The Hawaiian Renaissance

#199 in the Moʻolelo series

Simultaneous developments following statehood helped to initiate the Hawaiian Renaissance, changing Hawaii politically, socially and economically. One of the political changes included the movement away from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, following the Democratic Revolution of 1954. Cooper and Daws (1985) document the shift among Democrats (formerly leaders representing the working class) toward participation in the real estate boom of the 1960s through the use of hui, or investment partnerships. (They name names). For Hawaiians, however, the desire to work outside of mainstream politics linked to social changes, which were spurred on by events including both the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-Vietnam War movement. Perhaps even more so, the militant movements of the early 1970s such as Black Power and the American Indian Movement (AIM) inspired radical activism that spread to Hawaiians. (See the video below for an interview with Kokua Hawaiʻi activist Kalani Ohelo):

The lessons learned from these movements made Hawaiians realize they could seek the same acknowledgement of their rights. Ethnic minorities could openly embrace their heritage and major changes to long-standing practices could occur by working inside and outside of the system. 

Rapid economic changes started with Hawai‘i becoming a state.  This status made Hawai‘i a far more amenable place for business investors seeking new opportunities, tourists seeking a taste of “paradise” and affluent individuals seeking an ideal place to live. As a state, Hawai’i was qualified for Federal funding of public construction projects. Hawai’i created new businesses, tourists, affluent residents, and US government spending; an economic boom occurred. The economic development took various forms such as large-scale government building projects (e.g., H-1, H-2, H-3), housing developments, tourist resorts, and shopping complexes. The effects of the economic changes on the local population increased competition for and prices of housing and also competition for jobs. It changed familiar rural settings to unfamiliar suburban areas or even resort areas (made Hawai’i start to feel like the Mainland). These changes affected Hawaiians by changing cultural practices that used natural resources and ended those resources by destroying them due to development. Hawaiian cultural sites were also destroyed. Hawaiians started to feel increasingly alienated in their own homeland. By this time, Hawaiians felt that Hawaiʻi unique culture, both Hawaiian and local, was beginning to disappear. The renaissance was an effort to change this.

One key factor to the Hawaiian Renaissance was increased Hawaiian cultural vitality brought by practicing traditional arts. The knowledge was maintained by Hawaiian experts. Hawaiian values were practiced by most Hawaiian families. Appreciation and respect for Hawaiian culture were shown by members of other ethnic groups. 

Emerging out of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was a political movement – the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. All sovereign nations have a land base, form of government, definable citizenry, economic base, and political recognition from other nations. A land base was perhaps the most challenging goal this movement aspired to but it was a central goal. The renaissance evolved into a nationalistic movement – a movement to establish Hawaiian sovereignty.


Filed under Education

2 responses to “The Hawaiian Renaissance

  1. Dave Reardon

    I finally found my way to “the umiverse.” Looking forward to learning more.


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