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.”

Multiple Sovereignties in David Treuer’s book, Rez Life

By Raju Desai
David Treuer’s book, Rez Life, is a portrait of multiple American Indian lives, communities, histories, and struggles woven through multiple stories of people that he has come across. Through anecdotes, he weaves the long, convoluted history of treaties, policies, and legislation between Indian nations and the United States and how they have affected Indian lives today. What stands out the most to me in his work are the multiple forms of sovereignty and how they function with each other. 

As a non-native, my conceptions of sovereignty are usually around the ability to make/enforce laws and control resources. However, in his book, Treuer shows that there are multiple overlapping forms of sovereignty such as: treaty-making, education, familial sovereignty, spiritual sovereignty that, in addition to legislative sovereignty and control of resources, actually make up the inherent tribal rights of American Indian groups. His book shows that these rights have historically been violated and transformed with serious affects on tribal life. Treuer shows that, through all this, tribal identities remain, but it is a constant battle that is based on changing forms of sovereignty.

Rez Life depicts Indian life on the reservation as a constant negotiation of these multiple sovereignties in order to maintain a strong Indian identity. He humanizes the harsh realities of life on the reservation, by showing that through it all, despite the issues within these communities, these communities are home. While he tells stories of immense poverty, crime, and social toxins, Treuer also tells stories of resilience, dignity, and hope. It’s like how Shaye Tibbetts, one of the women in the book, says: “Don’t pity me. We got it good. We got it good. We got it better than most people. Don’t feel bad for me. Feel bad for somebody else because, well, I don’t need pity” (Treuer 175). His argument is that Indians don’t need pity, but rather, they need to the freedom to exercise their multiple sovereignties so that they can reclaim/practice their inherent tribal rights and create more stories of hope and resilience within the reservations.

This diagram illustrating the multiple sovereignties, or forms of sovereignty, explored in Treuer’s Rez Life, was created by Raju Desai and Keali'i Mackenzie.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Indigenous Manifestos and Chamoru Visions

 By Jesi Lujan Bennett

As a scholar activist that is deeply committed to the betterment of my Chamorro people, Taiaiake Alfred’s Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto speaks to me on a personal level because of the hopes I have for Guam’s (and the Northern Mariana Islands’) political future. Alfred lays out different strategies for indigenous groups to use when thinking about the realities of their own self-government. Alfred’s book is an informative source about what self-governance could and should look like for us.

Within the next two years, Chamorros of Guam will finally have the opportunity to vote on our political future. Rather than being an unincorporated territory (aka colony), Chamorros can now decide on independence, statehood, or free association. Even with the plebiscite approaching, decolonization is not given enough attention within the media or within mundane conversation amongst Chamorros. For many it is hard to image any type of political status that does not have some kind of ties to the United States. I believe the difficulty is within the reality that many Chamorros have lost their imagination. Our colonial ties have robbed many of us the ability to see ourselves outside of the US. Many people, including my own family, have this idea that independence and self-governance means that our electricity stops working and our lights go out. Our own politicians work to secure a military buildup and growth in tourism, pushing the notion that dependency is the only way we can survive as an island. Chamorros have become extremely invested ideologically (“The United States saves us”) and physically (we have the highest rates of military enlistment per capita) in our uneven relationship with the US.

With Chamorros having the longest legacy of colonialism in Oceania, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto can be used as a tool to envision a new political future without fear. Rather than dreading a turn to ancient ways, Alfred shows how traditional ways of knowing can help build a solid foundation for indigenous governance.  For my own people, I think finding value in our culture and traditions can only help move us forward independent of the US. Once we can do that, Chamorros will find that we don’t have to live exactly like our ancestors. As Alfred suggests, you need to, “know your basic principles in the first place and then blend the contemporary and traditional together- but you have to have the principles right” (35). Chamorros and other indigenous groups must find a means of self-government that is meaningful to their specific history and context.  

As Chamorros build our political voice during the plebiscite, there will be many questions that will have to be addressed. Many of these questions are specific to Guam’s history as a territory. When looking at settler colonialism, how do you incorporate local groups (non-natives) in decolonization when many are there because of Guam’s ties to the US? With our northern islands already a commonwealth, how do we begin to think about reunification as an extension of our decolonization efforts? As Alfred says, “honour the fact that indigenous peoples have survived: The frameworks of their values systems remain intact and vital” (29). Even with the uncertainty of Guam’s political status, I find hope in the strength of my ancestors who have been fighting colonization since the 1500s.

By Kenneth Gofigan Kuper

The strength of Taiaiake Alfred’s Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto lies in its ability to effectively argue that indigenous peoples across the world need to once again place government and governance in their list of priorities. Spending time with my Chamoru community, I have seen how this deep-seated cynicism of the government is very potent in the current political landscape. I have been to many barbeques where the conversation turns into: “I have given up on the local government” or “I really do not care who wins this election because they are all the same.” As one of my mentors back home in Guam said: “But so many of the things that people say they lament, they don’t actually care about. Look at the way people complain about the government and how it is so corrupt, in order to feel that they are getting involved with the governing of the island when in fact they are not doing anything to contribute to the governing of the island.”

While I completely understand a lot of the cynicism, hopelessness and isolation are not the proper avenues for expressing this cynicism. Instead of simply giving up and deciding to separate ourselves from anything dealing with the government, we should seek to see how we can make the government work for us. Taiaiake Alfred suggests that “recovery” must include government, culture and land. We might see these as points of a triangle. As indigenous peoples, we cannot truly recover if we ignore one of the three points because if one point is not respected, the triangle will never truly stand. I would further add language as a fourth point, creating a square upon which we can stand.

Alfred rightfully cautions us about the limitations and boundaries of traditional cultural revival, when what can be revived and practiced in colonized, indigenous societies is still dictated by the colonizer. For instance, dances and chants may be easily funded by the settler-state government producing a false image that this ti magåhet (non-authentic) government supports the indigenous people. (To clarify, I am not saying that ti magåhet governments are comprised only of settlers; I am rather referring to the form of government as settling on our indigenous forms.) We, indigenous peoples, need to see through this smokescreen of false support and realize that the ti magåhet government will only support indigenous revival as long as it does not threaten the power/domination status quo. Giving money to host a concert of traditional dances does not directly affect the status quo, and may actually help with the tourist appeal of that particular place and settler-government.

I want to further address this specific point about Chamoru cultural revival and the catholic church. (I purposely do not capitalize the catholic church because they will be treated like a “proper” noun when they start acting proper). Back home in Guam, we have seen the revival and re-creation of our dances, jewelry, cooking methods, etc., and the church seems to be supporting these things. Many times the church will have a mass in the Chamoru language or be a co-sponsor for Chamoru activities, giving it the appearance of an amicable, indigenous-friendly institution. However, I bet that talks of reviving Chamoru traditions of taking the skulls of our ancestors into our homes and worshipping them or of re-establishing our guma’ ulitao (bachelor house) where boys learned adult skills including sexual acts would be absolutely opposed by the church. Reviving these particular aspects of our culture would threaten their hold over the people of the island. At this point, the smokescreen of support would come down, and we would see how these colonial institutions do not actually support indigenous values! This point serves to illustrate Alfred’s point that the limits of our cultural revitalization seem to still be in the hands of the colonizer.

Thus, we cannot sit there and concentrate on nurturing only one point of the triangle (or square) of indigenous recovery, because we can see how it creates a false belief that recovery will occur without anything additional being done. In order to experience a complete revamping of our current situations, we need to take the cynicism of government that dwells within us and realize that the form of government we despise so much is NOT OURS! This government model is a foreign one that is inconsistent with indigenous values, and thus we should yearn for something new. This is a call to action. Our cynicism should be an opportunity to imagine better systems and to realize that we had a form of government drastically different from what we have today. Governance is not something that should be ignored because we will just concentrate on “the culture”! The Chamoru people have existed since we walked out of the rock that our mother creator, Fu’una, became to give life to us, so we have ways of knowing that drastically differ from most imported, colonial governance values. As Taiaiake Alfred writes: “Just as we must respect and honour our songs, ceremonies, and dances, so, too, we must honour the institutions that in the past governed social and political relations among our people, because they are equally part of the sacred core of our nations.”

Governance has not always been a bad thing, and we need to be able to realize that. It is about time we as indigenous peoples give governance a new face that does not make our communities cringe with a bad taste in their mouths.

13 manifestos inspiring Indigenous and intersectional resistance

This is a non-comprehensive list, organized in no particular order, of manifestos that have inspired us to think about Indigenous resistance. 

 "Spirit Visions" by Ashinaabe hip hop artist, Q-Rock.

Indigenous manifestos in song

This week, we read and talked about Indigenous manifestos. What is a manifesto? A systematic declaration of purpose. A call to action. A critical analysis of systems of power. A declaration of resistance. A call for recovery and renewal. An expression of what is important to a particular community, spoken from a particular positionality. A commentary on crucial, pressing issues in accessible language. These are a few of ways we are understanding manifestos as a form of Indigenous theory and action.

To kick off our posts on this topic, we share two songs that we can be seen as manifestos. The first is a musical piece by a hardcore band from Guam called, Minatatnga (bravery, fearlessness, valorous), with vocals by our own seminar participant, Kenneth Gofigan Kuper. He writes: “I like to think that the song is a strong declaration of our views and also fits our band name because we attack the taking of our youth into the united states military. We may consider it as one song in album that will become the Minatatnga manifesto. A musical form of resistance.”

Listen to the song here!:

False Liberation
Native Decimation
This foreign flag
Tries to strip our culture
Dreams of money, dreams of military
Shoved down our throat, so damn holy

False Liberation
Native Decimation

Children of Guåhan
Die for foreign cause
When they should stay
Protecting this place
Defending our people
Defending our home

False Liberation
Native Decimation

Chamoru, We will stand, We will stand for this land”

We also share a Hawaiian song known by several names, “Mele ʻAi Pohaku” (Stone-eating Song), “Mele Aloha ʻĀina (the Patriot's Song), or “Kaulana Nā Pua” (Famous are the flowers/descendants).  Like Kenneth, our seminar participant, Kuʻulei Bezilla, urges to see this song as a sort of manifesto. Written January 1893 and published in 1895, this song opposes the annexation of Hawaiʻi to the United States. Moreover, some of our seminar participants have pointed out the ways the manifesto, as a genre and an enunciatory practice, is often gendered masculine. Thus it is important to underscore that this song was written by Ellen Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast, a wahine (woman) loyal to the Hawaiian Kingdom and to Queen Liliʻuokalani. As Kuʻulei puts it, “Many people (and I have been subject to this) do not recognize the story and manaʻo to this mele, and therefore do not sing, or proclaim this song with the intentions of what it’s purpose was. It is our duty to perpetuate the ʻike of our kūpuna so that others may share in their experience.” More information on this mele can be found in a short, online essay by Kīhei and Mapuana DeSilva, who argue that this song should not only be sung but also danced with a fierce understanding of its historical context and message.

Kaulana nā Pua

Kaulana nā pua a‘o Hawai‘i           
Kūpa‘a ma hope o ka ‘āina           
Hiki mai ka ‘elele o ka loko ‘ino       
Palapala ‘anunu me ka pākaha.       

Pane mai Hawai‘i Moku o Keawe       
Kōkua Nā Hono a‘o Pi‘ilani.           
Kāko‘o mai Kaua‘i o Mano           
Pa‘a pū me ke one o Kākuhihewa.       

‘A‘ole a‘e kau i ka pūlima         
Ma luna o ka pepa o ka ‘enemi       
Ho‘ohui ‘āina kū‘ai hewa           
I ka pono sivila a‘o ke kanaka.       

‘A‘ole mākou a‘e minamina           
I ka pu‘u kālā o ke aupuni.           
Ua lawa mākou i ka pōhaku            
I ka ‘ai kamaha‘o o ka ‘āina.           

Ma hope mākou o Lili‘ulani           
A loa‘a e ka pono o ka ‘āina.           
(A kau hou ‘ia e ke kalaunu)      
Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana           
Ka po‘e i aloha i ka ‘āina.           

Famous are the children of Hawai‘i
Ever loyal to the land
When the evil-hearted messenger comes
With his greedy document of extortion.

Hawai‘i Island of Keawe answers
The Pi‘ilani Bays of Maui give their help.
Kaua‘i of Manokalanipō lends support
As do the sands of Kākuhihewa.

No one will add his signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of native civil rights.

We do not value
The government’s hill of dollars.
We are satisfied with the stones,
Astonishing food of the land.

We support Lili‘ulani
So that the land will again be pono.
(She will be crowned once more)
Tell the story
Of the people who love their land. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Juxtaposing “the Spirit of ʻ76” with the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence

In his recent book, Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Literary Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Allen asks us to move away from a comparative frame in which one simply looks at what is the same or different about multiple Indigenous texts and contexts. What happens when we bring together two or more texts in “focused juxtapositions,” placing them close together and honoring their difference? He urges us to pay attention to the process of crossing from one context to another and to see what such crossings tell us. We too are interested in Indigenous exchange and collaborative production. In this week’s posts, we think about Chadwick Allen’s recent book and pose a few of our own juxtapositions.

Juxtaposing “the Spirit of ʻ76” with the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence

By Eréndira Neri Aldana 

In the sprit of turning ands into trans, I would like to share one of the ways that Mexico celebrated the bicentennial celebration of independence from Spain and the 100-year celebration of the Mexican revolution in 2010. I feel this differing approach to bicentennial celebrations can add to the discussion started by Allen’s chapter 2,  “Unsettling the Spirit of ’76: American Indians Anticipate the U.S. Bicentennial.” In that chapter, Allen juxtaposes diffuse and lesser-known responses to the U.S. bicentennial with the more well-known responses of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to the bicentennial celebrations of the Australian settler state in 1988. In so doing, he aims to make visible and legible the American Indian responses to the 1976 bicentennial celebrations in the US.

I was in Mexico in the months leading up to the actual celebrations on September 16, 2010. I spent time in Mexico City, Puebla, and Oaxaca. I was living in the capital of Puebla and traveled around to various other rural communities and there did not seem to be coordinated efforts to challenge the celebrations. I spent 10 days in Oaxaca during their important agricultural festival where all indigenous communities come together to celebrate and share. This gathering could have served as a platform to challenge the bicentennial because there is representation from all indigenous groups from across the state, but I saw nothing.

Overall the feeling during the bicentennial was of excitement and pride. The national government even created a special “Bicentennial” travel route to encourage Mexican citizens to get to know the “magic” and “treasures” of our country. My family and I have made similar travels, and in my experience, Indigenous groups have welcomed me and my family and have always been open to sharing about their cultures. However, this is because my mother is a gifted storyteller and has an amazing ability to connect with others. She understands the cultural scripts and social protocols necessary to be accepted by other communities. We have even been able to witness cultural ceremonies because of this.

The video below is an ad that premiered during the national nightly news hour during that time leading up to the bicentennial. It is part of a series that highlights the beauty of several states of Mexico, and the ads were created specifically for the bicentennial. This particular video is of Chiapas, Mexico. Similar ad campaigns were done for several states.  

The video closes with: “Esto es México. El estado de Chiapas, una estrella más del bicentenario.” (“This is México. The state of Chiapas, one more star of the bicentennial.”) The music in the background in sung in the dialect of the region. The lyrics and translation are below:

Ch'ul awilal                                                          Sacred place
Ta sk'inal yu'un ants-winik                                    On man's earth                   
Banti te ja' sok te nichim                                      Where water and flower
Junax yak'sbaik                                                    Become one
Banti te choje skananta                                        Where the puma protects
Te sk'ayoj yu'un te chich me'el-mamal                  The chants of our past
Ja in yawil to                                                      In this place
Banti x-a'in te ch'ulchane sok te balumilale...       Where sky and earth are born
Chiapas                                                                         Chiapas 

I think that it is important to note that public schools in Mexico play a very important role in passing on cultural values and traditions to younger generations. It is the norm for all children to participate in end of the year school celebrations that consist of Indigenous dances and music. Each grade showcases a different region of the country at a ceremony that is open to the community and family. In fact, family is expected to attend and normally always does. From a very young age children are taught to appreciate cultural practices that existed before the conquest. Because of this I feel that the dialogue surrounding the bicentennial celebrations served to bring together communities and reinforce various Mexican identities. My time in Mexico was divided into primarily two different regions, and I attended an important Indigenous festival in yet another. Across all this land, I felt the sentiment to be the same. People of the community welcomed Mexican visitors (I don’t know if they would be as open with international tourists) with open arms and were eager to share their culture.