Nation or State: In Search of Hawaiian Identity

Day Three: Pearl Harbor- “Tora Tora Tora” by Jessica Cervini

Posted for Jessica:    Today we took public transportation to Pearl Harbor. We took the bus for only $2.50 from our hotel to the memorial, which took about an hour. The memorial offers many different ways to learn about Pearl Harbor from the USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour to the on site museums.

The USS Arizona Memorial is built on top of the remains of the sunken battleship, USS Arizona, which is the resting place for the 1,177 crewman who lost their life on December 7, 1941 when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces. I know for myself that I did not speak when I was there, rather I looked around at the shoreline and just thought about how lucky I am to live in a country where I have freedom due to the men and women who gave up their lives. I also thought about how 9/11 is similar in the sense that they were both catalysts to major wars and were both unexpected. When in the museum, there was a section about how when a noise was made on December 7th night, everybody in their households would run downstairs and hide in hidden shelters. I related the video I watched to how scared I felt after 9/11 happened to another possible attack because of how close I live to the city and both of my parents working there.

The museum had lots of helpful information about the attack but also about WW2. It talked about how radar played a huge part in the war. It was a new technology that transmitted radio waves that would bounce off an object and allow the Army to capture the object’s range, location and size. A fact that I found really interesting is how they put barb wire around Waikiki beach. That definitely took away from the beauty of the beach.

For Pearl Harbor we had a reading called “Memorializing Pu’uloa and Remembering Pearl Harbor. The reading connected to the visit about how the loyalty of the AJA (American Japanese) was questioned. The United States Army made the AJA wear black badges. In one of the videos in the museum a AJA man talked about how this made him sad and disappointed. He said “it felt like the very bottom dropped out of our lives.” This was another way that the Hawaiians had their identity questioned.

After Pearl Harbor, my group and I went parasailing while another group went to North Shore!

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Day 2: Iolani Palace

Kristi Borgman


Today we explored Iolani Palace after Chinatown, and the way we did it was by audio tour which turned out to be very informative. It was kind of a surprise when we were told to put slippers around the bottoms of our shoes, carry our book bags on our front side and to our pictures without flash – I mean, it’s just like a museum right? Once we got started it turned into a lot more. The palace is practically perfectly preserved in its majestic form. The people that keep it going take special care in making sure that it is preserved to their best ability so as to respect all the history it holds.

In one second floor corner room, the room that the speaker for the tour stated as the “room with the biggest impact,” Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned soon after trying to regain power over the struggling nation. A queen who had had visits with countless other royals and held a very expected position in the Hawaiian community was imprisoned in her own home. The Queen once stated “No darker cloud can hang over a people than the prospect of being blotted out from the list of nations. No grief can equal that of a sovereign forcibly deprived of her throne.” To me this is a very powerful statement because at this point: WE are the the ones that are forcibly depriving another nation. Who is one nation to decide the independence of another? The Queen and her court had not been silent through the initial ordeal though, they took to writing formal protests and even constructed their own constitution that would protect them. One formal protest reached President Cleveland and with this communication opportunity the Queen brought to the table the initial principals of International Law, which was there to protect declared nations such as Hawaii, who was accepted as a nation in 1843. This agreement was violated by the impending annexating along with the missionaries actions. Cleveland empathized.
John Osorio (who we also had the wonderful chance to meet later on in the trip) writes: “The trial was not simply about establishing the Queen’s guilt. It was also a demonstration of the power and the right of the new government to arrest and convict the previous head of state.” It is hard to believe that – after so many world wars and matters where the United States is an antagonist, that they could be such a protagonist especially when it comes to a nation’s own freedom: something we value very highly here in the states. Something else about this whole ordeal that astonishes me is the fact that when the Queen had reached out to the United States President Cleveland and he empathized with her on the matter of protecting the Hawaiian Kingdom, he was unable to enforce this said protection against his own missionaries on the island who blatantly disobeyed his orders to let the Kingdom be. And this in turn led to the downfall which now remains sparks throughout the islands shining with hope that one day the unwillingingly annexed Hawaiian Kingdom will one day be granted its national independence.

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A few photos from the Chinatown walking tour

Courtney’s blog post is an informative account of our visit to the Hawaiian Heritage Center and walking tour this morning.  Here are a few more photos from the visit.



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Day 2 China Town: Eating/Walking Tour

We began our day at the Hawaii Heritage Center where our tour guide Karen explained the history of China Town and the purpose for their Heritage Center; which is to educate the public on ethnic immigrant history through exhibits and tours. Some ethnicities/cultures in particular that Karen chose to focus on were the Greeks, Puerto Ricans, Chinese and Japanese people that immigrated to Hawaii. We also learned that the Heritage Center specializes in humanities based projects and that they rely mainly on the help of local University professors to put the exhibits together. China Town is known for it’s fresh food and inexpensive prices, which makes it a very popular area to visit. Along the walking tour my group sampled many authentic foods such as fried bananas, pearl smoothies and peanut candy. Karen made a point of telling us that since 1904, the Oahu Market has been responsible for zero cases of food poisoning, which made me feel much better about sampling the different foods. One of MVP’s favorite facts from the tour was that it’s a common superstition for Asians to cook a whole chicken (with the head still intact) for a pregnant mother in order to be sure the baby comes out healthy (and in one piece) when it is born.


This particular China Town in Honolulu is recognized by some people as the most multicultural China Town in America! This diversity is mainly due to the immigration of sugar plantation workers nearly a century ago. The three main reasons people choose to move to China Town were to find people who speak their language, to get cheap rent for housing their family, and thirdly it is a great location to start a business. It was very clear just from walking down the streets, just how diverse the area really was. Along the tour we ran into two men (one from Morocco and the other from Lebanon) who had just recently opened up a restaurant together. The men seemed very excited to be living in China Town and eager to real in customers to their new restaurant. For me, meeting these two men really reinforced the idea that China Town is able to provide immigrants with an opportunity to chase their dreams.


The street signs in China Town were vibrant shades of red, gold, and green, which represent money, and the chasing away of evil spirits in the Chinese culture. There were also buildings and small stores, which displayed images of the animals for each “new year”. The upcoming year will be of the horse and will begin January 31st. China Town really proved to be a diverse community where culture was displayed around every corner. The people living in China Town (including our tour guide Karen) seemed to be very proud of where they came from and happy to be surrounded by their own culture when they are thousands of miles away from their homelands.


China Town!

China Town!

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David’s first day blog

David Baquet

A couple of things happened today that really reinforced the differences in the culture that native Hawaiians are asked to assimilate into, mainly US culture, and the disparities that have resulted from acculturation that Crabbe talked about in the essay.

One of the first things that hit me this morning was the introduction that we had at the Bishop Museum. This doesn’t really have a lot to do with integrating a different culture, but struck me as a vital part of the culture of Kanaka Maoli. When the tour guide and the other lady introduced us at the beginning of the tour they sang or spoke a ritualistic Hawaiian welcome. I didn’t know how to receive the welcome. At first I felt awkward and giggly because of the eye contact that both of them gave the class. But, after a while I realized that this was part of the important tie to the language that we studied this fall. After today I have a new appreciation for the intimacy that the Hawaiians express through their language and why language is so important in retaining Hawaiian identity.

The second event that gave an experience to help with the Crabbe essay was on the beach. We talked to a visitor from the United States who comes every year for three months. He works with stocks, has three boats in Indiana, four jet skis, and a brand new corvette. Crabbe’s essay talked about the difficulty that Hawaiians have with the dominant values of US culture. I thought this event was an especially good way of explaining it. This guy placed a lot of value in the materials he possessed while the native Hawaiians and the museum show a deeper appreciation for the simple things in life like the land. Everything had a meaning and very little in the museum if at all showed that the native Hawaiian culture had a greater appreciation for the finer things in life.

The acculturation of western ideals into Hawaiian culture clearly shows the stresses of Hawaiian have with ecological, economic and societal disintegration. Rain could be a beautiful and meaningful thing to Hawaiians or an awful day for a vacation to mainlanders. A hamburger at the burger palace could be a fifteen-dollar inconvenience to tourists while there are hungry homeless right outside on the strip. And finally, all the large commercial mainland restaurants are more apparent then the native Hawaiian restaurants that a culture can identify with.

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Sunrise walk to start Day 1

We had a great walk up Diamond Head to see the sunrise this morning.  Not a bad way to start our first day in Hawaii.  We’ll be posting more information about our visit to Bishop Museum soon.

Early start to the day!

Early start to the day!

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Kate contemplates the view

Sunrise at Diamond Head

Sunrise at Diamond Head


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Safe arrival in Honolulu

After a very early start for most of us and a long, long day, we all made it – all but a couple of bags, that is.  We were treated to a gorgeous view of Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head just before we landed.  I also was lucky enough to spot a group of whales from my window.  We had a sad moment tonight when Jeff and I discovered that our favorite little off-the-beaten-path Mexican restaurant didn’t make it.  Oh Cha Cha Cha’s – we miss you so.  Many of the small, local restaurants are out of business and the strip is replete with high-end commercial chain restaurants and stores.  This relates to several of our course themes that the students will be elaborating in their blog posts.

Check back soon for David’s blog on tomorrow’s activities.  And now, after 24 hours, this blogger is going to sleep!

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Welcome to the Hawaii WT 2014 course blog

pugh and mvp

Time for a new photo of the professors!

Welcome to our blog for the Winter Term course “Nation or State:  In Search of Hawaiian Identity.”  Professors Jeff Pugh and Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler started this course 17 years ago, just after Maureen began her career at Elon.  We drew on Maureen’s experiences from when she taught at UH Hilo in those early years.  The course has evolved and developed considerably thanks to Professor’s Pugh’s longstanding commitment to teaching Elon students about the “real” Hawaii.  You can find our course description below.  Students will take turns writing reflections on our experiences and posting a few photos from the course activities.  We hope you will find this blog to be informative and enjoyable.

Hawaii is a state that differs dramatically from the other 49 in its blend of cultures, with influence from Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and more.  This results in a unique mixture of traditions and beliefs with occasional tensions among the various communities living in the islands. The design of this course is to explore the heritage of the indigenous peoples of the Hawaiian Islands, and to consider the issues of identity formation and political reality in the islands today.  We will examine such issues as the conflict between the opposing forces of development of the islands and preservation of the environment; the impact of indigenous Hawaiian movements to secede from the United States on the political climate; and the historical roots of religious and cultural beliefs and the impact of Christian missionaries on those beliefs. Our major focus will be on how identity is formed and how this plays itself out in the reality of contemporary Hawaii.  The course will offer students a new perspective on a land that they usually understand only through tourist propaganda.



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