Seminar (2): Indigenous Lives Series: Hawaiian People Between History and Reality
How do you view the way the UN deals with the issue of indigenous rights as opposed to governments?
The UN deals with indigenous rights in a haphazard way, one one hand seeing indigenous peoples rights as part of the panoply of human rights, sort of the 4th generation of human rights. Yet, the UN is constrained by its internal operations, made up of states which have a general propensity to elevate their national interest above those of the world of human rights development. Thus, states pull the UN in the direction of indigenous rights as belonging to the province of the States themselves. And yet, it need to contend with the theory of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which rights should extend beyond national borders, such as the human right to be free from slavery, or from colonization, or from genocide. While this argument continues, the UN can provide an important world stage upon which indigenous peoples can gather and expose their plight to other indigenous peoples and to States who have not elevated their national interest above those of human rights.
How do the people of Hawaii maintain their cultural identity these days?
Hawaii is in a fortunate position in comparison with many other indigenous peoples. Because Hawaii had been an independent nation and operated as such with a very well known and dignified history and culture which spanned across these islands and spread to some extent across the world, and because of the early experience of literacy of the Hawaiian people who recorded much of their cultural practice and language, we have been able to recover the cultural treasures covered over by years of colonization. Secondly, because part of the cultural practice of Hawaii has been one of inclusion as opposed to exclusion, Hawaii's cultural recovery has been supported by many people in Hawaii and elsewhere, all who have been included in and actively participating in the expression of Hawaiian cultural practices – the most obvious is the dance known as the hula which incorporates far more than the movement of the body but is steeped in history, in philosophy, in environment, in religion, in legends, and in humanity, common among all people of the world.
Are there specific risks the people of Hawaii are facing in light of COVID19?
Like the rest of the world, we are subject to disease. But due to the isolation of our Hawaiian islands geographically from the rest of the world, we had been protected by geography. To a great degree, that protection continues to exist today and the Hawaii State government has been strict in travellers as well as returning residents coming back, requiring that such returning travelers enter a 14 day quarantine. Hawaii's population also generally fall among those who appreciate collective action rather than individual action. Therefore, the call for sacrifice by locking down and staying home is more easily accepted than a people more practiced in individual rights and the promotion of individuals.
Please tell us more about the concept of Aloha Aina (peace and love to the land) in the Hawaiians culture and how it helps you as an indigenous people fight your ongoing battle.
Aloha `Aina has a variety of meanings and changes as time and events change. It was raised as a statement of allegiance to Hawaiian independence and support for the Constitutional Monarchy of Hawaii led by Queen Lili`uokalani, attached and stolen by the U.S. government and conspirator white residents of Hawaii, mostly American citizens. In the 1970's it became popular as a statement of protecting our land, our `aina, our environment, and an elevation of that natural element as not merely resource but as having a sacred place in Hawaii. Aloha `aina is now heavily invested in environmentalism and is part of another term Pono which is part of the Hawaiian national as well as State of Hawaii motto, "Ua mau ke `ea o ka `aina i ka pono" enunciated by King Kamehameha III (Kauikeauoli) in 1843 upon the return of the government of Hawaii by the British. "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."
Aloha `aina is part of the fundamental beliefs of the Hawaiian people, which includes pono and ola (health/life).