Coffee in Hawaii

Coffee came to Hawaii in the late 1700’s with Don Francisco de Paula Marin, a Spanish advisor to King Kamehameha I and the first recorded reference to its cultivation in Hawaii is in an 1813 entry in his journal. A well-known horticulturist, he also introduced the pineapple to Hawaii. There is not much more recorded about coffee in the islands until the reign of Kamehameha II – also known as Liholiho. In 1823, Liholiho, his queen Kamamalu, and a retinue of ali’i including Chief Boki, set out on an illfated journey to England, for an audience with King George IV. Chief Boki was one of only four survivors of the party of twelve when the other members of the party, including the King and his wife, died after contracting measles. He returned to the islands, with the bodies of his king and queen, and some Arabica coffee trees, acquired in Brazil on the way home. These were planted on Oahu in the Manoa Valley. The British Consul, Richard Charlton also planted some coffee obtained from Manila. In 1828 or 1829, other trees were planted in the Kalihi and Niu valleys near Honolulu.

In the first attempts to bring coffee to the Big Island, the Rev. Joseph Goodrich planted some coffee hoping to make the Hilo mission self-sustaining. Goodrich planted gardens over his 12 years at Hilo, and taught classes for native Hawaiians on cultivation of both for cash to support the mission, as well as vegetables and tropical fruits for their own meals. However, it wasn’t until Rev. Samuel Ruggles (1795–1871) carried some cuttings of coffee to the Kona District when he was transferred from Hilo on the eastern side of the island of Hawaii to the Kealakekua Church on the western side in July 1828 that the Kona Coffee industry was born. The first production records from 1848 list 248 pounds of coffee being produced on Kauai and the Big Island, but the transplanted trees found near ideal conditions in Kona and thrived and by 1878 the district was producing 150,194 pounds of coffee annually and was listed as the 13th largest coffee production area in the world.
Henry Nicholas Greenwell, a coffee trader from Kona, was given an award for excellence at the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna, which gave some recognition to the Kona Coffee name. The first coffee mill in Hawaii near Kealakekua Bay was built around 1880 by John Gaspar, Sr. and in 1892 the Guatemalan variety of coffee was introduced to Hawaii by German planter Hermann A. Widemann. Between 1850 and 1900 coffee was Hawaii’s single largest agricultural crop, only overcome by sugar cane and pineapple in the early decades of the twentieth century. As cane and pineapple were both easier to cultivate, far less labor intensive, and more profitable, much coffee acreage was converted to these crops, and coffee continued principally on small independent farms in the Kona District of the Big Island, and with marginal returns. By 1916, coffee production was down to about 2.7 million pounds.

However, in the later decades of the twentieth century, increasing international completion, combined with locally high labor costs, drove the sugar plantations and most of the pineapple growers out of business and in some areas coffee is making a resurgence as viable replacement crop. Coffee is now being produced commercially on the Big Island, Maui, Molokai and Kauai. Average yields are around 1400 pounds of ‘parchment’ or raw coffee berries per acre and production in 2007 was about 8.6 million pounds.

Coffee also plays a part in the ‘agri-tourism’ business with many farms offering tasting rooms and tours – the Greenwell Farm http://www.greenwellfarms.com/coffee-history being one of the better ones. The Kona Historical Society offers a view into the ‘old Hawaii’ coffee farm way of life at the Living History Coffee Farm http://www.konahistorical.org/index.php/tours/kona-coffee-living-history-farm/

Puna

As if poor Puna hasn’t had enough problems lately, being the heaviest hit area of the state by tropical storm Iselle, and the focus of the politicians in the extended primary election, now a lava flow from the Pu’u O’o vent of Kilauea is headed their way and FEMA has denied them a federal disaster designation for the storm damages.

Puna is a largely rural district positioned south of Hilo and east of Ka’u, and is home to most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (although the park entrance is in Kau.) Puna means ‘spring’ – as in water, not the season – and numerous springs are found throughout the district. A water bottling plant (Hawaiian Waters) tapping into an artesian aquifer is located in the town of Kea’au.  Puna is also the poorest district on the Big Island economically, with

Historically and culturally, Puna is considered Pele’s domain, and in pre-contact Hawaii, which had what was basically a feudal system of government, the commoners who lived in Puna had the right to relocate to other districts if Pele asserted her rights.  The environment in Puna is uniquely influenced by the ongoing volcanic events and is shaped by the interactions of the repeated eruptions, the high levels of rainfall on the windward slopes and relative aridity of the leeward slopes.  The dominant vegetation on the wetter side is the ‘ohi’a lehua – sacred to Pele – and the hapu’u fern forests.  There is rich biodiversity created in part by the action of lava flows over the centuries that have created biologic ‘islands’ of stands of forest isolated by lava flows.  These are known as kipuka and plant and particularly insect life evolve separate from neighboring populations and some species in Puna are found nowhere else in the world.

Today, the Puna district remains rural, offering glimpses into the life of old Hawaii, with many historic trails and sites still intact.  Puna’s Mackenzie State Recreational Park contains remnants of the old stone road built by Kamehameha I which is reputed to feature the ghostly Night Marchers – ancient Hawaiian warriors who are supposedly seen in specific areas during certain phases of the moon.  They are to be recognized by their drums, raised torches and chanting and should you encounter them, you are not to look them in the eyes, but rather lie flat on the ground and remain as silent as possible so that they do not notice you and force you to join them in their endless marching.

 

 

Hawaiian Chants and the Kumulipo

At the time that turned the heat of the earth,
At the time when the heavens turned and changed,
At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
To cause night to break forth,
At the time of the night of Makali’i (winter)
Then began the slime which established the earth.
The source of deepest darkness.
Of the depth of darkness, of the depth of darkness,
Of the darkness of the sun, in the depth of night,
It is night,
So was night born.

(From the Kumulipo)
The Kumulipo is the Hawaiian Creation Chant first published in Hawaiian at the direction of King Kalakaua in 1889, and translated into English in 1897 by the dethroned Queen Liliu’okalani. It is a total of 2102 lines long, and was created in honor of Lonoikamakahiki, whose birth stopped a feud between the ʻI and Keawe families. The Kumulipo is a cosmogonic genealogy, and it has 16 “wā” which means era or age. In each wā, something is born whether it is a human, plant, or creature. In the final nine wā, is the arrival of light and the gods, the changing of animals into the first humans, and finally the complex genealogy of Kalani‘īimamao that goes all the way to the late 18th century.
Kimo Campbell in the preface to the translation speculates as to why these two monarchs has such a strong interest in the Kumulipo and suggests that King Kalakaua, who was elected to his office, might have wished to use this genealogy chant to establish himself as a true descendant of the ancient chiefs of Hawai’I with rights to the position he held. Liliu’okalani, Campbell postulates, might have published the translation in part to counter a popular pro-annexation argument that Hawaiians were ignorant savages who had no culture prior to the arrival of Captain Cook. Perhaps she had hoped to demonstrate the high level of cultural attainment of the Hawaiian people through sharing the complexity of the chant which revealed a poetic heritage, finely attuned to nature in its imagery, and sophisticated in the themes and kaona (hidden or double meanings) that it contained. There are also striking similarities between the Kumulipo and the Judeo-Christian creation myth in Genesis, in the world arising from darkness into light, and in the order of creation of the plants, animals and humans.
Pre-contact Hawaiian culture was perpetuated by oral tradition and lacking a written language. Histories, genealogies, myths and legends were passed on in complex and lengthy chants which into two broad categories, mele oli and mele hula.  Mele was the word for “poetic language” although subsequently it has come to mean song. In pre-contact Hawai’i, there was no Western style melodic singing. Haku mele, the equivalent of Celtic bards, trained for years learning to compose, recite and teach others to perform the ancient chants, which had to be done perfectly both in content and style of delivery.

Training began as children with exercises in memory, breath control, and other necessary skills. One competition involved two trainees lying chest down facing the sun beside a pool of still water. Each inhaled, then slowly whispered, “na’u-u-u-u,” while being judged on who could sustain the hum the longest by watching the rippling water. Training sessions went on for hours with students imitating the sound of breaking waves or the roar of a waterfall.
Mele oli chants are unaccompanied by any instrument and are generally performed by one individual. Mele hula are chants accompanied by dance or by dance and musical instruments, and are often performed by more than one person.

‘Ohana

‘Ohana is a uniquely Hawaiian way of viewing family. ‘Oha is a shoot off the root of the kalo or taro plant, which is traditionally the ancestral plant from which mankind arises in Hawaiian cosmology. ‘Ohana, then is the collective of all the children of the kalo, or the family. In some traditions, it can be limited to blood relations, but in contemporary usage, ‘ohana is a flexible concept, extending to blood relatives, near neighbors, or even people who share common interest. Proximity alone can create a sense of ‘ohana, with near neighbors often called ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ and certainly you can include into your own defined ‘ohana anyone you want to have there.

Hawaiian pre-contact culture had a liberal definition of family and a strong tradition of fosterage and adoption and that tradition has carried forward into contemporary usage of ‘hanai’ – an informal adoption process that has deep roots in the culture.  Grandparents and childless couples were often given children to ‘hanai’ and children were hanai’d in order to cement alliances and ties among the ali’i in old Hawaii.  Today, it is common to see, for example, in an obituary, so and so, the mother of four sons, two hanai daughters, hanai sister of … and so on.

‘Ohana can also be a group devoted to a particular idea or cause, such as the Protect Kahoolawe ‘Ohana, that was the group that came together to stop the use of Kahoolawe Island as a bombing target by the military.  ‘Ohana has also been somewhat co-opted by the advertising media to give a sense of community and ‘warm fuzzies’ to everything from hotel chains to health plans.

I find myself increasingly aware, as I get older, that my ‘real’ family is both far away and shrinking as the elders pass on, and I’m too far away to know the younger family members as well as I should like.  I’m also glad of the Hawaiian way of viewing ‘ohana, because it means I also have the ability to include into my ‘ohana those dear friends and neighbors who are not blood relatives.

 

National Dog Day

Yesterday, unbeknownst to me at the time, was National Dog Day. It was the 10th annual National Dog Day. The founder, Colleen Paige, started a day for dogs “for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work protecting our streets, homes and families as Police K-9’s, Military Working Dogs, Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs.” Evidently lap warming and doggie kisses weren’t on her list, although they should be!

I celebrated National Dog Day without knowing about it, though, as I devoted most of my day to my little Papillion Rufus, who has not been in the best of health, having just had to have a gall bladder removal and insertion of a feeding tube. We have been feeding him four times a day through the tube and were really thrilled when he ate a little bit for his breakfast on his own. However, in spite of our little celebration about his eating breakfast, that was not my National Dog Day observance.

It started with a call to his veterinary surgeon to check on the latest round of blood work, which was improving, but still not where the doctor wanted it to be. So, the doc wanted him to go on a new liver medicine, which had to be ‘compounded.’ I didn’t really know what this meant, but can now tell you that Long’s in Waimea doesn’t do it. Nor do the pharmacies at the two grocery stores in Waimea or the one in Waikoloa.

Turns out that there is only one place on the island that does compounding – which is making up medicines from component parts rather than just dispensing already made up pills or capsules – and it is in Kona – about an hour from home. The vet’s office told me the medicine would be ready “in the afternoon” so I set out around 11:30 to run some errands and take care of a few chores and then headed out to Kona with Winnie to pick up the prescription.

Got to the compounding pharmacy on the southern edge of Kona at around 2:30 – not ready. Gave them the cell phone number, went to look at shoes, went to Pier One and looked around, no call. Went back to pharmacy, waited. Pharmacist comes over to explain that the pills had to be totally remade for a second time for some really technical and fairly obscure reasons. Finally, about 4:30 we leave with the new liver medicine.

Another hour and we’re home, and it is time for a bunch of his other medicines, plus feedings, walking and dinner for the other dog, and another small celebration for Rufus eating a little bit for his dinner as well. We may not have known it was National Dog Day, but we sure did spend our day on the dogs!

The Hospice Lantern Float

Addendum to the Lantern Float  – here’s Hospice’s write up and pictures:

http://northhawaiihospice.org/2014/08/floating-lantern-ceremony-2014-2

This was a wonderful event, with pretty much the same outlines as the Honolulu event, but without the thirty to forty thousand people.  We arrived at around 5 PM, picked up our lantern papers and made our donations, then proceded down to the cove area which was set up with lots of tables.  Everyone was given their lantern bases and colored pens to decorate the lantern papers in any way that they wanted to.  We noticed that a lot of people had pre-made stickers that they applied to the lantern papers while others did elaborate art work or simply put names of those they wanted to remember.

Music played throughout the event – soft Hawaiian slack key, to start with, then some mele – Hawaiian songs, followed by pule – Hawaiian prayers, then chants and hula.  There were introductions and blessings, taiko drummers to send away the bad spirits, prayers in English, Hawaiian and Japanese, haunting flute music as we set our lanterns into the sea.  It was lovely, sad, happy, healing, all at once.

Hospice Lantern Float
Hospice Lantern Float
Taiko Drummers
Taiko Drummers
Decorating our lanterns
Decorating the Lanterns
Hula Dancers
Slack key and Hula

 

 

Lanterns
For mom and for our friends John and Dick
For Patricia's mom, Genevieve
For Patricia’s mom, Genevieve
For Linda's husband Bill, and brother Bill
For Linda’s husband Bill, and brother Bill
Sunset - time to float our lanterns
Sunset Time to float our lanterns
Floating the lanterns
Floating the lanterns
Aloha, dear friends
Aloha, dear ones

_MG_3532_MG_3543_MG_3546_MG_3549 _MG_3552 _MG_3555

 

Lantern Float

Today we are going to attend the North Hawaii Hospice Lantern Float. This is a Japanese tradition that has been incorporated into Memorial Day services on Oahu for a number of years and was adopted three years ago by Hospice as an annual event here on the Big Island to commemorate and remember lost loved ones. This will be the fourth annual Lantern Float and  we will be floating lanterns for my mom and for several dear friends we have lost recently.

Floating-Lantern-Pic-2

The incorporation of the lantern float into the Memorial Day services in Hawaii was initiated by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, who officiated at the inaugural Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on Memorial Day, 1999 with the intent to create cultural harmony and understanding. In 2002, the ceremony was moved from Ke’ehi Lagoon a few miles down the coast to Ala Moana Beach where it has been observed every year since. Crowds now reach into the tens of thousands.

According to the Lantern Float website, the ceremony has a number of set elements:

Pū – The sounding of the pū, or Hawaiian conch shell, sanctifies the area and marks the commencement of the ceremony.

Shinnyo Taiko – The sound of the taiko calls people together. It is offered as a prayer for peace, with hope that people reach out in the spirit of creating harmony to support one another.

Oli – This Hawaiian chant calls the attention of all who are present to prepare their hearts to receive the importance of what will follow.

Entrance of Lanterns – Six large Parent Lanterns carry prayers for all spirits on behalf of all people. Prayers are offered for victims of war, water-related accidents, natural and manmade disasters, famine and disease. Gratitude is offered for all – even endemic, endangered and extinct plant and animal life. These lanterns are floated with the hope of encouraging harmony and peace.

Light of Harmony – Community leaders from various sectors symbolically demonstrate their unified commitment to creating harmony amid diversity.

Purification – Her Holiness Shinso Ito offers a blessing of the ceremonial area, the lanterns, all who are being remembered, and all in attendance prior to the floating of lanterns.

Onjiki – Literally meaning “food and drink,” this ritual offers spiritual nourishment to the souls of those being remembered.

Sange – Since ancient times, flowers have adorned the path of honored ones. The scattering of flowers on the path symbolizes the love and respect that we offer to our loved ones.

Shomyo – A fusion of traditional Buddhist chant and Western choral harmony.

Ringing of the Bell – The crystal clear sound of Her Holiness Shinso Ito’s bell focuses everyone’s thoughts and prayers and signifies that it is time to float the lanterns.

Floating of Lanterns – Lanterns are placed onto the water with wishes for the peace and happiness of loved ones past while unveiling courage and hope in the hearts of those in the present.

We don’t know if the Hospice Lantern Float will have all of these elements, but the spirit is the same.

Spam – the canned kind

A dear friend is presently in Edinburgh for the Tattoo and other festivities and posted a photo  on her Facebook page of haggis nachos, which got me thinking about signature foods and peculiar fusion dishes. As haggis is the ‘what are they thinking’ food of Scotland, so is Spam for Hawaii. In both cases the unintiated just don’t get it and/or refuse outright to consider eating a thing with such dubious contents.

Haggis is basically a sausage. Spam is – well – Spam – ham, pork shoulder and other pig parts formed into a loaf, with an indeterminate shelf life. So, how did it become such a big part of Hawaiian culture and cuisine?

During World War II when so many servicemen and women were stationed in Hawaii, fresh meat of pretty much any variety went first to the military, leaving canned and preserved meat – Spam, for the most part – as the only easily obtainable protein for the local populace. Pork being a regular part of both Asian and Polynesian cuisine, the substitution of Spam wasn’t that difficult, and Spam became a standard part of the diet of most of local population throughout the war years. It remained a cheap, easily obtained protein source that didn’t require refrigeration and persisted as a popular food item. More Spam® is consumed per person in Hawaii than in any other state in the United States. Almost seven million cans of Spam® are eaten every year in Hawaii and the local Costco carries at least three different varieties of Spam by the case, while local grocery stores carry many more varieties.

Gilroy has its Garlic Festival, Vidalia is famed for the Onion Festival, but in Honolulu, there is an annual  Spam Jam Festival every spring!  Featuring food booths (naturally,) entertainment, and crafts, it also serves as a fund-raiser for the Food Bank and, of course, donations of cans of Spam are encouraged.  There are Spam cookbooks and Spam merchandise featured in the Hawaii souvenir sections of all the discount stores and even Spam flavored macadamia nuts.

Spam is featured in all kinds of food dishes, including in the breakfast entrees at Hawaii McDonald’s, as an option in LocoMoco (rice, topped with Spam – or a hamburger patty – one or two fried eggs, and gravy), in Spam fried rice, and the ubiquitous Spam Musubi.  This is one of the most popular fund-raising foods and is found at all church bazaars, street festivals, and other community events as well as being available pretty much any convenience store with a food counter.

 

Spam Musubi
Spam Musubi

In the unlikely event that you want to try this at home:

“Spam Musubi is a very popular Hawaiian snack that is just like sushi. Marinated sliced luncheon meat is quickly pan seared then placed on top of rice and wrapped in nori (dried seaweed.) Try it, you’ll like it!”
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
2 cups water
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup white sugar
1 (12 ounce) container fully cooked
luncheon meat (e.g. Spam)
5 sheets sushi nori (dry seaweed)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
DIRECTIONS:
1. Soak uncooked rice for 4 hours; drain and rinse.
2. In a saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in rice vinegar, and set aside to cool.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Slice luncheon meat lengthwise into 10 slices, or to desired thickness, and marinate in sauce for 5 minutes.
4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook slices for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Cut nori sheets in half and lay on a flat work surface. Place a rice press in the center of the sheet, and press rice tightly inside. Top with a slice of luncheon meat, and remove press. Wrap nori around rice mold, sealing edges with a small amount of water. (Rice may also be formed by hand in the shape of the meat slices, 1 inch thick.) Musubi may be served warm or chilled.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2014 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 8/23/2014″

Aloha Friday

A friend posted a link on Facebook to the old song ‘It’s Aloha Friday’ which is heard every Friday on almost every radio station in Hawaii. This video clip has some great old photos and is worth taking a look at: Aloha Friday

If you have been reading this, you know that there is a direct link between the aloha shirt and Aloha Friday.  In 1962, the Hawaiian Fashion Guild, a professional association of clothing manufacturers, began to promote aloha shirts as  acceptable business attire in order to increase their sales to local residents.  The Guild created an advertising/promotional campaign called “Operation Liberation” and  distributed two aloha shirts to every member of the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Hawaii Senate. A resolution passed in the Senate suggesting that aloha wear be allowed as business attire throughout the summer, beginning on Lei Day (May 1) stating in part that  “…the male populace return to ‘aloha attire’ during the summer months for the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state’s garment industry.”

In 1965 the Hawaii Fashion Guild, led by Bill Foster created a campaign for “Aloha Friday”, a day employers would allow men to wear aloha shirts on the last business day of the week during the summer.   Aloha Friday began to be widely adopted in 1966, and young adults of the 1960s embraced the style, replacing the formal business wear favored by previous generations. By 1970, aloha wear had gained wide acceptance in Hawaii as business attire for any day of the week.

Aloha Friday slowly spread east to California, and became transformed, by the 1990s,  into Casual Friday. Today in Hawaii, aloha wear is  routinely worn every workday as business attire  and “Aloha Friday” is generally used to refer to the last day of the work week in the same way as T.G.I.F. is used on the mainland.  The phrase was used by Kimo Kahoano and Paul Natto in their 1982 song, “It’s Aloha Friday, No Work ’til Monday” in the clip above and can be heard every Friday on radio stations across the state.

So, Happy Aloha Friday, one and all!

Hawaiian Statehood

With all that has been going on in our household, I missed the official  Statehood Day for Hawaii which was held on August 15 this year – it is commemorated on the third Friday of the month of August. However, today is the actual 55th anniversary of Hawaii’s admission as a state, which occurred on August 21, 1959 (the third Friday in August), when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation making Hawaii the 50th state.  I actually would have missed it totally had it not been called to my attention by a Canadian friend and reader of this blog!  Evidently the announcement made the papers there, although there has been no mention of it in the local paper here.

Statehood bills for Hawaii have a long history, going back into the U.S. Congress as early as 1919 by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, the non-voting delegate sent by the Territory of Hawaii to the U.S. Congress. Bills were also introduced in 1935, 1947 and 1950. In 1959, the U.S. Congress approved the statehood bill, the Hawaii Admission Act.  In spite of overwhelming support from voters at the time – some 94% voted in favor of statehood, on the ballot question “Shall Hawaii immediately be admitted into the Union as a State?” –  there is continuing controversy and the Admission Day festivities are much muted – to the point of non-exisitence – these days, even in comparison to when we moved here in 1998. Although it remains a legal holiday with most state and county workers getting the day off, banks closing, some changes in public transit schedules, and some free parking in metered areas in Honolulu, festivities of any kind have not been held since 2006.

In 2006, a  group of around 50 people, organized by State Senator Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) met at `Iolani Palace to celebrate the anniversary of Statehood at the place “where statehood was declared.”  A larger group of people including, but not limited to, people of Hawaiian ancestry, organized a protest, reportedly drowning out the smaller group. While there was a lot of shouting and some name calling, the encounter was non-violent, as have been most such encounters.

Each group has, historically, had what appear to be valid issues. The “Hawaiian” group felt that the choice of the `Iolani Palace was an inappropriate place to celebrate statehood as it is the home of the last monarchs and it was in the `Iolani Palace that Hawaii’s last queen, Lili`uokalani, was kept under house arrest following her overthrow on Jan. 17, 1893.  Those who wished to celebrate statehood at the same location did so because of the historic ties to the announcement of statehood.

The ongoing conflict between native Hawaiian groups and those who support the status quo system of government in Hawaii is confusing to most visitors to the islands and to a lot of non-Hawaiian ancestry residents as well.  There is no single voice in the islands representing those of Hawaiian blood and certainly no universal agreement among Hawaiians as to what they want for the future, even among those who participate in some form of the sovereignty movement.  Even to say ‘sovereignty movement’ implies more cohesion than appears to exist, as there are a large number of such ‘movements’ with wildly differing goals and objectives, ranging from complete restoration of the Kingdom of Hawaii as an independent nation to some lesser form of self-governance along the lines of other Native American groups on the Mainland and in Alaska.

This is not to say that those of Hawaiian blood have no valid issues. They do. It is a historical fact, acknowledged by the United States Congress and President Bill Clinton that the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was illegal. If anything the Federal Government’s acknowledgment of the illegality seems to have opened deeper divisions. The fundamental issue is that if you ask ten people of Hawaiian ancestry what they want done, you’re likely to get at least 10 different answers. In fact, many are content with the status quo and in spite of repeated efforts, registration drives to sign up people of Hawaiian ancestry to participate in a forum to deal with issues of self-governance have had great difficulty in garnering wide participation.

Back on June 27, 1959, 94% of voters on all major islands voted in favor of statehood. Of the approximately 140,000 votes cast, less than 8000 rejected the Admission Act of 1959 and huge celebrations were held to celebrate statehood for Hawaii.  Again, in May of 2006 the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (GRIH) commissioned a survey to gauge support for the Akaka Bill (native Hawaiian rights bill) then pending in the U.S. Congress. As part of that survey 78% of the populace surveyed indicated that they would vote for statehood if the vote were held today.

Why then is the anniversary of statehood so totally ignored in the islands today? Senator Slom authored an op-ed piece in the Hawaii Reporter, which stated in part: “The last ‘major’ observance of this holiday took place in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, with Democrat Governor Benjamin Cayetano and area Hawaii residents and visitors. The Governor explained that the celebration in Hawaii had become too controversial, and that it might now be perceived as culturally insensitive by Native Hawaiian leaders.”  Neither of Cayetano’s successors, Republican Linda Lingle or Democrat Neil Abercrombie saw fit to change this observation.  Even for the 50th anniversary of Hawaii statehood in 2009 public celebrations were quite rare.

It would seem that the intent of state government is to ignore the anniversary of statehood,  but, although a bill to eliminate the holiday was introduced by Senator Slom, his bill never was even debated. Presumably, there is support for having a day off, at least and it would seem “once a holiday, always a holiday” even if it’s not celebrated except by those who get an extra paid day off.

So, happy 55th birthday State of Hawaii.  Like a lot of the over 50 crowd, I see you are keeping it pretty quiet and low key!