arrival. Figure 1 shows a conservative starting estimate. Other estimates range as high as 800,000 to 1 million pre-Western contact (Stannard, 1989). Regardless, by the end of the century only about 40,000 aboriginal Hawaiians remained alive. Meanwhile the immigrant population gained steadily in number, including Whites who outnumbered Hawaiians by the early 1900s (Nordyke, 1989). Today, Native Hawaiians comprise about one-fifth of the state population. Cosmogonic and religious beliefs of Native Hawaiians tie the Hawaiian Islands to Känaka Maoli beginning with creation, or pö (darkness, obscurity). The islands were born from Papahänaumoku, earth mother, and Wäkea, sky father, who also gave birth to kalo, the taro plant and main staple crop of traditional Hawaiians, and, ultimately, to people. As such, “the genealogy of the Land, the Gods, Chiefs, and people intertwine with one another, and with all the myriad aspects of the universe” 284 285 Hülili Vol.3 No.1 ( 2006 ) or indigenous people of Hawaiÿi, transcends physical realities of land. It is the honua (whenua, henua, fonua, fanua, fenua—the words meaning “earth” in Mäori, Marshallese, Tongan, Samoan, and Tahitian languages, respectively); it signifies relationships, spanning spiritual and kinship bonds between people, nature, and the supernatural world (Kanahele, 1986)” (Kanaÿiaupuni & Liebler, 2005, p. 689). The understanding conveyed by indigenous writings spanning the Pacific is that place breathes life, people, culture, and spirit (Oliveira, 2005; Stillman, 2002; Tusitala Marsh, 1999). Place is, we argue, a key force in the interplay of internal and external influences on contemporary Hawaiian identity processes. In the discussion that follows, we demonstrate how the strength of ties to the land influences Native Hawaiian identity processes through physical, spiritual, genealogical, and historical forces. We examine some of the challenges to identity stemming from displacement, separation from the land, and migration away from Hawaiÿi. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of place to identity processes for Hawaiian children and describe ongoing efforts in education that draw on the relationships to places as a tool for cultural survival. Setting the Historical Context of Place Native Hawaiians were the first discoverers of the 1,500-mile long Hawaiian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. They migrated to Hawaiÿi by sea using advanced navigation skills, where they survived and flourished for thousands of years prior to Western contact (Bushnell, 1993). Native Hawaiians evolved a complex system of resource management, developing sophisticated knowledge bases and skills to survive on these remote islands with limited resources. kana‘iaupuni | place and native hawaiian identity (Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992, p. 2). In these beginnings, the Hawaiian archipelago is intimately connected to Känaka Maoli through genealogy, culture, history, and spirituality. The natural elements (land, wind, rain) and creatures of the islands are considered primordial ancestors; they are the older relatives of living Känaka Maoli. Both share an interdependent, familial relationship that requires mälama (care) and kiaÿi (guardianship) for the older siblings who, in turn, provide for the well-being of the younger siblings (Kameÿeleihiwa, 1992; Kanahele, 1986). Historically, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four chiefdoms until the late 18th century, when King Kamehameha I consolidated them through conquest.2 United under single rule, the archipelago then modernized rapidly through economic commerce in sugar, pineapple, shipping, and related industries. By the late 19th century, Hawaiÿi was a fully recognized nation-state with multiple international treaties, including with the United States (Daws, 1968; Perkins, 2005). During the same century, however, two things were occurring that devastated Native Hawaiian ties to the land. First, Native Hawaiians were progressively becoming a minority in their ow...
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