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Editorial | Island Voices

Hawaiians today struggling to overcome long, sad history

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John Casey Carpenter’s assessment of our Hawaiian students’ underachievement and failure in education along with his reasoning for the problem is right on target ("It’s time to give Hawaiian culture respect it deserves," Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, Nov. 14). His reasoned dissection of the problem along with his suggested resolution is a good beginning for a problem that has existed for far too long.

Sadly, the deterioration of a once-proud and strong race of people began with the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778 and continues to this day. With the arrival of James Cook more than 200 years ago, the genocide of a race began. From a population of between 600,000 to 800,000 in 1778, by the 1850s (in less than 75 years), the population of Hawaiians was reduced to approximately 50,000 people. Thus the "put down" of Hawaiians began.

By 1822, in less than 45 years, upon the arrival of the missionaries, the "put down" of our religion, language, culture, system of governance, and land tenure began. And by 1848, in less than 26 years, with the so-called "Great Mahele of 1848," began the alienation of ownership of lands of the kingdom to non-Hawaiians. Then in 1854, in less than six years, upon the adoption of the "Bayonet Constitution" by the new republic, Hawaiians were effectively denied the vote in this new democracy. Through the subsequent passage of various pieces of legislation by this new democratic government, lands belonging to Hawaiians and their alii were gradually being stripped away.

By 1893, in less than 30 years, the hunger for land and money by the colonists, the Hawaiian kingdom and independent nation of people with treaties with the great countries of the world, including the United States, was overthrown by the new republic and thus accelerated the "put down" of Hawaiians. The annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898 was the "icing on the cake."

Hawaiians who once ruled this land became a race of people who are most incarcerated, most in substance abuse, most in poor health, most on welfare, most homeless — the list goes on — and yes, the most uneducated.

Today, the onslaught continues. With the state constitutional amendments of 1978 (200 years after Captain Cook’s discovery), the so-called "Hawaiian Renaissance" was to mark the beginning of the rebirth of Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii. With the ratification of those amendments by the people of Hawaii, two years later the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created. But promises made more than 30 years ago are yet to be fulfilled. With the Organic Act and Statehood in 1959, promises made to Hawaiians more than 50 years ago are yet to be fulfilled. With the Apology Bill of 1993, promises made more than 17 years ago are not yet fulfilled. With the Akaka Bill before the U.S. Congress for the recognition of Hawaiians as indigenous to this land, a process began in the year 2000; in 2010, promises are yet to be fulfilled.

There were nearly 20 years of debate before the state Department of Education (DOE) accepted, with reluctance, the Hawaiian language immersion program within the state’s system of education. With the proven success of the Hawaiian culturally based charter schools, a learning environment embraced by our Hawaiian children and their parents begun more than 20 years ago, the DOE and the state Legislature continue to deny equitable funding, giving funding preference to the DOE’s "one size fits all" system of education.

In the meantime, Hawaiians continue to struggle to compete in a system of governance that refuses to keep its promises of reparation to a race of people who have been "put down" by those who were welcomed to these islands. Hawaiians continue to struggle to protect entitlements being challenged by newcomers who shout "race discrimination" to a people who are trying to reverse the statistics that demean a once strong and proud race of people indigenous to these lands of Hawaii.

I mahalo Mr. Carpenter for sharing his insights on a system that denies Hawaiians an opportunity to be educated and to become contributing members of this new society — a people who struggle to regain their place as a strong and proud race.

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