The State of the Hawaiian Union

As Trump evoked manifest destiny and used soaring and highly problematic rhetoric about how “our ancestors” built the greatest society the world has ever seen, it made me wonder: What is the state of the Hawaiian union? I almost called this post “The State of the Hawaiian Disunion,” but I realized Hawaiians are actually more unified than we have been since the attacks on the Hawaiian trusts (Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy, OHA voting, Hawaiian Home Lands) in the early 2000s. Below I try to summarize this state that Hawaiians find themselves in.



As far as the statistics Iʻve seen point out, the DOE continues to have a 9% college graduation rate for its products of Hawaiian ancestry, a number that should be better known and yet another cause for outrage. Even with Hawaiians attending Kamehameha and other private schools, the total percentage rises to only 15%, compared to 29% college completion in the US as a whole. Yet there is cause for optimism. My daughters’ immersion school routinely puts out graduates who are at grade level in two languages – no one else is doing this. Meanwhile, Kamehameha Schools is going “dual immersion” with half of a studentʻs classes in English and half in Hawaiian, starting with next year’s kindergarteners. UH also had a record number of Kanaka graduates last year, far up from the days when only 8% of their students were Hawaiian (this was often compared with the more than 40% of the incarcerated being of Hawaiian ancestry).


We are more likely to be sent to prison, and for longer periods of time, than nearly every other racial or ethnic community in Hawai‘i. OHA strongly supports a fair justice system and this study sets the course for change.” Additional key findings in the report include: Of the people serving a prison term in Hawai‘i, approximately fifty percent are housed in facilities on the mainland. Of this population, about forty-one percent are Native Hawaiian, the most highly-represented group. While incarcerated out of state, these people are further disconnected from their communities, families and culturally appropriate services for re-entry. Native Hawaiians do not use drugs at drastically different rates from people of other races or ethnicities, but Native Hawaiians go to prison for drug offenses more often than people of other races or ethnicities. Once released from prison, Native Hawaiians experience barriers that prevent them from participating in certain jobs, obtaining a drivers license, voting, continuing education, obtaining housing and keeping a family together. Without a sufficient number of culturally appropriate services, Native Hawaiians are not given the best chance at achieving success upon re-entry into the community. “In two thousand and nine the OHA Board submitted concurrent Resolutions to the 25th Legislature noting that a study would be helpful in determining the extent, nature and impact of perceived disparities. The U.S. Senate urged with the House of Representatives concurring in HCR27HD1, that OHA should contract a nationally respected and objective consulting firm to conduct a study of disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in Hawai‘i’s criminal justice system.


In 2000, eight large trusts owned 23.8% of all the land in Hawaiʻi, leaving little for average Hawaiians, who increasingly find themselves among the houseless and diaspora to the US Southwest. Developments in Kakaʻako have added about 6500 units to the housing stock, but the few “affordable” units are priced well above $500,000 (and are usually too small anyway), while many developments have nothing under $1 million. Since the average lifetime income of a high school graduate is $800,000, and the average Hawaiian has that much education, homeownership is out of reach for the majority.

Mauna Kea


It seems that, perhaps despite appearances, Hawaiian protectors are winning the Mauna Kea struggle. If they werenʻt, the State Attorney General would not have to stoop to gathering frequent flyer mile records from Hawaiian Air, and seizing the financial records of very small nonprofits that helped fund the Puʻuhululu operation. Meanwhile, Ige is tied for least popular governor in the US.* And this in spite of the false missile alarm. Perhaps the Hawaiʻi Independent was right when it compared local residents to battered spouses, accepting without question or outrage the fact that missiles are aimed at us in the first place.

*Mahalo to Kiope Raymond for pointing out my error – I misread a headline that I thought said Ige was tied for most popular governor.


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