Nation or State: In Search of Hawaiian Identity

Final thoughts

Wow can’t believe our trip was over I guess time does fly when you are having fun. Minus getting sick there and coming back and actually getting strep and the flu that trip was 100% worth it. I have learned more than I could of ever imagined and truly greatful to be given this opportunity. Looking back on my expectations for this trip I thought it was going to be not as touristy and boy was I wrong about Honolulu. It was good for us to see that first and get the tourist side and very commercial area. It was really sad to see so many homless people and how many of them seemed to be hawaiian. Then the other Islands we travled to Kauai was one of my favorites even though we were there for such a short time I loved meeting pua and being at the waipa foundation. Not only being able to work in the fields and eat there but loved when she asked us the question what were we passionate about. Not only did we learn more about how hawaii is a nation but this trip also opened my eyes on a whole new view of myself and the world. I feel exteremly honored to be given this experiemce and be able to fall in love with their culture and language. Know that we know their stories its up to us to keep it going and educate others and help them become the nation they deserve to be.

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Final Thoughts

As I have now had a significant time to ponder the impact this trip and experience has had on me there are certain aspects which stand out very differently than what I would have ever imagined before coming to Hawai’i. When I originally chose to go to the islands, it was out of a desire to see the final corner of the country that I had yet to see. It turned out to be much more meaningful a visit for myself than the other three, beating out even Alaska in terms of the diversity of emotions. Never before had I been exposed to such a complicated history of a region in my life, at least in an American context. Combining the tears of annexation with the westernization of the island and its economy truly brought a perspective to life that I had never heard a significant level. There are many topics which could be touched on here, but I’ll stick to two as they have personal importance.

The first part is the amount I have learned about political movements as a repercussion of this trip. This has been my first exposure to a sovereignty movement in person, and getting an inkling of what some of the driving forces behind it is something I am very thankful for as politics is my passion. The extremely strong tie between cultural identity and political efficacy is made starkly apparent when asking any of the great people we met why they feel the way they do about their land and their advocacy. Without that identity there is no tie to the land and in many respects the nation, so it would make sense that the first goal of such a movement would be to strengthen such feelings of identity. I personally have attempted to remain neutral in regards to this great opportunity to observe such a political landscape, and am extremely curious as to how it will change in the near future.

The most important aspect of this trip to myself was the deep connection that the people had to their ancestry and the land that they live with. I personally have always found it to be a sad state of affairs that most people alive today, at least in my generation, don’t have that much of an understanding as to where they come from in regards to their family history. Everyone is so deeply connected to the world we inhabit this way that I truly believe deepening our understanding of our family history would help us appreciate the land we stand on. In this manner I have an inherent admiration of the Hawaiian way of remembrance, and wish that the American culture could someday be more like it.

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Last thought

This trip has been an amazing experience for me. Not only did I learn about the culture I learned some Hawaiian words, traditions, and ideology. I was able to be immersed in the diverse culture to learn about common issues and mindsets. Out of all of the experiences my top favorites were: meeting Jamaica, the visit at University of Hawaii, the history lesson Pele, and Waipa.

I loved meeting Jamaica because the passion she has with her father is so great and interesting to learn about. She talks about how we can make a difference and how to change the mindset of white supremacy. I found that to be extremely interesting because people aren’t aware of what stereotypes do to a people. I enjoyed the visit to the University of Hawaii because I was able to see the culture of college student at the University of Hawaii. I was able to see the welcoming culture of the students and teachers. I was able to see firsthand how hard the language can be and what it takes to learn. I was able to learn why students were learning the language and how it was important to them.

Overall I was able to learn the importance of a language because people are not able to advance and be self-sufficient without it. It is important to see that in order for people to understand the importance of their land and their culture if they don’t understand the language that supports the ideology. I feel as if I learned that he people are in able to move forward if they are able to interpret the past. I feel as if their sovereignty movement has picked up some sped but still feel they have some ways to go in order to accomplish their goal.

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Final Thoughts

Hawai’i was such a wonderful experience and a beautiful chapter in my life. I am so thankful for this trip and all the knowledge and experiences I gained. I wish I could summarize everything into one blog post, but it is just too much. I’m glad my overall opinion about Hawai’i hasn’t changed completely. It is a wonderful place to be. An oasis full of green and life compared to all the buildings and the concrete jungles we experience every day. But it so much more than that. So much more than a paradise on earth or a vacation spot. It is a place that faces problems such as sustainability and a place that struggles to overcome mistakes of the past. We learned so much from this trip from all the people we met and had the opportunity and privilege to hear their stories in person. But we also learned a lot from one another. Each one of us brought something different to the table and this trip could have been completely different if one of us was missing. I just know that mu notion for Hawai’i has completely changed. I’m never going to look at this place in the same way again and I’m not going to let the people in my life think of this place as a vacation spot. Ignorance can be a significant factor in the history of the world. We are ignorant for so many things, and the history of Hawai’i is one of those. This experience was eye-opening for me and I feel like I have the obligation to open the eyes of the people I know and meet in the future. Help them understand that Hawai’i is so much more than a state. It’s a real place with real people with real problems. And if we can help somehow then we should do it. And we should start by sharing our experiences and views. Treat all the places we visit the same way we visited Hawai’i during this trip. Have the same curiosity and the same interest for all the places and people around the world, and when we come back, share our knowledge and the lessons we were taught.

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Final reflection

I’m still not sure how to think about Hawai’i. Now that I’ve been, I can attest to its beauty and overwhelming natural sights, but the political and socioeconomic climates left me unsure of their future as a nation and community. With the Mauna Kea telescope debate acting as somewhat of a proxy war for sovereignty, tensions seem to be rising faster than ever, though you wouldn’t know it just from walking down the street, especially in tourist areas.

I don’t think I had many expectations of the experience, but I was still surprised by the general lack of public interest in the issues for which our Hawai’ian friends care so deeply. It does make sense, however: how could I expect protests in the streets when the people have not even been taught that what they had was taken away? How can I expect passion when many don’t know there is a cause about which to be passionate? That realization, for me, was the most haunting of our time there: this population is living in imposed ignorance. Just the way I was not educated about the true nature of the annexation, neither were many of them. It’s not as though the people are technically brainwashed, they are just completely removed from the information by the powers that be.

(I realize I’m rambling, my final paper will be far more  but I am falling asleep as I type.)

Are the Hawai’ians better off because of the annexation? I don’t think anyone can say. Is there a solution to this struggle? Probably not. If anything, I believe efforts should be made to make Hawai’i culturally independent, perhaps even economically independent, while still benefitting from the systems the U.S. has in place. They are so far removed from the rest of the world, and just a week away from starvation should they lose America’s support. For example, if the U.S. treated Mauna Kea with any respect and paid more than a dollar to the Hawai’ian citizens per year for its use, maybe these tensions could simmer down. Maybe it’s not about one side or the other winning, but finding a reasonable compromise. Almost every problem Hawai’i faces currently is a direct result of America’s meddling, but complete sovereignty could spell disaster for Hawai’i in a short amount of time. This is a federal and heavily impactful matter, and I’m not sure the government (especially the Drumpf administration) can prioritize this diplomacy now.

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Final Reflection

Reflecting on my time in Hawaii, I cannot think of another trip, class, or experience where I have learned more and had my eyes opened to so much new information about history and another culture. Looking back to my expectations blog post before we left, my expectations were definitely met as far as my prediction of loving the place of Hawai’i itself and exceeded my expectations of falling in love with their story and culture and was almost overwhelmed with a want to learn more about their heartbreaking history and spread to others what I have learned. But, looking even further back to when I applied for this course, I truly had no idea what I was signing up for. At first, I definitely thought that Hawai’i would just be an awesome place to spend the month January and that this trip would be a great way to see the state of Hawai’i since I hadn’t been before and hope to visit all 50 states. Little did I know how deep and moving this trip would be and how much I would seriously love it (or how I would now barely even consider it a state).

Now being home, I can’t stop telling stories and talking about what we did this past month. Just yesterday I saw a news article about how Mark Zuckerberg is sueing hundreds of Hawaiians to sell their land in Kauai to him (because he wants his 700 acre land to be more private and there is confusion over who actually owns the land and it sounds like he is trying to blame the Great Mahele. It also sounds very similar to what happened to the family with land at the Kona airport and Mikahala’s story with the hotel in Kona). I was immediately upset to hear what he is doing to dozens of native families but without this course, I would have responded more like my family who wasn’t as impacted by the news.

Honolulu definitely met my expectations of how touristy, overpopulated, and pricy Waikiki would be, but I still appreciated being there to see the effects that has had on the area and to visit all the historical places that we did. I didn’t really have specific expectations for the other islands except I knew once we were on Oahu that I was excited to get to the other islands for less tourism and more nature.

Kauai was definitely my favorite and I wish we could have spent more time there. I loved seeing the canyon and Wai’ale’ale, our time with Pua and at the Waipa Foundation, and the fact that is was much quieter and seemed the most like real Hawai’i. I would have really liked to be able to explore some of the little towns and shops we would pass in the vans and meet even more people there.

I was especially touched by Kiwala’o’s story. I loved hearing Hawaiian perspectives from Pua, Jamaica, and Mikahala, but it was really cool to hear how she so embraced the Hawaiian culture and how she was herself so embraced by Hawaiians and practically became one since she moved there. The relationships she formed and the way she completely adopted the Hawaiian culture in the most respectful way possible is something I would love to experience to some degree in my future.


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Final Reflection

Going back and reading my expectations for this trip three weeks ago, I really didn’t have many expectations because I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But now that I am back home I can say that it is a bit overwhelming to think about the past three weeks and summarize them as a whole just because of how much we experienced and learned while we were there. When I woke up this morning I was very nostalgic and sad about the fact that our trip has come to an end; it was truly an amazing experience and I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to go on this trip! Endless thank you’s to MVP and Pugh for making this trip possible and for sharing your love for this amazing place.

I don’t feel as if I can pick one island as my favorite because they were all so different and I liked them all in unique ways. My main impression on Oahu is that it is very crowded with tourists and tourist sites, which was very different from Kauai but somewhat similar to Hilo and Kona. Visiting the more touristy places on Oahu was very important though and shared a lot of vital information needed to understand Hawaiian history and some of the identity. I really enjoyed the Bishop Museum since it shared pure Hawaiian history, a majority of the information being from way before the Americans took over the islands. I think it was interesting to learn about all of the various gods and goddesses, and how deeply connected the people were to the land and the water.

Kauai was, in my opinion, the most unique out of the four places we visited mainly because of what we did there. Participating in the taro farm with Pua and her family as well as at the Waipa Foundation were awesome experiences and I feel as if both of those days were very eye opening regarding Hawaiian identity as it is today. I loved listening to Pua tell us the legends and stories that she learned growing up that still shape her life today. She told them with such detail and fluidity you’d think she wrote them herself. The awa ceremony was also something very unique and I was grateful that they shared that with our group since it is something so special to them and a lot of native Hawaiian people.

Although Hilo was a bit sketchy compared to the other two islands, it was still an enjoyable time. The less commercialized downtown area where we visited the farmer’s market and frequently went to get food was a great spot to observe and talk to some native people, and also some people who are not exactly natives but live there today. I absolutely loved our experience at the hula class with Kiwala’o. She is a great example of someone we met who totally embodies the spirit of a Hawaiian in her heart and in her mind, and you could tell from the way she told all of her stories. The way she explained the littlest details about making the costumes and accessories was so interesting and you could see how much love and passion she had for hula and everything about it. I think this might have been my favorite experience of the whole trip.

Kona reminded me of Waikiki in Oahu in the sense that it was somewhat of a touristy beach town, just with much less people. Almost all of the people that I talked to in shops or restaurants didn’t seem to be originally from Hawai’i, so I got a feeling that this was a popular spot for people to move to later in life (which is interesting). In this town is where many of us got to thinking how crazy it is that so many people come to visit the islands with close to no knowledge about the history and everything we learned in this course; many of them visit simply for vacations or weddings or work conferences probably. Of course these are just our assumptions, and perhaps some of them do know a bit of the history. But after spending so much time discussing the horrible things that happened to the land and the people it just doesn’t seem right for people to come visit if they aren’t aware of the past. That just fed our wanting to spread our new knowledge and stories even more.

I know that I will never forget the experiences I had while in Hawai’i. This place is absolutely amazing not only for its beauty but also for its past and the passion that still exists in so many native people today. I am so grateful for all of the stories that we heard and I hope that I will have the courage to share these stories with my friends and family. It is important for others to hear, so the future for the Hawaiian people remains bright. I already can’t wait to visit the islands again one day.

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Final reflection

I went into this trip not really knowing what to expect- unsure of how the Hawaiian people would view us, the culture that I would experience, or the lack there of.  This trip has been one of the absolute best experiences of my life.  When we first arrived in Honolulu, it was extremely overwhelming to see how tourism dominated the town.  Obviously this is their main source of income, but at what cost?  It was actually kind of repulsive to see how many buildings they could jam on one strip and how many people were crowding the beach. Just the feelings I got in Oahu were that of tourism and a sense of cultural neglect in order to please tourists- like in the ‘Iolani Palace.  I was excited to see what our guide would say at such an influential place in Hawaii’s history, but she did not even touch upon, never mind going in depth, to what we had learned in our fall class. It seemed very scripted with a lack of emotion. Jon and Jamaica Osorio were the complete opposite, which I seriously appreciated.  Jamaica was so full of emotion and wasn’t afraid to let how she really felt out, which was what we had been wanting.  I learned so much from her and her views on the future of Hawaii.

Kauai was my favorite Island.  I’m probably biased because of the experiences we had on that island, but it was on Kauai that I really felt the culture from the Waipa Foundation and from Pu”a and her family.  Being in the taro fields and being able to help plant sweet potatoes for the Waipa Foundation was an amazing experience that I felt connected to the land.  It made me realize how important land is to the Hawaiians and how the United States just simply took it away.  This was more of a hands on environment which I loved and actually felt like I was embracing their culture much more than any guided tour could ever do.

It was hard for me to get a correct read on Hilo.  It was still mildly touristy, but in a much more laid back way.  I feel like tons of people moved to Hlio to start a life there, but did learn about Hawaii and consider themselves Hawaiian.  It was really powerful when Kiwala’o said that Hawaiian is more of a feeling and has nothing to do with blood quantum because thats what I felt when I talked to people in Hilo.  Although they were not actually Hawaiian, they felt it.  The farmers market was a great experience that showed how people live and make a living.  I talked to some vendors and they all had one thing in common- the love of the land and the sacredness of the land. They made sure to say that jewelry was hand made, but not from anything on the ground because it was sacred.  I found it funny when a tourist asked about a piece of jewelry being a lava rock and the vendor answered “if you want to take something off of this ground, then you can do it yourself, but I will not”. The same goes for our time at the Volcano Park.  It felt really sacred, especially after learning about and reading about Pele, except I feel as if Noah was holding back and again giving us a mostly scripted tour of what he normally gives to regular tourists.

I really enjoyed Kona. It was touristy, but I got a chance to talk to locals and explore around.  In Kona I talked to a local who talked like he didn’t like white people, but he was still very open to welcoming us and talking to us and he enjoyed hearing everything that we learned.  I think there is still some hostility, obviously, but once people saw that we were there to learn and grow and help them in their movement, they respected us more and were open to us, which i found really cool and inspiring. Overall, this trip has really opened my eyes to so much- empowerment, different cultures, beliefs, and activism.  I will most definitely carry out what Jamaica said by telling their story.  I don’t think I will ever be able to go to a place for vacation without learning, growing, and talking to local people because it is truly amazing what I have learned.

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Some Final Thoughts

Now that we are back at Elon, and have been greeted by a chillier climate and gray skies, I have had many thoughts on my unbelievable experience abroad this winter term.  We had the privilege of visiting one of the most beautiful places in the world, and being in Hawai’i felt extremely different from being on the mainland.  I think the most rewarding part of going on this trip was being able to be immersed in a culture so different from mine, and take off any rose-colored glasses and really see and understand the Hawaiian issues.  I have found that when I talk to others that did not have the pleasure of going on the trip that I have a lot of passion and conviction, and those can only be accredited to the inspiring people we interacted with  and the uniquely wonderful opportunities we had.

Looking back, I think my absolute favorite day was the one spent at Waipa foundation.  Following that day spent in the fields and surrounded by nature, I noticed that my passion for plants, wildlife, and the environment was really fortified.  Not only did we eat wonderful foods and learn a lot about planting, we were able to talk to so many incredible Hawaiian people.  In particular, Taylor, who was in the sweet potato fields with us, answered all of my questions about the plants and animals around us and her energy was just infectious.  The people there were so welcoming and willing to talk about their lives on the island.  By talking to so many native people about their lives and views, I was able to gain more insight into the culture and Hawaiian life in general.

On another note, I think the most shocking aspect of the trip was the vast amount of tourism and building in Honolulu.  I expected a lot because it is the capital and near Pearl Harbor, but I was shocked by the overpowering American and Japanese influences.  The weather and ocean were the sole reminders that we were on Oahu and not somewhere in Japan or America.  Seeing with my own eyes the unnecessary push for more and more hotels, shops, restaurant made me understand more what John Osorio and others discussed with the disconnect from the land.  Comparing that to the experience on Kauai, there was a significant difference in respect for nature and Hawaiian people.

In conclusion, I took away much more knowledge from this trip than I had initially thought I would.  I have a high regard for the Hawaiian culture, and want to find ways to help in the cultural renaissance that is now taking place.  Aside from the influence of the Hawaiian culture on me, I have been inspired to travel differently.  Rather than just “seeing the sights” I want to be immersed in places of significance to a unique group of people.

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Final thoughts

After arriving back to Elon, and taking time to process my experience in Hawai’i I am surprised by how much I learned. While I had very few expectations going into the class, I was anticipating that I already had a basic understanding of most of what I was going to learn. I felt that after the fall class, I had a strong grasp on the story; and that most Hawai’ian I spoke to would all react the same way. I was expecting a tropical paradise with nice beaches, beautiful sunrises, and palm trees. So when we arrived in Waikiki, I was not very shocked by what I saw. High rise resorts, beaches packed with tourists, and over-priced American restaurants were the first things I noticed. However, as I walked and ran around the city I began to notice a large number of people who appeared to be homeless. I found that to be a common thread with each island we visited. I am grateful that we visited so many different locations, as it gave me the chance to process the diversity among the islands. With each trip we made, my understanding of Hawai’i began to shift. While it is the beautiful paradise that we all envision, there is so much more than meets the eye. Below the thin veil of tourism, lies many social issues and a complex and reemerging culture.

After speaking with Jamaica Osorio and Noah, I learned more about the sustainability problems on the island. This information was what I was most surprised to learn. It felt that everyone we spoke to told us how Hawai’i imports almost 90% of their foods. I was devastated when Noah mentioned that “affordable housing” was around 600,000 dollars a year. It was towards the end of the trip when I began to thread all of the pieces together, and grasp a true understanding of Jamaica’s statement that education is the answer to everything, and cultural sovereignty must occur before Hawai’i can ever be its own nation. I began to recognize that almost all of the homeless people I saw were native Hawai’ians, not haloes. As I spoke to more natives, I began to realize that many of them did not go to college. They couldn’t afford it. Instead they finished high school and got a job in order to afford the cost of living. Hawai’ians have become second rate citizens in their own nation. The land that is so very sacred to the survival of their culture is being bought up by foreigners who just don’t understand, and don’t care to. The solution to this crisis is as Jamaica mentioned, education. Hawai’ians need to become more educated on their culture and on the state of their nation. A better system must be devised for obtaining food. If more people learn about the past, they will be inspired to fight for a better future for their people.

My second biggest take away was the sacredness of place in the Hawai’ian culture. In one of the articles we read, the author argues that because the Hawai’ians are so connected to their land, the American people treated them as if they were a part of it, and built right over the top of them. American culture values land as real estate, but to Hawai’ians land is family, land is part of you. This is clear through the langue, as there are many different words to describe sacred places. It was also a common theme when we visited Heiaus. Pu’a, Ranger Wendy, and Mikahala all discussed this value with us. Each time I was moved, and I could feel the energy in those places. After reading the final article, this lesson really stuck me, as it was something I was not expecting to learn.

Overall, I had a life changing experience in Hawai’i. I feel responsible for sharing the story and helping other people to recognize the value of the nation

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