By the time Hawaii became a state in 1959, its culture had been seriously eroded1. Many Hawaiians were angered as they had to prove that they had at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood to receive land grants. This lead to an insurgent movement in favor of land for all Kanaka Maoli, Original People, no matter how little native blood they had. Hawaiians resented the fact that in the new state the language continued to be forbidden in schools, and were enraged at the high crime rates and poor health standards.
Although the Hawaiians never lost their voice, only in the past two decades have people started paying close attention to them. Today the old term «part Hawaiian» is considered derogatory2, and of the 1.2 million people living in the islands, almost 250,000 identify themselves as «native Hawaiian», wholly or in combination with another ethnic group.
The 1970s saw four main expressions of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance: the recovery of the island of Kaho’olawe, the return of voyaging, the «Battle of the Bones», and the revival of traditional hula. The U.S. military had been using the small island of Kaho’olawe as a bombing target since 1941, despite the fact that it contains some 2,000 archaeological sites. In the late 1970s the bombing provoked anger, demonstrations and occupation of this uninhabited island, which since 1990 has been set aside for the preservation of Hawaiian culture.
The 1970s also saw the revival of voyaging in the ancestral way, sailing the Pacific in traditional canoes. Hawaiian voyaging had ended in the 14th century but the art of navigating and the ancient methods of reading the stars still existed on remote Pacific islands. Pius Piailug, «Mau», has brought back the art of crossing the Pacific following the stars, and a proud culture of voyaging that teaches discipline and self-steem has grown up around Hawaiian canoes.
The so-called Battle of the Bones erupted in the mid-1980s when a Ritz-Carlton hotel was proposed at Honokahua on a burial ground3. Protests were so strong that in 1989 the planned hotel was moved back to preserve the sanctity of the site, and new laws were passed to prevent buildings from desecrating ancient Hawaiian sites.
Hula is a symbol of the Hawaiian people. It is a performance of storytelling, chanting and stamping4, by one person or in groups. It is entertainment as well as a formal way of greeting visitors and of praising events and places. It teaches Hawaiian language, history, genealogy and spirituality. To most natives, hula was life, so it was not surprising that mothers used to teach hula to their daughters before they could walk.
(From the press. Adapted)