NHC 2019: Seven Things To Know About Hawai’i

November 7, 2019

Seven Things to Know About Hawai’i from the Hawai’i Council for the Humanities

1. BEST PLACE TO LEARN HAWAIIAN: wehewehe.org

If you can’t read Hawaiian, wehewehe.org is an online Hawaiian/English dictionary, based on the work of Mary Kawena Pukui, who co-authored the definitive Hawaiian/English dictionary, which was originally published in 1957. wehewehe.org is a critical humanities text and has been instrumental in the revitalization of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language) and it demonstrates the fundamental poetry of the language. Incorporated into the word definitions are examples of usage. Some of which can be found in ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, which is a compilation of Hawaiian proverbs and pieces of wisdom collected by Mary Kawena Pukui. Many Hawaiian words have dozens of possible translations, so don’t always assume that the first word is the best word or the only word.

2. ‘AI KAPU

In 1819, the ʻai kapu, which prohibited men and women from eating together, was broken when “Queen Consort” Keōpūolani, “Regent” Kaʻahumanu and “King” Liholiho, Kamehameha II chose to eat together, resulting in the fragmenting of the larger kapu system that had ruled the islands for more than 1,000 years. This precipitated a period of enormous change in the islands.  *The words in quotes indicate there is no adequate English/Hawaiian translation. On Sunday, November 10th, from 6-8:30pm, NHC attendees are invited to Ka Hulina Au (The Changing Time), a performance event commemorating the 200 year anniversary of the ending of the ʻai kapu.

3. THE STATE MOTTO OF HAWAI’I

Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono is the state motto of Hawaiʻi. It has been interpreted as, The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. 2019 NHC Capps Lecturer, Kumu Jonathon Osorio, suggests a more accurate interpretation would be The rightness of life and the land continue because of Pono. No English translation is offered for the word pono, because there is no English equivalence. Pono simultaneously means, balance, excellence, equity, prosperity, and goodness, but this is still a limited definition. Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono is a phrase incapsulating Hawaiian ideas of justice and civic responsibility and it is attributed to first being said by King Kamehameha III in 1843 after the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom was restored following a brief takeover by Lord George Paulet of the United Kingdom. 

4. THE BAYONET CONSTITUTION

In 1887, a group, made up predominantly of American businessmen, forced King Kalākaua to sign what became known as the Bayonet Constitution, which stripped away much of the monarch’s power. It also stripped away voting rights for most Native Hawaiians and all Asians.

5. THE OVERTHROW OF THE KINGDOM OF HAWAI’I

In 1893, the Committee of Safety, a group comprised largely of descendants of American missionaries and American businessmen, overthrew the sovereign government of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Queen Liliʻuokalani was its last reigning monarch. For deeper look into this complicated time, go on the Mai Poina the living history walking tour at ʻIolani Palace on Sunday, November 10th.

6. PALAPALA HOOPII KUE HOOHUI AINA

In 1897, Hui Aloha ʻĀina for Men, Hui Aloha ʻĀina for Women, and Hui Kālaʻāina formed a coalition to oppose a treaty to annex the Republic of Hawaiʻi to the United States. They created a petition entitled PALAPALA HOOPII KUE HOOHUI AINA, Petition Protesting Annexation. This petition gathered over 21,000 Native Hawaiian signatures at a time when the Native Hawaiian population numbered less than 40,000.

7. THE MOST DIVERSE STATE IN THE US

Depending on your choice of barometer, Hawaiʻi is frequently labeled as the most diverse state in the US.  “Melting-pot” is a term often used to describe the racial and ethnic diversity of these islands. Yet the term erases the experiences of the people indigenous to Hawaiʻi and simplifies a complex history of immigration to the archipelago that accelerated in the mid-19th century when the American Civil War curtailed the production of sugar in the South and a free trade agreement was signed between the US and the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1875. These events encouraged American business men living in Hawaiʻi to expand their sugar plantations in the islands. This move from subsistence farming to mono crop agriculture created a need for cheap labor, which was sought from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and the Philippines. From the 1860s to the early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of laborers immigrated to Hawaiʻi, primarily from China, Japan, and the Philippines. The diversity of the contemporary population of Hawaiʻi is due in large measure to mass sugar production. This legacy has had a lasting impact, and many in Hawaiʻi recall a time when sugar culture created tight knit integrated communities.  Hawaii’s Plantation Village offers visitors a glimpse into that past. Another lasting impact is that Hawaiʻiʻs shift away from local agriculture produced for local consumption has resulted in 80% of Hawaii’s current food supply being imported. 

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