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  • Aloha Betrayed:Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism
  • Jonathan Friedman

This is an important book, powerfully written and carefully argued, which makes a very significant contribution to our knowledge of the colonial history of Hawai'i. It focuses on an area [End Page 163] that has been little discussed in standard histories, at least: the continuity of Native Hawaiian resistance to American colonial encroachment. Several other works have taken the standard history apart (eg, Noel Kent's Hawai'i: Islands Under the Influence [1983] and Michael Dougherty's To Steal a Kingdom [1992]), but they have focused primarily on the colonial actors themselves, in order to demystify the received history of smooth incorporation of a primitive autocratic kingdom into the expanding democracy of the United States. Much of the literature, including the postcolonial, continues to employ a model of the passive native. This is part of an ideology of pure victimization, which implies that without "good" interventions on the part of radicals, the people are doomed to accept imperial takeovers. In this way the natives are transformed into objects worthy of pity and outside help. It was many years ago that I remember reading an apocryphal remark made by a Hawaiian in response to a rap encouraging Hawaiians to get involved with the student movement. "Hey bruddah," he said, "you sound like da missionaries" (Francine du Plessix Gray, Hawaii: The Sugar-Coated Fortress [1972, 133]). To be sure, most haole (white people, foreigners) who have been involved in the Hawaiian movement know pretty well that this is not the case. But there is a certain mental automatism that inheres in attempting to categorize Hawaiians as a people that ought to become part of a particular progressive political movement. Some are even shocked when being told that Hawaiians have made and intend to make their own decisions even if they don't adhere to the correct leftist position of the day. The erasure of native intentionality is a hallmark of a certain progressive ideology. This book provides the first major corrective to this issue of historical agency. It demonstrates, in part by means of the discovery of a Hawaiian-language archive, that there was a continuous, conscious resistance to American colonial power.

The first time I became aware of the central issues that are so well clarified in this book was when I was working in Hawai'i with my wife, Kajsa Ekholm Friedman. In the late 1970s we were told by many anthropologists that there were virtually no Hawaiians left to study, at least not ifwe were interested in culture. But after meeting activist scholar Marion Kelly and seeing the resistance and destruction of the Sand Island settlement, the violent evacuation of Hawaiian "squatters" to make room for a "cultural park"; after meeting young Hawaiians on Hawai'i who were native speakers without having learned it all at the university; and after seeing the growth of a movement, with all its internal conflicts, welearned to what degree scholarship, as it is called, can hide more than it reveals. Some years later (in my 1992 article "The Past is Future" [American Anthropologist 94: 837859] and in my 1994 article "Will the Real Hawaiian Please Stand" [Bijdragen tot de Taal-Land-en-Volkenkunde 147:137167]), I argued for both the historical continuity of Hawaiian culture and for the continuity of resistance as well, but I had very little material to go on. My [End Page 164] argument was that the current expansion (from the mid-1970s) of the Hawaiian movement was not the result of a sudden change among Hawaiians, but of a historical conjuncture in which a stagnating tourist industry coupled with a tradition of resistance was able to partially succeed due to the decline of American economic and cultural hegemony in the world. Activities that would have led to political repression some years earlier were suddenly possible, or more possible, not as new activities but as a product of change in the larger context.

Hawaiian opposition to the Americans began very early and related to issues such as the imposition of Christianity, from aristocratic opposition tothe missionaries to attempts to prevent the transfer of land to...