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Oct 10, 2011

Some thoughts on the Creation of a Hawaiian National History


Part 1


One of the major tasks of any nation is creating a national narrative or political history. A national narrative is important to nation-building since all nations are, in the words of Benedict Anderson, "imagined communities". A nation is an imagined community because its not possible to connect with everyone in a given at the same time. Instead, we connect with people through a series of images, senses, and stories that most accept as being "in common" with everyone else. Thus, for Americans they generally associate apple pie, hot dogs, the Mayflower, the Washington Monument, etc., as "being American". A part of that association is a collection of stories that are woven together to form a national narrative or history. Again, for Americans, normally their national narrative begins with the arrival of the Mayflower and now currently ends with President Obama.

For Hawaiians, its a bit trickier than Thanksgiving dinners and putting "Support Our Troops" stickers on the car. Native Hawaiians, as a people, have three narratives: a genealogical narrative; a regional political narrative; and a national political narrative. The genealogical narrative is based on a founding of a ruling clan and normally starts in the remote past during the time of , or with Kumuhonua, or with Maui, or through Papa and Wakea. The most well known is the Kumulipo. The problem with the genealogical history is that the reality its more of an idealized genealogy where story telling and oratory is more or as important as accurately naming ancestors. You will not find many Native Hawaiians who will claim to be a descendant of fishermen or farmers--who were always the majority of the population until disease and Kamehameha II wiped a huge chunk of them out. That in itself already shows that genealogical narratives tends to be class-oriented, personal and bias. The genealogical narrative then becomes not simply a re-telling of the names and deeds of ancestors, but it becomes a claim to power over other Native Hawaiians, and, in particular for some a bid for status. Not many Hawaiians realize that when Queen Lili'uokalani published her autobiography, people such as Robert Wilcox wrote long articles against the Queen's genealogical charts basically saying that she changed the paternity of some of her ancestors to make her line look more royal. In the 19th century, these genealogical narratives would also serve nationalistic purposes as a way to connect the Hawaiian people, the Hawaiian nation, and the ali'i as well as serving as a tool to re-enforce Hawaiian history, culture, identity and sovereignty in the face of Western colonialism.

In regards to regional narratives, people often forget that Hawai'i was divided into four main kingdoms--Hawai'i, Maui, O`ahu, and Kaua`i--for most of its history. Each of these kingdoms have their own version of events and their own political and cultural uniqueness. The old Kingdom of O'ahu for example had a series of elected kings and had female rulers. The Kingdom of Kaua'i retained a lot of old cultural elements that were mostly forgotten in other areas of Hawai'i which is one of the reasons why some of the oldest hula compositions comes from Kaua'i. It also be noted that at various times, Moloka`i, Ni`ihau, Ka`u, and other places were independent kingdoms unto themselves but were absorbed into one of the four kingdoms by the 1500s. With the rise of Kahekili and later Kamehameha two centuries later, these regional histories were displaced by the history of the conquering kingdom and then became "regional" histories.

As far as Hawaiian national narrative, technically speaking, the political history of the Hawaiian nation begins in 1810 when Kamehameha I officially becomes mö`ï of the four kingdoms because there was no unified nation before him (though Pili and Kahekili almost succeeded).  The writers such as Davida Malo, Samuel Kamakau, and others, during the reign of Kamehameha III, was that there was a conscious move to incorporate regional history, symbols, genealogical chants and personalities into a national narrative--things that would bind the "imagined community" together. This was done to help show foreign nations that Hawai`i had a very ancient history as well as to incorporate the displaced ali`i and commoners into this new Hawaiian nation. At the time of Malo and Kamakau, there were many among the masses of Native Hawaiians, kahuna (priests), and displaced ali`i who were frustrated with the Kamehameha regime. This was particularly true in the 1824 when Prince George Humehume Kaumuali`i of Kaua`i tried to restore the Kingdom of Kaua`i. He ultimately failed and the entire former royal court of Kaua`i were shipped to Lahaina then to Honolulu and made to serve in the Kamehameha household. During the surrender ceremonies of George Humehume Kaumuali`i at Pohukaina, the names of the four kingdoms of their great rulers--Hawai`i of Keawe, Maui of Pi`ilani, O'ahu of Kakuhihewa, and Kaua`i of Manokalanipö--were chanted into a single chant and since that time those lines have appeared in numerous Hawaiian songs. For some, that day marked the beginning of a single, politically unified and truly Hawaiian nation and is the psychological start for a national narrative. The revolt also served as a wake-up call for many of the elites in Honolulu to expedite building a national community. Shortly there after we begin to see the start of a public education system, standardized Hawaiian grammar, standardized Hawaiian spelling, the formation of the Chiefs' Children's School, a new constitution (which gave voting rights to the masses of Native Hawaiians and allowed them to participate in their own government), and a standardized religion--Christianity. It is also interesting to note that in the Constitution of 1840, it clearly describes the beginning of the Hawaiian national history in the following sentences:
14. Ka hoakaka ana i ke Ano o ka Noho o na'lii.
Eia ke ano o ka noho ana o na'lii a me ka hooponopono ana i ka aina. O Kamehameha I, oia ke poo o keia aupuni, a nona no na aina a pau mai Hawaii a Niihau, aole nae nona ponoi, no na kanaka no, a me na'lii, a o Kamehameha no ko lakou poo nana e olelo i ka aina. Nolaila, aohe mea pono mamua, aohe hoi mea pono i keia manawa ke hoolilo aku i kekahi lihi iki o keia mau aina me ka ae ole o ka mea ia ia ka olelo o ke aupuni. 
15. Eia ka poe nana ka olelo mai ia manawa mai, O Kamehameha II, o Kaahumanu I, a i keia wa hoi, o Kamehameha III. Na keia poe wale no e olelo o ke aupuni, a hiki i keia wa, a o na palapala a pau a lakou i kakau ai, oia wale no na palapala o ke aupuni.
16. E mau loa aku hoi ke aupuni ia Kamehameha III, a me kona hooilina aku. Eia hoi kona hooilina, o ka mea ana e olelo pu ai me na'lii i kona wa e ola a14. Ka hoakaka ana i ke Ano o ka Noho o na'lii.

Eia ke ano o ka noho ana o na'lii a me ka hooponopono ana i ka aina. O Kamehameha I, oia ke poo o keia aupuni, a nona no na aina a pau mai Hawaii a Niihau, aole nae nona ponoi, no na kanaka no, a me na'lii, a o Kamehameha no ko lakou poo nana e olelo i ka aina. Nolaila, aohe mea pono mamua, aohe hoi mea pono i keia manawa ke hoolilo aku i kekahi lihi iki o keia mau aina me ka ae ole o ka mea ia ia ka olelo o ke aupuni.

15. Eia ka poe nana ka olelo mai ia manawa mai, O Kamehameha II, o Kaahumanu I, a i keia wa hoi, o Kamehameha III. Na keia poe wale no e olelo o ke aupuni, a hiki i keia wa, a o na palapala a pau a lakou i kakau ai, oia wale no na palapala o ke aupuni.

16. E mau loa aku hoi ke aupuni ia Kamehameha III, a me kona hooilina aku. Eia hoi kona hooilina, o ka mea ana e olelo pu ai me na'lii i kona wa e ola ana, a i ole ia e olelo, alaila lilo ka olelo i na'lii wale no, a me ka poe i kohoia no hoi.na, a i ole ia e olelo, alaila lilo ka olelo i na'lii wale no, a me ka poe i kohoia no hoi.
That is to say that the origin of the Hawaiian Kingdom is based on the Kamehameha I "...who was the head of the this government, from all the lands from Hawai'i to Ni`ihau, from one end to the other. However, the lands were not his own private property but were held for the people and for the chiefs...."and only the deeds and documents written by the successors and administrators as directed by Kamehameha I were valid. Again, we have the beginning of a Hawaiian national narrative not to mention the a process by which Kamehameha III was trying to re-gain control of his throne after the years with Kaomi and Nahi'ena'eina by excluding his other other half-siblings (remember Kamehameha I had over 14 recorded wives and dozens of other children).

A year later, King Kamehameha III, John Young, Timothy Haʻalilio, David Malo, Dwight Baldwin, William Richards, Sheldon Dibble, Samuel Kamakau and others would form the Hawaiian Royal Historical Society. In the words of Kamakau:
A society was started at Lahainaluna according to the desire of the teachers. As the people of Alebione (Albion) had their British history and read about the Saxons and William, so the Hawaiians should read their history...The King said he thought the history of all the islands should be preserved from first to last.
It should be noted that Kamehameha III was very keen on incorporating the "history of all the islands" as the memory of Kaua`i Revolt still lingered in his memory. There was also a need to have Hawaiian history textbooks for the recently implemented nation-wide public school system.

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