How can more of us protect and create waiwai, value, for coming generations?
Culturally-rich education. Holistic health systems. Organic farming and aquaculture. Creative and conscious urban development. Caring for one another across difference. Telling our stories.
Continuing the conversation of The Value of Hawai‘i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future, this new collection offers passionate and poignant visions for our shared futures in these islands. The fresh voices gathered in this book share their inspiring work and ideas for creating value, addressing a wide range of topics: community health, agriculture, public education, local business, energy, gender, rural lifestyles, sacred community, activism, storytelling, mo‘olelo, migration, voyaging, visual art, music, and the ‘āina we continue to love and mālama. By exploring connections to those who have come before and those who will follow after, the contributors to this volume recenter Hawai‘i in our watery Pacific world. Their autobiographical essays will inspire readers to live consciously and lead as island people.
Contributors: Jeffrey Tangonan Acido, U‘ilani Arasato, Kamana Beamer, Makena Coffman, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Sean Connelly, Elise Leimomi Dela Cruz-Talbert, Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Consuelo Agarpao Gouveia, Tina Grandinetti, Hunter Heaivilin, Sania Fa‘amaile Betty P. Ickes, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Bonnie Kahape‘a-Tanner, Kainani Kahaunaele, Joseph Keawe‘aimoku Kaholokula, Haley Kailiehu, Hi‘ilei Kawelo, Keone Kealoha, Emelihter Kihleng, James Koshiba, Derek Kurisu, Dawn Mahi, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Mailani Neal, Ryan Oishi, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Eri Oura, Faith Pascua, Mark Patterson, Prime/John Hina, No‘u Revilla, Hāwane Rios, Darlene Rodrigues, Cheryse Julitta Kauikeolani Sana, Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Lyz Soto, Innocenta Sound-Kikku, Cade Watanabe, Jill Yamasawa, Aiko Yamashiro, Matt N. Yamashita, Aubrey Morgan Yee.
This collection is an essential volume for readers who care about Hawai‘i’s present and future. It vividly demonstrates one of the values of Hawai‘i: it is blessed with many gifted writers. . . . The pages of this book express a palpable desire to speak unpretentiously and sincerely about what it means to do good in Hawai‘i and for Hawai‘i’s people. Perhaps the most powerful recurrent message in this collection is that ka ‘āina (the land) is an active force in the life of Hawai‘i, and that any person and any movement that seeks to make a better and more just Hawai‘i must center ‘āina in their thought and action. . . . By refraining from intervening strongly in the text, while providing the reader with a variety of viewpoints, the editors provide a context for reading each piece, wisely making this book a space for reflection.
We are Islanders
Aiko Yamashiro & Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘öpua
The majestic female figure on the cover of this book is artist John “Prime” Hina’s depiction of Pele, the fiery deity who currently resides at Halema‘uma‘u on Hawai‘i Island. In his rendering, Pele holds an ‘umeke—a bowl typically used for containing food—on her right hip. The ‘umeke poi is an important symbol in Hawaiian culture. In many families across the islands, the ‘umeke has traditionally been the center of any shared meal. Once the ‘umeke is uncovered no harsh or injurious words are to be spoken, as the poi will soak up that negative energy and transfer to those who consume it. Traditionally, the bowl was never emptied. Any remaining poi from a meal would be saved. Later, fresh poi would be mixed into the existing contents, so that the food always contained some of the beneficial microorganisms that develop in the fermentation process. An intergenerational mixture of probiotic flora.
Here, Pele does not hold an ‘umeke poi, but rather a bowl overflowing with lava and steam. Fire, earth, air, water: all the elements that create land are loosed. Having opened the calabash, this image creates the space for conversations and interactions about the well-being and the futures of Hawai‘i. The words offered within this book are similarly intended to open space for productive discussion about how to protect, enhance, and create value in our islands. Unlike poi, the lava does not keep us from sharing critical opinions or hashing out difficult and contentious issues. The lava does remind us, however, that such conversations can be both destructive and creative. Powerful.
When telling us, the editors, about this image, Prime explained that he intended the bowl to symbolize a kind of social contract. This “different kind of contract,” or perhaps, compact of mutual obligation contrasts sharply with the contracts that have allowed the (over)development of urban, suburban, and resort construction in ways that do not typically balance social, environmental, cultural, and spiritual impacts against the financial bottom line. One way to see this ‘umeke is as an agreement between land and people to care for one another. By placing her at the center, the artist reminds us that our compact with Pele, with the earth herself, is always present whether we choose to see it and honor it or not. One thing this book argues is that if we do not do better at balancing our human needs and desires with the natural resources and forces of these islands, the ‘äina will hold us accountable. And we love her for it.
Like the book you hold in your hands, the first volume, The Value of Hawai‘i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future (U of Hawai‘i P, 2010), was a collection of short essays written for a general Hawai‘i audience, on issues ranging from education to prisons, agriculture to the military, the economy to climate change, and more. That first volume set out to help readers understand the current state of the islands through a firm understanding of history. “How did we get here?” the contributors asked. This volume takes that foundation as a point of departure for a new central question: How can more of us protect and enhance what is precious about Hawai‘i for coming generations? How will we feed ourselves? Take care of one another? Negotiate and celebrate differences? Share resources?
Craig Howes and Jon Osorio, editors of the first volume, asked passionate experts in each field to bring these wide-ranging issues together to provoke and ground public conversations about what we value, where we are headed, and what we need to do to change course. As part of this commitment to conversation and change, a copy of the book was given to every sitting State Legislator in 2010. The book was taught widely at various campuses of the University of Hawai‘i, Chaminade University, and Hawai‘i Pacific University, as well as in various public and private high school classes. A visual debate card game was developed with the help of Mililani High School students, asking youth to create images and arguments about how to work across issues to solve problems they saw in Hawai‘i. And with kökua from innumerable individuals and community groups, dozens of talk-story events were organized in 2010 and 2011.
The voices gathered in this second volume are hopeful about the future, and they urge us toward changes in perspective. On the cover of volume one, Kamehameha looks to George Washington. However, when we are locked in a gaze toward the US continent (what so many still call “the mainland”), we tend to see our islands, our unique cultural knowledges, and even ourselves as small, inconsequential, disempowered, and inferior. This view of Hawai‘i as an isolated US outpost has been both perpetuated and resisted by a generation or two raised in the late territorial and early statehood eras: the post-WWII “baby boomers.”
This volume turns our gaze in a different direction. Instead of toward
Washington, imagine Kamehameha looking out across the channels that connect our island archipelago, and even further, across the vast oceans that connect us to the watery world of Oceania—a body that comprises half of the Earth’s surface. It is in these directions that the writers of this volume beckon you. As Bonnie Kahape‘a-Tanner—captain of the educational sailing canoe Känehünämoku—puts it in her contribution to this volume: “We are the people of the Pacific, Moananuiäkea, connected infinitely by the waters that touch each of our shores and flow through our veins” (180).
Most of the essays in this volume, The Value of Hawai‘i 2: Ancestral Roots, Oceanic Visions, were written by authors who were raised after the twilight of the sugar and pineapple plantations. We grew up in the midst and the aftermath of a massive urban, suburban, and resort development boom. We have experienced the ways the costs and profits of the industries that replaced sugar and pineapple have not been distributed equally or fairly. We are ‘Öiwi and settlers who have benefitted from the Hawaiian renaissance, and still we see so many unfulfilled promises and obligations to the Hawaiian people and nation. We know that our children and grandchildren will carry the full weight of ecological and social problems, such as climate change, growing economic inequality, and erosion of public safety net services, which have been left to us to address.
Whether Kanaka ‘Öiwi or recent immigrant, whether from Honolulu or Hanalei, one thing that binds all of us who live in Hawai‘i is that we are islanders. The islands mark us, just as we mark them. Our island world makes the ecological and social challenges that are facing most people in the world today more immediate and apparent. In this second decade of the twenty-first century, we are already witnessing a heightening of the problems of ecosystems degradation, fewer available agricultural lands, overtaxed fisheries, and a widening gap between haves and have-nots. With the measureable impacts of global warming already upon us; with the promises of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative and decisions about major development and transit projects hanging over us; with maxed-out landfills beneath us; and yet with the wisdom of our respective gods, ancestors, and neighbors still around us, the contributors to this book present a distinct sense of urgency, and potential. The current and coming generations will have to execute huge shifts in the ways we live, if we are to preserve and enhance what is precious and of value in our islands.
The contributors to this book do not labor under the illusion that such transformation is entirely possible within a single lifetime. (The City and County of Honolulu hasn’t even been able to pass a ban on plastic shopping bags, for goodness sakes.) But we know that if we do not start to plan for and move toward significant changes in the ways we live on and relate to these lands and waters that support us, the horizons of possibility will be significantly narrowed for future generations. The voices here open up new conversations, guided by aloha, hopefulness, and creativity.
The original title of Dean Saranillio’s essay for this volume was “Another Hawai‘i is Possible,” and that could have been a fitting title for the whole book. The contributors to this volume were invited because each one of them is already working to create the conditions of possibility for major shifts in the ways we produce and consume energy, deal with “waste,” design urban space, grow food, cultivate healthy eating habits, educate our youth, build community, tell stories, promote land-based subsistence practices, care for and pray for one another, and much more.
Huaka‘i: Oceanic Flows, Departures, and Returns
“Nä kai ‘ewalu” is a Hawaiian way to name our archipelago. The eight seas. Rather than focusing on the landmasses, this moniker refers to the channels that connect our islands, pathways to one another. Similarly, along the lines of flows, the voices gathered in this book are not content to stay isolated on islands unto themselves—government, health, agriculture, Hawaiian issues, and so on. In fact, they recognize that to meet the onslaught of challenges that we face, we need to think and work across fields and vocations. And so in this volume, we see how sustainable food production flows into leadership development; how the revitalization of fishpond technologies can go hand in hand with ecosystem restoration (rather than the way conservation is often pitted against food production); how urban arts can be a basis for entrepreneurial training.
The table of contents is organized to help readers navigate these flows. Because most of the essays are built around personal stories and the experiences of the authors, the lead title for each piece evokes the central storyline. The subtitle, listed as a separate line in the table of contents, helps to place the essay by indicating its topical focus, such as agriculture, alternative futures, video production, music, public education, energy, or island-style activism. Because we value creativity as an important source of our ability to flow and connect, poems by Hawai‘i and Pacific poets are seeded throughout this book, adding additional voices, emotions, and possibilities to each topic. The essays and poems are grouped into the following thematic sections, which emerged organically only after all the individual pieces had been collected together. We invite you to read each piece as a stand-alone story, but also to think about how they are working together in important and complex conversation:
Mo‘olelo. We quickly saw storytelling as a main theme throughout many of these essays, and as a first and foundational step in connecting people together to make change. Through stories, we understand ourselves, this place, and each other. These essays find personal and community strength in storytelling, and in telling the stories that are not heard. We place ourselves within genealogies and find the courage to create the next verses.
Kuleana and Developing Hawai‘i Responsibly. This section challenges and expands dominant understandings of “development” in Hawai‘i, bringing together topics like energy and public health with labor and art. Here we seek to reimagine critically concepts like urban and rural, and begin to come to terms with all we’ve inherited from the choices of past generations. These essays argue for deep wells of community wealth that overflow narrow understandings of development and progress. Kuleana emerges as a guiding ethical framework for what a renewed sense of development might mean.
Huaka‘i. We live on islands connected by a vast and powerful ocean. The seas inhabit us, just as we inhabit them, and as islanders, we have long and beautiful traditions of voyaging. This section poses difficult questions about migration and militarism, about how common understandings of globalization and wealth dehumanize and devalue our knowledges and our power to move. These essays chart new ways of navigating our identities and kuleana, of connecting Hawai‘i to the world and to other movements for cultural revitalization, health, and dignity.
Pu‘uhonua. Critical to revaluing ourselves and our stories, to healing the pain within ourselves and communities, are concerted efforts to honor and create sacred and safe spaces. Pu‘uhonua, or sanctuaries, are not limited to religious buildings. A person, a community, or a natural landform can be a pu‘uhonua. In this section, the authors urge us to find and nurture pu‘uhonua in unexpected places—in our food, our prisons, our schools, our cities, and our mountains. By renewing sacred connections between the health of the land and the health of our bodies we can create a safer and more resilient world for our children.
Aloha. The two essays that begin and end this collection remind us of the central importance of aloha. Kamana Beamer shares the wisdom of his tütü, Auntie Nona Beamer: “It’s just aloha, dear.” Seems simple, no? But aloha ‘äina—the kind of deep and committed love for land and all who dwell upon it; the kind of love that affirms the importance of independence and interdependence; the kind of love that demands action, ingenuity, creativity, and memory—is not easy, even if it is elegantly simple in principle. The essays that begin and end this collection remind us that we are going in dangerous directions if our actions are not guided by great love for this place and each other. What does it mean to reject the ways aloha is commercialized, exploited, and disconnected from its profound meanings? How can we instead cultivate a rigorous practice of grounded and revolutionary aloha? These essays provide a starting point for those conversations.
When you ask people for personal stories, what will that bring?
In birthing this project, the editors and authors labored together not only to produce a book, but to create and renew relationships. We have come to believe that such relationship-building, establishing trust through vulnerability, is essential to realizing preferred futures. When we set out as co-editors, we encouraged our authors to write creatively, openly, and autobiographically, knowing that sharing life stories would be a powerful way to help readers connect their lives to these issues, and to these lives. At the beginning of this project, we did not fully understand the enormity of this request.
Many of the contributors to this book would not consider themselves writers. Although the essays are relatively short, they were difficult to write, even for those who write professionally. Each of the authors is talented and powerful, with important things to say. They each have years of experience in their respective fields. But how do you write about your whole life, about your dedication and passion, about everything you deeply care about, in 3,000 words? How do you write at a young age, when you doubt you have the authority or the wisdom to speak? The contributing writers wrestled with these issues and opened themselves to our thoughts, feelings, pushes, and pulls. We opened ourselves to them, and struggled to listen carefully with our minds, bodies, and na‘au. Some of the essays you are holding in your hands were born from hours-long meetings, from drinking and writing-together sessions, or from recording stories on cell phones. We cried and laughed together. We confronted fears and insecurities in ourselves and in our work. This collection is a record of that speaking and listening.
This process has convinced us that personal storytelling and listening are crucial to meaningful social change, to creating sincere connections between our communities and between seemingly separate issues. The very process of telling our personal stories within larger contexts is transformative. It asks us to believe in each other in ways necessary to building social movements. It takes courage and faith to let someone else into the middle of your story, and sometimes to help you tell it.
In a mid-week meeting at Point Panics that laid the foundation for Bonnie Kahape‘a-Tanner’s essay, stories were like the waves pumping through the break and crashing onto the stone shoreline. As bodysurfers shot through the tube and then disappeared into the white wash, Kahape‘a recounted to co-editor Noe some of the little known hardships that one of her teachers,
Mau Piailug, and his family endured while he supported the Hawaiian rediscovery of our long-distance sailing heritage: “We don’t consider the sacrifices that others have lived with so that we in Hawai‘i could have the opportunity to revitalize our voyaging traditions. But now that we know more of the story, it’s our kuleana to ask ourselves how we are going to live differently because of it.” Like the waves crashing in front of us that day, stories are powerful. They can pick us up, move us, and energize us. They can also be crushing and oppressive. Stories are so powerful, in part, because they have material consequences. Surging upon the shore, they change the landscape even if only for a time. After that meeting, Noe wrote:
Both Kahape‘a and I grew up alongside Käne‘ohe Bay—the largest sheltered body of water in our archipelago and home to one of Hawai‘i’s only barrier reefs. As a child playing in the shallows of the bay, I was flanked by two different stories about the value of Hawai‘i. Frequently, over the sounds of my dog’s paws splashing through the water as she bounded after tiny fish, we would hear military jets flying overhead or revving their engines at sea level. With my back to the Ko‘olau mountains behind me, I would look to the right and see the distant silhouettes of structures on Käne‘ohe Marine Corps base. Hawaiian land valued as a strategic US military outpost. In contrast, to my left sat one of the largest remaining fishponds in the islands, built over 600 years ago and used continuously until the 20th century to provide for easy access to fish. Hawaiian land valued as a basis for sustainable food production. By the late 1970s, when I was a small child, the massive pond’s mile-long outer rock wall was so overgrown with mangrove that I could not even tell what it was. Stories of the role this pond played in feeding the people of my community in earlier generations had been so silenced that I did not even know the loko i‘a existed, even when we stumbled through the tangled hedge onto it. Today, I am grateful that my own children can say otherwise. Now that they know and can become part of the story of this fishpond’s revival, how will they live differently?
When we are brave enough to let people into the middle of our stories, we see points of connection, where our grief and hopes and fears and loves are shared. Stories can become vessels that help us to navigate the waves that pick us up and move us. In a morning meeting at Yogurstory, Jojo Peter explained to co-editor Aiko how, in Chuuk, the word for “canoe,” “waa,” is the same as the word for blood vessel. He gestured to his arm, to the horizon. We are vessels, each of us, going forth into storied places to bring back space and hope to those we love. This is our power as canoe people. This is absolutely necessary for our survival. He was speaking about his people, about those voyaging far from their homes in Micronesia, seeking health for themselves, their elders, their children. Shortly after this meeting, Aiko wrote:
These words spoke to me too, struggling with a smaller vessel. It is very, very hard to see our parents suffering. Seeing their health steadily deteriorate—diabetes, drinking, chronic pain, heart disease, stroke, depression. Feeling helpless as their health and hope are entangled, and futures seem landlocked. They’ve always taken care of me. How can I, their child, now a young woman, have any power to transform their lives, or my own? Shouldering the weight of the complicated, and well-meaning, choices of our parents and elders, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing we can do. At 28 years old, this is a deep and growing fear I have. But Jojo’s story pushed me to re-
member that our individual actions live within much longer genealogies. That even when we feel we are very small vessels, there is still something so powerful in our motion back and forth, between islands; to go and return, to always return. We can move in the rhythm of forgiveness and hope, even when we don’t have the words for these yet. Even when we don’t quite know what to do. And by understanding how we are connected by currents much larger than us—currents of colonialism, oppression, global greed, but also currents of ancestral, cultural, and spiritual knowledge of how to live as island people—we can begin to help each other find a way.
This book’s focus on life stories asks us to think about how our lives are tangled, and how to be patient enough to work through these knotty interconnections. For example, how do we bring together Hawaiian sovereignty and labor movements, or immigrant- or gender-focused movements for justice and safety? How do we ally in meaningful ways, and what will “solidarity” actually require? This book does not provide simple answers to these questions, but its writers invite you to consider personal stories as ways to begin, to travel toward one another and to think about how to enter someone else’s waters with reverence and respect. The stories collected here call us to ask ourselves, how will we live differently, value Hawai‘i and each other differently, once we have heard them?
The Value of Hawai‘i 2: Ancestral Roots, Oceanic Visions brings together a diversity of voices, not to celebrate blissfully the “happy melting pot” of Hawai‘i, but to commit truly to imagine and practice less fearful or judgmental ways of being together. In this book, you will read the perspectives of people from Native Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Tokelauan, Korean, Chinese, Chuukese, Marshallese, Okinawan, Haole, and other ethnic backgrounds. You will hear from settlers who are productively working through their ambivalences about wanting, on the one hand, to remain connected to these islands as home, and on the other, to respect that Känaka Maoli have a much deeper genealogical relationship with this place and have suffered distinct harms that other groups have not. You will hear from Känaka who feel compelled to share with and kökua groups who have arrived upon our shores as a result of various forms of violence and displacement, and who still face discrimination and marginalization in these islands. This book carries stories of people reaching out across a diversity of histories, genders, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientations, classes, ages, and professions to imagine radically different futures. There are already innumerable cracks in the walls that keep us from feeling each other’s pain and beauty, if we know where to look. We are islanders. In our differences and interdependencies, we hope this book binds us by our aloha for each other and for Hawai‘i nei.
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