The student newspaper of Honolulu Community College

How imperialism shaped modern Hawaii

strong>By: Danielle Fielder

For centuries, Hawaii has struggled with the effects of colonization, threatening the native people and their way of life, but the islands have endured and emerged to become an example of cultural leadership for the world.
That was the message that Asst. Professor Alapaki Luke delivered to the campus in early February, kicking off the “Flip this School: Legacies of Imperialism and Decolonization,” a series of events sponsored by the Committee of Social Equity.
During the lecture, Luke explained that throughout history there has always been an expectation of what Hawaii is like versus the reality of what Hawaii really is.
Luke, who heads the Kulana Hawaii (Hawaiian studies) department at Honolulu CC.
explained that colonization has had quite an impact on the native people.
When Europeans first came into contact with Hawaii in 1778, it put the islands on the map, but with that came many problems.
Before the Europeans arrived, everything the Native Hawaiians needed was provided by the island. The Europeans, however, brought diseases, religion, new species, new systems, and new land uses.
By 1896, the Republic of Hawaii even declared that English was the only language to be used in all schools. This all took a toll on Hawaiian culture, language, and even the natives’ way of life, but Luke noted that even with the drawbacks, Hawaii endures.
Today Hawaii embraces its culture through hula, voyaging, multiculturalism and a love of the land, and can provide a great example for other cultures struggling to regain their identity
Janelle Wells, an HCC Language Arts instructor who helped organize the series about imperialism and colonization, said the goal was creating a place where students feel open to discuss ethnic problems they have faced, ask deep questions, and feel empowered to be themselves.
In addition to Luke’s talk, the series includes a film, personal performance and open showcase, all addressing how being part of a colonized race affects the way people behave in and view the world.
“That’s the thing with being part of a colonized race, right? We are basically trying to maneuver in a world that is not always kind to you,” Wells said, explaining why the event matters.
In Fall of 2017, when Wells went to a suicide prevention workshop, she heard a brief discussion on suicide rates in the islands and found that although the state of Hawaii has a low suicide rate, the rate amongst native people is quite high. But even with this knowledge, Wells says “there are no studies really being done on colonized people and eradicated races.”
Not long after taking part in that event, Wells saw the movie “Black Panther” with her family. Wells loves the movie and even admits she lets her daughter believe in Wakanda because to the young girl, everything beautiful comes from Wakanda. Inspired by the Marvel movie and the suicide prevention workshop, Wells decided to delve deeper into the issues that imperialized races have faced and teach others what imperialization and colonized races are.

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