Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Hanohano Controversy and Speaking Hawaiian

This post way off topic from Ocean Awareness but I’ve came across a few articles about Representative Faye Hanohano that have piqued my interest and I wanted to share my opinions.

You can view the articles here:

After reading both articles I've been seeing comments like the following, which is what prompted me to write this entry.

If the official languages of the State of Hawai'i are Hawaiian and English...then wouldn't it make sense for those who are in Hawaii's legislative offices learn to speak Hawaiian too? How silly to have a translator if the elected body of the legislation can't understand the language's they uphold!

“when speaking your native language in your native homeland is considered an offense, the native Hawaiian oppression continues, and our nation remains occupied. any haoles complaining about "racism" or telling us our oppression is in the past need to wake the hell up.

Yes, it would make sense for Hawaii officials to learn to speak Hawaiian since it is one of the official languages. But there are a few things I'd like to address.

Ekahi 1) The major language that is spoken in Hawaii, but is not the official language, is Pidgin English aka Creole. It’s a mash of other languages people used communicate with each other. Most of the people back in the day and here in the present grew up on Pidgin or English rather than straight Hawaiian. If you were taught Hawaiian, you're lucky... It's rare to see an entire family that can speak fluent Hawaiian and English.

Because of everything that happened in Hawaii's history (inter-racial marriages, the overthrow, plantation days etc etc) The Hawaiian language was almost erased from existence and that is why a lot of people from Hawaii can't speak Hawaiian.
Myself included. My family just didn't know the language and I'm 40% Hawaiian. If that means anything to you. I know some Hawaiian words but not enough to hold a conversation.

Elua 2) Most of the people in office are, for a lack of better words, old.
Older people have a difficult time grasping new annunciations and tend to take translations too literal. The English language is a tricky thing and can be very precise.
Most English sentences cannot be translated directly into other languages without it being broken down, reformatted or having to use other words to make the sentence logical and understandable. The English language is backwards compared to other world languages and most adults still have a difficult time with English even though they've been speaking it their entire lives. I'm sure people who speak fluent Hawaiian also still have difficulties sometimes when trying to talk about certain things.

Ekolu 3) Most of the people in office are busy trying to do what they told the people they would do while in office.

This goes towards the truthful individuals in office because I know there are corrupt individuals as well.

Being in office is difficult. Imagine all the people counting on you to do the right thing for them. To solve the problems that we are having:
The lack of education, pollution problems, dwindling ocean resources, crime in the community, corruption within the system, poverty among the people, equal rights for women and gays, church protests, social security, overpopulation, unemployment, care for veterans etc etc. I have more but I’m not going to list them all.

They have all of this riding on their shoulders and so many things to work for, what would you rather them focus on? Helping the people with the arsenal of tools they already have OR trying to learn another language and then help the people? It's not a bad thing that most people in office don't know Hawaiian. I'm sure they didn't make it a point not to learn it. However, it seems to me they just never had the proper opportunity to learn it.

Instead of keeping it to herself, Miss Hanohano should be helping her fellows in office to learn the language rather than ignore them because they don't know it. AND her fellows in office need to put more effort into understanding and learning the Hawaiian language as well. Work needs to be put in from both sides.

I think I understand what Miss Hanohano is trying to do:
Wanting to make it clear that she is for the Hawaiian people and culture. Putting emphasis on that and stressing the use of Hawaiian language; but I feel she is taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back with the way she is approaching and acting towards certain issues...

Especially with her racist remarks about non-Hawaiian art in her office and her ridiculous comments on one boy’s testimony about protecting sharks and rays, but that’s a whole other topic.


She represents the Hawaiian people, whether she realizes it or not, and in this instance she's making us look stubborn, ugly, angry and hard headed. Part of it is because she refused to translate but she should have put her fellows in office in the spotlight too. It’s not her fault that they don’t know Hawaiian BUT they’ve been in office for HOW long and they still can’t say at least one or two words?

If they could try, even if it’s just a word or two, to speak Hawaiian I think that would show just a little progress that the individuals in office are putting some effort into speaking Hawaiian to accommodate Miss Hanohano and others. ALSO, putting to use the law which makes English AND Hawaiian the official languages of Hawaii.

Eha 4) Whether we like it or not Hawaii is a part of America now and no longer an independent nation. It hurts to say but that is the truth and our offices operate in the "American" way. Therefore, we need to adjust to it if we want to make any progress.

I'm NOT saying that we need to completely abandon the Hawaiian culture and language but we need to adapt it to the system. Acting mean and stubborn is not the way to go. You could have some brilliant idea to address whatever issue is at the table. However, if people can't understand you and you're going to refuse to translate even though you have the ability to, I find it immature, disheartening and it stops progress.

The only way now to prevent problems like this in the future is to make sure EVERYONE in the next generation can speak Hawaiian. Make it mandatory in school, K-12, for children to learn Hawaiian.

I see a lot of people who are uppity about the individuals in office not knowing Hawaiian, but like I said before they probably didn’t get a proper opportunity to really learn the Hawaiian language. Don’t blame them because they don’t know the language. Instead, work with the education system. Make the Hawaiian language readily available to learn.

Elima 5) It’s difficult to learn Hawaiian these days! You either have to BE Hawaiian to be allowed to learn it OR you need to pay a lot of money to take Hawaiian language classes. There isn’t a Rosetta Stone program that offers Hawaiian. There isn't an online Hawaiian dictionary. There isn't a Hawaiian-English translator. Since a lot of language tools are lacking in this day and age for the Hawaiian language, it feels like the Hawaiian language is something you can only learn if you’re in Hawaii and if you’re Hawaiian or considered a local. There are so many other languages readily available but Hawaiian is not one of them.

I’m Hawaiian AND Haole aka Hapa and it feels like I’m not allowed to learn it sometimes because I don’t have enough Hawaiian blood in me. The Hawaiian people are the ones who bring up their past oppression the most and that makes me feel like I’m not worthy enough to learn Hawaiian. And I’m Hawaiian!

It gets even more frustrating. Sometimes I’ll try to apply whatever Hawaiian I know into a conversation and other Hawaiian speakers look at me in disgust because I didn’t say a word properly and they get offended because I was “trying” to speak Hawaiian and I didn't know it fluently.

Some Hawaiian speakers and people will also get offended if "Haole" people try to speak Hawaiian BECAUSE they are Haole. It's disheartening since they are doing what some want, but because they aren't Hawaiian they get offended.

So can you understand the frustration that some non-Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian speakers have?

(Quick lesson: For those who are wondering, the word Haole or Ha'ole means "without breath". Hawaiians would greet each other by pressing their foreheads and noses together and inhaling. It's called a Honi.
When Hawaiian people first came into contact with foreigners, they did not honi as a greeting and that is why they were referred to as Haole.
It also means "foreigner", so anything that isn't Hawaiian can be considered "Haole". Filipinos, Portuguese, Africans, Caucasians, Mexicans and Asians are Haole.
But because of Pidgin English and people using it as slang, it's boiled down to mean "White person".)

Eono 6) Please, if you are a Hawaiian speaker, share your knowledge with everyone you know. Don't hoard it like it's an object; like it’s something you have to keep for yourself and other people need to get for themselves. Share your knowledge with whoever you can and become a teacher for others. Be open minded with people who are just learning. Don’t make them feel shame because they don’t know as much as you. Teach them more. That's the only way, I see, that issues like this can be avoided.

Going back to Miss Hanohano and the people in office. She is not a “problem” but I she is taking the wrong approach to get the Hawaiian culture, hospitality and language properly recognized.

To close, I hope that she is able to change the way she acts in front of others and in office. I also hope that the other reps in office take more initiative to learn the Hawaiian language. Even if it’s baby steps, at least they are trying.

Whew! That was a lot!

I hope I was able to shed some new light on this issue. BlueMenpachi, signing off.

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