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The Contemporary Pacific 13.1 (2001) 292-293

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Book Review

Turning Tide: The Ebb and Flow of Hawaiian Nationality

Turning Tide: The Ebb and Flow of Hawaiian Nationality, by Niklaus R Schweizer. Berne, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1999. ISBN 0-8204-4224-0, xxiii + 532 pages, photographs, glossary, timeline, notes, bibliography, index. Paper, US$55.95.

Nicklaus Schweizer felt a challenge stirring within. It welled up inside, urging him "to deal with" the topic of Hawaiian nationality in the context of local and outside forces of change and stasis. Unsure as he seemed at first, Schweizer did find a way to shed new light on a fairly well-covered topic. Among Schweizer's credentials for doing this work are his residence of thirty years in the islands, the ability to translate and speak Hawaiian, and a background in European affairs, the origins of which go back to life in his native Switzerland. He also possesses a congenial personal demeanor that comes with a ready smile. To do the kind of work he did for this book demonstrates his aloha for these islands and their indigenous people.

It is clear the author felt this aloha, in the form of kuleana, his own province of responsibility, and proceeded "to approach the matter comprehensively and at the same time to adhere as much as possible to a local, home-grown point of view." The local story focuses on how Hawai'i has moved from an archipelago of separate chiefdoms to a unified nation-state under Kamehameha I, to a monarchy, republic, US territory, and eventually state. With each of these political designations came much tumult in the lives of the Kânaka Maoli, but since the end of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the upset has come in even more radical ways.

Schweizer traces the roots of change locally, but as he does he also places the Hawai'i situation in a broader context. This macro-historical approach is effective and underlines just how certain powerful forces in world history, like imperialism, colonialism, Christian conversion, and capitalism, have affected indigenous peoples and changed conceptions of nationality.

In the course of his analysis, Schweizer also contributes to the historiographical record by commenting on and citing an array of scholars from Hawaiian nationalists Haunani-Kay Trask and Lilikalâ Kame'eleihiwa to Ralph Kuykendall and Gavan Daws. The value of such an effort is to validate the native point of view while acknowledging earlier nonnative voices and the evidence put forward by such individuals in support of everything from legitimate claims to gross misstatements.

Schweizer is able to encourage an ebb and flow between local focus and global context throughout the book. Kânaka Maoli depopulation is discussed in the context of Tasmania and other lands where native peoples have been similarly affected. Cook is mentioned and his actions in Hawai'i evaluated against a thorough treatment of Europe's age of exploration, beginning with Columbus and Magellan. The sovereignty movement in Hawai'i is discussed in light of similar developments in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere. The constant movement [End Page 292] of forces of fortune and destiny, power and prejudice that have affected human action and reaction throughout the world are the same ones that affected life in these islands.

Placing the significance of Schweizer's work in the context of Hawai'i's historical canon is not difficult. Turning Tide is an important contribution to the conversation about Kânaka Maoli nationalism, nationality, sovereignty, and self-determination for several reasons. Schweizer employs an effective methodology and is first-rate as a researcher. His background and expertise in the field of European languages and literature gives the work a unique perspective. Finally, his unabashed affection for things Hawaiian contributes most to his role as a bridge between peoples and their sometimes adversarial ideas. Such understanding of a topic can come only from one who is willing to consider another's point of view with respect. Schweizer was willing to do this throughout his text. His dedication and scholarship is reminiscent of people like Abraham...