Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ka Leʻa o Ke Ola: Queer Indigenous Studies, Hawaiian-Style!

“Aloha ʻāina is a familial relationship; that means that we resist all attempts to further separate any of us from our ʻāina. Our freedom to live in our land is linked to our freedom to determine how we live in our bodies.” –Noenoe Silva

“In these challenging times, convoluted views of our native culture are being appropriated for other purposes…If you support the Westernized Christian view of marriage, then so be it — but please don’t pretend that your choice has anything to do with Hawaiian thought or values… You would relegate our people to nothing but mere shells along the seashore, damaged by those who trample upon their fragile beauty because they want to walk in paradise. I speak on behalf of mahu and those in aikane relationships who are too afraid, too shy or unable to articulate their profound connection to the true native concept of Hawaii — an inclusive society that unconditionally accepts, respects and loves all people, and that values the full and wondrous diversity of our relationships and families.” –Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu

Lately in Hawaiʻi, we have been painfully reminded of Chris Finley’s observation that "Heteropatriarchy has become so natural in many Native communities that it is internalized and institutionalized as if it were traditional."[1] As the Hawai‘i State Legislature continues its special session to consider a bill that would extend marriage equality to same-sex couples, Native Hawaiian words and values have been misused and taken completely out of historical and cultural context by those who promote homophobia and heteropatriarchy under the guise of “traditional marriage.”  The institution of state-sanctioned or church-sanctioned marriage has a very short genealogy here in Hawaiʻi. To claim marriage is a Kanaka Maoli tradition is like claiming plantation capitalism is a Hawaiian tradition.  It is necessary for us to consider Driskill, Finley, Gilley and Morgensen’s call to look at the ways the normalizing and privileging of patriarchal heterosexuality and its gender and sexual expressions” undermine struggles for decolonization and sovereignty.[2]

Before going any further, we need to provide a few brief background:
  • Since time immemorial, Kanaka Maoli—the Native Hawaiian people—have included and celebrated fluid gender and sexual practices in our culture.
  • The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court in 1993 issued a landmark decision that a ban on marriages between same-sex couples violated the state constitution’s prohibition against sex discrimination.
  • In 1998, Hawaiʻi voters approved a constitutional amendment that gave the Hawaiʻi Legislature the authority to reserve marriage in Hawaiʻi to opposite sex couples.  The Legislature later passed a law that defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
  • Currently, a bill that would affirm the equal protection and equal rights of same-sex married couples is making its way through the legislature and was approved by the Senate (with a vote of 20- 4) on October 28, 2013.
As we watch this situation unfold, we have seen numerous instances of Hawaiian concepts being twisted and misunderstood. For example take this commercial, “Hawaiʻi’s covenant with God,” sponsored by a group opposing Senate Bill 1 relating to equal rights. The speakers assert that “the Bible is the highest law of the land,” and that “same sex marriage will affect our traditional sense of ʻohana.” Among those in the commercial is the Chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs—the state agency responsible for administering funds and lands intended for the “benefit of Native Hawaiians.” For an excellent analysis of and response to this ad and to the wider usage of fundamentalist groups in appropriating Hawaiian language terms and values, see Professor kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui’s opinion piece, “Living True Aloha.”  For a concise and potent critique, please also read “Hawaiian Values Differ from Western Traditions,” authored by Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a fierce advocate for Hawaiian independence and the kind of genuine liberation that requires challenging heteropatriarchy.  
Additionally, we take this historical moment to look back to the words of three Kanaka political theorists and practitioners, Noenoe Silva, Kuʻumeaaloha Gomes and Kaleikoa Kaʻeo. During the late-1990s, when the same-sex marriage issue was being debated in many communities across the islands, these three Kanaka Maoli scholars came together to shed some light on the connections between Hawaiian sovereignty and sexuality. We post the following excerpts from the panel, especially since it is incredibly difficult to access the transcripts from this event, and yet their voices could not be more necessary and insightful.

"Ka Le'a O Ke Ola: A Forum on Kanaka Maoli Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality" featuring Noenoe Silva, Kaleikoa Kaeo and Kuumeaaloha Gomes

Participants in the AFSC gathering had the opportunity to attend a public forum at the Center for Hawaiian Studies of the University of Hawaiʻi (UH), which addressed for a Hawaiian audience many of the same themes under discussion at the gathering. In addition to AFSC, cosponsors of the forum included Na Mamo O Hawaiʻi, the Marriage Project Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Families Network, and a variety of UH organizations and programs, including the Queer Student Union, the Center for Hawaiian Studies, Kua`ana Student Services, the Task Force on Sexual Orientation, and the Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity Office. The forum, which began with a traditional Hawaiian processional and invocation, was well attended by representatives of both the Kanaka Maoli sovereignty movement and Hawaiʻi's gay community. Excerpts from presentations by the three panelists appear below; their remarks were followed by a spirited discussion with the audience and many expressions of mutual respect and solidarity regarding both gay rights and Hawaiian sovereignty.

Kaleikoa Kaeo

We need to speak about the issues of sexuality and same-sex marriage with a Hawaiian voice, a Kanaka Maoli voice. Especially those of us who are involved in Kanaka Maoli political struggles have been silent about the whole issue. I believe this is a failure on our part, and by proclaiming my support I hope that others will support this issue. As a heterosexual male I don't pretend to speak for the gay community; I come to speak from a Hawaiian nationalist perspective.

. . . Next to sovereignty, the most controversial issue facing Hawaiʻi is the issue of same-sex marriage. Many nationalist organizations and individuals have yet to publicly proclaim their point of view. The only voices so far have come from a Kanaka Maoli organization formed by students and faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi, Na Mamo O Hawaiʻi.

This is disturbing. It is as if same-sex marriage will not have an impact on the Hawaiian community. If this were an issue involving family, land, or religion you can bet Hawaiians would be there - why haven't Hawaiians come forward on this issue? Many leaders in the Hawaiian community are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Marriage as it exists today is an artifact of cultural imperialism, encoded as a mechanism of colonization. It is no different than the bringing of capitalism, Christianity, or privatization. It has brought confusion to Kanaka Maoli culture: about sex, gender roles, and family; about how we relate among the sexes.

The voices of opposition [to gay rights] have also been minimal. Even though some have spoken in opposition from the churches they have spoken on the basis of Christianity, and not as Kanaka Maoli. This issue highlights the clash between Kanaka Maoli culture and the hegemony of Euro-American culture in Hawaiʻi. This is a very painful situation for Kanaka Maoli. It calls into question our basic cultural beliefs. It poses the questions of who we are and what our beliefs are. What were our traditions concerning sexuality? What are they today and how have they changed?

The question of shame and guilt has always been here. If we are talking about decolonizing, can we truly do that without dealing with this question? Marriage as it exists today is an artifact of cultural imperialism, encoded as a mechanism of colonization. It is no different than the bringing of capitalism, Christianity, or privatization. It has brought confusion to Kanaka Maoli culture: about sex, gender roles, and family; about how we relate among the sexes.

The main function of marriage was to produce a European-style family, which was part of the process of colonization. As we explore decolonization as Kanaka Maoli, issues like cultural institutions or land use have all brought about deep discussions in our community, all for the sake of the physical, cultural, and mental survival of Kanaka Maoli people. The Kanaka Maoli cannot afford to limit our attempt to decolonize spiritually, socially, culturally, and economically by failing to address one of the most predominant institutions of American cultural hegemony.

I am talking not just about granting lesbians and gays the right to marry, but about re-imagining the institution of marriage. We need to include Kanaka Maoli values in the concept of marriage. If same-sex marriage becomes legal in Hawaiʻi, it should be viewed by Kanaka Maoli as a window of opportunity. We should follow the lead of the proponents of same-sex marriage because it gives us the latitude to reshape societal institutions to fit our cultural standards.

As Amilcar Cabral points out, the greater the difference between the culture of the dominated and the culture of the oppressor, the more possible becomes the resistance of the oppressed. It is easier to dominate where there is a similar culture. Imperialism struggles unceasingly on the cultural front, to bring you to believe that you have no culture, that your culture and that of your oppressor is the same. If we want to liberate ourselves as Kanaka Maoli, we cannot blindly accept and keep intact the premises of the colonial regime.

The institution of marriage as we know it today is not a traditional Kanaka Maoli cultural form. Many of the opponents of same-sex marriage say we need to protect traditional marriage as it exists in Hawaiʻi, marriage for procreation. What is traditional marriage in Hawaiʻi? Does this term come from the view of marriage as it has existed in Europe and America, as an institution that developed mainly to control property?

Marriage did not exist in Hawaiʻi before the arrival of European missionaries in 1820. In the old days there was no such thing as marriage; everybody slept with everybody. If a man wanted a woman, or a woman wanted a man, they would seek each other. We had different types of unions and relationships. One was a binding betrothal, when a family for procreative purposes wanted offspring to be born, not because of love or sexual attraction but because of the need to produce a child. A second type of relationship, punalua, existed between two persons closely linked to a third person; they could be sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, two wives of a man, two husbands of a woman, and so on. These terms cannot be translated into English, because they are cultural concepts that are lacking in the social relationships of English-speaking people.

The term "punalua" comes from the idea of two heads. In Hawaiian culture before the arrival of the missionaries it was permissible to have multiple partners, for men and women alike. The raising of children did not take place in a nuclear family construct. If a woman had two lovers at about the same time and a child was born then, then the child was considered to have two fathers. Another type of relationship was known as ho`ao, daylight: if a man slept with a woman until daylight they were married. That was the declaration of their union: they didn't go in front of a judge or a priest. Religion was not involved in determining what was a marriage and what was not. Sometimes no words were said. There were no requirements for sexual abstinence before marriage; often couples tried living together before forming a union. The most common way was for the male to go and live with his wife's family. With that type of arrangement, the room for physical abuse or verbal abuse is taken away because that man is going to face his wife's brother.

Traditionally, relationships of lifelong love and commitment did not include economic support and did not necessarily include sexual involvement. Those involved might have sex outside this union. Another term is aikane, which has had many meanings at different times of history. "Ai" means sex and "kane" means male, but this word is actually used to describe relationships between two people of the same sex. Such a relationship may have included sex or it may not; the main focus is the relationship itself.

When I first read all of this about our culture it opened up my eyes to realize that sex is resistance. The conflict of cultures is also experienced as sexual conflict. If you really feel Hawaiian you experience sex as enjoyable, natural, fulfilling, and lots of fun. . . .

Noenoe Silva

It's very beautiful to be here in the Center for Hawaiian Studies, but I'm going to talk about an event that happened two years ago in Hilo in which I felt very different than I do tonight. I am a cofounder of a group of lesbian and gay Kanaka Maoli. We formed in 1993 with the purpose of attending the hearings on same-sex marriage and talking about traditional Hawaiian practices. In 1996 there were a series of puwalu or conventions of different sovereignty groups, with the intention of finding common ground, and we decided to go. Our intention was to be in on the formation of a new Hawaiian nation. We believed that we need to think carefully about what kind of nation we are building: we don't want to live in a new nation that is just as oppressive to us as the old one. At the time I was inspired by the constitution created for South Africa after apartheid was dismantled, which included a clause prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation. The theme for that particular puwalu was aloha ʻāina, malama ʻāina. These puwalu normally lasted about three days and we were there the whole time. It was a full weekend of workshops seeking to find some common ground about what "aloha ʻāina" means. On the last morning, a Sunday morning, just before the closing, we intervened. I was the one who stood up and read our statement, which said that we are Hawaiian, we belong to Hawaiʻi. Our ʻāina permeates every part of us: the land is our ancestor, it is in our bones. It is our link to our past, our history, and our future well-being. All are linked to our relationship with our ʻāina.

We said that aloha ʻāina is a familial relationship; that means that we resist all attempts to further separate any of us from our ʻāina. Our freedom to live in our land is linked to our freedom to determine how we live in our bodies, our freedom to live in relationships that may be different from American culture. Before colonization we lived in a society that accepted diversity, and now we want to propose support for ending discrimination against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. The first reaction to our proposal was that this isn't the right time; we have to get the land back and establish our own government, and then we can talk about your problem. Another person said, we don't need to say this because there is no discrimination in our Hawaiian community, you are part of our families. Another said, our people are not going to accept this, this is too controversial. When we pointed out the contradictions between these last two statements, people got very stuck.

Our freedom to live in our land is linked to our freedom to determine how we live in our bodies. Then this wonderful man stood up, a country guy, speaking in Pidgin. He said, look at us, this is Sunday morning, none of us are at church. Why? Because most of us have fled from a church that is oppressive to us. He began talking about missionaries and colonialism, and he broke through. He said, we need something that says we are not going to discriminate against people who are poor, or ill, or disabled, and we agreed with that. Then people turned around. We drafted a statement, and the whole puwalu approved it. Afterwards women kept coming up to us, crying, saying, my sister is gay, or my daughter had to go and live in California. They wept many tears after the decision to support our statement. Many of them came up to us and said, I'm so glad you're doing this. Despite the decision, the statement from that puwalu never came out publicly. That is why I'm really glad to be here tonight where people like Kaleikoa are ready to talk about our rights in the context of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Kuʻumeaaloha Gomes

A seed was planted a long time ago when we took the step in 1993 of deciding that we would come out publicly as gay Kanaka Maoli. That seed has needed some extra nurturing. We cannot do this work alone, making sure that our community does not become our oppressor. When I learned of Kaleikoa's work I realized that we are on the path together, paving the way so our Kanaka Maoli community can move forward together as we claim our sovereignty and independence. We cannot allow a nation to be built that will impose the same kinds of oppression.

As a Kanaka Maoli woman and a gay woman this question of sexuality and spirituality is a passionate one for me. As I grew up I was surrounded by stories from my mother and my grandmothers that affirmed sexuality. One of these stories tells of the night my mom and dad were married. My Auntie `Io disappeared from the luau. My parents left for their honeymoon place, and when they opened the door there was Auntie `Io, jumping on the bed. My mom said, "what are you doing?" She answered, "I'm making the bed soft for you so you have an easy time tonight!" Before she left she said a blessing for them, talking about my father's prowess and my mother's beauty. Today we are confronted with the Māhele of our body. Our bodies are appropriated and commodified for tourism. We have to be wary of circumstances that attempt to make us invisible and invalidate who we are.

When I was little my grandmother used to talk about Papa and Wakea, the earth mother and sky father. There are many sexual stories in our mythology. Later on in my adult life I used those same kinds of stories when I worked with Kanaka Maoli children in a farm project. I used them to restore pride in these children who had been rejected by their schoolteachers and by the Department of Education. They were labeled as failures, but I understood them as creative children for whom the schools were not providing any nurturing.

I brought them the stories of how Papa supports us every day of our lives and gives us the food from the land, how Wakea sends us the air we breathe all the time. When you go to the mountains on the windward side they look like a vulva, that is their name in Hawaiian, because they are very deep and very dark inside. They look like a woman's maʻi. I grew up with that kind of story. I remember the thrill one day of learning that the coconut represented the man's scrotum, and so women were forbidden to eat that because it's too dangerous. The same with the banana, which women sometimes were forbidden to eat. Growing up in Hawaiʻi we cannot escape the maʻi inoa, the sexual nicknames describing our genitals that children are given when they are born. Our famous rulers were given names like these, King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani. This was celebrated and respected, you had dances where people celebrated their ma`i names. This is historical in our culture, it is not something we create today. We may write about it today, but it comes from our past.

Our culture has many songs and dances with double meanings, about a rocking chair, about the squid in the sand. I can remember my excitement as a child, not about the words, but about understanding the sexual feeling. This is who we are as Kanaka Maoli, who we traditionally have been, what we celebrate.

The impact of supremacist Christianity has been to take that away from us. This is why we are here to reclaim who we are as Kanaka Maoli. We need to claim every part of it: our sexuality is part of what makes us strong. Not all Christians have the same attitude, but supremacist Christianity is related historically to white male supremacy, which perpetuates racism, class oppression, and heterosexism. It is part of the same history through which the missionaries imposed things like the Māhele and became part of the plantation elite.

Today we are confronted with the Māhele of our body. Our bodies are appropriated and commodified for tourism. The colonization of our bodies and privatization of our relationships is expressed through marriage, which perpetuates private property and the ownership of people. Think of words like "Mr." or "Mrs.," which means mister's property. Many women are no longer using such terms but we still need to confront them and deconstruct them. The Western Christian idea of marriage has imposed on Kanaka Maoli a certain model of the family. We had other models of family, such as fostering, in which children were lovingly shared with other families, but each child always knew its own genealogy. These were hānai families, like our child who we have taken on to be raised by us.

Today as we look at same-sex marriage it is really important for us to look at our state constitution, which speaks to the state's responsibility to preserve and protect Native Hawaiian customary rights. This includes things like the protection of the hānai family. Today that article is being threatened with a constitutional amendment. We as Kanaka Maoli have a responsibility to speak up and protest that. If we are going to protect our rights we have to be wary of circumstances that attempt to make us invisible and invalidate who we are.

With the little girl who we are raising, we want her to be proud of who she is as Kanaka Maoli. We want her to know her history, to know that her people support her and both her families, her biological family and her hānai family. We want her to grow up in a culture that celebrates who she is at all levels.

[1] Qwo-Li Driskill et al., eds., Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (University of Arizona Press, 2011), 34.
[2] Ibid., 19.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Settler colonialism destroys to replace"

Patrick Wolfe put it succinctly: "settler colonialism destroys to replace."  The settler colonial impulse is about removing, erasing and eliminating the presence of Native peoples--our voices, our temples, our agricultural practices, our places of learning, our stories, our epistemologies, our artistic representations--and replacing those things with a settler society and its sovereignty. 

We have taken a break from our normal postings this past week. Several members of our seminar have been involved in a struggle at our university over the censorship of a collectively-produced mural with an Indigenous political message.  This past weekend, Kanaka Maoli artist, Haley Kailiehu--who is a member of our seminar--led close to 100 people in participating in the creation of a powerful representation of the genealogical connection that Kanaka Maoli have to our sacred Mauna a Wākea (also known as Mauna Kea). 

The mural asserted two main things in its imagery and words: 
1)  the genealogical connection of Kanaka Maoli to Mauna a Wākea, the sacred, eldest mountain child of our ancestors, Papa and Wākea, and
2) a critique that the University of Hawaiʻi cannot be a "Hawaiian place of learning"--as stated in the UH Strategic Plan--while the institution leads the desecration of Mauna a Wākea. The University continues to push forward the development of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, an 18-story structure that would be the largest telescope in the world.

The mural was painted on a backdrop of black chalkboard paint so that people could write in their own responses to the painting and its message.

While painting, the student artists were approached by a settler UH staffer who told them that the UH administration might not like the message of their art piece. The image was accompanied by the statement, "UH cannot be a Hawaiian place of learning while leading the desecration of Mauna Kea." The staffer advised them to remove that section where there were words, and the artists refused.  On Monday morning, when Haley returned to the mural site, she found that much of the wording had been covered over with green paint and a hastily painted advertisement for the art festival that the UH newspaper is sponsoring. The portion that was defaced included chalked statements of solidarity from other Indigenous Pacific Islanders students:
    "Hita I Taotao Marianas stand in solidarity with kanaka maoli for the protection of our sacred lands"
    "Pacific Islanders stand together"
    "Marshall Islanders stand with kanaka maoli"

All of these words were covered over.

This issue is a perfect example of settler colonialism on at least two levels:
1) The mural: A settler painted over part of the mural that he contended was not "pre-approved," while he also told the artists that they needed to remove the messages written next to the image because it would be offensive to the UH administration. He literally destroyed part of the mural and replaced it with text promoting an arts festival. 

2) The mountain: The settler state continues to support the destruction of sacred sites on Mauna Kea. Native Hawaiian ceremonial, spiritual and observational cycles and practices are replaced by massive telescopes controlled by a collection of powerful institutions from various countries, including the US, Japan and China. 

Check out the protest and rally that the UH student group hauMANA organized this week.

For more about the Mauna Kea struggle, check out the trailer for Na Maka o ka Aina's film, "Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege"

And listen to the powerful and beautiful voices of some of the fiercest women warriors for the protection of Mauna Kea and the deities who reside there.

Song: Make Strong
Song composed by: Hawane
Chant composed by: Hawane, Keali'i Bertelmann, Kaleinohea Cleghorn, and Pua Case

Explanation by Pua Case:
A Kupuna, an elder once told me that whenever you undertake a journey or a voyage you have to first "Make Strong your body, your mind and your spirit or you better stay home." My daughter Hawane wrote this mele, this song to remind us all that as we stand tall from the mountains to the deep seas that we "make strong" because we stand on behalf of the earth, our cultural practices, our language, and our traditions. We stand firm with roots deep in the ground and with hands stretched to the heavens, to the ancestors. This song was filmed on Mauna a Wakea at the site selected for the building of a 30 Meter Telescope which if built will be 18 stories high, the entire project to cover 8 acres of our mountain. The chant Kukiaʻimauna was created by Hawane, Kealiʻi Bertelmann, Kaleinohea Cleghorn and myself for all Justice Warriors who are standing strong and steadfast for their mountains. Let our voices resound as one... Our mountains are still sacred! 

Mauna a Wakea has always been and will forever be sacred!
I ka piko o ke aloha, in the love and the light, I ka pono, as it should be!
Idle No More!
Pua Case
Puʻukapu, W

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sovereignty and Cultural Self-determination in the edited collection, Sovereignty Matters

By Derek Kauanoe

This entry provides a brief review of two essays in Sovereignty Matters: Locations of Contestation and Possibility in Indigenous Struggles for Self-determination (University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

Joanne Barker's "For Whom Sovereignty Matters"

In this introductory chapter, Joanne Barker unpacks the word “sovereignty,” while also covering important concepts like hegemony and domination. She offers varied definitions of the term and points out that the term is historically contingent. 

What we understand about the term “sovereignty” is that it is a European concept that has been used to exclude Indigenous communities because they did not have the same attributes of European nation-states at the time. Barker clarifies that: “the concept of sovereignty served the colonists in negating indigenous territorial rights and humanity while justifying the right of conquest by claims to national superiority.” Since Indigenous nations were not “sovereign” in the same sense that Europeans nations were, the former were dominated by the latter. Barker does a great job of introducing the Marshall trilogy, and she also provides us with information about Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world such as Australia (Mabo v. Queensland) and Canada (Delgamuukw v. British Columbia and subsequent legislation).   

The “sovereign”/”non-sovereign” binary was apparently easy to impose and utilize in other “meaningful” contexts.  Other relevant binaries used to justify domination was the believer/non-believer (Christianity) and civilized/un-civilized societies.  While discussing Johnson v. MʻIntosh, Barker also shows that because Indigenous communities did not use land in the same manner as Europeans, the taking of their lands were justified through use of the Doctrine of Discovery.   

I couldn’t help but wonder if Barker’s understanding of the other relevant term, self-government, is different from Taiaiake Alfred’s as he described the term in Peace, Power, Righteousness.  There, Alfred described self-government—as defined and exercised within settler state frameworks--as something to avoid since he defined it as inappropriate for indigenous communities. 

One thing I found important in this chapter that is relevant to other chapters in the book, particularly Kēhaulani Kauanuiʻs chapter on “The Politics of Hawaiian Blood and Sovereignty in Rice v. Cayetano,” is the concern that “conservative political interests” use reverse racism arguments to intentionally mischaracterize Indigenous peoples as only ethnic minorities with no recognizable claims to self-determination and self-governance (23-24). She argues that Indigenous people have been resisting such claims for some time. For example, she discusses indigenous mobilization at the international level: “By taking on the self-determination of peoples with group and individual rights to self-determination, indigenous leaders were claiming a difference from minorities and a status akin to the status of nations“ (19). These goals at the international level (to be recognized as having a unique legal/political status is also akin to what numerous Indigenous communities strive for at the “domestic-national” level. In the U.S., this is often called federal recognition; federal recognition reaffirms a political identity rather than a racial one and thus escapes the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny as seen in Morton v. Mancari

Robert Miller's "Tribal Cultural Self-Determination and the Makah Whaling Culture"
Robert Miller provides a general and concise explanation of federal Indian law and the current support that federally-recognized Indigenous communities in the US enjoy today from the federal government. It is within this context that I think Miller makes a great contribution. His understanding of U.S. federal Indian law could have provided a great framework for some of the other chapters in this book.  For example, Kauanui characterizes the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act as a type of allotment, and Robert Miller’s chapter provides the context (and framework) for understanding how allotment policies were used against Native Americans. Such a framework is necessary for understanding the complex and nuanced issues surrounding Indigenous peoples in the United States and other American territories with indigenous peoples. 

While some scholars might criticize Miller for not being critical enough of the hegemonic, paternalistic, and colonial structures that persist in affecting tribes generally (and the Makah specifically), he approaches these issues from a pragmatic (and legal) perspective. In the process he acknowledges the support from the federal government to the Makah specifically, and other tribes generally, in its cultural preservation efforts (138, 139, 142). 

Miller leads into a discussion of this federal support for tribes by explaining the important fiduciary relationship the federal government has toward its Indigenous communities.  While Joanne Barker implicitly critiques the Marshall Trilogy as harmful to tribal interests, Miller explains how the guardian-ward relationship (that was found in the first Marshall Trilogy case and used to dispossess Native Americans of their lands) requires a certain type of conduct that benefits or may be useful to indigenous communities (137-139).  Unfortunately, this can go unnoticed by people unfamiliar with federal Indian law.  Miller however does not let the federal government off easy; he makes sure to acknowledge the past destructive policies imposed on the Makah and other Indigenous communities also that pre-dated the more contemporary federal policies that support the Makah and others (132-136). Miller also provides a helpful discussion on treaties (131-132). He explains how treaties actually work, what they actually are (grants from the tribe, not grants to the tribe), and how treaties are used by tribes today.

The background information on federal Indian law sets up his discussion of the subject identified in the chapter’s title, the Makah. No one can read this chapter without understanding the integral role that whaling plays in Makah culture, which makes the Makah culturally unique. Miller argues that this is an instance of cultural self-determination, a term he introduces early on in the chapter. Miller explains, “cultural self-determination is intimately tied to tribal sovereignty and the rights of self-determination for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. This is so because native groups will decide form themselves what cultural practices to preserve, and they will use their political power and sovereign status to fight for those rights” (123). As Miller explains, this allows the Makah to act politically to protect and maintain their unique culture.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sovereignty, Indigeneity, Anarchism

Ryan Knight

The question of sovereignty, and whether and how it matters for Indigenous people, serves as a ripe area of contestation from which we can explore the multi-faceted forms of domination from, and resistance to, colonization.  In combination with my reading of Sovereignty Matters this week, I read Maia Ramnath’s book, Decolonizing Anarchism: An Anti-authoritarian Historyof India’s Liberation Struggle 

In a mutual exchange between anarchism and decolonial theory, Ramnath shows both their overlapping characteristics, as well as the lessons that can be learned from each side of the exchange.  Speaking specifically about nationalism, and decolonial struggles for independent nation-states, she writes,

“The fundamental assumption of nationalism is that in order for a people to be recognized as holders of collective rights and freedoms, it must be constituted as a nation duly manifested in a state: an exclusive institution defined by its monopoly on sanctioned force and revenue extraction” (Ramnath, 19).

 She goes on,

“In seeking to replicate the techniques of colonial rule by institutionalizing states rather than abolishing them, the nationalist goal diverged from that of substantive decolonization.  If the colonial regime’s structures of oppression were not simply to be reopened for business under new local management, yielding a new generation of authoritarian dictatorships and cultural chauvinists, a different logic of anticolonial struggle was imperative” (Ramnath, 21). 

Pulling from anarchism’s critique of the state, Ramnath ultimately argues that we need to imagine a much more expansive vision of decolonization, one that doesn’t seek independent nation-states, but develops according to the terms of the particular society from which decolonization is taking place. 

In much of the very same vein, Joanne Barker’s Sovereignty Matters takes up the similar issues, focusing on sovereignty as a western institution rather than the nation-state.  In her introductory chapter, “For Whom Sovereignty Matters,” Barker traces the development and implementation of the idea of sovereignty from the Church, to classical Western political thought, to the usurpation of the term in Indigenous struggles for land and self-determination. 

It is with some hesitation that Barker ultimately argues for the need for sovereignty within Indigenous struggles for land and self-determination.  On one hand she recognizes the difficulties of using a Western framework as sovereignty “…carries the horrible stench of colonialism”  (Barker, 26).  On the other hand, Barker argues that sovereignty is historically contingent and can be interpreted and employed according to different strategies of decolonization and according to the different cultural values of different groups of people.

Taiaiake Alfred, taking a more critical stance in his essay, "Sovereignty," in this collection argues that the horrible stench of colonialism coming from sovereignty cannot be done away with.  Rather, he argues, “For people committed to transcending the imperialism of state sovereignty, the challenge is to de-think the concept of sovereignty and replace it with a notion of power that has at its roots a more appropriate premise” (47).  In a very similar tone as Ramnath, Alfred argues that decolonization necessarily needs to derive from the cultural values, systems, and ways of organizing society that are grounded directly in indigenous traditions and indigenous ways of understanding.  The nation-state and sovereignty are two inadequate, imposed, and ultimately colonial frameworks that won’t satisfy a deeper process of decolonization.  It must be in indigenous terms, and not in the terms of the colonizer. 

I tend to agree with Audre Lorde quoting the name of her famous essay: “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”  In this case the tools of independent nation-states or sovereignty are inadequate in achieving an expansive decolonization grounded directly in Indigenous communities.  It might begin to push things in the right direction, but co-optation and discursive colonization seem to go a long way in making colonization much more sticky and hard to shake off.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rez Life and Stories from Hawaiian Homesteads and Kuleana Lands

Paukuz Life: A View of Hawaiian Homesteads
By Kahala Johnson

“What are these places that kill us every day but that we’d die to protect and are like no place else on earth?” (Treuer, 19)

David Treuer’s Rez Life--part historical journalism, part memoir--invokes a familiar sentiment in Kānaka Maoli who have ties to a Hawaiian Homestead. Hawaiian Homesteads are communities established under the 1921 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which imposed a blood quantum definition of Hawaiianness and of eligibility for homelands. Although my family and I have only recently moved into the Paukukalo homestead community on Maui, we have longer associations with the area through friends and relatives. For much of my life, that place has been an important part of my identity: for one, it was the first place I heard Hawaiian spoken (yelled and cursed, actually) beyond the typical tourist greeting. Most importantly, it was where my mother received my name from Aunty Kahili, a kumu hula and master weaver who had been a friend of the grandmother I never knew in this life.

Although I am conscious of the shared political model between Hawaiian Homesteads and Indian Reservations, it was not until 2009 when I heard a direct comparison made between its social aspects. That summer, I had a Native American friend visit who, after we had driven past the dilapidated crack lab, the house with the yard full of stolen vehicles, and the neighborhood congregation of shirtless Pakuz Bois, declared with a sigh of recognition: “it’s the same [as the rez].” Having never seen a reservation myself, I remain unsure of the truth of the comparison. But reading Rez Life, I couldn’t help but feel that certain parts of Treuer’s observations have an unsettling affinity with circumstances in Hawaiian Homesteads.

In this entry, I interpret the dimensions of sovereignty Treuer discovers at Red Lake as they appear in Paukukalo homestead; in so doing I offer a sort of trans-Indigenous reading of these reservations as texts. With the intent of recovering a sense of sovereign space, I ask the same questions Treuer poses in his introduction,: “And what is this place— this [Pakuz], these [homelands]? What are these places that kill us every day but that we’d die to protect and are like no place else on earth? And what can we find here behind the signs that announce us?

The piko (center) of Paukukalo Hawaiian Homes is a park flanked on its northwest face by the shiny, blue and white, well-landscaped and extremely out-of-place Kamehameha Schools administration satellite. The park used to have a playground until a couple of kids accidently burned it down lighting fireworks in the dead of April. Directly opposite the administration building is an abandoned military site cowering beneath the shadow of Halekii and Pihana heiau, once used by chief Kahekili to offer human sacrifice. During the change of seasons between Kū and Lono, a mens’ group called Hale Mua o Maui ritualizes the sand dune upon which the heiau sits. They usually march down the street at 3:00am at those times, pretty much butt-naked, in order to get to the space; the mormon and jehovah witness houses along the way have quite the fit with such a display of culture. Nevertheless, the fact that it is on homestead lands makes it much easier to practice Hawaiian spirituality. 

Our house is located towards the ocean side of the homesteads, situated on the street with the wandering peacocks and a community-use golf cart stolen from Waiheʻe Dunes. A Hawaiian Homestead is only “Hawaiian Homes” if it has wandering peacocks (or other similar scavenger fowl, such as chickens used for gambling) and a communal golf cart. Even on those gods-forsaken slopes of Papakōlea Homestead, where I lived for a year—I kid you not—they had peacocks. And a fucking golf cart. 

On any given day, you can hear our transgendered neighbor singing to Lady Gaga songs and the sound of a lifted truck hauling in the latest kill from a pig-hunting venture. On our street, kids express a unique sovereignty: they are still able to run from house to house, and from yard to yard, without parents worrying about their safety. In fact, our area has the best security: it houses, among its other extralegal business practices, an economically-viable and genealogically-related thief ring. What this means is that no one steals anything, at least not within the parameters of the block, since inevitably the horde of nomadic Hawaiian kids will find it and report it back to the ʻohana. Of course, domestic violence, gangs, drugs, and all the other statistical maladies continue to be a problem. I don’t glorify it in the least. What I find intriguing though is that in response to an extralegal activity, an extralegal remedy is used as an instrument to control it within the space of the neighborhood in a way that doesn’t rely on the whakataunga hōhā (insipid resolution process) of the upper-class, gated community at Maui Lani, i.e. community boards. Rather, the process is grounded in the tradition of letting kids roam and sharing the responsibility of raising them as a community.

While the homesteads fall under the no-gambling jurisdiction of the faux state, anyone from Paukukalo can tell you how well that actually plays out on the ground. Sport gambling in all forms continues to be a source of income for some, particularly when contracting periods are slow or unemployment hits. Other economic activities are somewhat less regulated, and I promote at least one of them: pig hunting. Pigs don’t revere boundaries the way the state does and so they encourage hunters to exercise a degree of sovereign access to areas that would otherwise be considered “off-limits.” Since the animal is considered a pest, the faux state tolerates hunters’ access. For our community, it is a source of food, and it is one that encourages extraeconomic relationships (outside capitalism) between families. 
While I could hardly consider the homesteads a sanctuary, it nevertheless could potentially be a protected place for what Treuer envisions in regards to language immersion. It is still a mystery to me how Kamehameha Schools was able to build an administration building at its center, and yet a Pūnana Leo or charter school immersion program does not yet exist there. What makes the lack of a Hawaiian language immersion school in this community even more distressing is the fact that the community is saturated with enough elders, cultural practitioners, political activists, and Indigenous pedagogues to supply such a school with a foundational staff base.

In any case, transformations are needed, and I feel the potential of the homesteads has not been tapped enough. There is an identity associated with it, albeit rightly contested by the Hawaiian community who is disenfranchised by blood quantum. Rather than relying on faux state legislation to determine our political, economic, engendered, pedagogical, and cultural futures, perhaps there is a need to explore the extrasovereign opportunities offered in this space.

*For more information on the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, see J. Kēhaulani Kauanui’s book, Hawaiian Blood

A map of Minnesota's Indian reservations and communities. Source:

Kulāiwi Hawaiʻi, by Haley Kailiehu
Artist's explanation:
I’m a really visual person so when I saw the map of the reservations it brought clarity to the situation American Indians are challenged with today. The areas of the reservations are so disproportionately small and so dispersed.  The map Treuer presented inspired my art for this week.  I took a map of Hawai‘i island and highlighted the Hawaiian Homelands on the island.  It’s colored red, but if you look close enough you will see that it is actually filled with the percentage symbol because in order to be awarded a 99-year lease on Hawaiian Homelands, you need to be at least 50% Hawaiian.  This is a highly controversial way of determining identity. In this image, the entire island is covered with the words “Kulāiwi Hawai‘i,” which is my way of saying that as Native Hawaiians, as ‘Ōiwi of Hawai‘i, we have genealogies that lead us to our ancestral ‘āina. As ‘Ōiwi we have kuleana to all of Hawaiʻi, not just portions of it. All of it.  

Kuleana Lands and 'Ōiwi Connections
by Haley Kailiehu

Along with the image above, Treuer’s book inspires me to share what my family experienced as a result of various land laws in Hawaiʻi and how that changed our lives forever. My great-great-great-great grandfather Tūtū I Kepano and great-great-great-great grandmother Tūtū Kahipa (a.k.a. Henehene) were kama‘āina of Kainehe, one of the many ahupua‘a in Hāmākua on Hawai‘i island.  My Tūtū I Kepano was a respected konohiki of the ahupua‘a. After the Mahele in the late 1840s and the Kuleana Act of 1850, he knew he was at risk of losing his land so he decided to buy his ‘āina.  He was granted nearly half of the land to which he originally held kuleana--basically 1/3 of the ma kai (sea side) portion of Kainehe. He was able to buy a portion of the middle section of Kainehe back from the sugarcane plantation owners some time later in life. Fortunately my Tūtū I Kepano was in a position to do that and was able to secure land for our ‘ohana to live and grow.  

His daughter, my great-great-great grandmother, Tūtū Pahulio Kaomea Kepano, was one of his children who was born in Kainehe. She eventually married Solomon W. Kauahipaula, and they had 8 children. Solomon W. Kauahipaula was a lawyer and was one of the initiators and organizers behind the petitions in opposition to US annexation. One of his children, Samuel Kamuela Kauahipaula, my great-great grandfather, lived in Kainehe all his life.  He married Kawaiola Aukaku Kolomona and they had two girls one of which is my great-grandmother, Tūtū Mary Kaliipahulio Kaomea Kauahipaula.  Tūtū Mary Kaliipahulio Kaomea Kauahipaula married Gilbert Manuhoa Travis, and they lived in Kainehe where they raised 8 children. My grandma Mary Keliipahulio Travis was the first born in the lineage. Although she moved to Maui from Kainehe after graduating from high school at the age of 18, her sister Aunty Mildred Hipa Billado (Aunty Millie) continues to live in Kainehe and maintains the presence of ‘ohana on that ‘āina.  

Even though my family continues to live in Kainehe, it has not come without extreme loss. It seems that at different points in history, my family lost a lot of the land to plantation owners and other private owners for really unfathomable reasons. One story is that my grandpa lost acres of land to the plantation because he couldn’t afford to pay back the general store (owned by the plantation) for the loaf of bread he had credited to his account. The most current injustice occurred in late 1970s when the county decided to build the main road leading from Hilo to Waimea—also known as Hawai‘i Belt Road—directly through what little land my family had maintained title to up until this point. Our family remain living in Kainehe, maintaining our connection to that ‘āina, despite continual efforts to dislocate us from our land.  During the 1920s when the illegal government opened lands to the common people through the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, my family could have said ‘this is too challenging, let’s just move to a place where we’re guaranteed land for 99 years,’ but they did not.  They remained. They stayed in Kainehe.  And they are still there. Aunty Millie and her children all live on Hawai‘i.  From the thousands of acres my ‘ohana once lived on and had kuleana to, we now only live on a little less than 2 acres. But we are still there. 

From listening to Aunty Millie speak about growing up in Kainehe I can only imagine how great it must have been.  They fished in the streams for ‘ōpae and ‘o‘opu and on special occasions they would go holoholo (cruising) down to kai (sea) to pick ‘opihi.  Another aspect of our ‘ohana that I came to appreciate and respect as a young adult was that we are all very close, even with our ancestors who passed on before us.  We have a ‘cemetery’ in Kainehe where many of my ancestors are buried.  Because Aunty Millie still lives there, she tends to this garden. She has the most beautiful garden in her yard, full of flowers growing for the gravesites that she goes to visit every day. It is important that we stay close to our ancestors for many reasons. As I grow older and think of my kuleana, I look for guidance from them so it is great that I know where they are and where they rest because by understanding who they are and where they are from only helps to further allow me to understand who I am. I am the embodiment of all my ancestors, who were fishermen and women, kapa makers, and gardeners. That connection is, to say the least, extremely valuable to me because it is a validation that I am an ‘Ōiwi of this specific place. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Language and culture

By Akta Kaushal

“The languages we lose, when we lose them, are always replaced by other languages. And all languages can get the job of life done. But something else might be lost and there might be more to the job of life than simply living it.” (David Treuer, Rez Life)

When I was young, one of my favorite words in Hindi from that I did not like translating is the word ‘ehsaas.’ ‘Ehsaas’ can mean to feel, but also to realize or become conscious. More than what it meant, I loved was how it was said and what it felt like when it was used. When I would do something bad, I would purposely say, “I feel bad, I realized I was wrong” in English.  As Truer says, any language can “get the job of life done,” and in those cases when I just used the English, I knew I was supposed to apologize. When you say 'ehsaas,' there is a sensitivity in the structure of the word that requires you to feel an aspiration before the 'saas' (which actually means breath) is spoken. Once in awhile, though, I would purposely frame my apology for deeds I really knew were bad, by finding a way to incorporate ‘ehsaas.’ I intentionally use Hindi. I felt, I realized, I was wrong, and the act of saying that word was part of expressing that feeling. 

Treuer illustrates beautifully what saddens and angers him on the death of so many Native American languages (and the many more that are endangered). Specifically he talks about what Ojibwe namesakes carry and express. Treuer describes how the Ojibwe language has “given” English so many words like wigwam, moose, totem, moccasin etc., but can it translate Ojibwe namesakes with the important term niiyaw (“my body/soul”) being a part of one’s (multiple) name(s)? A language that just gets “the job of life done” can’t catch that same sensation of “my body/soul” or of multiple names if that way of being (or naming) has become “too long” or seemingly irrelevant for today. This tradition of namesakes is similar to the aspiration that I love and that is required when I speak “ehsaas”—a word that more sensitively seems to capture my feeling of realization. I don’t make that distinction anymore. I am not choosy anymore with when I use the English version or the Hindi one. I often resort (or have) to use English.

As Treuer shows, the hastening of the death of these languages, also hastens the end of Indian cultures. I know I constantly feel that as I fall into phases where I speak and hear Hindi and Punjabi less and when I hear my accent being less comfortable. How can I teach this to my children if I myself am beginning to use and be exposed to it less, substantially less from when I was younger? What if I don’t marry an Indian? How do I carry my culture? Would I be forcing Hindi and Punjabi onto them? Will they just speak English, with no memory at all of what those languages can do and who and what they can speak to/for?

It is like Truer says:
“There are so many aspects of culture that are extralinguistic-that is, they exist outside or in spite of language: kinship, legal systems, governance, history, personal identity, But there is very little that is extralinguistic about a story, about language itself. I think what I am trying to say is that we will lose beauty-the beauty of the particular, the beauty of the past and the intricacies of a language tailored for our space in the world.”