Aug 31, 2012

Language and State Elections

I have relatives who speak Hawaiian and who were asking me about voting. I thought that since Hawaiian is supposed to be an official language that I could just download and send materials to them in Hawaiian, 'a'ole pilikia. So I decided to visit the Office of Elections website and I discovered something odd.

While voter information is not available is available in Chinese, Ilocano, and Japanese but its not in Hawaiian--an official language of Hawai'i!

There is another irony with this situation. Voter information is available in Ilocano including ballots. I have no problem with voter information being in Ilocano. My grandfather was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. I'm proud of my Ilocano roots. But there is a certain irony at work here.
A ballot specimen from Hawai'i
The irony is that Ilocano language is not used in elections in the Philippines--not even in Iloco, the homeland of  the Ilocano language.   English and Filipino (Tagalog) are the languages used in Ilocos when it comes to election information.  Why? The Philippines constitutionally only has two official languages, Filipino (Tagalog) and English. Filipino is considered also the national language while English is thought of as being the international language.  Although there are a lot of issues with some Filipinos regarding Tagalog especially those from the central and southern parts of the Philippines, the Philippine government is only following its own constitution.  Ferdinand E. Marcos, better known to many Ilocanos in Hawai'i as "Apo", "Bong" or "McCoy" and by Hawai'i residents as "the dictator who is married to that shoe lady", the first Ilocano president of the Philippines actually promoted the use of Filipino (then called Pilipino).
A ballot specimen from the Philippines
So on one hand, the State of Hawai'i's Office of Election has voter information in three languages including a regional Philippine language which is relevant to a size-able chunk of Hawai'i's population including former governor and mayoral candidate, Benjamin Cayetano. I applaud inclusion. I think that the Office of Elections should try to ensure that people be properly informed so that they will vote correctly and not waste their ballot because they could not understand it. But on the other hand, while in the Philippines their Commission on Elections produces official information in one or both of its two official languages, shouldn't Hawai'i's Office of Election follow the State's own constitution and ensure that material is likewise produced in its two official and constitutional languages--Hawaiian and English? Shouldn't they also be making sure that the Hawaiian language, one of the constitutional languages (yes, I'm repeating that point) and the indigenous language of the land, have election material be put up for the voters, too? Or is our indigenous language worth less than the other languages?

For those who still vote in Hawai'i State elections, I humbly also submit to you that if you still vote and can understand basic Hawaiian, please start requesting the ballots and election materials in Hawaiian in order to show the State that there is a need for such materials and that the number of Hawaiian speakers and/or those who love the Hawaiian language are growing.

Aug 15, 2012

The Role of Hawaiian Women

One of the side affects of colonialism in most areas in the Pacific had been the introduction of a rigid system of gender roles.  In my own understanding of traditional cultures through Oceania, most indigenous peoples acknowledged not two genders but three. The Bugis in Sulawesi in Indonesia for example have five genders. In other places in Polynesia such as Tahiti, Māhū (homosexual and/or hermaphrodite) were thought of as being a third gender and as a normal part of natural diversity. Different Native American nations (I won't call them tribes) also have the concept of people with "two spirits".  This is mainly because traditional and indigenous cultures saw gender not as being simply physiological, but being spiritual, emotional, and natural in the sense that it is observed in nature. Often, these same cultures also place women in deep and meaningful roles either as priestesses or a keeper of traditions and oral history.  

In old Hawai'i, women enjoyed certain prerogatives that even until today is not comparable. Women were allowed to have multiple husbands. Ka'ahumanu had at least five husbands besides Kamehameha the Great. Kamehameha the Great had to moe kapu (kowtow) to Keopuolani, his highest rank wife.  Men cooked and farmed while women produced art work particularly of lauhala (pandanus) and feather works which were used as an inheritance, a high value trade item, an offering and/or as part of taxes (yes they had taxes back then). The upbringing of children was not the sole responsibility of women but was shared often with the kūpuna as grandparents had rights too. Women had their own priesthoods and temples. Inheritance of titles and rank itself was often decided through matriarchal line as French ambassador to the Hawaiian Kingdom Marie Gabriel Dosseront d'Anglade noted in his memoirs A Tree in Bud.  While David Malo would write repeatedly that women were "unclean" in his Hawaiian Antiquities, women and māhū were renowned for being kāula (prophets) and haka (oracles). These haka were attached to mo'o or kihā deities. While ordinarily women were not allowed into luakini class heiau, these haka were escorted by special divination priests (kahuna pu'uone not to be confused with kahuna kāula who could be male, women, or  māhū and served a different function) to the hale puʻuone to advise the male chiefs during a particular day of the month.  Women acting as oracles is of course not unique. Ancient Philippines had babaylans that did similar functions.  The Dalai Lama of Tibet still consults with the Nechung State Oracle who uses male and female oracles who act as kuten or mediums. 

As it was explained to me by 

It is therefore not coincidental that the entire kapu system of the old Hawaiian religion--the social and religious legal system that lasted for over three hundred years--was overturned by a two women, Ka'ahumanu and Keopuolani. If women of old Hawai'i had not been at least equal to that of their male counterparts or did not have an acknowledged and recognized spiritual role in Hawaiian society, Ka'ahumanu and Keopuolani could not have overturned the kapu
With the introduction of Christianity in 1820, the worldview of Hawaiians was made to conform to that of the New Englanders. During the early years, missionaries needed the patronage of the Hawaiian nobility (ali'i) who at that time was being led by Ka'ahumanu, a woman, so the brunt of the changes was at first born by Hawaiian commoners by the slow introduction of Christian-based laws and Western norms through the public school system.  Dr. Jon Kamakawiwo'ole Osorio's Dismembering Lāhui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887 and Sally Engle Merry's The Cultural Power of Law eloquently testify to that.  With the recognition of Hawaiian independence in 1843, it also signaled the shift of the Hawaiian ali'i to become more like Americans and Europeans. In a way, the recognition of Hawaiian independence was a triumph of diplomacy but it also marked the beginning of intense self-colonization and from that point on, the missionaries became an power within the kingdom. While in the very early years of his reign, King Kamehameha III, still attended state functions dressed in a malo, after 1843, Kamehameha III began to increasingly appear in Prussian and French military uniforms.  Hawaiian ali'i women began to wear English corsets, to curl their hair in the latest American fashion. They were taught in schools how to cook, how to be an obedient housewife, and how to rear children in the manner expected of them. Male primogeniture in property rights, in inheritance, and in the line of succession to the throne replaced the old system.  In the churches, only males were allowed to become seminarians, pastors, priests, and bishops. Slowly, patriarchy was seen as normal civilized behavior and .   

 the roles  of males, far more than females, have lost much  of their 
value since Western contact (Cook & Tarallo-Jensen, 2006; Howard, 1971, 1974). It 
is generally assumed that Hawaiian matriarchs keep traditional Hawaiian culture 
alive both at home (Ito, 1999) and in the social and political realms (Linnekin, 1990; 
Trask,  1993). This  general trend may  be related to  evolutionary  explanations  of 
parental behavior (i.e., reproductive roles) of why mothers tend to invest more in 
their child’s upbringing than fathers (Blum, 1997) and that kinship systems favor 
the maternal side (Rossi & Rossi, 1990). 

Aug 8, 2012


I thought I would post a note here. I am beginning to deeply regret now sharing what I shared on this blog about what happened to my own family. Not because of non-Hawaiians but because of the responses from Hawaiians themselves. For example, on the Lawful Hawaiian Government Facebook group someone directly plagiarized an entire section of that post without citing me and taking credit for my own thoughts.

Some other comments from members of the same group included calling the post whinny or saying things like "what makes me cry is that Hawaiians like this keep voting for the wrong people [and] not for LHG". Yet the same people who made comments like those on my post looked the other way when one member of their own group plagiarized from the same post.  I guess if you're not in their club, your mana'o is not your own.

For those who are unfamiliar with what plagiarism is, here is the definition from


  [pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-]  Show IPA
an act or instance of using or closely imitating thelanguage and thoughts of another author withoutauthorization and the representation of that author's work asone's own, as by not crediting the original author: It is saidthat he plagiarized Thoreau's plagiarism of a line written byMontaigne. appropriation, infringement, piracy,counterfeiting; theft, borrowing, cribbing, passing off.
a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorizeduse or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearlyplagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor.

What happened did in 1893 was horrid. I do not even know the proper adjective in English to describe just how scaring that was. That pain will be in my genealogy forever. But what Hawaiians do and say to each other is as emotionally painful as what happened in 1893. Instead of supporting each other, many choose to steal other people's mana'o (which is what plagiarism is) and to suppress unpleasant truths and no'ono'o kūpono (rational thinking).

I am no stranger to controversy and I have received death threats before because of the post I wrote about collaborators. Other Hawaiians of course have accused my posts of being almost anti-ali'i. That of course I find amusing because my great great great grandmother was the daughter of Premier and Princess Elizabeth Kina'u and her first husband, Governor (Moses Kalahai'a) Luanu'u II. I mentioned this only because I want to demonstrate how far back my family's roots are with the last legitimate government of the Hawaiian Islands and that I do know about the ali'i, perhaps a bit too well. Furthermore, I believe that it is the traditional right of every Hawaiian to hold their own leaders accountable. I use the term traditional because we have chants and songs dedicated to figures in our history like Kawelo, 'Umi-a-Liloa, and Kuali'i who became kings not simply because they inherited the position but because the common Hawaiian people on those islands put those people on the throne after overthrowing their incumbent predecessors. It is my right as subject--I will not use national because that's not what my own ancestors would have called themselves--of the Hawaiian nation and as an indigenous Hawaiian to look and question my own history, my own culture, and to speak without being suppressed. It is also my right that my mana'o, my mo'olelo, be given the proper respect and credited. Simply because I'm not a member of a faction of a sovereignty group does not mean I do not have rights.  Ua mau ke 'ea o ka ' āina i ka pono can also be translated as "The life/breath/sovereignty of the land has been and will be preserved in its rights." Yes, pono also means rights as in the song Kaulana Nā  Pua which talks about pono sivila (civil rights) or as in  "'Aha 'Ōlelo o Nā Aupuni Hui Pū 'Ia i Ka Hō'ike No Nā  Pono Kanaka O Ke Ao Nei" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights).  Pono does not begin nor end simply because you're a member of a sovereignty group or because you have a sharp difference of opinion.  

It is clear to me now that the principles that were long cherished by Queen Lili'uokalani that Hawaiians must mature into a self-governing mass--a mass that respected democracy and individual rights while being guided by our indigenous culture--is not being practiced by some Hawaiians of this day including being able to acknowledge someone else's mana'o or how for the sake of "unity" Hawaiians censor other Hawaiians. This is not pono. This is not the pono that our ancestors who lived during the tumultuous times in the 19th century would have wanted us, their mo'opuna, to act. They would have wanted us to behave with pono and recognizing each other's mana'o and pono sivila (civil rights). We need to return to being pono with each other instead of smashing each other in the name of unity or to act hiehie launa ʻole (to be showy, to brag or to be emotionally shallow) towards one another

Its time for us to be warriors instead of being armed with the pololū, we shall be armed with our intellect, our 'imi na'auao (thirst for knowledge), and our desire to always be pono--culturally and politically.