Reading of the Day

Hall, Lisa Kahaleole. 2005. “Hawaiian at heart” and other fictions. The Contemporary Pacific 17(2):404-413.

This article deals with the definition of a Hawaiian and the difficulties mainstream culture has in understanding the difference between a Hawaiian and a person who was born and/or raise in Hawaiian but is not of indigenous descent.  She goes into lengthy description of the history of this misunderstanding and also goes into the difference between native Hawaiian (50% or more blood quantum), Native Hawaiian (50% or less blood quantum), and Kanaka Māoli (any percent of blood quantum, usually designated by genealogy rather than blood).  Ultimately, Hall argues for Hawaiians to define themselves by genealogy rather than blood quantum, especially as the “gene pool” becomes increasingly depleted.  She also discusses how Hawaiian culture has become kitsch on the mainland and how non-Hawaiians have become “more Hawaiian than Hawaiians” and feel an anger towards Hawaiians for being more involved in ʻōlelo and hula than Hawaiians.  She also describes the colonial influences on this case, particularly the banning of Hawaiian language and hula by missionaries as early as 1820.  She also goes into a discussion of New Age spiritualism and Huna.  As far as diasporic Hawaiians are concerned, Hall argues that if you have the genealogy to back it up, it doesnʻt matter so much, as “Hawaiian identity lies in a genealogical relationship to ʻaumakua (ancestral spirit), ʻāina (the land), and kānaka (other Hawaiians)” (405).  I also really like this quote from the article: “Concepts such as ʻpartʻ and ʻfullʻ, 50 percent, or more and less than 50 percent, are colonial constructions that threaten to divide Hawaiians from each other” (405).  I have many cousins who are obsessed with blood quantum in the islands and look down upon those who are less than 50% when, in fact, in my lifetime, there will be no more pure blood Hawaiians.

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