It is the year 2012 and the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi (PKOA) is finally recognized by the United Nations as an indigenous sovereign nation. After many years of painstaking struggle, we as Hawaiians can finally return home. The government of Atooi now has jurisdiction over the U.S. government, occupying Hawaii according to international law and the recognition by the UN. You can find the headquarters of this nation on the island of Kauai. The Ali’i Nui (High Chief) is Aleka (Dayne) Aipoalani (a direct descendant of Kaumuali’i) and the kingdom’s website is http://www.atooination.com. PKOA is composed of peoples from diverse cultures whose relationships share the mission of ho’opono ‘aina (to make right with the land). Hawaiians now have an opportunity to regain their stolen lands and government (1893 colonial possession by the U.S).
Atooi is a far cry from my young days growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii, when land was continually swindled from the Hawaiian people by the corrupt practices of the new invaders. My father knew every Hawaiian living in West and knew that these people never sold their land to anyone. I believe the term he used was “adverse possession.” This is when an individual or a group pays taxes on a specific parcel of land, and after seven years, can claim that land if no one else has paid taxes on it. You can look it up in Black’s law dictionary for a more detailed description. Of course, Hawaiians never knew or told about this new law.
When my father was attending Kamehameha School on Oahu (an all Hawaiian elementary and high school) he was reprimanded every time he spoke Hawaiian, his first language. English was forced upon the native people of Hawaii (Kanaka Maoli) as well as a new foreign culture and religion. The point is, if you want to eradicate a culture, you first take their land away, then their language.
In order for the Hawaiians to survive the events of the past, they were forced to form organizations based on Western systems of thought that were confusing to them. To survive the restructuring of their way of life, they had to adapt. They had to have representation in this new order, to protect and defend what little they had left.
This was the beginning of an unhealthy seed of exploitation being planted on sacred land. Today there are many Hawaiian organizations that carry the signature of an idea of a democratic organization that is based on a wrongful form of democracy. These pseudo Hawaiian organizations are using the same model that our ancestors had seen practiced against them and their ‘aina hiwahiwa (precious land). There is a deep history of self-interest, greed, and political corruption that we have experienced by a country that turns an eye on its own sacred ideals as stated in the American Constitution.
An example of this is Bishop Estate, which controls lands, worth more than 6 billion dollars. The original intention of Bishop Estate was for the education of native Hawaiians. Bernice Pauahi Paki, the great granddaughter of Kamehameha I, married Charles Reed Bishop and together they created a trust for the Hawaiian children. Unfortunately, today Bishop Estate is filled with a dark history of corruption, nepotism and greed. My uncle who was a surveyor for a private company noticed many instances where Bishop Estate encroached on other Hawaiian lands by moving the boundary markers.
For anyone looking in from the outside, you can start to understand how challenging it is for a Hawaiian to develop a clear sense of his or her own identity. We were told in many ways and in many forms that if we are to survive in the new world we had to let go of our traditions. We had to let go of a fairly complex system of deep understanding that people and government did not own land, but that land was a precious gift from the gods (Kumukahi). As a young man, my father always taught me that our kuleana (responsibility) to the land is to perpetuate it for future generations where people and nature prospered harmoniously. Imagine what went through my na kupuna (parent’s, grandparent’s, ancestor’s) mind when a foreign government came in and took them over, against their will! This new colonial invader then introduced a new system of land management. Land was now to be divided amongst those that wished “private ownership” for personal gain. They also introduced “government ownership” for personal gain. How were the Hawaiians to react when these private individuals became government officials creating laws that served their own personal interests? The new Hawaii perpetuated money, power and profit with no concern for the people or the land. It created a wound to the spirit of the people whose heart and soul was deeply rooted to the sacred land and sea. It has taken Hawaiians many generations to digest and realize just what this wounding has meant to them, and to the land that they love. Today, almost half of the Hawaiian population lives outside of Hawaii mostly because they can’t afford to live on their ancestral land.
In 1778 it was estimated that about 400,000 Hawaiians lived throughout the islands of Hawaii. One hundred years later in 1878 this population decreased to about 40,000 people due, in large part, to diseases introduced by contact with foreigners. These diseases included venereal disease, small pox, measles, whooping cough and influenza.
I remember my sister and I, as young kids, trekking along the cliffs of Ka’awaloa (near where my ancestors came from) finding a small cave with eight children’s bones neatly wrapped individually in tapa cloth. We both wondered what happened to them and why so many in one spot? I realize now that it was probably one of the diseases that killed so many in such a short period of time. Imagine the impact this might have on you and your family. It could have been my relatives buried in that unmarked grave. I can’t imagine the deep sadness to lose so many people who were so precious to me. When you value family as a source of joy and renewal, it becomes a serious loss, a deep wound, especially if it is your own children.
Add to these deep wounds to the spirit of the people the introduction of religion. A religion that tells the host culture that traditional customs, dances and ceremonies are immoral and blasphemous. They were told to turn their other cheek, to be passive and forgive those who have ruined their way of life. It is interesting to note that the five biggest landowners in Hawaii today are descendants of missionaries. To add insult to injury, the Hawaiians must forget their own language, their own customs, and their own sacred traditions.
It has been a long struggle over incredible odds to find our voices and to regain our own identity. Today we are experiencing a non-religious spiritual renaissance, a reconnection to our true past from the pre-warrior period. In 1976 when I sailed on the double hull canoe “Hokule’a,” I didn’t realize at the time, that it was to become the turning point for us as Kanaka Maoli, to heed the calling of our ancestors and our lands. It became the reawakening of our consciousness and the resurrection of our voices and sacred traditions that were buried with our na kupuna (ancestors) generations ago. It is the aloha (love) of our people, the Hawaiians and those that are Hawaiian at heart, that will bring harmony and peace to the ‘aina (land) and the na kanaka (people) for generations to come. It is the heart of Aloha that is unique to Hawaii’s secret past, buried deep in the heart and souls of those who love the land. This is Hawaii’s true calling and its gift to the world.