- The Seeds We Planted: Portraits of a Native Hawaiian Charter School by Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘opua
As the title implies, Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘opua’s book chronicles the creation and struggles of a native Hawaiian secondary charter school, Halau Ku Mana (HKM). Her narrative details the obstacles that HKM overcame during her ten-year involvement with the school in Honolulu. The seeds planted have two elements: the first refers to the seeds of colonial exploitation and neglect that American settlers perpetrated against Indigenous Hawaiian cultures, and the second refers to the seeds of educational and social investment sown by the charter school’s administration and faculty within their students. For Goodyear-Ka‘opua, students from HKM represent a new generation of sociopolitical community activists who are able to make a difference in their educational future and galvanize opinion against the settler-colonial school system. As Goodyear-Ka‘opua argues, that hegemonic system still exists, and many believe that is evidenced by the ancient Hawaiian prophecy, which became a unifying chant for students from different Hawaiian culture-based charter schools: “What was above will come down; what was below will rise. The islands will unite and the walls will stand again” (10).
Goodyear-Ka‘opua masterfully weaves together this work: on the one hand, she uses oral histories in the form of conversations and formal interviews conducted with HKM’s cofounders, educators, current students, and graduates; and on the other hand, she uses her own observations of the power dynamics between the existing settler-colonial school system and HKM’s curriculum. Her methodological approach to recording oral histories adopts the concept of ethnographic portraiture developed by Sara Lawrence–Lightfoot and Jessica Hoffmann Davis (Sara Lawrence–Lightfoot and Jessica Hoffmann Davis, The Art and Science of Portraiture [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997]). This approach presents Indigenous stories as a counternarrative to the previous deficit-oriented approach to research of the settler-colonialist perspective. The portraiture concept involves the ethnographer incorporating Indigenous perspectives, while still providing the author’s observations based on rigorous documentation and critical analyses.
Beginning with the origins of the Hawaiian-culture-based charter school movement, Goodyear-Ka‘opua analyzes how the confluence of two seemingly unrelated social movements created the opportunity for the Indigenous charter school movement to exist in the first place. The first was the Hawaiian nationalistic movement of the 1970s; the second was the larger US charter school reform movement. The Hawaiian nationalistic movement of the 1970s sparked a [End Page 398] community-led initiative of cultural reclamation that transformed into a larger stream of resistance. This resistance incorporated the struggle against the settler-colonial school system in pursuit of a truly anticolonial sovereign pedagogy centered in the curriculum of aloha ‘aina (i.e., land-centered literacy, which makes the natural environment the focus of learning).
The US charter school reform movement was focused on providing students and parents with more school choices, which Goodyear-Ka‘opua views as a neo-colonial approach to building schools because of its reliance on the open-market system of capitalistic competition. For Goodyear-Ka‘opua, the interplay between these two social movements created a power dynamic of anticolonial goals versus neocolonial ones and forced Indigenous culture-based charter schools to navigate cultural safety zones—“settler state sanctioned space in which Indigenous culture can be practiced as long as it remains unthreatening to settler society” (11). It is this shared interest in specialized curriculum that allowed for the establishment of schools such as Halau Ku Mana and others like it.
Goodyear-Ka‘opua then moves on to an examination of how the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act influenced HKM’S curriculum and measured it by national content standards, which she contends were created from a settler-colonial perspective that valued traditional schooling over Indigenous culture-based curricula; she also provides a nuanced discussion on the differences between how US policymakers perceived “self-determination” in their attitudes toward Indigenous cultures and how HKM’s faculty and...