From Our Files: Native Hawaiian Issues
Throughout 2013—our 125th anniversary year—From Our Files will focus on a different theme each month, looking back at how particular aspects of life in Honolulu were lived and reported on by HONOLULU Magazine and its predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific.
In its first issue, January 1888, Paradise of the Pacific announced itself as a promotional vehicle for the Islands. “Politics and personalities will be carefully avoided,” it stated. Consequently, the biggest change anyone would’ve seen in the publication in 1893 was that it went from being a newspaper-like broadsheet into a true magazine, with an engraved cover around better paper. The new look debuted in January, the same month that Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown. There’s hardly a word of this in the magazine, however, except that, in March 1893, Paradise assured its readers that it was perfectly safe to visit the Islands, and that the revolution had barely interrupted Hawaii’s “influx of tourists from all quarters of the globe.”
When the magazine wrote about Native Hawaiians through the first half of the 20th century, it mainly shared legends and history rather than contemporary issues. The Hawaiian culture was treated in much the same way as the Hawaiian landscape—unique in the world, beautiful, marketable. In this issue, however, the magazine notes that Hawaiian music has become enormously popular on the Mainland, to the great peril of young Hawaiian men and women who had taken to the Mainland, ukulele in hand, hoping for “an easy and attractive living” as performers only to end up in “the cheaper restaurants” and “disreputable resorts,” stranded and broke. Warns Paradise, “The life is a killing one. There are few if any more cold-blooded businesses on earth than the theatrical business.”
Paradise invites Sanford B. Dole to give his account of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Dole, then 81, had served on the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Hawaii under Kalakaua and on Queen Liliuokalani’s Privy Council, but joined the effort to overthrow the monarchy. He became president of the short-lived Provisional Government, then of the Republic of Hawaii, after which he was appointed first governor of the Territory of Hawaii. In his essay, Dole claims that he first suggested a regency under Princess Kaiulani, but the Committee of Safety wouldn’t have it. Dole and the Committee, backed by an armed force, took the Executive Building, finding it nearly deserted. “There was no audience present to listen to [our] proclamation except the clerks of the dying government.”
“The homestead plan for persons of Hawaiian or part Hawaiian blood has been termed one of the more successful social experiments of the nation,” writes Paradise. “The Hawaiian on his homestead is not a ward of the government, as is the American Indian, but is an independent human being.” Though the homestead plan had been a “political football” since its inception 26 years earlier, the 1947 Territorial Legislature had authorized additional home sites, urged Congress to provide more loans and provided for the program to remain under federal control should Hawaii become a state. However, since statehood, the land trust has been administered by the Hawaii state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. DHHL mismanagement was the subject of a three-part investigation by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser earlier this year.
When Paradise of the Pacific became HONOLULU Magazine in 1966, a lot changed. Written for a local readership, HONOLULU was free to write about the real Hawaii, rather than a postcard version. Countless stories since have covered everything from the 1970s Hawaiian renaissance to the sovereignty movement to the rebirth of the Hawaiian language. In this issue, HONOLULU names University of Hawaii professor Haunani-Kay Trask its Islander of the Year, for getting the whole state talking when she penned a fiery response to a haole undergraduate’s complaint about racism in Hawaii. “[S]he focused attention on the situation of Hawaiians in contemporary Hawaii, an issue that simply can’t be dismissed,” wrote HONOLULU. “Hawaii may have prospered since 1893, but not the Hawaiians. They are at risk of becoming a permanent underclass in what was once their homeland.”
Too infrequently, articles about Native Hawaiians in the magazine are written by actual Hawaiians. In this issue, Sally-Jo Keala-o-Anuenue Bowman reflects on 10 years of the sovereignty movement, which rose to prominence when thousands gathered for a five-day remembrance of the overthrow in 1993. “Why is being Hawaiian so important?” Bowman asks. “We’ve intermarried so much no one can tell a Hawaiian just by surname or looks. ... I am a case in point, yet I am aware every day of being Hawaiian.” Bowman interviews Hawaiians practicing Western professions, “psychiatrists and psychologists, pastors, a lawyer, academics outside Hawaiian studies,” to learn the meaning of the Hawaiian word, ea. “‘It is sovereignty, life, spirit and breath. They cannot be separated.’ I was not to choose among these meanings of ea, but to carry them together, before high tide washed them out to sea again.”
In addition to HONOLULU’s regular coverage of Native Hawaiian topics, you can read more in our new sister publication, Mana Magazine, written for the Hawaiian community. mymanamagazine.com