Friday, January 18, 2013

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 13-17

Alas, my Hawaiʻi Research Adventure concludes!

Day 13: Back to the State Archives...and a Language Lesson

On Monday, I returned to the State Archives to continue my research into the Hawaiian Kingdom's customs records. But I spent only about two hours there. In that time I finished looking at a complete collection (eight volumes) of materials relating to the "shipping" of seamen. (When Hawaiians signed contracts to work on whaling ships, but also when they signed contracts to work for guano companies or work in mills in North America, they "shipped" to those places. It is an apt term to describe the process/experience whereby Hawaiian men literally got on ships and traveled for months to their new places of work. The interesting thing, however, is that after 1850, Hawaiians who signed up to labor on sugar plantations, too, "shipped." They used the same contracts, followed the same laws, and employers got access to these workers through the same process of "shipping" that the Hawaiian Kingdom used for workers who actually got on ships. [In fact, quite a fair number of cane workers in the islands actually did get on boats to work on plantations on different islands than their home islands. So in that way, they "shipped," too.])

So that was my morning. When I left the archives at 11:30AM, it was raining cats and dogs. (Do people use that saying here in Hawaiʻi?) I ran through the rain to the bus stop. I got soaked. Back on campus at Mānoa I grabbed some Indian food on campus (it wasn't bad) and brought it back to Hale Mānoa to snack on while I hung up my wet clothes to dry and put on some dry clothes. At 1:30PM I went downstairs to meet a woman in the lobby who had offered to give me some kōkua (assistance) with my Hawaiian-to-English translations. I had sent out an email to the Hawaiian Language Department at UH-Mānoa seeking kōkua from any graduate student(s) who might be willing to meet with me for a few hours and look at my translations. For a while I had heard nothing. Then, just before leaving for Hawaiʻi, I received one email from a student whose basic response was, "good luck with that!" ;)

Then, this past weekend (Days 11-12 of my trip), I received another response. A young woman doing graduate work in Hawaiian Language at the university offered kōkua! She agreed to meet with me on Monday afternoon. So we met at Hale Mānoa and immediately walked out into the rain across campus to a place to grab some lunch. When we sat down to begin our mini-lesson, I pretty much immediately realized that she was going to overwhelm all my expectations. I thought I'd have to show her my translations on my laptop computer (since I don't have access to a printer here), but instead she showed up with print outs of all my translations; not only that, but she had spent time of her own writing her own translations so that I could compare our translations side by side!

We were supposed to meet for two hours but ended up working and conversing for nearly three. She patiently answered all my questions about ka ʻōlelo (the language), even some crazy grammatical questions that I still barely understand the answers to. But most of all, she offered not only help, but also encouragement, affirming the importance of my research and basically telling me the same thing that my Chinese language teachers used to tell me: "jia you, jia you," which in Mandarin means "add oil, add oil." And it means, basically, "keep pushing forward!" :)
(There's probably a way to say the same thing in Hawaiian. I wonder what it is...)

I went back to Hale Mānoa and looked over the translations again for another few hours, trying to re-translate what I had already done, to make it just a bit more right, all the while knowing that there is no such thing as perfection in translation. It is impossible. The English language will never say exactly what the Hawaiian language says, so the best I can do is to try and capture the general mood and meaning of what I think I'm reading.

Day 14: Back to the Mission Children's Society...and a journey through Chinatown

On Tuesday I decided to spend the whole day back at the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library. On the way out the door of Hale Mānoa I bumped into my East Coast friend again, who was also headed to the Mission Houses to do some research. So we grabbed the bus together and headed down there at 10AM. I returned to the same sugar plantation records I had begun examining the week before. These are the records of just one plantation on Maui. They are exceptionally detailed records. Quite a bit of stuff in Hawaiian, too. I had started in the 1850s and now on Day 14 I was pushing into the 1860s. The plantation was growing, hiring more laborers. At lunchtime I took a break and wandered back to Hula Dog on Bishop Street for a fake-meat veggie hot dog with banana relish and guava mustard. Yum! Fresh lemonade, too. I brought my lunch back to the Mission Houses and we sat outside, had lunch, and talked about what we were finding in the archives. Then we went back in and kept researching. The place is supposed to close at 4PM, but somehow we were there until 4:30 or even later, and then finally we got kicked out. But the locker area where we had stored our bags (because you can only bring a limited number of things into the archives) had been locked up for the day. So we then had to apply to the librarian to help us retrieve our things. Thankfully, everyone down there, at both the Mission Children's Society Library and also at the Hawaiian Historical Society—they share the same space—are extremely helpful and kind and friendly.

The two of us left the archives talking about some interesting things we had found. We had both read the letters of a guy who had traveled from Hawaiʻi to Louisiana in the years just before the U.S. Civil War to inspect sugar plantations there. He sent back detailed reports from Louisiana on the latest sugar-making technology and engineering practices. But, we both wondered, how is it that he wrote absolutely nothing about labor?! This was at the dawn of the American Civil War, and he was in the Deep South viewing plantations that relied wholly on enslaved African-American labor. And he never said once whether he approved of slavery, or disapproved of it, or whether labor was even something that he might have to think about back in Hawaiʻi. Instead, he "boiled" sugar down (pun intended) to its technological aspects, assuming that the human costs would be the easier part. Somehow he assumed there was no difference between black slave labor in the U.S. South and indigenous contract labor in Hawaiʻi. (And no mention of Chinese "coolie" labor, too...yet...[keep reading!])

We wandered into Chinatown looking for dim sum. We almost went to one place, but then a nice woman working security at one of the neighborhood's semi-enclosed marketplaces, told us we should try a different place. Always placing local opinion above our own general lack of knowledge, we took her up on it and ended up going to a place called "Olden Dragon," but we assume it was once called "Golden Dragon" but the "G" had, at some point in the past, fallen off their sign.

I ordered something called "Fujian style tofu." I never had Fujian-style food before. When the waitress came for my order I asked for "Fujian doufu," pronouncing "tofu" in Mandarin. I don't know, I always do that out of some weird habit carried over from my college days when I studied Chinese. But just that—just saying "doufu" instead of "tofu"—caused her eyes to light up and she replied to me in Mandarin saying, "oh, you can speak Chinese?" So I said "you yidian" ("yeah, a little"). She laughed. And then she asked, in Mandarin, what else we wanted. I said, "wo bu zhidao" ("I have no idea"), because I wasn't going to presume to order for my friend. For the rest of the evening, the waitress wanted to chat with me in Mandarin. I tried to keep it to a simple "xiexie" ("thanks") now and then. The last thing I wanted was for her to ask me something I didn't understand and then look stupid! (I figure I sounded stupid enough just saying what I could say in Mandarin.) The whole experience was kind of weird, to think, here I am in Hawaiʻi working so hard to learn the Hawaiian language, yet in Honolulu's Chinatown at a Fujianese restaurant, I ended up chatting with someone in Mandarin.

Day 15: A Morning of Meetings...and Back to the Bishop Museum

On Wednesday morning I had two meetings. The first one was at 10AM in the Hawaiian Collection research room at the Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaiʻi. I met with a research librarian there who was extremely helpful and attentive to my project. Although, in the end, she suggested that perhaps there wasn't much in the Collection's holdings for my project, she still gave me a grand tour of the facility, including a look at the breadth of their holdings. I would not hesitate to say that theirs is probably the most extensive collection of materials related to Hawaiʻi in the world. (I don't know how the total volume of materials at the State Archives, Hawaiian Historical Society, or at the Bishop Museum compare. If they are all so big, or bigger, than my mind will really be blown! When you do most of your research in New York, as I do, you get the feeling that there isn't that much material out there on Hawaiian history. But lo and behold, you come here to Hawaiʻi nei and there is so much stuff!!)

My next meeting was with a professor of Hawaiian Language at the university. Despite his busy schedule and his important stature in the field, I could tell from the first second in his office that perhaps no one could possibly be more welcoming. (This is generally a Hawaiian thing. People here really do mean it when they say, "aloha kaua," literally meaning the sharing of love/mutual respect between two people. Despite its commodification in touristy-land over in Waikīkī, the idea of "aloha" is maoli (it's for real, yo!). And I feel so lucky to have shared it with some people here. That said, I know I'm way over my head here trying to make sense of nineteenth-century Hawaiian-language materials. But this professor was more kind and supportive than he ought to have been. He affirmed that this is an important project, and that he would do whatever he could to offer kōkua. I was also happy to hear him speak very highly of two other Hawaiian language scholars/teachers I now know: one, my first ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi teacher who I studied with in New York City in 2010-2011; and secondly, the graduate student who I had met with just two days before! He said I couldn't have been luckier to have met my ʻōlelo teacher in NYC when I did, that I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. And he said that the young woman I met on Monday was an extremely promising student of ka ʻōlelo. For me, I'm generally uber-impressed with anyone who studies and teaches Hawaiian language. But he's right, I am lucky to have met these special people on my journey...

This morning was just too good. I was just too happy after these back-to-back meetings. Too much aloha! My somber New York heart just couldn't handle it all! :)

And so I ended up missing my bus to the Bishop Museum Library. Then the next bus was late. Damn. And then it was incredibly crowded and slow. And then I had to transfer to a different bus downtown to get to the Bishop Museum. Long story short, when I arrived at the library I was a full hour late for my research appointment. Nevertheless, they kindly accommodated me, and I quickly returned to looking at the records I had looked at the week before. These are the records of a company that managed labor and other materials for a guano company in the equatorial Pacific. I was able to finish this collection just before the library closed.

And so, back on the bus. It took me another hour to return to Mānoa. (Lesson learned, if you are going to study Hawaiian history and your only housing option is at the University of Hawaiʻi, try to choose a topic that relies more on archives downtown or windward of downtown rather than anything leeward, because getting out there is a real pain in the ʻōkole...)

Day 16: State Archives...then a switch to the Mission Houses

On Thursday morning I woke at 7AM to rush down to the State Archives for the last time. I still had a bunch of materials I had requested that I had to look at. So I got there right at 9AM when they opened and began my research. It turns out that much of what I had to look at wasn't that useful for my project. A few of the volumes were so damaged that I was not allowed to handle them. The writing inside was so blurry, too, because the ink had bled so much, that they were impossible to read. Of the volumes and folders I did examine, much of it was in Hawaiian, and despite my best efforts to make sense of them, a lot of these were just plain confusing. Customs records from the 1850s. They used Hawaiian abbreviations (not something I am very familiar with!), and it was hard for me to tell the difference, for example, between a column labeled "K." and another column labeled "P." and yet another column also labeled "K." (Since there are only eight consonants in the Hawaiian language, lots of words begin with the same letter. This obviously makes understanding abbreviations that much harder.)

Ninety minutes into my research, I figured I had seen everything I could make sense of, so I packed up and migrated a few blocks over to the Mission Children's Society Library. I didn't have an appointment, but they were nice enough to accommodate me and let me continue looking at those interesting plantation records. Two days earlier, before our romp through Chinatown, when we had overstayed our welcome by thirty minutes and had our bags locked in, I had realized I was just on the cusp of some amazing materials in the collection. I had gotten up to the year 1865 and the plantation was now beginning to consider the idea of importing "coolies" from China. I wanted to know what happened. Did they ultimately hire Chinese labor? Did the Hawaiian workers and Chinese workers get along? How did the management feel about both sets of workers? Did they ultimately prefer one over the other? Which, and why?

So, as luck had it, I was able to spend a few more hours with this collection and follow it through 1866. Yes, it took me about four hours just to get through one more year's worth of data, but I was able to find out a lot of answers to these questions about the intersection of "coolies" and "kanakas" in the mid-1860s.

At 4PM I packed up and headed back to Mānoa. It was my last time on the bus. My last time downtown. I stopped at the health food store on the way home and got my usual, a huge overpriced heap of vegan food and my favorite drink: Cane Rush, made with local sugarcane!

The view out my window on my last night in Hawaiʻi. Diamond Head is at left, Waikīkī at right. I will miss you, Hawaiʻi nei. 
But New York is calling.

Day 17: Tomorrow

Day 17 is tomorrow, so I can't say exactly what will happen. But my plan is to wake up around 8AM, and besides brushing my teeth and grabbing some breakfast on campus, I will try and pack up my bags as much as possible and tidy up my room. At 10AM I will visit the Hawaiian Collection at the Hamilton Library and attempt to do a bit more research with the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) materials I had begun to look at last week. I will also take some time to look at some of the reference materials—bibliographies and such—that the librarian there had told me to check out before I leave.

Around 4 or 5PM I will return to Hale Mānoa and finalize packing. At some point I will call a taxi and put my two huge bags on my shoulders (one rests on my back, the other on my chest) and await the arrival of the taxi. Then, half an hour later, I will be at the airport, and then a few hours after that, on a flight to New York City.

And so my Hawaiʻi Research Adventure ends. Here's what I learned:

1) Doing archival research in Honolulu is pretty sweet! People like to say that I picked the best dissertation topic because I get to spend so much time in Hawaiʻi. They imagine that I probably go to the beach everyday after the archives close, and that I have a supreme tan, and that in every other way I experience "paradise." They are most certainly wrong. Archival research is tiring. I spend the majority of each day inside, whether it is in the archives (which in Hawaiʻi tend to be very cold; I always have to wear a sweater) or in my dormitory writing, translating, thinking. Yes, I have an awesome view from my room of Waikīkī and Diamond Head. But it is not the kind of view that inspires thinking about nineteenth-century Hawaiian history. If I was writing about the history of tourism, maybe it would be more appropriate. But looking at skyscrapers and at the unceasing crawl of traffic on the Lunalilo Freeway doesn't really inspire me to think any clearer about the histories of whaling, guano mining, sandalwood harvesting, or sugarcane milling. It's just not there in front of my eyes. Sorry, but Hawaiʻi's environment today is a mess. (And as for Honolulu, I will defer to the judgement of the Big Island lady who told us when we first arrived in Hilo that: "Honolulu? That's not a real island. It's just concrete.") I look at the Lunalilo Freeway and I see that Oʻahu has a huge car addiction problem. I look at the towers of Waikīkī and realize that that is where today's jobs are: in tourism. Not in extractive or plantation industries. Not to say that labor was better back then. But it can't be any good now, either. I can't even begin to imagine how many people clean Waikīkī hotel bathrooms, or wait on tourists' tables, for a living, and what their working conditions are like, and whether or not they are unionized, and whether anyone even notices or cares. Okay, okay, so I'm getting a bit too gloomy here looking out this window. The point is: Hawaiʻi is not a "paradise"; it is as full of contradictions and complexities just as any other place. Still, it is a sweet place to do archival research. It just doesn't have anything to do with romantic ideas about what Hawaiʻi is supposed to be like. It has to do with what the real Hawaiʻi is like, and that has a lot to do with the character of its people...

2) The second thing I learned is that despite what people say in hushed, cautious tones again and again about the fact that I am a haole (a white man) studying Hawaiian history, that I should be cautiously aware that Hawaiians might not appreciate the fact that I am trespassing in their history, that I should be prepared to be shouted down by those who would much rather disagree with who I am rather than with what I have to say...
Despite hearing people say this kind of thing again and again, always in hushed tones, almost always as hearsay, almost always from the lips of haole (and not from Hawaiians), the whole premise is 90% wrong. First, let me discuss the 10% of it that is probably true. And that is this: that many people actually do feel strongly about who says what about Hawaiian history. And so they should. Because for way too many generations—for centuries—most Hawaiian history was told by white men about Hawaiians. And, no surprise, these white male historians had their own biases. They tried to tell stories about Hawaiian people while only accessing a sliver of the available information about the past. (For example, think of all the history books written about Hawaiʻi that don't even consult Hawaiian-language resources! How do people get away with that?) I am also sympathetic to this 10% for another reason: because the past is not just in the past, but the past is also in the present, and in the future. The contemporary cause of restoring Hawaiian sovereignty in these islands, for example, is not at all just a fight over the future of Hawaiʻi, but it is a fight over the past of Hawaiʻi, too. Many here believe (rightly so, in my opinion) that their islands were illegally taken by the United States and that they deserve to be given their land and leadership back. To make their case, though, they need history. And they should be rightfully skeptical of white men from New York who come over and purport to know their history. And so I understand if people are like, "hey dude, what do you think you are doing telling our moʻolelo (our history; our stories)?" or "hey dude, what do you think you are doing translating our ancestors' ōlelo (their words)?" Anyone would be right to ask such questions, to be skeptical and suspicious of someone like me. What are my motivations? Why does Hawaiian history matter to me? And, of course, I am often asking these same questions of myself, always trying to make sure that I know what I am doing—and to be alert to when I am failing, and when I am imposing or trespassing, and when I should stop. 

But here's the thing. Of the Hawaiian academics and archivists I met on this trip—and granted it was just a small sampling—no one ever said any of those things to me. In fact, I received extremely generous offers of support and encouragement and kōkua from everyone I met. This whole thing—this whole discourse about "angry Hawaiian academics" who don't like trespassers—I am led to believe is actually 90% myth. What it is, I posit, is an expression of fear on the part of those who actually do feel like trespassers, or worry they might be trespassing where they shouldn't be. I know this fear comes out of accumulated experience. I have read Haunani-Kay Trask—I love her work—and so I know that these conversations really have occurred in a very heated atmosphere on this campus and in the academy in the past. She lived through it. And it is still an issue we struggle with today. And thus I certainly understand why many haole historians are afraid to interpret Hawaiian history. They/we understand how politically sensitive and important this history is. We know it matters a lot to people other than ourselves, and I think that any historian in their right mind would (and perhaps should) feel a bit guilty saying things about a history that he or she has no personal stake in, while the consequences of what we might say about that history for other people are so great. So I understand the fear and trepidation. It is partly a product of "white guilt," I'm sure. It is also a legitimate fear that all historians have: the fear that we actually don't know what the hell we're talking about! I wouldn't doubt that. But we cannot—absolutely not—project our own guilt and fear onto some imagined "other" by claiming that this is not about our own demons but about "angry Hawaiian academics" out there. If there is a problem with white folks studying Hawaiian history, the problem, I imagine, is psychologically our own to bear. Let's not discursively place that onto others. It is not fair to displace that onto others. 

---

And so those are my two cents on the experience of doing research in Hawaiʻi! Overall, this was a great research adventure. I learned so much, and I met a lot of wonderful people. And I hope you all have enjoyed reading this travelogue. I don't know when I will come back. Once I return to New York I've got to focus on writing more dissertation chapters. So more on that to come in this blog, I'm sure.

Aloha nui to everyone, near and far, and much thanks for your love and support.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 11-12

After a week with my head buried in the archives, the Hawaiʻi Research Adventure continues into the weekend...

Day 11: Journey to Waipahu

I wasn't sure what to do with my one weekend alone on Oʻahu. I had originally thought that I might take The Bus all around the island, to the leeward and windward coasts and to the north shore, all in one big loop.

But you know what, after riding the bus everyday for five days all week, going to and from the archives, I couldn't stand the thought of spending at least four hours on the bus just to do a complete circle around the island. Too much bus riding!

So instead I decided to take a different but still rather big journey—but not too big—and make my way to the leeward side of Pearl Harbor, to the old sugar plantation town of Waipahu. First stop, Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village.

Looking down upon a section of Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village, Waipahu, Oʻahu

The bus ride took a little over one hour on the A Express line from UH-Mānoa to Waipahu. Along the way I got to see the communities that ring the mauka (upland) side of Pearl Harbor, but only in fleeting moments did I catch glimpses of the harbor itself. I noticed that the communities around Pearl Harbor switch quickly between trim and orderly U.S. military gated communities and then some more rough-and-tumble neighborhoods.

Waipahu used to be a rural plantation community. But it is certainly not that today. It's more suburban-like, crisscrossed with endless strip malls and highways, but with lots of quiet residential streets hidden in the background. The Plantation Village is off the main highway in a more quiet part of town. I was told that the sugar industry on Oʻahu (and here locally at Waipahu, too) finally collapsed in the 1990s (although it had been in decline for many decades before that). 

This place was once a plantation; workers and their families lived onsite and harvested cane. But what is left today is hardly representative of what was left behind. Instead, the Plantation Village has made a concerted effort to tell stories of an earlier time, roughly the early twentieth-century, and to do so they have rearranged and reproduced a whole series of buildings along a "main street," as if to compress time and space and all of Hawaiian labor history into one walkable narrative! And you know what? For the most part, this actually works quite well.

To see the Plantation Village, you must take a guided tour. I was lucky enough to be led by an extremely knowledgeable and friendly guide named Ken. I was a bit late and missed the first ten minutes of the tour, so I missed his introduction. But I got the impression that this history was also personal history for him—that his family members had lived and worked on sugar plantations like this one perhaps one, two, three generations before him.

Our guide Ken talking about a Portuguese bread oven behind him. Tens of thousands of Portuguese laborers came to Hawaiʻi in the late nineteenth century, bringing all kinds of traditions that are now part of common Hawaiian heritage, like the ʻukulele.

I missed the first house on the tour, which spoke to Chinese migrant workers' experiences. The Chinese were the first migrant workers recruited for the sugar plantations. Hundreds came in the 1850s and 1860s (as I discuss in the final chapter of my dissertation), but the real tidal wave of Chinese labor came after the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the United States signed a Treaty of Reciprocity in 1875. The treaty removed U.S. tariffs on Hawaiian sugar, and Hawaiʻi's sugar boom took off from there, including the displacement of Native Hawaiian workers by tens of thousands of imported Chinese workers.

One thing I liked about the Plantation Village was that it did not just preserve residential buildings, but outer buildings and structures, too, like the Portuguese bread oven (above), and this view of an alleyway with an outhouse (below):

Alleyway with outhouse at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village, Waipahu

On our tour we kept returning to the topic of food. And fittingly so, for when so many different migrant workers of different ethnicities came together on the plantations, one of the ways they bridged their differences was through the sharing of food. Most people are familiar with Hawaiʻi's famous "plate lunch," and how it represents the legacies of such intercultural dietary exchanges. Our guide showed us two different lunch pails (below). One was brought over from Portugal (if I remember correctly); the other represents the more common Hawaiian plantation lunch pail. I don't know anything about Portuguese history and culture, but their pail—with its five equally sized trays—reminds me of Spanish tapas. The Hawaiian pail, with one big tray and one small tray, basically represents the East Asian legacy on Hawaiian foodways: whatever you eat, you eat it with a big heap of rice. (In many ways, in the late nineteenth century, rice replaced poi in this way. You can even see this in the archival sources, how as planters moved from preferring Native Hawaiian labor to Chinese labor, the market for poi slowly disappeared while rice rose to a state of "new normal.")

Kitchenware in the Portuguese migrant worker's home at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village. The "Old World" lunch pail is on the bottom shelf at left; the "New World" lunch pail is on the middle shelf at left.

While Chinese labor was seen as a "cure all" for cane planters (and even by the Hawaiian Kingdom which highly promoted the "coolie trade") in the 1870s and 1880s, public opinion turned against the Chinese at some point in the 1880s. Since my dissertation only goes up to the year 1876, I'm not as familiar with what happened in the next decade, but for some reason Chinese migration slowed—in fact, thousands returned home to China—and the Kingdom turned its eyes towards Japan. I have the feeling that the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act in the United States, and the general fear of a "Yellow Peril" across the world at that time, bled over into Hawaiian politics and racism. And even though tens of thousands of able-bodied Hawaiian men and women were still available, planters kept looking elsewhere. Anyway, the end result is still clear to us today. While tens of thousands of Chinese were recruited in the 1870s and 1880s, hundreds of thousands of Japanese came over in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—and this is why people of Japanese descent are still today one of the largest ethnic groups in the Hawaiian Islands.

Inside a Japanese migrant worker family's home at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village. As our guide explained, Japanese migrants to Hawaiʻi continued to prefer sitting on the floor even decades after arriving in Hawaiʻi. (And, so did many Native Hawaiians, too, prefer the floor; as late as the mid-nineteenth century evidence shows that many Hawaiians preferred to rest on mats on the floor rather than use European-style furniture. When and why that changed, I'm not sure.)

Our guide explained that this was an invention that arose out of the intercultural hybridity on the plantations. The device heats up two bottles of sake while at the same time heating up a frying pan (for eggs or meat or whatever)!

An early twentieth-century Japanese temple at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village

After a few decades of Japanese migration, Hawaiʻi's next big wave of migrants came in the early twentieth century from a then-colony of the United States: the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino/as came to Hawaiʻi following the Philippine-American War (aka the Philippine War of Independence, which failed, unfortunately, because our country so brutally put down the Filipino/as who were fighting for their sovereignty.) Today, people of Filipino/a descent in the Hawaiian Islands may just be the most represented of all ethnic groups, just above those of Japanese descent. (I've seen different numbers on this. But these two ethnicities are definitely the top two groups in the Islands today. More than people of Hawaiian descent, sadly.)

Filipino men's boarding house at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village, Waipahu

Inside the Filipino men's boarding house

One of the problems with the Plantation Village, of course, is that it represents a mythic spatiality: as if the Chinese workers lived next to the Japanese workers who lived next to the Portuguese workers who lived next to the Filipino workers. In reality, Hawaiʻi's plantations generally kept each ethnic group segregated in their own "camps." This is why the history of labor organizing on the plantations is such an incredible story, because different ethnic groups—especially the Japanese and the Filipinos—had to find a way to come together and work together in order to pull off a successful strike. It was in the planters' interests to pit ethnic groups against each other, to make them hate each other. It was labor's challenge to develop a new way of thinking about race, to create a space where different ethnic groups could come together to see themselves as a "class."

Speaking of labor, I was interested to see a reproduction of a plantation manager's office:

Plantation Manager's Office, Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village, Waipahu

Here is finally where archival research meets material culture. That book on the plantation manager's desk would have had the names of workers in it, and their cash accounts. (At least in the 1860s and 1870s that is what it was like.) Workers were kept perpetually in debt. (Across the "street" at the Plantation Village is the ubiquitous plantation store. On payday, the store would hope to attract the workers to spend all their money on material goods. And when it wasn't payday, they sold things to the workers on credit anyway. Their modus operandi was debt, debt, debt.) In terms of the worker accounts I've read of Native Hawaiian cane workers in the 1860s and 1870s, a good 90% of them were always in debt. Since they were contract workers—bonded to serve their plantation "masters" for generally twelve months at a time—many of them were basically forced into resigning their contracts year after year because they were in debt to the company.

As our tour wrapped up, I wondered: "well, what about the Hawaiians?" We had looked carefully at the stories of many immigrant groups, but what about Native Hawaiians who worked on the sugarcane plantations? What of their story? Behind the Plantation Village's "main street" are a few grass hale (houses) built in the traditional Hawaiian style. But do they really represent the material cultural story of Hawaiians' experiences of plantation labor? How many Hawaiian cane workers in the 1850s and 1860s lived in grass hale? None as far as I've seen in the archival record. So, unfortunately, while all other ethnic groups are shown as contributing to the multicultural birth of modern Hawaiian society as we know it, the Native Hawaiians here are almost represented as the antithesis of that, as a people trapped in time, destined to be forgotten and never of much value to the archipelago's economic/social/cultural history in the first place.

But, perhaps ironically, the ecosystem at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village today is more "Hawaiian" than anything else. I saw not a single stalk of cane on my visit there. Instead, we saw kukui nut trees and loʻi kalo (taro paddies). It's as if when the sugar industry died here in the 1990s the Hawaiian agro-ecology sprouted back up in its place, as if to say, "Hey. We never left."

Loʻi kalo (taro paddy) rather than mahi kō (cane plantation) at Hawaiʻi's Plantation Village, Waipahu

Overall, I had a wonderful time on my visit to the Plantation Village. It was nice to actually see some labor history rather than just reading about it in the archives! From there I wandered down the road about a mile until I got a great lunch at Poke Stop. I'd say between the Plantation Village and Poke Stop that Waipahu definitely deserves a day's visit by anyone spending more than just a few days on the Island of Oʻahu.

For me, this was my eleventh day. After the long bus ride back to Mānoa, I then decided to explore that part of Mānoa mauka (upland) of the university. So around dusk I wandered up there, beyond the university, to East Mānoa Road. I found a Korean BBQ joint. Since I don't eat meat, I'm not sure why I decided to stop there. But I got a dish called "fish jun," along with sides like kimchee and mac salad, plus a kalo-flavored bubble tea, and there you go: another uniquely "Hawaiian" meal. :)

Day 12: Sticking around Mānoa...and Translating

Day 12 was Sunday. I couldn't stand to take another big journey, not like the day before. So I slept in, past 9 AM. That was nice. Then I did Hawaiian-to-English translations all morning. Specifically, I was working on translating Hawaiian-language materials that I had found in the archives the week before. As I encountered the materials in the archive, I was able to understand them enough (without a dictionary or anything) to know if they'd be useful. One, I could tell, was a transfer of property—a deed. Another was a contract or receipt for a project that a Hawaiian was carrying out on behalf of a sugar company. All these Hawaiian-language documents, from the 1850s and the 1860s, were evidence that haole-run plantations and plantation companies still relied heavily on Native Hawaiians for land and labor in that period, and to get either of those things, they needed to negotiate and bargain, and sometimes they had to do that in ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language)! Interesting stuff, no?

Around lunchtime I wandered makai (seaward) back to that health food store, Down to Earth. I sat outside and had a big lunch of vegan food and also a drink made of Kona Red coffee fruit juice (not the bean juice, which is what we call "coffee," but the juice of the fruit that surrounds the coffee bean). It was weird.

Wandering mauka to campus, I decided to stop at the university's John Young Museum of Art. It houses a fascinating collection: mostly ancient Chinese art, with an especially good selection of materials from the early dynasties, like Shang, Zhou, Han. They also have a good selection of Buddhist art from across Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Thailand, Burma. In a back room is a much smaller hodge-podge exhibition of American, African, and Oceanian art. (Reminds me of the Met museum in NYC where they crowd together American, African, and Oceanian art all into one department. They should just go ahead and call it "Third World Art" if they are going to continue to throw all of these amazing and distinct artistic traditions together into one big heap.)

Anyway, the stop at the museum paid off because I ended up having a very long conversation with a curator there. We talked about life in Honolulu vs. life on the mainland, talked a bit about our respective research interests, the politics of studying indigenous societies/histories/cultures, et cetera. It was a very productive and heart-warming conversation. And I realized, upon walking back to Hale Mānoa, that it was probably the first conversation I had had with a real person in about 48 hours! ;)

And so that was my Day 12. I went back to my dorm room and continued working on my Hawaiian translations. I had brought other materials with me from New York. I had especially planned to spend my "down time" here working on writing my dissertation. I thought I might polish up a draft chapter on the history of sandalwood extraction. The reality is that I haven't had a "down" moment since I got here. Archival research is actually exhausting! My brain never stops flying around in a middle different directions these days (and restless nights). I just cannot think about writing right now... 

I brought some books, too, including E.P. Thompson's nearly 1,000-page-long Making of the English Working Class. I thought I'd have lots of time to read the thing while in Hawaiʻi. Ha!

And so the sunset on Day 12, and Day 13 and a whole new week of archival research was just around the corner. I wish I could say I went to bed early, but I did not. When I awoke, it was Monday, and the story picks up next with the last post in this adventure, which will discuss my final week of research in Hawaiʻi.

Mahalo for reading!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 6-10

As you might remember, on the evening of Day 5 of this research adventure we flew back to the island of Oʻahu from Hawaiʻi, and we spent the evening in a crummy hostel in Waikīkī. And then we awoke to...

Day 6: The Hawaiʻi State Archives

First-things-first, we transfered to a different hostel in Mānoa that morning and then hit up our favorite coffeeshop in all of Oʻahu, Coffeeline.

After some great coffee, and a filling breakfast, I got on the 4 Bus from Mānoa headed downtown.

Upon arrival—already one and a half hours past due to begin my research!—I couldn't find the State Archives building. First I walked up to an old-looking building that had the word "Archives" chiseled into stone above the front doorway. "This has got to be it." But it wasn't. Maybe it used to be, but after wandering through hallways there, a nice state employee inside told me that I was in the wrong place. "See that building over there," she said, pointing out through her window, "that's the one, where all those people are huddled on the walkway."

And so I walked over to that building, the Kekāuluohi Building, where homeless people loiter on the walkway, protected from the sun and rain by the building's overhang and otherwise sheltered by the security of being on the grounds of the famous ʻIolani Palace.

Entrance to the Hawaiʻi State Archives, Kekāuluohi Building, ʻIolani Palace Grounds

I found the archives easy to use and the staff incredibly friendly and helpful. I was able to request records weeks in advance that I wanted to look at, and they were ready to use when I arrived. In fact, one of the archivists there remarked, "We almost thought you weren't going to come," because I had arrived ninety minutes late to my appointment! (That's because of the screw-up with our hostel, and the fact that we had to migrate from Waikīkī to Mānoa that morning...And, of course, our "slow food" breakfast at Coffeeline didn't get me to the archives any faster! Ah, but all was well in the end.)

I spent the morning looking at the customs records of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The documents I examined were generally from the 1850s and 1860s. I looked at Shipping Articles, basically forms that the Hawaiian government used to keep tabs on Hawaiian migrant workers. Every Hawaiian who bonded himself to a foreign ship or company had to put his mark (usually an "X") next to his name on the form. By doing so he consented to whatever was said on the form, including the amount of time he contracted his labor for (usually not more than twelve months) and the wages due him. The forms were bilingual, but interestingly the ones I consulted were almost exclusively used only in English. So you wonder, of course, whether all these Hawaiian men signing their "X"s next to their names really fully understood what they were signing.

This was the infamous age of contract or "coolie" labor in the Pacific Ocean. We know the story well concerning Chinese migrant workers—the "coolies," as they were called. They often bonded themselves to specific companies for terms of seven years, and if they broke their contracts they were arrested and sent back to work. If they ended their term of service in debt, they were forced to renew the contract. It was a system second only to slavery in its exploitation. (Of course wage labor itself is exploitative, as I have suggested well enough in my "Occupy" posts on this blog, but contract labor is worse.)

The Hawaiian Kingdom imported its own Chinese contract "coolie" workers. But the first contract laborers in Hawaiʻi were not Chinese; they were Hawaiian. Following the passage of the Masters and Servants Act by the Hawaiian legislature in 1850, Hawaiian men could now sign contracts to bind themselves to foreign ships and companies with the permission of the Hawaiian government. Not only that, but they could bind themselves to local planters and firms, too.

Anyway, I found interesting stuff in the archives! 

For lunch, I headed down to the Fort Street Mall (or general area) where I found a non-meat veggie hot dog (made of wheat and soy) and smothered it with coconut relish and guava mustard. Wow, what a hot dog! Only in Hawaiʻi. Some chips and fresh lemonade on the side made it a "combo deal," which appears to be the kind of lunch popular among Honolulu's downtown office worker crowd. Thanks, Hula Dog!

I ate my Hula Dog lunch on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace, looking at the palace and the bandshell and the barracks, all of which date to the late nineteenth century, a period when Hawaiʻi was an independent Kingdom, "and what a great country it must have been!" I thought to myself.

Between ʻIolani Palace and the Archives, huge banyan trees

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at more customs records. Then back on the bus to Mānoa to meet up with my wife. That evening we walked down to the neighborhood of Mōʻiliʻili for a huge dinner at Da Kitchen. She had chicken katsu and I had a huge "plate lunch" (even though it was dinner time, it is sometimes still called "lunch") of fried mahimahi. Lots of mac salad, too (macaroni salad), which has, at some point since the period of history that I study, become one of the staple food groups in "Hawaiian" food. (On what I mean by "Hawaiian" food, remember that on Day 1 of this adventure I offered all my caveats on what this means.)

It was a great dinner. My only regret was that we were way too full to try the haupia (coconut and arrowroot/cornstarch pudding...yum!).

Day 7: Back to the Hawaiʻi State Archives

We went back to Coffeeline in the morning for our usual. Then I got on the A Express bus, which I learned is much faster than the other buses. The A bus only stops about seven or eight times between the University and downtown. Now I could get downtown in just twenty minutes, and this time I was only about thirty minutes late to the archives! (Getting the hang of this...) :)

I started the morning with the same materials I had been looking at the day before. But by lunchtime I had become tired of looking at these records. They are forms, as I said. And so every document is exactly the same except for the names of the Hawaiian migrant workers listed on these forms. I started to get bored...and actually a little worried. I asked myself, "What do I really want to know from these records?" I had generally been recording everything I thought interesting about each form: sometimes the names of the migrant workers, sometimes their wages, sometimes where they were going. But what was I going to do with all this data? 

This is essentially the whole problem with doing archival research. You can transcribe absolutely everything you read if you want, but in the end you won't use any more than just a small percentage of that material in your dissertation. And you just spent way too much time writing every little thing down instead of focusing on what was most important! (Frustrating.) But what actually is "important" to your study changes over time as you learn new things and learn to ask different questions of the same material. These are all good arguments for photographing the material in the archives. That way, years down the road when your perspective on the materials has transformed, you can look at the documents again (on your computer) and ask new questions. Unfortunately, I'm a romantic conservative when it comes to things like this. So I generally don't photograph archival material. Rather, I like to feel it in my fingers, to linger over the words as I read them, to jot down notes as they come to me, and then put the documents away. I use intuition to determine what is important or interesting. And I try to use foresight... but in reality, I know that I can always come back here in the future and keep looking if I want or need to. (Now, advisors and folks like that say that this is essentially false: that you can never count on making it back to the archives, so you have to do your very best on the first try. But I am a hopeless romantic! I can't not imagine coming back here to Hawaiʻi again and again!) And in the event that I asked all the wrong questions this time around, at least I asked them with true sincerity and passion and joy and wonder. For me, that's all that matters.

Anyway, by lunch time on Day 7, I had pretty detailed notes on at least 60 different situations where Hawaiian workers were recruited to travel abroad as contract laborers in the 1860s. What I will do with this data is a question left for much later, when I actually write the dissertation!

For lunch I had my leftovers from Da Kitchen. I sat outside ʻIolani Palace once again, and daydreamed. Then back in the archives I began to look at a different collections. These were government records related to Hawaiian migrant workers, same as before, but offering other information, like who was arrested for desertion, how long they were imprisoned, and who they were released to. Since these were folks breaking their labor contracts they were of course always sent back to work, sometimes to the same employer, sometimes transfered to another employer. I also started to see some records here in Hawaiian, rather than in English, and being able to at least roughly translate and understand what I was reading, I felt incredibly thankful for the past two years of language study and to my teacher! Otherwise, if I did not know Hawaiian, I can only imagine that when coming across these materials I would have just skipped them and looked for the next English-language document. Now that's not a good way to do historical research, is it?

That evening I headed back to Mānoa. This was my wife's last night in Hawaiʻi and we had planned something special. We were going to Alan Wong's, the fanciest restaurant in all of Oʻahu. But first I had to check in to my new lodgings for this adventure: Hale Mānoa, a dormitory at the East-West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

My room, so quickly messed up(!), at Hale Mānoa, East-West Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

I am glad for the opportunity to stay at the East-West Center. Because I am here doing doctoral research, I had applied to the center's housing department for access to lodging for the last ten nights of my trip. They were able to offer me this nice room for under $30 a month. For a graduate student traveling halfway around the world, housing like this is a huge help! They give you a desk and a small bed, plus a closet (for all my aloha shirts!), a fan (much needed), and internet access. And I am lucky enough to be on the ninth floor with views of Waikīkī and Diamond Head out my window. (You can also see in the photograph above, near the fan, the lei that my wife made for me on her last day on Oʻahu. She has so much aloha. How could I not love her?)

That night we spent a fortune at Alan Wong's, but the food was amazing. (No wonder it is President Obama's favorite restaurant!) After dinner we walked back to Mānoa and my wife took a taxi to the airport. All alone, sadly, I put my huge backpack on my back and transfered my stuff in the rain and in the dark to Hale Mānoa on the other side of campus.

Day 8: The Bishop Museum

The next morning I woke at 7 AM and took some photographs around Hale Mānoa.

Hale Mānoa, a huge dormitory at the East-West Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. I live on the ninth floor of this building.

The view makai (seaward) from the ninth floor of Hale Mānoa. In the foreground are university buildings. In the distance is Waikīkī, and at left is the rim of Diamond Head, an extinct volcano.

 The view mauka (mountainward) from the ninth floor of Hale Mānoa. In the foreground is the university. Further beyond is the neighborhood of Mānoa and the Mānoa Valley. And a beautiful rainbow, too!

I took the bus downtown again, to spend the morning at the state archives where I continued to look at customs records from the Hawaiian Kingdom. Around 11:30 AM I packed up my things and bid aloha to the archives, for I had a 1 PM appointment at the Bishop Museum Library. So I grabbed another bus, the 2 bus, and rode out to School Street. But before reaching the Bishop Museum I made sure to get off at the best lunch place in all of Oʻahu, Helena's Hawaiian Food

Last time we were in Hawaiʻi—in 2010—we had our first "Hawaiian" food (and here I mean traditional Hawaiian food) at Helena's. It was here we first experienced ahi poke, ʻopihi, poi, and haupia! Yum, yum, yum. We also had lomilomi salmon (traditional, yes, but only back as far as the early nineteenth century when the first salmon was introduced to Hawaiʻi thanks to the Hawaiian migrant workers laboring in Oregon!). This time I grabbed some ahi poke with ʻopihi and a large poi. I took my food down to the lawn of the Bishop Museum for a little picnic.

Picnic lunch from Helena's Hawaiian Food: (clockwise from top) a large poi, a tub of haupia and raw onions, a little bit of spicy sauce, and ahi poke with ʻopihi. In the middle of it all, a little packet of ʻalaea salt.

I wished to have a little more poke and a little less poi—next time I will order the "small" rather than the "large" poi! But otherwise, nothing beats Helena's, especially eating it on the lawn outside the Bishop Museum.

Inside, at 1 PM, I got to work looking at a collection of correspondence to and from a guano company agent from the 1860s. I found lots of interesting stuff therein, including many references to the Hawaiian migrant workers who labored on equatorial guano islands south of Hawaiʻi. The Bishop Museum Library is currently undergoing a revision, so they only have very limited hours for research. I was there for just three hours, and I felt I barely scratched the surface of the material worth looking at. Anyway, the folks there were very nice and helpful, and I plan to return again next week for more research.

Ideally I would have wandered around the Bishop Museum, especially to their Hawaiian Hall, perhaps the premier exhibition of Hawaiian material culture in the world, but I had to head back to Mānoa, and the bus ride took nearly one hour.

Now living by myself on campus I had to figure out ways to feed myself. They have kitchens here at Hale Mānoa, but I have generally found myself running around too much to use them. Instead I grab coffee and a muffin at Starbuck's on campus in the morning—yuk! (and what an insult to all the coffee growers here in Hawaiʻi who make such good coffee. I'm Sorry! ...). Finding dinner is even harder, since most of the retail eateries on campus close down by the end of the afternoon. When we had visited Da Kitchen, however, in Mōʻiliʻili, I remembered passing a health food store. So Wednesday night I went back there. It's called Down to Earth foods, and is actually a really great place. They have a hot food bar with different vegan and vegetarian items everyday. It is almost $10 a pound, which is expensive, but it is good, tasty, healthy food. So I got a huge plate of vegan hot food, plus some of their vegan tapioca pudding (never had that before), and a most unusual drink: pure sugarcane juice mixed with coconut water. That's it. It is produced locally in Hawaiʻi with local sugarcane and coconut. What drink could be more Hawaiian (except for ʻava of course)? 

I carried all the food back to Mānoa for dinner.

Day 9: Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library

Time to check out yet another archives. This morning I caught the same bus downtown, but instead walked back to Kawaiahaʻo Church, which we had visited on Day 1 of our research adventure. Behind the church is the Mission Houses museum. We had elected not to visit the museum on Day 1—I'm not particularly interested in church history, as I had made clear in my blog post—but adjacent to the museum is also an impressive library and archives operated jointly by the Hawaiian Historical Society (of which I am a member) and the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society.

I don't know much about the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society, but it sounds like it has an interesting history. Their website says the society was founded in 1852. That would be about ten years before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), the New England-based organization that sponsored the mission to Hawaiʻi, officially ended the mission in 1863. Who were the "mission children"? They were the kamaʻāina (native-born, yet not really "native") descendants of the New England missionaries. As kamaʻāina, Hawaiʻi was their first home, and they felt a bit differently about their relationships to the Hawaiian Kingdom than their parents did. It is these "mission children," of course, who famously rose up in 1887, and then again in 1893, to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy and establish their own haole-led republic (annexed by the United States in 1898). According to the society's website, they first opened up the Mission Houses museum in the 1920s. I guess once Hawaiʻi was colonized by the United States, the society's mission was basically to revisit the history of the missionaries and their descendants and try and explain how it was that they converted the "heathen" and brought civilization (and capitalism, and annexation) to this land. What a great story! (...tongue-in-cheek...)

The Mission Houses Museum, downtown Honolulu. These buildings date from the 1820s through the 1840s.

Anyway, no matter how you feel about the missionaries, there are some amazing historical resources to access here. I spent the morning looking at the business records of a major sugar company. I was impressed to find a variety of sources in these records in the Hawaiian language, proving that even as late as the 1850s and 1860s, Euro-American businessmen were forced to know and use the Hawaiian language in order to conduct business. That's interesting enough in itself. But the documents, too, hold gems, like receipts for labor performed by Hawaiians seeking compensation from the company and things like that.

I was also lucky enough to bump into an East Coast friend at the archives. For much of the day we were the only two researchers there: both East Coast haole studying Hawaiian history! Small world, eh? We grabbed lunch down the road at a sandwich place and talked shop about Hawaiʻi, history, dissertations, things like that. It was nice to have a conversation with someone about my research. Archives can be lonely places, so it is always recommended to talk to anyone who will listen to you blab on about your project! ;)

That afternoon I continued looking at these business records, focusing on just one plantation on Maui in the 1850s and 1860s. I am hoping that I will be able to paint a picture of what Hawaiian labor on this sugar plantation looked like during this period.

Anyway, after the archives closed at 4pm my friend and I went for a very long walk around Honolulu, from downtown to the Aloha Tower, then along the wharf to Ala Moana Park and from there to Waikīkī. We must have walked a couple of miles. But it was worth it because he introduced me to a little snack shack in Waikīkī where we got cheap (and big) poke bowls for dinner while watching dusk descend on the beach at Waikīkī. It was wonderful.

Day 10: The Hawaiian Collection at the Hamilton Library, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Finally, after four days of riding the bus all over and around Honolulu, I spent Friday, Day 10 of my adventure, on campus. This allowed me to sleep in, until 8 AM (ha!), and then mosey on over to the Hamilton Library. In doing so I discovered that there are more places to get breakfast on campus. There is a little food court across from the library—my friend had told me about it. I got granola and soy milk, which seemed like a really "New York" meal, but it least it was better than Starbuck's! 

Around 9:30 AM I entered the Hamilton Library and proceeded up to the third floor to begin research in the archives. Wait...[walking around]...am I sure the Hawaiian Collection is on the third floor? I was wearing only an aloha shirt and khakis and I was starting to get very cold. See, the Hamilton Library is kept at a constant 50° fahrenheit throughout the day—at least that's what it feels like!—and so I was shivering, wandering around on the wrong floor of the library. I stepped back out and decided to return to Hale Mānoa to retrieve my sweater.

Sweater on, I returned for a second attempt...

The Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

This time I went to the fifth floor. The right floor. The Hawaiian and Pacific Collection research room is a big room. There were few other students there throughout the day. Some were working on school projects. I overheard one student asking the reference librarian for more information about the ahupuaʻa land system in ancient Hawaiʻi. Another student wanted to locate photographs of second-generation Japanese in Hawaiʻi. I kept thinking to myself: I would love to have these students in my classroom and help them with their projects!

Anyway, my goal for the day was to use materials in the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association Archives. The archives are a HUGE collection of materials from scores of Hawaiian sugar plantations from circa 1850 to the end of the twentieth century. For my project, though, I am only looking for materials up to 1876, of which there are only a few in this massive collection.

I began the morning looking at cash books / pay books from an early plantation on the island of Kauaʻi. These were interesting records. They listed the names of the workers on the plantation (and sometimes in the mill). First I just looked at attendance records which listed the names of the workers and which days each week they were present for. This is not a lot of data to work with, but the historian could, for example, use it to determine rates of truancy among workers. It is interesting, for example, to see that when some of the Hawaiian workers had missed work for over a week or so, that's when they were usually stricken from the payroll. Later records indicated information about the wages owed the workers. But what I found most interesting about the records was to see how the demographics of the workforce changed over time. One of the arguments in my dissertation is that after being an essential labor force across the Pacific for nearly a century up to the 1870s, it was during the 1870s that Hawaiians were pushed out of work. And this is apparent in the plantation records. I found in the records of one plantation that in the span of just about two years, Hawaiians went from being a large majority of the workforce (about 80%) to being a minority (under 50%), replaced mostly by Chinese but also by South Pacific Islanders, including more than a few with the surname "Bolabola." (from Borabora? Interesting stuff.)

For lunch I went to the food court outside the library and got a big "plate lunch" with rice and mac salad. I took my lunch to the Japanese Garden at the East-West Center for a picnic.

The Japanese Garden at the East-West Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

After lunch I returned to the archives to look at the records of a different plantation. In these records I found accountings of the financial status of individual Hawaiian workers. Pretty interesting (and sad) to see how the great majority of the Hawaiians on this plantation were perpetually in debt. So in debt, in fact, that when their one or two year contracts were up almost all of them renewed their contracts. Sometimes the employer was able to get an employee to renew his contract for a longer period of time by offering a slighter higher pay, say a raise from $11 per month to $12 per month.

The issue of pay is interesting. I was fully expecting to find that Hawaiian workers were paid differently than Chinese workers, for example. But instead I found that they were basically treated the same in terms of wages and advances. The only difference was how thrifty the Chinese workers were. From just a cursory glance at these records, it looked like Chinese cane workers in the 1870s were able to pay off their debts to the company much easier and faster than Hawaiian workers were. (Worst of all, however, were the few Japanese workers; all of them were in debt big time to the company!)

At 4 PM, literally shivering due to the cold of the Hamilton Library, I rushed out into the sun, went back to Hale Mānoa and changed into shorts and sandals, and walked back out into the sun to enjoy a little TGIF.

That evening I walked back to the health food store in Mōʻiliʻili and got dinner and more of that nifty cane juice. :)

As the sunset Friday evening, I had to figure out how I was going to spend my first weekend alone on Oʻahu. Well, that's a story for the next post in this research adventure.

As always, mahalo for reading!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 4-5

Day 4: South Kona

Our Hawaiʻi Research Adventure continues! On Day 4 we awoke cold (and thankfully not too wet) at an elevation of 4,000 feet, just a mile or so from the rim of Kīlauea Caldera. We packed up our soaking tent and threw it in the back seat of our rental car, and then we immediately hit the road: route 11 en route to Kona.

On our way, we passed through the moku (district) of Kaʻu, a rural region with rolling cattle pasture (a reminder that it was here, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, that cows were first introduced by George Vancouver in 1793, providing a major industry for the Hawaiian Kingdom in the nineteenth century). We stopped in Naʻalehu, a town which bills itself as the most southern destination in the United States. And we ate at Hana Hou, the most southern restaurant in the United States!

A Kaʻu breakfast, at Hana Hou, Naʻalehu

As we rolled into Naʻalehu and my wife read out loud from our guidebook that this was the most southern town in the United States, I immediately got up in arms: "most southern town? What about American Samoa? That's below the equator!"

...[deep breath]... ;)

I guess the question is what we mean when we say "United States." If we take just the fifty incorporated states, then yes, Naʻalelu may be the most southern town. It sits at a latitude just over 19° N. Even Honolulu, at over 21° N, is more "southern" than the southern tips of California, Texas, or Florida. (The keys of Florida may be the next closest thing, at between 24° and 25° N.) But what about the American territories? Is not Puerto Rico part of the United States? And at 18.5° N, its capital city, San Juan, is more southern than Naʻalelu. (If Puerto Rico achieves statehood, as they recently voted in favor of, then Naʻalelu will definitely have to give up their title to most southern town!) But our most southern territory is actually America's only colony in the southern hemisphere. At under 14° S latitude, Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, is definitely more south than Hawaiʻi! So why do we consider Hawaiʻi part of the "United States" but not American Samoa? Does statehood really matter that much? Because historically speaking, the two places are more similar than different: both are Polynesian nations that were captured by the United States during the Spanish-American War. Both are part of an American empire. So I say, no, Naʻalehu is not the most southern town in the United States. (Want to argue about this? Here is some interesting information from Wikipedia!)

But anyway, the food and coffee at Hana Hou was great! :)

We kept driving until we reached Hoʻokena in the moku of South Kona. The fabled, sunny Kona coast! Here we were. We drove the winding road down to Hoʻokena Beach Park and set up our tent at the base of nā pali, the cliffs towering above us.

Our camp at Hoʻokena Beach

Fellow campers enjoying the waves at Hoʻokena Beach Park on the Kona Coast

After setting up camp at Hoʻokena, and going for a quick dip in the water—very refreshing!—we hit the road once again to explore South Kona.

Our first stop was Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. We loved the name of this place so much that we practiced saying it all the time. (It is not particularly easy for non-native speakers to pronounce!). Puʻuhonua, meaning "refuge/sanctuary," refers to the site's history as a place where Hawaiians who had violated the kapu ("taboo") could come to escape persecution and be relieved. This was pre-1819, before the kapu system was abolished by the aliʻi nui following the death of Kamehameha I. Hōnaunau is the name of the bay where the site is located. So basically, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau means, "Sanctuary of Hōnaunau Bay."

At the entrance of the National Historical Park at Hōnaunau we read this plaque:

A plaque at the entrance of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

The plaque basically says that we have Charles Bishop to thank for preserving this site. Everything has got a history, and so does this. Bishop was the husband of Bernice Pauahi Pākī, a great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I and an important aliʻi of the late nineteenth century. Incidentally, following the enactment of land reforms in the Hawaiian Kingdom in the 1840s—known as the Great Māhele—land was privatized and about 250 aliʻi of various ranks were awarded most of the lands in the Hawaiian Islands not otherwise owned by the mōʻī (king) or reserved to the government. The commoners—nā makaʻāinana, the 99%—received less than 1% of the land. Anyway, that's a little besides the point. But of the 250 or so aliʻi who received title to land, most of them promptly sold off their lands to wealthy white people. So by the mid-1880s there was only one Hawaiian aliʻi left in the Kingdom who still owned land, and that was Pauahi. She died in 1884 and willed her lands and accumulated wealth to be used to benefit future generations of Hawaiians. Out of her estate came the Kamehameha Schools, the Bishop Museum, and various other endeavors, including, it seems, preservation of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau.

Anyway, when we began to explore the historical park, we were initially disappointed with what we were seeing. From the first few sites on the self-guided trail it appeared that everything there was just a modern reproduction and that there was really not much history here.

A reproduction temple at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Of course, grass houses don't last forever. The grass decomposes; the buildings fall apart. And so it is that so much that Hawaiians built previous to the nineteenth century does not exist anymore. A reproduction can help us visualize what it may have once been like, but I tend to dislike reproductions. I'd rather just see the stone base—if it is actually original—and then have a brochure with a picture to help me imagine what might have been there. 

A wooden kiʻi (what Westerners call "tiki") figure at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Wooden kiʻi statues, like the one in the photograph above, are one of the main attractions of the historical park. Indeed, the park uses these statues in its marketing material. But of course, these are modern-day creations. They are hints at the past, but they are not the past itself. We found this to be sort of frustrating.

But things got better as we continued to explore. I was amazed, for example, by this stone wall that is dated to circa 1550 CE. 

A sixteenth century stone wall at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

The wall was several hundred feet long and very thick. Lots of makaʻāinana labor was certainly used to build this wall that separated the puʻuhonua from the resort of the aliʻi.

The sixteenth century wall at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau was constructed without any mortar. The lava stones were fit together perfectly to keep the wall intact for...well, 500 years now!

A rather somewhat unpleasant reproduction of what was once a heiau (religious temple). I am sure based on archeological evidence as well as historic illustrations and textual descriptions that this is pretty close to what a heiau looked like pre-1819. But part of me just wanted to see the stone base and otherwise use my imagination...

Another view of the impressive sixteenth century stone wall at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

Besides the stone wall, and the stone bases of nā heiau, another remarkable source of evidence about the past were the two fishponds that were constructed by makaʻāinana labor sometime before 1819.

A pre-1819 fishpond at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau

As we left Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, I took this photograph by the parking lot to show the amazing microclimates that exist on the Kona Coast. This was true of the entire 36 hours we spent on the Kona coast: the coast itself up to an elevation of maybe 500 or 1,000 feet was always hot and sunny; above that, it was always 5-10 degrees colder and slightly rainy. The microclimates remind me that the ancient Hawaiian system of land management, centered on the ahupuaʻa (literally meaning "pig altar," but referring to the pie-slice-shaped districts that radiated out from the center of each island to the coast), ensured that commoners had access to an astounding ecological (and climatic) diversity within their common lands.

The crazy microclimates of Kona

After leaving Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau we had an amazing adventure snorkeling at a site called Two Step just north of the historical park. Since we were under the water looking at fishes, I don't have any photographs from that experience. It certainly was extraordinary to see the 70% of the world that is ocean, when we so often think that our 30% above water is all that matters! What a world there is down there!

Back at Hoʻokena, we watched the sunset and had a sushi picnic on the beach. :)

Watching the sunset from our tent on Hoʻokena Beach

A beautiful sunset over Hoʻokena Beach on the Kona Coast

Day 5: Kailua

Packed up our tent and began heading north. Our goal was to see as much as we could between Hoʻokena and the Kona airport before our flight left at 7PM. 

First stop, Kealakekua Bay.

Kealakekua Bay as seen from Hikiʻau Heiau

We drove to the edge of the bay, to the site of an old heiau (temple) called Hikiʻau. Like at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, I was impressed with the stonework. The stone bases of these heiau are not hollow. They are solid piles of rock in three dimensions. This is monumental architecture worthy of respect.

The bay itself, however, is most famous for a non-Hawaiian, Captain James Cook, who came here in 1779. His ships pulled into Kealakekua Bay during the annual Makahiki festival, and according to some historians' accounts, Cook was mistaken by the Hawaiians to be the akua Lono. (Historians debate this issue fiercely: was Cook seen as a god or not?). Anyway, after Cook and his men left, their boats hit some rough weather and were forced to return to Kealakekua Bay. That's when trouble began. There are a million books about this incident that you can read so I won't bother you with my interpretation. But anyway, the Hawaiians killed Cook. Somebody smashed him in the back of a head with a club and he fell face-first into the water. Or at least that's how most illustrations of the event depict his fall.

Ke ala o ke akua ("Kealakekua" is a shortening of this phrase) means "the road/path of the god." Whether Cook was seen as a god, or not, is anyone's guess. The more important aspect of this is that the rest of Cook's men made it home to tell Europe (and also North America) of the material and human wealth of the Hawaiian Islands, and the rest was history. The story picks up again in 1786 when Hawaiʻi received its next foreign visitors, trans-Pacific traders, and that's where my dissertation begins!

Ancient stonework at Hikiʻau Heiau, Kealakekua Bay

Entrance to Hikiʻau Heiau at Kealakekua Bay. Signs abound warning visitors that the site is "kapu" (taboo), but it certainly wasn't kapu enough to keep Cook away, who in 1779 performed the first Christian service in the Hawaiian Islands on this site (as we are reminded by a huge monument someone put up right next to these stairs—which I conveniently cropped out of the photo!).

Our next goal was to walk the Captain Cook Monument Trail down the pali (cliff) to the site where Mr. Cook had his head bashed in. 

Along the Captain Cook Monument Trail, goats!

At the bottom of the trail, following an arduous hike over lava rocks, we reached the ruins of an old Hawaiian village known as Kaʻawaloa. Perhaps this village was bustling with people when Captain Cook arrived in 1779?

The abandoned village of Kaʻawaloa, Kealakekua Bay

The abandoned village of Kaʻawaloa, Kealakekua Bay

It was nice to see the ruins of a village because otherwise it seemed we were only seeing sites important to the aliʻi (the ruling class). Heiau (temples) are fascinating, but I also want to see how common Hawaiians lived in the pre-Cookian days. Perhaps there are clues here at Kaʻawaloa?

Finally we made it to the monument.

The Captain Cook Monument, Kealakekua Bay

The monument is small, white, and simple. It is a fitting tribute to a man who so many Hawaiians wish had never come here in the first place. Cook is actually an amazing figure, and as a human being it is hard not to admire him. But in the context of Hawaiian history, he doesn't really deserve much celebration. (For what? For bringing epidemic diseases that decimated the native population?) Apparently the land right here was given by the Hawaiian Kingdom to the British government in the late nineteenth century. Those Brits always wanted extraterritoriality anyway. I guess this was their own little puʻuhonua on Hawaiʻi. ;)

And then we hiked all the way back up the pali, over 1,000 feet up lava rock to the top. We earned ourselves a big lunch, and that's what we found at Kanaka Kava in Kailua.

Our amazing lunch at Kanaka Kava, Kailua

Finally, some "real" Hawaiian food. (See my discussion on Day 1 of this Hawaiʻi Research Adventure for my caveats about what constitutes "real" Hawaiian food!) A big bowl of kava (at center), a big bowl of poi (at left), and a cute leaf-shaped tray of kalua pork, ʻopihi (sea snail), and ahi poke. Yum! We had eaten all of these things before except for ʻava (kava). Drinking ʻava was really a shock. It tasted like "dirt," as my wife said. Yes, but it was psycho-stimulating dirt! I swear I could really quickly feel the effects of the kava on my mind and on my mood. Who knows? But I wonder if Hawaiʻi has any laws about how much ʻava you can drink before driving your rental car around Kailua as I did! (whoops.)

Next stop, Mokuʻaikaua Church, the oldest church in the Hawaiian Islands.

The entrance to Mokuʻaikaua Church in Kailua. 


The interior of Mokuʻaikaua Church, built in 1836.

On Day 1 we had visited Kawaiahaʻo Church, which is really old and built of coral. This one, Mokuʻaikaua, is built of lava rock I guess, and it happens to be just a few years older than the other church. Mokuʻaikaua Church contained a lot of tributes inside to the Euro-American missionaries who came to Hawaiʻi in 1820 and introduced the Hawaiian people to Christianity. There is, for example, a replica of the boat that the first company of missionaries sailed in. There is also a big tribute to Henry Opukahaia, or "Obookiah" as the New Englanders called him. His story is kind of interesting. As a teenager he ended up on a foreign boat that took him from Hawaiʻi to New England where he enrolled in school, learned English, and converted to Christianity. This was in the 1810s. Unfortunately, his body didn't hold up well to the New England diseases, and he died in his early twenties. (You can visit his gravesite in Cornwall, Connecticut, I think.) Anyway, his last dying wish was something like, "Please go to Hawaiʻi and teach my heathen ʻohana about Christianity." And so, the white missionaries from New England fulfilled Opukahaia's dying wish.

Tribute to Henry Opukahaia, early Hawaiian Christian, at Mokuʻaikaua Church

Across the street from the church is another historic building, Huliheʻe Palace (1838). Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there. So all I got was this lousy photograph. :)

Huliheʻe Palace (1838), Kailua

We walked around Kailua Bay to one of Kamehameha's favorite temples—he spent the last few years of his life here in Kailua in the 1810s. But not much is left of Ahuʻena Heiau, except perhaps the stones. Otherwise it is a modern reproduction, and not only that, but it sits on the land right behind the Marriott Hotel. It is a weird sight to see so many Euro-American tourists sunbathing and swimming in the shadow of one of Kamehameha's favorite heiau. A strange juxtaposition. It's definitely hard to feel the kapu here.

Ahuʻena Heiau, with the modern city of Kailua in the background.

Our last stop on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, before arriving at the airport, was Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. It is a strange park. When we pulled into the main parking lot, all we saw were old lava fields. But there is another way to enter, closer to the coast.

You might wonder what Kaloko-Honokōhau means. It's actually similar to saying "Dallas-Ft. Worth," or something like that. It's just two place names put together. The names describe two adjacent ahupuaʻa (traditional land divisions). The park attempts to tell the story of the common people, nā makaʻāinana, who lived in these ahupuaʻa. I like this. This is a not a park to memorialize great kings or conquerors, but simply an attempt to remember the common people who lived common lives on the Kona coast in a not-so-distant past.

ʻAiʻōpio Fishtrap, Honokōhau Bay

The scene in the photograph above might look like a bunch of lava rocks sitting in the ocean off the coast, but this is actually the handiwork of skilled laborers who engineered a system that allowed fish in during high tide, and kept them from escaping during low tide. Hawaiians definitely knew how to fish!

Of course, the park has its own heiau, too:

Stonework of a heiau at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Another view of the heiau at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

We went swimming at Honokōhau Beach, a "salt and pepper" beach that comprises a mix of coarse lava and coral sands. A pretty strange sight, and feel. Just behind the beach at Honokōhau Bay is the ʻAimakapā Fishpond. This was also built by common Hawaiians. Fish were raised here for subsistence and for hoʻokupu (tribute) to aliʻi.


 ʻAimakapā Fishpond, Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Overall, our stay on Hawaiʻi Island was amazing. We enjoyed camping out in three different locations on three nights, and visiting historic sites and natural areas over the course of four days. We ate a lot of good food. And we learned a lot about Hawaiian history. What I particularly like about Hawaiʻi Island is the great abundance of pre-nineteenth-century history here. We too often forget that there was a past in Hawaiʻi before the missionaries arrived (1820), and even before Cook arrived (1778). Even before Kamehameha was born in the 1750s or whenever he was born, too! There is a human history here recorded in the fishponds and fishtraps, in the heiau and other stone structures, and in the petroglyphs we saw at Puʻuloa. I thank the Big Island, and its kind and loving people, for reminding me of this important longue durée in Hawaiian history.

On the evening of Day 5 we flew to Honolulu and stayed for one night in a hostel in Waikīkī. The next morning I began my archival research in Honolulu. The story of my "research adventure" in the archives might not be as exciting as that of our "research adventure" on the land and sea of Hawaiʻi Island, but I will continue to post about my trip. The next post will recount my first week of archival research in Honolulu: what I found, what I didn't, and what else I have learned about Hawaiʻi since arriving here on Day 1.

Mahalo for reading!