Nation or State: In Search of Hawaiian Identity

January 10

Today was without a doubt the best experience I have had thus far in Hawaii. Educationally and culturally it was so fulfilling as well as just a fun time being able to physically plant, give back, and see how the Waipa foundation functions and ultimately how the people live. Today was so fulfilling to me firstly because I love trying new local foods and planting my own food. But secondly, it was amazing to be apart of what they do at Waipa. I was speaking to Taylor as we were shoveling the mounds for the sweet potatoes and she talked a lot about the land, which I thought applied very well to what we have been talking about as a class and the close relationship between Hawaiians and their land as well as how the Hawaiians and land were treated as one by the American colonists. She said that she feels much more connected to the land and the Hawaiian culture because she is working in it and planting something that will grow traditionally in native soil that will contribute to naturally feeding other Hawaiians. The whole Waipa foundation was really astounding because it is working to bring back traditional Hawaiian culture and sustainability- again relating to what we have been discussing. Stacy even said again that 90% of their food is brought over to the island, which makes the Waipa foundation so amazing as they work to grow, feed, and educate all people while creating a community like atmosphere that promotes Hawaiian culture.

A big thing that caught my attention that Stacy said was about activism. The Waipa foundation ultimately is an activist movement because they fought against the Kamehameha schools, which are a huge source of power, and got alumni in on it too, bringing this community closer together to preserve a traditional way of creating natural food and goods. I immediately thought of Jamaica Osorio who connected the three ideas of activism, education, and art and said these three things all go together. I strongly believe that this concept applies to Waipa as well. I believe that what they do and how they do it is most definitely and art as well as an activist movement as I stated before all while education people who visit and the communities around them about the traditional Hawaiian ways to produce and trade goods. This is just a small way Hawaiians can feel more connected to their culture and their land while benefiting the islands by producing a more sustainable food source. I was also comparing what Stacy said to what we heard at the pond yesterday because it was such a sustainable system that cannot be carried out or used anymore because of the financial burden, which Stacy said was a challenge for them. Overall, today has been the best experience I have had in Hawaii and maybe even my life. I loved giving back to the land and I definitely experienced what Taylor felt when she said she felt more connected.

Another thing that really stood out to me was when we were talking at KCC. The Ava ceremony that we took part in was an extremely cultural tradition that we were very lucky to be apart of. One thing that stuck in my mind was when they said that language is directly related to culture and how if someone takes away language then the culture is gone. This reminded me of Jon Osorio’s writing of mele and how his father couldn’t understand the Hawaiian words. Also today at Waipa Taylor said that she was born and raised in Hawaii but she couldn’t speak the language. I find it surprising that this is the case, but after today it makes sense that the culture and the language go hand in hand. Maybe if the language was taught or implemented then there would be a greater appreciation for the culture, or even maybe vice versa. Experiencing the Hawaiian language first hand through chants shows not only the language but the culture as well by thanking and praying to their gods. The stories regarding the sacred space once again revealed a deeper history of a culture that has been lost, much like the language. The things that we continue to learn just simply amaze me and I cannot wait to meet and speak to new people and experience new things.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1,196 Comments

First Full Day on

Today was the first full day that we had on the island of Kauai, and waking up after the travel day was harder than most others.

The first place we went today was the taro fields, or lo’i, from the community college out in the island. Taro fields are flooded plains where taro is grown but also aware hydroponics are used to breed fish at the same time creating a multi phase feeding apparatus for community. It is a source of national pride to have a lo’i due to its very strong historical connection to the old way of living in Hawaii. Lo’i were the main source of food for a kingdom, and if a Chief were to have many in their domain it was a sign of strength.

The current way that the lo’i were being run was not completely in line with the tradition kind of management. The ‘Auwai system used switch backs to sustainability water the taro fields by having the taro field between two streams of differing elevation. Through this process the fields were able to be flooded as an extension of the natural water system, where the water would go back into the environment once used without it being lost. This connection is lost in the current setup when using pipes to flood the lo’i as it currently stands.

After their generous tour of the lo’i the family took us on a trip to a few significant sites in the region. The first was a fish pond that had a record of being built by the tribes that existed before any contact with Europeans. This had a feeding capacity for an entire region and was hailed as one of the most advanced mechanisms of food production that existed at the time. It was unfortunately overgrown by many invasive species that had been brought over by Europeans and was currently for sale for a price of 12 million dollars; a much too high price for an locals. After that we went to a similar site down the road where many individuals had worked hard to clear out the invasive species covering the fish pond, which proved that it was possible to restore these sites to their former selves.

After leaving the family, we the went on a slight road trip to Waimea canyon where there was a beautiful view over much of the island. It should be noted that there were even roosters at the elevation of 3370.9 feet. Our final destination was a lookout point which could see all the way down to the ocean through the fog. This was somewhat scary due to the lack of any type of railing and the notoriously weak constitution of the dirt on volcanic islands. All in all it was a wonderful introduction to an island that told a unique side of the Hawaiian story.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Arizona Memorial or “Pearl Harbor Day”

I will never forget the smell of oil on the water that continues to spill from the sunken battleship beneath our feet after 75 years and one month. This morning we joined a long line of people waiting at the gates of the Arizona Memorial’s visitor’s center this morning and were immediately whisked inside. Before we boarded a ferry that would bus us over to the memorial, we were ushered into a theater to watch a movie. (Fun fact: our entire class does not fit into one row).

The video they showed was somehow more effective at explaining in detail what happened from both sides of the argument. It seemed to stay pretty factual, but since I was definitely feeling sympathetic towards the American side I’m sure there was an American bias when making the film. Everyone in the room was sure to have had their own opinions too. A few of us mentioned and discussed the fact that we had all noticed the large amount of Japanese and other Asian tourists who visited the memorial with us. We were wondering what their opinion of the memorial and the video was and if they had a different view than we did coming from their own cultures and having their own sides to the story.

What made it so much more real to me was seeing the ship’s deck, grown over with sea life and teeming with peaceful fish, a few feet below the surface of the water. There were over a thousand people down there once, and some of them are probably still there. The fish don’t have any idea, nor do they probably care, and there are brand new and fully functional battleships anchored within sight of the sunken ones. It just felt like an odd and powerfully sad contrast.

I wonder how the Hawaiian population feels about the memorial. Yes they suffered civilian casualties and therefore should absolutely be recognized for it, however this is an American memorial mainly focusing on the lives of the American military personnel that were lost. After the few mentions of the civilians in the video we heard very little else, and I know by then the islands were part of the USA so technically it was an all-encompassing loss of American lives, but I wish I had seen something that commemorated that as well. Perhaps I just wasn’t looking in the right places. Overall it was a very moving experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has never been because it was such an important piece of our own history.


fullsizerender-1 fullsizerender img_9120 img_9119

Posted in Uncategorized | 5,619 Comments

University of Hawaii with the Osorios

Trying to organize my thoughts and compress what we covered today with the Osorios at the University of Hawaii was definitely a difficult task because of how raw and authentic the conversation was. There was so much information discussed in the articles and today in class that it was very hard to pick just a few things to touch on, because everything was so important and vital to critiquing the culture of Hawaii both past and present. I really appreciated the honesty the Osorios were comfortable exercising with our group because that is something we had not really experienced until today. I think it was great for our group to finally hear from some natives and gain a look into that inside perspective of what it is truly like for them to live in Hawai’i.

There were a few things that I did not know previous to both the readings for today and the lectures from Jon and Jamaica. First, I did not realize the impact or the extent to what the Hawaiians could have done to prevent the haole from gaining as much power as they did. The Osorios touched on the fact that in the past Hawaiians always believed that discrimination was wrong and stuck very strictly to the law, therefore they were very open and welcoming to including the haole from the very beginning. Little did they know how much power they would eventually lose and how difficult it would be to gain any of it back. Of course it was almost impossible for them to exercise any sort of power towards the end of the annexation, however I didn’t even realize what kind of prevention efforts could have been exercised from the beginning. It was hard to hear that despite the Hawaiians’ efforts to be welcoming and kind to the new community members, they were completely taken advantage of in the end.

Another topic that Jamaica especially spent time on was discussing the low sustainability that exists in this state. Over the past few days we have heard from many docents and tour guides that one of the most important Hawaiian values that has always existed is the idea of taking care of the land and the ocean and getting taken care of in return. I didn’t know until today how low sustainability here is and according to Jamaica, about 90% of goods come in from other places. So, the importance of this is that if Hawaii were to become its own nation again one day and its ties got cut off from the places their goods come from, the nation would barely survive due to lack of food and necessities. This was so surprising to hear because Hawaii is held as this beautiful land with flourishing goods, and it is so sad to hear that they are essentially struggling in that aspect.

These two lessons covered were just a couple out of numerous topics explored today during the lectures. The Osorios seem to firmly believe that Hawaii is not a state by any means. They feel very strongly about everything that they both educate and preach every day of their lives, and it was inspiring to hear the endless efforts they have put forth to strengthen relationships with other natives and work together as a whole Hawaiian community. One thing that really stuck with me and will stay with me for a long time was when Jamaica shared with us that even though we are not Hawaiian and do not speak/write/read Hawaiian, now that we have heard the stories we have the full right to go out and share those stories and stand up for what Hawaiians are striving to improve. This reassurance was very uplifting to hear because that is definitely something that has been questionable since we arrived here: do the natives feel hostile towards us outsiders, or if they knew our motives and desire to learn would they return the same reassurance that Jamaica provided us today? Before this trip I had no idea what to expect but I know that even after just a few days, my world has been opened to so many new facts and perspectives and I am so excited to experience more of this wonderful state. I feel very appreciative for what we have learned so far and I believe that I will be comfortable and ready to discuss the type of critical conversations we are having with my friends and family at home. Hawaii is not just a place for vacationing; it is so much more than that. I think that it is necessary for all visitors to understand what kind of struggles Hawaiians have faced, both past and present. Even though we are not natives and have so much more to learn, it is still our responsibility from this point on to share the stories we have heard and push towards a better Hawaii for the Hawaiian people.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1,026 Comments

Bishop Museum

1/6/17- The Bishop Museum- Hawaiian Hall


To start, the mission of the Bishop Museum is to not just display artifacts, but to tell stories about the objects in the museum, to help preserve the culture and to help reconnect Hawaiians to their heritage. In the Bishop Museum is Hawaiian Hall which has three levels, each focused on an interrelated subject.

Floor one represents the journey to the Hawaiian Islands. This floor starts with the Hawaiian creation story. In short, they believe that the universe is created by the Gods. It was from darkness that light was born and that heaven and earth were established and one god became two gods- male and female. They also hold the belief that the Hawaiian world has realms (wao). As we have heard multiple times, 4 is a powerful number and the creation story is told in 16 panels. This story has been passed through many generations.

Also on the first floor we learn about the Hawaiian gods. There are four great gods: Kanaloa, Kane, Ku and Lono. Kanaloa has dominion over the ocean, tides, ocean winds, ocean creatures and navigation. He also seeks out freshwater and brings forth stream. Kane is the life-giver as he created heaven and earth, free flowing fresh water, and he made the first human, Under this god, all life is sacred. Ku is the protector, the provider, the god of war and he represents the positive and negative aspects of life. For example, he represents, fishing, farming, and warfare. Last is Lono who is known as “the peoples god”. The season of Lono is 4 months long and during this time there are celebrations and rituals. We are currently in the season of Lono. He represents peace, fertility, agriculture, healing and firekeeper. There are more than 4 gods but these are the main ones.

On the first floor there was also a display of a Heiau. This is a sacred sight where gifts are offered to the gods. The people made offers to different gods depending on what they needed. This is also a sacred sight that serves as a place of refuge. If someone did something that was punishable by death but made it to the Heiau and asked for forgiveness before the others got to him to kill him, he would be forgiven and be able to go back into society.

The second floor showed the daily life of traditional Hawaiians. Here we learned that the Hawaiian year has 12 months and 2 seasons. One season is dry season (Kau) where the sun is directly overhead, days are long and nights are warm. The wet season is (Ho’oilo) where the days and nights are cool. Different seasons were significant in relation to the different gods and the different plants. Also, times of day are very significant when it comes to different rituals and the display gave the example of the ritual of forgiveness. It also emphasized the gods and their relationship to humans and nature. The taro plants represent the self-sufficiency which is an important part of the culture. The gourd represents the body of the god Lono. Taro is a staple food in the Hawaiian diet and gourds are used for musical instruments such as when performing hula.

Lastly, the third floor shows the story of the ali’i and an overview of the history of Hawai’i. The third floor shows a lot of the history we have already learned about starting with Captain Cook and ending with the overthrow and life after it. The display was not focused on the overthrow as much as we have seen and learned about. In between they include some interesting dates about when the lifestyle in Hawai’i began to change when the telephone, trains and electricity were introduced. The third floor also gave an overview of the different kings of Hawai’i. However, something I took away from this floor was how important educating children was to the Ali’i. This caused them to establish the Anglican Church in Hawaii and eventually the ‘Iolani School for boys and the St. Andrews Priary for girls.

Something that our class really picked up from this museum was the difference in the docents. The one for today, was very open to sharing his knowledge and told stories that we would not have learned from the display. When asked if the stories were true, he said yes because they were passed down through tradition.




fullsizer_5 fullsizer_4

Posted in Uncategorized | 6,586 Comments

Day 1 blog post

After a long day of a sunrise hike, Iolani Palace and he Missionaries house tour, everything we have read, learned and discussed over the past few months came into play as well as showed some contradictions. After the Palace tour, I really liked how we sat outside and discussed what we had thought. Although the tour guide may have not been the best at getting the true message and emotional response across, she did point out some very important facts. I thought it was very interesting that she repeatedly talked about how the furniture and belongings to the palace were sold without and second thought, which I think was to make tourists feel sorrow for the people of the palace. Although that is very sad, what happened to the people and what else occurred during the annexation was just as sad, yet she did not really touch on that. It is interesting to see if she is just catering to what tourists want to hear so they dont “kill the mood” of the Hawaiian paradise vacation. I think tourists have the right to know what actually happened even if it is hard to hear.

The article talked about the Queen’s song “Aloha Oe” and the meaning behind it. The article talked about how the song is not as much about the sorrow of the Queen locked in the house as most people think its about, but how it is a song for the people and about the annexaton as a whole. I thought a powerful quote from the article at the end was “unlike settler colonial nostalgia that diminishes Native agency and treats Natives as those who must be mourned, scenarios like these suggest that sadness need not become an end in itself, but produces the incentive to survive.” This leads into the topic of “current” Hawaii and their culture and what that means to the people. I think the incentive to survive has to do with keeping the culture alive, as well as what we saw in the missionary house with keeping stories, facts and different artifacts present for the public to see and continue to learn and grow as a nation.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1,586 Comments


I am so excited to get to Hawaii! This is something I have been looking forward to for a very long time and I cannot believe the time to go is almost here. I am eager to arrive on the islands to see the places we have learned about in person. I am also looking forward to getting to be around locals and see how they treat us as tourists in their homeland. I am expecting to be very moved by the stories we will hear and the experiences we will hear about firsthand of the Hawaiians losing their identity. I know it will be a very emotional experience for myself and my classmates. I cannot wait to experience the Hawaiian culture and spirit of aloha we have learned so much about throughout the fall course when we actually get to Hawaii. I am really looking forward to visiting Pearl Harbor during the first week of our program. This is such an important place that played a key role in why the US wanted Hawaii, and we have learned about it all through our schooling, so I am excited to finally see it in person.

Posted in Uncategorized | 869 Comments

Expectations and Exploring Waikiki

Coming into the final stages of getting to Hawaii, I had found myself perceiving the trip as I did many of my trips to foreign countries and not as if I was simply going to another state within the Union. I expect to find myself feeling somewhat out of place in this culture, and potentially even viewed in a negative manner. I do not think this will happen in the tourist areas however, due to them probably being cut off from many of the native peoples there.

As for exploring Waikiki, I plan to go running in the morning almost every day to be able to see as much of the area as possible. I really don’t want to miss anything due to my very short stay here. On a final note, I heard from a member of my family that the area has extremely good food, so im excited to try all of it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1,626 Comments

Jan 4

After starting the day of with the beautiful sunrise hike we got to explore the Iolani Palace. Being able to finally step int the palace in person after talking so much about it in the fall was amazing. With them working to preserve it so well it really helped give you a feel of how it was back then. Although they tried to preserve it the best they could it wasn’t all the same and seemed so different from the pictures in the room. I also noticed a difference from the natives giving a tour and the non natives. The tour guide we had wasn’t native and seemed to not talk a lot about the annexation at all. Then going to the missionary house it was so interesting to here the difference in which they lived and the Hawaiians lived and also hearing about all the ways they had influence on the Hawaiians and tried to change their ways. All of that was only the first day and I can’t wait to keep exploring.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3,994 Comments


While preparing to leave for this trip, I didn’t find myself coming up with as many expectations as much as I did questions. Throughout my entire winter break my family and friends were constantly challenging me and confused at the idea of this being a legitimate class because all of them are sort of stuck in the mindset of Hawai’i being this viewed “paradise” and believed that I am really just going on a 3-week vacation. However as I laughed along with them I kept in the back of my mind the fact that this trip is really so much more than that because there is so much more that we as a class have yet to learn about the history and culture of Hawai’i as it is today. I expect that we will take away lessons from this course that not many other people will have the opportunity to, and perhaps our views of our own history and culture where we live within the states will be shaped. I expect to gain an even greater appreciation for this very separate state and all that it has to offer. I have so many questions of what we are going to be exploring and learning along the way but that just makes me even more excited to jump right into the experiences that we will be having. I can’t really believe how fast the fall went by and how quickly this trip approached but I can say that I am beyond excited to begin this mini adventure with some of my best friends and some new friends as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6,164 Comments