Hawaiian Newspapers

Reading Hawaiian language newspaper from January 1890

Found a really cool archival website that has Hawaiian language newspapers from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Link: http://www.nupepa.org/gsdl2.5/cgi-bin/nupepa?e=d-0nupepa–00-0-0–010—4—-text—0-1l–1en-Zz-1—20-about—00031-0000utfZz-8-00&a=d&cl=CL2.46

I shrank one down to use as a prop in my thesis project. Besides being cool, it’s also an important historical detail I always wanted to put in my film. By 1890, over 90 percent of the Native Hawaiian population was literate, an extremely remarkable thing for the time.


Rapa Nui Day of Protest, March 16th 2011

I recently had the pleasure of photographing (on my birthday!) a protest and demonstration in support of the indigenous people of Rapa Nui, who currently suffer under the aggressive military action and occupation of their land by the Chilean government.

The protest was organized by the Oceanic Coalition of Northern California (O.C.N.C), and featured Pacific Islander leaders, activists, and students from all over the Bay Area, as well as guests from Rapa Nui and Hawai’i.

I had an amazing time taking pictures, and I got to catch up with a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in a while – as well as meet some amazing new people. Being in a very highly commercial area, it was especially poignant to see all of us gathered for a cause worth more than anything that could be bought in a store. Rapa Nui is so tiny, and so overlooked or forgotten by mainstream media, that I think it felt really good for everyone to stand in alliance and be noisy about it. It brought to mind the the Maori phrase:

Ahakoa he iti, he iti pounamu / Although small, it is precious


The Great Pineapple Myth

For some reason, there’s this widespread belief that Polynesians really love pineapples. When people think of Hawai’i, they think: palm trees, hula girls, and pineapples. When restaurants want to add an “island” flair to their food, they add a pineapple ring, or if it’s a Polynesian-themed drink, it has pineapple juice in it. Every time I’ve ever been at the Kahului or Honolulu airport, there are always lines of tourists proudly wielding atop their luggage,  giant cardboard crates of fresh, ripe pineapples.

Personally, I’ve eaten many a meal with other Pacific Islanders (Native Hawaiians, Tongans, Maori, Samoans,  Fijians and Chamorros to be exact) and nobody ever had pineapple on their plate. Not one. Nobody ever talked about wanting pineapples, or plans to have pineapple later. When you go to someone’s house and their family makes their traditional food, it is pretty much pineapple-free. Except for maybe if they like pineapple upside down cake, which is, of course,  a delicious American creation.

This is probably because pineapples are indigenous to South America, not Oceania. They were brought to Hawai’i in 1813 by Spanish plantation owners, who had previously set up  successful pineapple plantations in the Caribbean, especially in Cuba. They also brought pineapples to the Philippines, Guam and Zimbabwe.

Despite the pineapple being a global fruit (it is also grown in India and in English hothouses), it became “Hawaiianized” in the early 20th century, when James Dole began developing a pineapple empire. He earned the title of “Pineapple King” by creating a massive and successful ad campaign, as well as modernizing and expanding pineapple production and industrialization. In 1922, the Dole pineapple plantation on Lana’i was the largest plantation in the world, with over 200,000 acres of pineapples.

I should also point out that the Dole family in Hawai’i was also instrumental in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, which ended Native Hawaiian sovereignty through unconstitutional means.  With his conspirators, Samford Dole helped draft the Bayonet Constitution in 1887, which stripped the Hawaiian Kingdom of much of its authority. King Kalakaua was forced to sign it under intimidation, reportedly with guns pointed towards his head. More importantly, the Bayonet Constitution took voting rights from Native Hawaiians and “all Asian persons” in the years precipitating the overthrow.  After the overthrow  in 1893, a blatant theft of power orchestrated by descendants of American missionaries,  Samford Dole went on to appoint himself the first president of the forcibly imposed “Republic of Hawaii,” a term I put in quotes to highlight its irony. While Samford Dole was not a monarch, this certainly was not a republic.

Under the control of American businessmen, Hawai’i  continued to become a rich agricultural center for sugar and pineapples. These giant plantations were partly the result of the Great Mahele (mahele means “divide”), enacted in 1848 under the Hawaiian kingdom. This act made it possible to privately own land in Hawai’i (Native Hawaiians did not practice Western style land ownership), which ultimately resulted in the displacement of much the native population as American and European businessmen began purchasing much of the land. While the Hawaiian kingdom at the time had enacted the Mahele, it was done at the urging and persistence of the European and American royal advisers.

Additionally, I mention the denial of voting rights to “Asian persons” in the Bayonet constitution considering how much of the contemporary hotel culture in Hawai’i celebrates and romanticizes the “plantation style” aesthetic, which is a very perverse nostalgia. The Hawaiian plantation “heyday” is a time period in which hundreds of thousands of immigrants labored in hot, dusty fields as indentured workers, while their Native Hawaiian neighbors were prohibited by law from speaking their own language. Yes, the aesthetic is pretty, but its social and historical context is not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the pineapple. It can be very sweet and delicious (I do love pineapple upside down cake)  and in Victorian times, it was considered a charming symbol of welcome. But is it Hawaiian? Or Polynesian? Nope.

If you want to make your food island “island style,” put some kalo on it ;P

Yay! Congratulations!

One of my favorite professors from the University of Washington, Dr. Luana Ross, was named the new president for Salish Kootenai College in Montana. She and her husband, Dan Hart, started the Native Voices Indigenous Media Program nine years ago at the UW, when I was but a wee undergrad. Although “Native Voices” is a graduate program, they generously let me enroll in their seminar classes and make a film with them. I’m very thankful for this, because it was a wonderful way to start my path in filmmaking.  

Dr. Luana Ross (Picture: "Indian Country Today")

The students at Salish Kootenai College are very lucky to have Dr. Luana Ross as their president. She is not only extremely knowledgeable, but is also a very nurturing  and supportive instructor – with an amazing sense of humor. I’m so happy our paths crossed while she was still at the UW. Congratulations Luana! 

Read more about her at “Indian Country Today”

10/14 Lecture – Film as Political Expression: Pacific Islanders and Media

Yesterday I did my regular Pacific Islanders and Media lecture in my friend’s Pacific Islander Studies class at City College San Francisco. It’s always slightly amazing to be there, since I can clearly remember when my friend, David Palaita, and I were both undergrad students ourselves at the UW ten years ago. I never imagined I would be lecturing a class that he was a professor of, so it’s very cool. 

The weather here in SF is super hot, and everyone was kind of lethargic and dozey, but the class really responded well to the films I showed them. This time, I switched up my regular media literacy lecture and focused instead on profiling four young Pacific Islander filmmakers making films that can be understood or used in an indigenous political context. It was my first time doing this particular presentation, so hopefully it went well. 

As I was speaking, I noticed that one of the students had a very angry expression on her face – which totally puzzled me, because what on earth would she be upset about? And then she surprised me by asking a thoughtful (non angry) question about one of the films I screened. As I walked closer towards her to answer, I was startled to notice that her angry looking eyebrows didn’t move at all the whole time she was talking. They were actually painted on. OH! So it wasn’t me. Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or a person by their eyebrows. 

Below are pictures from the lecture. My friend has a made point now of photographing all of his guest speakers and posting them to Facebook. When he told me that the day before, I said, “You better make sure I look cute!” And he replied, “Girl, that ain’t my job. All I do is snap the photos, bringing the cute is your business! So you better be as cute as you wanna be!”

So I guess I didn’t quite bring it, since I wouldn’t call the the pictures “cute,” but they’re not awful either. There’s only one of me with my eyes closed (not posted below!)