restricted access Chapter 2: “It Was a Process of Decolonization and That’s about as Clear as I Can Put It”: Kuleana-Centered Higher Education and the Meanings of Hawaiianness
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18 c h a p t e r 2 “It Was a Process of Decolonization and That’s about as Clear as I Can Put It” kuleana-­ centered higher education and the meanings of hawaiianness Erin Kahunawaikaʻala Wright (Native Hawaiian) A process of decolonization. Helped me shift paradigms. Looking for an answer to my questions. You had been on this long, hot, dry hike or run. Then all of a sudden someone gives you this ice-­ cold water. It just quenched a thirst. Made me understand why I was angry. I need to know who I am and where I come from, learn for myself. I was playing catch-­ up. I should have learned all this before. Gave this language to things that I had seen or thought about but didn’t know how to speak about. We could make this kīpuka. Passionate professors. Influential. Inspiring. Didn’t imagine I would be part of a movement. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to be scared, but just keep going. Larger goal very clear, well-­ being and advancement of the lāhui. Laser focused and unified. Determined the entire course of my life. Solidified my kuleana. Where I found my voice. Hawaiian Studies gave me values on improving myself to help the larger whole. kuleana-­ centered higher education 19 I felt really empowered. Mindset always on nationhood. What is our legacy? Our kuleana is to advance and advocate. Our kūpuna did impossible things, if they can do these crazy incredible things, we can do it too. Other people believe in you . . . you better too.1 Author, poet, and Hawaiian nationalist Haunani-­ Kay Trask teaches us that colonialism diminishes Native2 identity into “dispossessions of empire” like Native lands and resources (Trask, 2002, p. 35). Trask (1999) writes, Because of colonization, the question of who defines what is Native, and even who is defined as Native has been taken away from Native peoples by Western-­ trained scholars, government officials, and other technicians. The theft itself testifies to the pervasive power of colonialism and explains why self-­identity by Natives of who and what they are elicits such strenuous and sometimes vicious denials by the dominant culture. (p. 43) The very theft of the power to determine one’s identity—­ that is, to define who and what is“Native”—­speaks to the pervasiveness and insidiousness of U.S.colonialism . Osorio (2006) also connects the “confusion” over what it means “to be Hawaiian” to the consequences of colonialism. Osorio writes (2006), “It is huikau ,confusion,over what our choices are and what they meant that is threatening our nation. How far are we willing to commit ourselves to be Hawaiian?” (p. 19). If identity is fundamental to political and psychological self-­ determination, how do we (re)cultivate Kanaka ʻŌiwi3 identity and, instead, dispossess empire (wa Thiongo, 1986)? The focus of this chapter is to understand the ways in which culturally based or what I’ve come to call “kuleana-­ centered” higher education influences the contours of Kanaka ʻŌiwi identity. “Kuleana” is often understood as “rights, responsibility, and authority” (Warner, 1999, p. 76), though I understand the kaona (hidden meaning) of kuleana also ties “responsibility” to feelings of privilege and burden through my own lived experience as an ʻŌiwi student, student affairs scholar-­ practitioner, and higher education teacher and scholar endeavoring to understand ʻŌiwi journeys to and through higher education. Additionally, I see this chapter as contributing another voice to the decades of important conversations Kanaka ʻŌiwi have had about the meaning and significance of identity through a diversity of scholarship (Goodyear-­ Ka‘ōpua, 2016; Halualani, 2002; Holt, 1969/1995; Kikiloi, 2010; Kupo, 2017; Ledward, 2007; Osorio, 2001, 2006; Tengan, 2008). 20 Erin Kahunawaikaʻala Wright As a way to highlight the centrality of kuleana throughout the chapter, I use words with the prefix “hi‘i” to open each section. “Hi‘i” means “to hold or carry in the arms, as a child” (Pukui & Elbert, 1971, p. 64). The ‘ano (being) of hi‘i also implies deep caring for what is being carried. Therefore, hi‘i is also used to denote participants’ contradictory and complementary feelings expressed in their narratives in which we can see them as college graduates with the cherished responsibility (and burden) to utilize their educational privilege to carry themselves , their‘ohana (extended family), and their lāhui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian nation). E hi‘ipoi i nā ‘Ōiwi: Tending ‘Ōiwi through Culturally Based Education Kanaka ʻŌiwi culturally...