Friday, August 30, 2013

Bird(s) of Paradise

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 25-29

Bird of Paradise flower, Dole Plantation, Wahiawa
 
Here's a photograph I did not include in my "Driving through History" series. A photograph from my epic trip to the Dole plantation on Oʻahu—from their interpretive "garden." It's a photograph of the equally epic "Bird of Paradise" flower. The name itself conjures up dominant romantic idealizations of what Hawaiʻi is all about, right? Paradise.
 
And for me: birds.
 
I had never heard of the "bird of paradise" flower before my research adventure on Oʻahu. I could immediately tell, of course, why this plant is called what it is called, because its shape looks like the elongated neck and head of a bird with a big plume of bright, colorful feathers on top. 
 
But what I did not know was that this type of plant, Strelitzia, is not even native to Hawaiʻi. This bird (of paradise) has flown. It's actually endemic to South Africa, but today it is found all over the world, thanks to people who love colorful gardens.

Apparently it is not even called "bird of paradise flower" in South Africa, but rather "crane flower," which references a bird, to be sure, but not specifically a "bird of paradise." Of course here in Hawaiʻi adding the name "paradise" to anything makes it sound more "Hawaiian"; I assume this is because it reinforces idealizations that have already formed in our minds about this place, rather than challenging those idealizations (as much of Hawaiian history does, or so I contend).

Leave it to Wikipedia to suggest that the reason it is called "bird of paradise" flower is actually because it looks a lot like the bird-of-paradise, a native family of avian fellas from Australasia. How a flower from South Africa got named for a bird in the Southwest Pacific, however, is anyone's guess. And that my first experience of this whole complex of birds, plants, and names began in central Oʻahu just goes to show how truly globalized "nature" has become in the twenty-first century.

And that's the thing about "nature" and "history." They are not two distinct spheres: one fixed and stable, the other subject to the whims of great men. No, they are dynamic and fundamentally interrelated. Nature influences human history and human history influences nature. This lesson is so simple but somehow we barely even recognize it. (I guess that's why universities need environmental historians.)

For example, when I look out my ninth-floor window at the East-West Center in the Mānoa Valley, what do I see? I want to say I see "nature," but what really am I seeing? 

Take Mānoa's avian community, for example. Since I arrived in Honolulu two weeks ago, I have never tired of waking in the morning to watch the beautiful white birds gliding in twos and threes over the treetops over the university and far off near the pali of Mānoa's distant hills. I have since learned that these birds are locally called "fairy terns"; scientists urge us to call them "white terns" so that we don't confuse them with the "real" fairy terns; for Hawaiians they are called manu o Kū or "bird of Kū" (Kū being the Hawaiian god of war). I don't know why these birds are associated with Kū; hopefully someone will share this moʻolelo with me. 

I am fascinated by these birds because they are seabirds, and yet they nest, amazingly, right here on an urban campus in a city of almost 400,000 people! They seem to be the only seabird that does so... that loves cities. We would have to travel out much farther from here to see other seabirds: boobies, frigatebirds, sooty terns, albatrosses. The Hawaiian Islands are home to many of them, but only the manu o Kū makes the big city its home. What a beautiful, amazing bird!

Searching around online to learn more about Honolulu's avian life, because for the time being I lack a good field guide, I came across this site earlier today.

It lists sixteen birds that can be found on the University of Hawaiʻi's campus. And guess how many of these sixteen are native to Hawaiʻi? Just two. The manu o Kū, and the kolea (golden plover), both of which are ocean birds and only visit seasonally, although the former is a seabird and the latter a shorebird, and the manu o Kū actually seems to spend almost the whole year here.

So what about the fourteen other bird species on campus? All are non-natives. Some were introduced to Hawaiʻi as early as the late eighteenth century. Some were introduces as recently as just a few decades ago. Whenever you fly into Hawaiʻi from abroad you have to fill out a declaration form for the state testifying that you are not bringing in any non-native species to these islands. Now we know why, right? Not only are there so many non-native birds here, but also alien mammals, alien reptiles, and all kinds of other crazy creatures, too, perhaps even alien aliens.

So to return to the view outside my window. The manu of Kū birds are a link to a deep past here. But all the other pigeons and sparrows and other birds making their noise and flashing their colors: they are not "nature"—not at least in the way that many of you romantics imagine nature to be: timeless, unchanging, like it has always been, like it used to be. But they are, indeed, "nature" if you are willing to see human history as part of nature, and see nature as part of human history.

So there you have it. We have "bird of paradise" flowers here that are neither birds nor from paradise, and we also have real birds and some perhaps less-than-"real" birds here, too, all inhabiting a deeply historical man-made paradise. Some will continue to see Hawaiʻi as pristine and paradisaical and untouched and "as-nature," but in these birds and in these flowers I see a place that has changed and is changing and is dynamic and evolving and not-so-perfect but not really all that bad either, and frankly just as history has made it. Perhaps that is want I want to see in Hawaiʻi...

*************

So how's research? On Monday I finished up my work at the State Archives. On Tuesday I visited the recently renovated and recently reopened Hawaiian & Pacific Collection at the Hamilton Library to read some rare documents. On Wednesday I went to my favorite coffeehouse in all of Honolulu, Coffeeline, and began crafting a draft introduction to my dissertation (which is a big deal, you know... to be at a point, with drafts of all my chapters, that I can finally begin to start thinking about the introduction!). On Thursday I continued work on my introduction—also working on writing some applications for grants and fellowships—and I drove my good friend to the airport in her car, Constance—and then I ended up back at the Hamilton Library. Today, Friday, I spent all day at the Hawaiian & Pacific Collection at the Hamilton Library, and I intend to go back there next week to do some more reading and writing.

My goals for next week are to: 1) meet with people that I should talk to before I leave Hawaiʻi for what may be the last time before I complete my dissertation; 2) check as many random sources and citations as I can at the Hamilton Library related to all the little, small things in my dissertation that I am still missing good references for; 3) review my archival notes from the past two weeks and think about how to integrate these new data into my dissertation chapters.

Meanwhile, I have a three-day weekend ahead of me, and Constance is mine once more. So expect some more "driving through history" in the next post(s). :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Driving through History, Part II

 Continuing where I left off, in Lāʻie, looking for lunch...

 ...this is a driving tour through Hawaiian history on the island of Oʻahu. I was lucky enough to get a car (named Constance) for the weekend so that I could explore the rest of the island (beyond Honolulu) for the first time.

I did not find lunch in Lāʻie—you might remember that I found a Polynesian McDonald's hale, and I decided to pass on that—so I backtracked a bit. I had passed a sign reading "Best Fish Tacos" a while back, so I drove back to Hauʻula and there I had some very good fish tacos!

From Hauʻula it was off north again, past Lāʻie, to Waimea Bay, famous for its surfing history and culture, but this being summer when the waves are dull, I did not see much surfing. The beaches at Waimea, however, were still jam-packed with cars and tourists and cars bumping into tourists. One section of the highway heading to Waimea was backed up for miles because so many people were standing around at one section of the beach taking photographs of a beached marine animal of some kind. (I didn't really catch what kind of animal this was, not wanting to "rubberneck" since that's what caused the traffic jam in the first place, you know!)

But the reason I drove to Waimea Bay was to visit the largest surviving heiau in all of Oʻahu: Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau. 

Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau, overlooking Waimea Bay

The view of Waimea Bay from Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau

As discussed in part one of this driving tour, heiau are Hawaiian religious temples. They are "temples," not "ruins." Although to be fair, the photograph above does not show what the heiau would have looked like prior to the abolition of the kapu system in 1819. Interpretive signage at the site suggested that multiple hale (buildings) were erected within the rock-rimmed frame of the site. There was even a twenty-foot-high tower made of kapa cloth. So what we see today are the "ruins" of that age, but still an active temple of religious significance. As with Ulupo Heiau (mentioned in the previous post), I cannot say with certainty when Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau was constructed, although in one book I read the 16th century. 

It's not just a very old heiau—possibly as much as five hundred years old—but also a very large one. The photograph above shows only the first of three terraces. The other two are overgrown with shrubbery, but you can still walk along the stone perimeters. The other photograph, showing the view of the bay from the heiau, makes clear the command that this temple site had over the Waimea Valley and Waimea Bay.

After the heiau, I decided to visit another sort of "ruin": a ruin of Hawaiʻi's industrial age: the last surviving sugar mill on Oʻahu. To do this I drove on, through Haleʻiwa—where I bought some souvenirs for friends back home—onto Waialua. The Waialua Sugar Mill closed in 1996, the final holdout in an industry that had once dominated Hawaiian politics and economy, from the 1870s well on into the twentieth century, at least until the age of mass tourism in the second half of the last century. In the intervening seventeen years since the Waialua mill closed, the town has apparently experienced quite an economic decline. 

I visited the old mill complex. It is now a shopping center, of sorts.

Part of the Waialua Sugar Mill complex

There is now a soap factory and store within this old industrial building. I did not discover what this building was used for in the sugar age, so if any readers know, I would be interested to hear your manaʻo!

I was happy to see this new utilization of the old sugar mill complex. It is a way to keep the buildings up—a way to keep the history alive. Of course, in the historical period I study—up to 1876—the big debate in Hawaiʻi was whether or not to even promote the sugar industry!—whether it was even a good thing for Hawaiʻi. Well, so much for that. Sugar was "king" for the next century, and then it died a slow death. It's final resting place on Oʻahu? Waialua. The murderer? My guess is corn syrup.

Then I got back on the road, and I was off to Central Oʻahu, to the town of Wahiawa, home of the Dole Plantation.

Entrance to the Dole Plantation, a sort of plantation "theme park" in Wahiawa

The Dole story is pretty easy to sum up. Daniel Dole came to Hawaiʻi as a Christian missionary in the early nineteenth century. He had two kamaʻāina sons—that means that they were born in the islands, although they were not Hawaiian—George and Sanford. George Dole went on to work in the sugar industry, before moving with his family to Southern California at the end of the nineteenth century. Sanford Dole was a judge in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and eventually an "overthrower" of the Kingdom—first via the Bayonet Constitution imposed on Kalākaua in 1887, and then in the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893. He was then the first President of the Republic of Hawaiʻi, the revolutionary government that overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. He was later the first Territorial Governor of Hawaiʻi under U.S. rule in 1900. And then there was James. James Dole was George and Sanford's cousin. He came to Hawaiʻi in 1900. Within a year he was growing pineapples on a small patch of land. Within a few decades his Hawaiian Pineapple Company was producing most of the world's pineapples! And that's the story of the Dole corporation. One big, bad family and their twisted relationship with the Hawaiian Islands.

But I came here to learn about pineapples, not Dole. I wanted to know about the labor and environmental conditions of pineapple production, both then and now. 

First, I took an audio-guided walking tour of the Dole Plantation "gardens."

Off to a promising start: an interpretive sign on the history of plantation labor...
 
...but then the rest of the garden tour focused on traditional Hawaiian ethnobotany, such as discussion of ki (ti) (pictured above) rather than discussion of "modern" Hawaiian men and women who worked for the Dole company.
 
Wauke (paper mulberry), traditionally used for making kapa (tapa; barkcloth): more ethnobotany
 
And pineapple of course! But nothing traditional here; pineapple is native to South America, not Hawaiʻi. The "Hawaiian Pineapple" was a modern invention of transnational capitalism.
 
Oh, what the heck. How could I resist taking this photograph of a chicken and lots of chicks strutting through the pineapple field? So cute.

The garden tour was enjoyable. But it was just the prelude to the main course: a trip on the Pineapple Express. (Choo-choo!)

The Pineapple Express, traveling through the Dole Plantation
 
The worst part of the twenty-minute Pineapple Express ride—you call twenty minutes "express"?—was having to listen to the happy-go-lucky narrator tell the whole story of James Dole and the Hawaiian Pineapple Company all over again. The best part was seeing the plantation landscape. We saw endless fields of pineapple (see photograph below), but also lots of other plants including a bit of sugar cane, some bananas, and much more.
Pineapples as far as the eye can see.
 
But there was one problem. Where were the people?! If this is a plantation, where were the laborers? I kept wondering, why are they growing all these plants if no one is harvesting them? A couple thoughts flashed through my brain. Perhaps they bring in the workers only after the last tourist has left for the day; they harvest the plants under the light of the moon and the stars, picking all the fresh pineapples that tourists will eat the next day at the gift shop / cafeteria. Or perhaps it just wasn't harvest season. But then I wondered: what are the politics of allowing tourists to ride a clumsy steam train through fields populated by real, hard-working plantation laborers? I doubt that people would find that very ethical. "Look at the workers in the fields, mommy! Glad we don't have to work like that!" But then again, to not show us the labor behind the plantations, aren't tourists just getting the wrong message about Dole? Tourists will go home thinking, "gee, Dole really is a fine corporation. They truly care about their workers—all twenty or so of them we saw working in the service/retail/security fields. Now those are 'fields' that workers don't have to do stoop labor in!"

So what's the answer? Oh wait... what's that?

Is that a plantation field hand on the left-hand side of this photograph that I snapped while steaming by on the Pineapple Express? Maybe there really were plantation laborers out there picking those pineapples!
 
Oh my! There's another.  Who is this man? Can we please stop the train and ask him some questions about the labor conditions on the plantation?

Oh, hello! That looks like hard work. Can I ask you a few questions about your work experience?
 
Somehow the Dole Corporation succeeded in making us feel not only that the plantation workers of old were pretty happy campers, but that they are likely even happier today because now they are all robots.

What's the problem here? The problem is that pineapples, just as with any other commodity, are made with labor. And capital, and management, and pineapples, of course, but also labor. Somehow labor was not a big part of the Dole story as they presented it. (And you have to keep in mind, this place is not a "museum"; it is an entertainment center managed by the very corporation whose history is being told. They have a big interest in telling the story the way they want to tell it!)
 
As for Hawaiian workers—the subject of my dissertation—I learned that yes, they worked for Dole in the early twentieth century (and maybe some still do today), but I didn't learn anything else about the character of their lives as Dole employees. Hawaiians only appeared here in the ethnobotanical "garden" tour; and they only appeared as "ancient," "traditional" Hawaiians. We learned about how Hawaiians traditionally use(d) plants such as ki, wauke, kalo, and other plants. But what about the relationships between Hawaiians and sugar? Hawaiians and coffee? Hawaiians and pineapple? The storyline here favors Hawaiian timelessness, but what we really need to hear is the story of Hawaiian dynamism and change, including Hawaiian workers' engagements and resistance with and against the Dole corporation as well as the larger capitalistic economy. But such a story would not match many tourists' idealistic, romantic notions of Hawaiians as a "premodern" people. But, I say, too bad! The status quo is a hurtful and oppressive type of romanticism—a very privileged romanticism, I should add—and it's got to stop.
 
But why am I so upset? Look at what I got to eat at the end of my tour!
 
Pineapple ice cream atop pineapple chunks, in a bowl and spoon made from pineapple "plastic." (Just kidding about that last part, although I wouldn't put it past Dole to figure out how to engineer that.)
 
After my sickeningly sweet snack, and after rubbing pineapple-scented hand lotion into my hands, I ran back to my car and hit the road one last time. The sun was setting—I had spent two hours at the Dole plantation—and it was time to drive home. The ride back to Honolulu was quick and easy. I stopped at Liliha Street to visit the 24-hour diner Liliha Bakery for dinner, and then I headed home to Mānoa.
 
This concludes my drive through Hawaiian history on the island of Oʻahu. I may get the chance to drive Constance again this upcoming weekend. If I do, I plan to head to the other side of Oʻahu, to the Waiʻanae coast, to explore more history. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Driving through History, Part I

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 23-24

On Sunday something special happened. I got to borrow a friend's car while she was away on the Big Island, and for the first time ever I got to cruise around Oʻahu in an automobile. I love The Bus, don't get me wrong. (Yes, the bus system here is literally called "The Bus.") But a car gives one extra opportunities. Sure I could bus around the island, but how frequently could I reasonable get on and off in the course of one day's trip around the island? And what about all the sites off of the main road—how would I get to those?

On Sunday I took a drive through history. As a historian of Hawaiian, as I noted in my previous post, everything around me in Hawaiʻi reminds me of this archipelago's history. It is as if this is the most history-filled place in the world! And I know that others will say, "no, Boston, or Virginia, or London, or Rome, or Athens, or Xi'an, you name it, that place is more historical than Oʻahu!" Many a mainlander would be hard-pressed to think of something "historical" (and material) on Oʻahu other than the sunken U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor. Historical, yes; it was sunk nearly seventy-five years ago. But historical, really?? What about everything else that happened here before 1941?

Well, you can take me as your guide, as I post, in two parts, photographs from my journey yesterday all across Oʻahu in my friend's wonderful, beautiful beat-up car named Constance. (Yes, the car has a name.)

View of Kaneʻohe and Kailua from Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout

 Tourists at the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout

My day began at 6:30 a.m. I woke, threw on some clothes, and headed off for Constance, parked all the way on the other side of campus (I'm at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa). I got behind the wheel by 7:30 a.m., and being the weekend, there was no traffic on the Lunalilo Freeway, named for my favorite Hawaiian mōʻī (ruler), Hawaiʻi's first democratically-elected king (in 1873). It's also known as the H-1 Freeway, part of the U.S. Interstate Highway System... but wait! How can there be an interstate highway on an archipelago thousands of miles from the next-nearest state?? Think about that.

From Lunalilo, I turned mauka (towards the mountains) on the Pali Highway. For part of the time I drove on the Old Pali Highway. The current highway was built, I think, in the mid-twentieth century. The old one dated back to the early Territorial period (1900-1959), maybe the first decades of the last century. Before all that, there was a Pali Highway for horse-drawn vehicles, too, and before that, a prominent footpath.

And if we go back over two hundreds years ago, it was at this site—or at least nearby—that one of the most famous battles in Hawaiian history took place: the Battle of Nuʻuanu of 1795. This was the battle that clinched's Kamehameha's rule over Oʻahu. He had previously taken control of Hawaiʻi Island and Maui... thus many date his conquest of Oʻahu as the moment when his empire—the future Kingdom of Hawaiʻi—was first established. Others say, now hold on, what about Kauaʻi and Niʻihau! Kauaʻi's ruler, Kaumualiʻi, did not submit to Kamehameha's rule until 1810, and even then Kauaʻi was not really pacified until the early 1820s. Historians generally either date the founding of the Hawaiian Kingdom to 1795 or 1810; the earlier date is based on the Battle of Nuʻuanu.

So what happened at the battle? Look at the photograph of the impressive pali (cliffs) above. Kamehameha and his forces are said to have chased his opponent's forces all the way from the coast up to this point, at which his men were able to then push hundreds of the other party's men off of the pali to fall to their deaths below. 

Might sound like just a random factoid, but it is the very reason why Oʻahu today is part of a unified Hawaiian state... because Kamehameha conquered Oʻahu in 1795 and incorporated it into his unified pan-Hawaiian empire. 

Kawainui Marsh, Kailua

Next, I drove down to Kailua, on the windward side of Oʻahu. I stopped at Whole Foods (as advised by the friends I made in Honolulu earlier that week). I did not get the poke, as advised—it was only 8:30 a.m. in the morning, for crying out loud—but I did get a suitable breakfast, including some locally-made juice, and then I was off to explore Kawainui Marsh. Kawainui means "the big water." As I learned, before it was a marsh, it was once a bay...so, "big water." If you look at the photograph above, you might imagine all that flat land beneath the foothills and pali as part of the ocean. There was no Kailua thousands of years ago, just a bay. Then, when the first Hawaiians arrived well over one thousand years ago, they began building up land around and on the bay. They didn't fill it in very much, but they did develop what would later be Kailua while retaining the big bay behind Kailua as a fishpond. By the eighteenth and nineteenth century—the period of sustained contact with outsidersmuch of the bay was used for wet kalo (taro) agriculture. Then, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Chinese immigrant farmers converted the kalo paddy into rice paddy. And then, with the decline of agriculture in the twentieth century, the marsh just filled in. (This story is all based on a few interpretive signs I read that morning... so just a loose sketch!!)

Anyway, the history helps us understand why it is called ka wai nui / the big water. There is not that much water there anymore—certainly not equivalent to an ocean bay—but the history is there, readable in the landscape.

Ulupo Heiau, Kailua

Ulupo Heiau, Kailua
 
Next, I drove a little bit out of town, mauka of Kailua, to a spot hidden behind a YMCA building. Here lies a heiau, or Hawaiian temple. The Hawaiian religion was largely stamped out in 1819 by Kaʻahumanu (one of Kamehameha's wives) and her cadre (Kaʻahumanu mā), who overthrew the kapu (sacred law—incidentally the source of the English word "taboo") by means of ʻai noa ("free eating"; women were not allowed to eat besides men under the kapu, but she and her followers broke that rule, setting off an overthrow of the entire traditional religion. Incidentally, within a year the first Christian missionaries arrived from New England, just in time for a religious revolution!) 

Anyway, all that history is to say that while the temples were abandoned and some even destroyed following Hawaiʻi's 1819 religious revolution, many of the heiau still remain intact. Many date back to the eighteenth century, but there are also many that date back many centuries earlier. I cannot say with certainty when Ulupo Heiau dates to, but it was here at least as early as the eighteenth century.
This heiau used to feature stone terracing, but the terracing has eroded much since 1819, making it look like just a big pile of rocks. And I mean "big." From top to bottom, the heiau must be at least twenty feet high. The good news is that today many Hawaiians are going back and reclaiming these heiau as religious sites. While some might want to refer to Ulupo Heiau as "ruins," many in the Hawaiian community urge use of the English term "temple" rather than "ruin." "Ruin" suggests that the site no longer has any value or function. But the site does hold value and function to many people today. And the possibility of using the temple for religious holidays and other functions still exists (as long as the state department in charge of the site allows it!). That's why Ulupo Heiau is a "temple" and not a "ruin."

View of windward coast from Kualoa Point

View of Mokoliʻi Island from Kualoa Point

Kualoa Beach Park

I kept on driving north along the windward coast, through Kaneʻohe, to Kualoa Point. I'm not sure why I stopped there, but it was nearing noon and I needed a little "beach therapy." I had been in Hawaiʻi for exactly one week and still had not seen, heard, or smelled the ocean. So I turned off at Kualoa Beach Park and planted myself on the beach, feet in the sand (crabs crawling around my legs), sun blazing down on my white haole skin!

 The funny looking island off the coast seen here—Mokoliʻi, which means "small lizard"—is also unfortunately known as "Chinaman's Hat," because nineteenth-century folks here thought it looked a lot like the hats that Chinese laborers brought over with them from the Qing domains. I don't think the reference to the hat itself is insensitive, but apparently some have a problem with the use of the term "Chinaman." I wonder if there is any site in the archipelago named "Haole's beard," or something like that! That would be funny (and/or insensitive, depending on the thickness of one's skin, I guess). Names always seem to bother people, but one's got to keep in mind that the act of naming, itself, is political. Consider the fight over using English vs. Hawaiian place names throughout these islands... it's all political. It's all a fight, and it's a worthy one, too. Names are about power. Reclaiming a name is a also a reclamation of dignity...and power.

Anyway, that's it for history here. I dunked myself in the salt water and relaxed for a moment. There's nothing historical about this except that I was following in the footsteps of millions of other non-Hawaiians who have come to these islands at one time or another to dunk themselves in these waters!

Ruins of a Sugar Mill, north of Kualoa Point

Driving on, I passed the above-pictured sugar mill ruins, dating back to the late nineteenth century. Here I'll use the word "ruin" rather than "active sugar mill." It's not that I'm saying that the sugar industry will never come back to Hawaiʻi—the last mill closed in 1996—but this particular "ruin" is too far gone to be reconverted to active use, unlike the previously mentioned heiau (despite extensive erosion). Anyway, this is a curious "ruin," especially when compared to Ulupo Heiau. The heaiu represents a site that may have been used for many centuries. The mill is a site that was used for only a few decades. There are different kinds of history in Hawaiʻi. Think about how quickly the U.S.S. Arizona sunk on that fateful day in 1941. The Japanese attack happened so quickly and unexpectedly. At another level, industries such as sugar and pineapple had definite moments of beginning, climaxing, declining... the whole thing lasted decades, maybe a century or two. Then there are the heiau, the petroglyphs, the moʻolelo (stories / myths / histories). When we talk about history in Hawaiʻi what are we talking about? The brief shooting stars or the slow cosmic cycles?

Another kind of temple: The Mormon Temple in Lāʻie

I won't get much into the history of Lāʻie, the last stop of Part I of my trip, except to say, in a nutshell, that in the late nineteenth century this place on Oʻahu became the base of Mormonism in the Hawaiian Islands. To this day it still is, hosting a satellite campus of Brigham Young University, as well as hosting this gorgeous 1919 temple (seen in the photograph above). You get a sense of just how important the Mormon Church sees this place based on the grand architecture of the site.
But I only stopped here for a moment. It was lunch time, and I was hungry. As I drove into Lāʻie, the only restaurant I saw was the most disturbing restaurant I think I've ever seen in Hawaiʻi: a McDonald's, under construction, being built in the traditional Polynesian style! Not to say that there is a "traditional" way of building a McDonald's—no, there is not—but the architects here apparently imagined that this is what McDonald's would have looked like if Kamehameha mā had a big lūʻau of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets after their conquest of Oʻahu back in 1795! Ridiculous. Completely absurd.

It's not that the Lāʻie McDonald's is rejecting Western culture and promoting a revitalization of indigenous architecture. No. Because this McDonald's is directly next door to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC), a Polynesian "theme park," as many have described it, where for tickets that cost more than I would ever pay for that sort of thing ($50 per person!), I could learn about all the things that I learned anyway from reading books and driving around Oʻahu on my own. PCC (and Lāʻie) want to sell you the "authentic" Polynesian experience, Polynesian Big Macs included. All the while, the real (maoli) Polynesian experience is the lived experience of the Hawaiian people today. And how many tour buses, by the way, visit heiau and fishponds, not to mention majority-Hawaiian communities? Do people want history or just entertainment?

Part I ends here. Part II will include my visit to the largest surviving heiau on Oʻahu, the last surviving sugar mill of Oʻahu, and my "will-I-survive-this" visit to the sickeningly sweet Dole Plantation in Wahiawa.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Kaona of the City

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Days 18-22

Eating a Dole Banana on the Palace Grounds.

I have had a wonderful week in Honolulu. As mentioned in my previous dispatch, I am staying at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, living on campus and riding the bus everywhere. Each day I take the bus downtown to conduct research for my dissertation. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I visited the State Archives, and on Thursday I visited the Mission Children's Society Library. On Tuesday I stuck around Mānoa to do some writing as well as meet with my ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) translator helper and good friend.

Although I arrived in Honolulu on Sunday afternoon, as early as Monday morning I began to witness the kaona of the city. Ke kaona refers to the "hidden meaning" in Hawaiian song lyrics—a meaning behind the meaning that is only revealed to those who strive to understand the context and deeper symbolism of a song's lyrics. Such as, for example, the mele inoa (name song) that I once translated (badly) for my dissertation chapter on whaling history: I thought the song was actually about whaling labor, but a professor at the University of Hawaiʻi read over my translation last January and quickly announced to me that this mele inoa was not about whaling at all, but rather the whale imagery had a kaona—a hidden meaning—revealing what was actually a sort of sexually suggestive lyric. Incidentally, I am no longer using this mele in my chapter about whaling labor! 

In the nineteenth century, some Hawaiians began to use the term ke kaona to also mean something else: the "town." Looking for a Hawaiian word to describe the Western idea of a "town"—something that apparently did not exist in pre-contact Hawaiʻi—some began using the word kaona to stand in for the English word "town" because they sound very similar. So, strangely, when I refer to the kaona of the city, I could just as well say the kaona of the kaona! But let's not make this more confusing than it has to be! :)

The kaona I'm talking about are the "hidden meanings" all around the city of Honolulu. Most mainland U.S. visitors to Honolulu see a very ahistorical city. First of all, many do not leave Waikīkī, and so "Honolulu" to them means Waikīkī. They do not see ʻIolani  Palace; they do not see Kawaiahaʻo Church; they do not see the many sites relevant to nineteenth-century Hawaiian history that give this city its kaona, its hidden meanings.

For example, who would think twice about eating a banana on the ʻIolana Palace grounds while waiting for the archives to open at 9 a.m.? I didn't think much about it at first. I had rushed to a Starbuck's to grab coffee and a scone for breakfast. But I also needed $2.50 in exact change for the bus from Mānoa to downtown Honolulu, so I decided to add a banana to my order. I didn't even look at the banana until I was downtown, on the palace grounds, waiting for the archives to open.

At that moment I took the banana out of my bag and, as I was about to begin peeling the banana, I noticed the sticker on the banana: "Dole." For the first twenty-five years of my life, I ate tons of "Dole" products and I never thought twice about it. But ever since beginning my study of Hawaiian history, of course I now know "Dole" as the name of many important people in this archipelago's history. There was Daniel Dole, the Christian missionary who came here from Maine in the early nineteenth century to convert Hawaiians. Then there were his sons, including George Dole (whose papers I use extensively in my dissertation) and Sanford Dole. Sanford infamously was part of the posse that helped overthrow the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1893. Not only that, but he was elected the first President of the new Republic of Hawaiʻi founded by white men in 1894. And after the United States annexed Hawaiʻi in 1898 and organized the archipelago as a territory in 1900, Sanford Dole was appointed the first Governor of Hawaiʻi under U.S. rule. It was at this same time that one James Dole, a cousin of George and Sanford's, arrived in the islands to found the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (the future Dole Company as we know it!). 

So here I was about to bite into a banana brought to us by the corporate descendants of the cousin of the guy who helped overthrow Queen Liliʻuokalani and usher in U.S. colonialism. I thought also, at that moment, that the word "Dole" was engraved elsewhere, just a few blocks away at Kawaiahaʻo Cemetery in Honolulu where Sanford Dole the great Kingdom-overthrower is still buried. What I should have done was take my "Dole" banana peel and leave it on his grave!! (j/k) But really—because all I really wanted was to start my work in the archives!—I decided to take the photograph above immediately before eating my banana, and that was my small moment of kaona. 

In the photograph you can see my white haole hand, the imperial "Dole" banana, and the 1880s ʻIolana Palace in the background, built by King Kalākaua, the Hawaiian monarch who had a new Constitution forced upon him by white men with bayonets (the so-called "Bayonet Constitution" of 1887) and who eventually died in San Francisco in 1891, leaving the Kingdom to his sister Liliʻuokalani who was overthrown by Dole et al in 1893. Many centuries of history are wrapped up in this scene—a scene with a deep and traumatic kaona to it, no?—a scene that surely plays out on a daily basis somewhere in this city, but how many people stop to notice it?

Tourists and History.
Here's another photographic scene with some kaona to it. Throughout the day, everyday in Honolulu, Japanese tourists take pictures of themselves in front of the King Kamehameha statue outside of Aliʻiolani Hale, just south of the palace grounds. Kamehameha, of course, was the the one who united the Hawaiian Islands for the first time under his rule. He was the original mōʻī (ruler; monarch) of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. But more interesting is the building behind Kamehameha. How many tourists notice the text engraved on the exterior of Aliʻiolani Hale? The text, in Hawaiian, contains a hidden meaning. It reads "Kamehameha Elima. Ka Moi," meaning "Kamehameha the Fifth, the King." Folks might recognize this language as it is similar to that on Lunalilo's tomb just outside Kawaiahaʻo Church which reads "Lunalilo. Ka Moi." Between Lunalilo, Kamehameha V, Kamehameha the first (in statue-form), and Kalākaua, represented by the beautiful ʻIolani Palace, tourists are simply surrounded here on King Street—yes, ke alanui o ka mōʻī—by Hawaiian monarchs. All of this—ʻIolani, the statue, Aliʻiolani Hale, Lunalilo's tomb, and more—should be an in-your-face reminder to those who pass by that throughout the nineteenth century this was a sovereign, independent kingdom. All this kaona, this hidden meaning, is in my face, yet I wonder how much it is really in other people's faces as they wander these streets.

Anyway, above "Kamehameha Elima. Ka Moi." it also reads: "Ua Mau Ke Ea o Ka Aina i Ka Pono." Folks might recognize this as the "State Motto" of Hawaiʻi since 1959. But the phrase dates back to 1843, the year in which Great Britain unilaterally annexed the Hawaiian Islands, only to be forced to give back the archipelago to Hawaiian rule just a few months later. After Hawaiian sovereignty was restored, Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) declared that "ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono" = "the life/sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness/justice." This phrase was, and continues to be, the clearest articulation of ka pono (the righteousness) of indigenous sovereignty. Now how many tourists possess photographs of Kamehameha's statue that just so happen to include those words in the background on the exterior of Aliʻiolani Hale? There's the kaona, the hidden meaning. Whenever and wherever you see or hear those words, remember that the "hidden meaning" in those words, still relevant today, is Kamehameha III's call for the perpetuation of Hawaiian sovereignty. 

Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.

So there you have it. This city just drips with history, if only our eyes are open enough to see it. Besides eating bananas and taking photographs, my archival research is coming along very well, and best of all, I have had the pleasure of sharing many good meals with many good friends here since arriving on Sunday.

This weekend I intend to borrow a friend's car and explore more of the island of Oʻahu. I hope to have stories and photographs to share with you all when I get back to Mānoa on Monday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dispatch from Hawaiʻi

Aloha kākou! Here I am again, in Hawaiʻi, to continue my extraordinary research adventure. Last time I was here was January. You can re-cap that whole previous leg of this research adventure here, via the links below:

Day 1 (Honolulu & Waikīkī)
Days 2-3 (Hilo)
Days 4-5 (Kona)
Days 6-10 (first week of research in the archives)
Days 11-12 (Waipahu)
Days 13-17 (second week of research in the archives)

So today, let's say, is Day 17.5, since I just arrived on Oʻahu around 2 p.m. today (a Sunday)... so nothing is happening today except getting settled in at the East-West Center.

My ninth floor room at Hale Mānoa, East-West Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Basically the same as my room in January except this time, instead of facing makai (towards the sea, including Waikīkī and Diamond Head), I am facing mauka (towards the mountains). 

Here's the view out of my window:

View of the Mānoa Valley from my dormitory at the university
 
So I've got nothing much to say in this dispatch except to recap where I left off in my California Research Adventure. My last post, Day 33, saw me visiting Orange County for the first time. Well, after that, on Day 34 (a Sunday), I met up with a good friend and colleague (also a historian of Hawaiʻi) in Pasadena. We got a great lunch at Zankou Chicken (very good falafel and hummus!) and then had coffee in "downtown" Pasadena. We ended up chatting for over five hours over lunch and coffee, basically until it got dark!

Then, Days 35-39, comprised my last week of research at the Huntington Library. I spent much of this week synthesizing all the notes I had taken, making some spreadsheets and graphs and even a new map for my California chapter, and incorporating new material into my draft chapters. Another thing I started doing that week was exercising. I had been living in a motel for three weeks and eating fast food everyday. I had gained weight and I just felt like a big blob. Not to mention how much television I watched in my motel room every evening. (When you don't own a television for many, many years, suddenly having access to one is quite exciting! Especially when Seinfeld reruns are on all night.) So I started doing twenty minutes of yoga each day in my motel room.

On Day 39 (two Fridays ago), I packed up and left Pasadena. Flew from LAX back to New York, arriving at home in our Manhattan apartment at around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning. :)

Then I spent six days in New York. My wife and I had a lovely picnic lunch in Central Park. We went to the movies. We went out to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants. Even went out drinking a bit. A friend visited from Pittsburgh and we explored Harlem. I gave a few walking tours (one of my part-time jobs in the city). It was a great six days in New York. Except for the fact that my favorite coffeehouse in the city closed down while I was away in California. I have basically completed most of my Ph.D. work, and my work as a teaching assistant and instructor, too, for the past four years out of this coffeehouse. But luckily, with a little intrepid exploration, I have found a new coffeehouse that I don't love as much as the one I just lost, but it might just work for the next 12-24 months as I wrap up my dissertation and finish my degree.

And then, two days ago, my wife and I flew to Cincinnati to attend a friend's wedding. We very much enjoyed exploring Cincinnati and the wedding was just absolutely beautiful. Then today we woke up at 5 a.m. Eastern Time, which would have been 11 p.m. here in Hawaiʻi, in order to go to the airport (in Kentucky) where my wife caught a plane home to New York while I flew on to Chicago, and from there I transferred to a flight to Honolulu. 

Now it is only about 4 p.m. in Honolulu, but of course it feels like it is 10 p.m. for me, not to mention that I only slept for three hours last night (from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Eastern Time) because we were out so late at that wedding! It's a bit hard to imagine right now that less than 24 hours ago I was cutting it up on the dance floor in Ohio, and now here I am sitting in this dormitory room watching the clouds pass by over Mānoa Valley and the pali (cliffs) beyond.

But such is the fun and exciting life of an academic, am I right? :)

So here's to the next twenty days in Hawaiʻi. My Hawaiʻi Research Adventure continues.

Monday, August 5, 2013

California Research Adventure: Day 33

Day 33: Orange County

Dana Point, Orange County

As promised, I decided for my last big trip of this adventure to explore "the OC," otherwise known as Orange County. Trying my best to steer clear of everything I so dislike about the OC—all of which I have deduced, of course, from television and movies—I traveled as far south in the OC as possible, to explore what is perhaps a more quiet and subtle corner of this county that pulses with three million people, many of them white and unusually affluent. I visited, first, San Juan Capistrano, home to the "Jewel of the Missions," and then, Dana Point, named for the great nineteenth-century travel writer Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

San Juan Capistrano

After visiting the San Buenaventura mission last week, I was consequently much more impressed by my visit to San Juan Capistrano. Here there remains a lot more left of what used to be, and the interpretation is also a lot better: San Juan Capistrano has an excellent audio guide that helped me better understand what I was looking at as I moved through the site.

The mission dates back to 1776. Not everything we saw there was from the 1770s, but there certainly were a variety of ruins and other material culture dating back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. These are, to date, some of the oldest buildings I have seen in all of California. 

 Inside the mission...

An old doorway / passage into the main courtyard

An old walkway

The exhibits at the mission were not amazing—not as exciting as just walking through the centuries-old spaces and hearing about the history on the audio guide—but there was some useful information to be gleaned from the exhibits.

The mission has done a good job reminding visitors that just about everything we see on the site was built with Indian labor, and a super-majority of the people who lived in San Juan Capistrano in the Spanish and Mexican periods were Native Americans. This is an important corrective to the alternative, which is an interpretation that glorifies the missionaries while ignoring the Indians. The exhibits at the mission also do justice to the site's long history after secularization (in the 1830s). I learned that Abraham Lincoln signed the law that gave the California missions back to the Catholic Church. (I guess they were expropriated during the Mexican-American War?) Anyway, I did not see any references to Hawaiians having lived or worked at the mission in the early nineteenth century, and there is no record of Hawaiians here in the Early California Population Project Database I've been using at the Huntington Library. So perhaps no Hawaiians did cross paths with the San Juan Capistrano mission. But wait... not so fast... there is still something very "Pacific" here...

Reproduction of a mission register. These books are where one might look to find evidence of Hawaiians interacting with the Spanish missions. Thankfully all this data has been digitized in the Early California Population Project Database at the Huntington.

A map showing present-day Orange County, and how the mission lands were secularized and alienated in the Mexican era (1820s-1840s)

An old roof—from the eighteenth century—shows evidence of Indian labor and relatively simple technologies: wooden beams and reeds.

Pacific history is most in evidence in the "industrial" section of the mission. Here is the story of how the missions made their money—largely by raising cattle and selling cattle products—and, in turn, how the missions became interdependent with a transoceanic trade that includes Hawaiian goods and Hawaiian labor.

A cow hide. It would come to be called a "California banknote" in the Mexican period. Many Hawaiian workers carried these on their heads to ships offshore, at least that is according to Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

The "industrial" sector of the mission economy: tallow vats are seen in the foreground for turning cow parts into candles.

Four brick vats for tanning cattle hides...

A ring in the industrial area where hides were staked out to dry...

An eighteenth-century furnace—said to be the oldest furnace in all of California!

Anyway, next time you see an illustration or photograph of early- to mid-nineteenth century New Englanders wearing leather shoes or leather belts, or anything made of leather, there's a chance that cowhide came from this mission, or any of the other mission "industrial" centers running up along the coast of Mexican Alta California.

Another industry at the mission was viniculture: making wine! I was surprised to find out about this.

 A brick pit for making wine

Grapevines in the mission garden

Finally, it's not a visit to a Spanish mission without a visit to the church, of course:
Votive candles in the entryway of the 1770s church at the mission... said to be the oldest church still standing in all of California.

Church interior, built in the late eighteenth century

The altarpiece, which apparently was installed in the twentieth century, but itself dates back to the early seventeenth century. It was made in Spain.

In some ways, I enjoyed the church at the San Buenaventura mission more, perhaps because there were less tourists there and the place was quiet and mystical in a way that the San Juan Capistrano church with all its interpretation and people was not. Neither church matched the splendor of what we saw throughout Peru, but then again, Alta California was about as remote as things got for the Spanish Empire in the Americas. The fact that these churches were even built in the late eighteenth century is an amazing (although perhaps tragic, depending on your interpretation) story of frontier colonization.

But finally, even if you thought that all the above was cool enough—and it is—to make a visit to the mission at San Juan Capistrano worth it, there is yet more. Another church was built at the mission in the early nineteenth century, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. The ruins have stood at San Juan Capistrano for over two hundred years, and some consider them to be the most sublime ruins in all of the United States. Certainly, for being in what is now U.S. territory, they are pretty damn good ruins, as "ruins" is not something that the United States particularly excels in. (Then again, if we're playing this "whatever-is-in-the-contemporary-United-States-counts" game, I'd argue that the heiau of Hawaiʻi should be near the top of any list of most impressive "ruins," too.)

Ruins of the stone church

Behind the altar of the stone church

Ruins of the stone church

Ruins of the stone church

Ruins of the stone church

Ruins of the stone church

That was it for the mission. I spent about two hours there. Afterwards I wandered onto the street and waited for an OCTA bus. This was problematic, of course, for everyone in the OC has a car (or two, or three), and so it appears to me that the bus system is horrible, not by any fault of its own but because the streets are so clogged with traffic, even on a Saturday morning. There are just too many people with cars, and so the buses are regularly thirty to forty minutes behind schedule. Also, the bus I needed only came around every forty-five minutes to begin with, so I ended up sitting outside in the blazing sun for a good thirty minutes or so waiting for the next bus to come by and take me to Dana Point.

Dana Point

Just some miles downhill from San Juan Capistrano along the coast is the city of Dana Point. I'm not sure it was called anything before the 1830s—before Richard Henry Dana Jr. came here and wrote about this place (in Two Years Before the Mast) and then people started calling it "Dana Point." But anyway, this is famously where Dana and his co-workers (including, not here but at other locations across the coast, Hawaiians) flung cattle hides down off the bluffs above the shore to the ships. These famous bluffs, immortalized in literature...

View of the bluffs above Dana Point harbor

But before exploring the bluffs and the ocean, I needed some lunch. So I went to Stacks. It is ostensibly a pancake house, but in reality they serve "local"-style Hawaiian food: that is, plate lunches, mac-nut pancakes, and the like. Always on the hunt for anything Hawaiian, it was a good choice. I got the salmon teriyaki plate lunch with rice and mac salad, a very "local Hawaiian" meal.

My plate lunch at Stacks Pancake House, Dana Point

After lunch I was extremely full and I needed some exercise to burn off those excess calories! So, I decided I would do some bluff-hiking above Dana Point, searching for the famous statue of a man throwing a cattle hide over the cliff's edge. I never found this statue, but I did get some good exercise going up and down the bluffs looking for it!

View of Dana Point harbor from the bluffs

After all that hiking, my next goal was to visit the Ocean Institute. I thought they might have interesting exhibits about Dana Point and its marine ecology. Well, they didn't really. I mean, it might be a nice place to come with your kids, but there wasn't a lot there for adult learners like me. And after learning about marine ecology at the California Science Center, the Ocean Institute did not appear favorably in comparison. Nevertheless, they do have a replica of the Pilgrim, the ship that Richard Henry Dana, Jr. traveled on in the 1830s!

The Ocean Institute is the complex of buildings at center

Replica of the Pilgrim, circa 1830s

Creatures at the Ocean Institute

Creatures at the Ocean Institute 

Creatures at the Ocean Institute 

Creatures at the Ocean Institute

 After wandering through the Ocean Institute, I then decided to go for a hike along the coastline. It was nice to finally get away from the roads and beaches and bikini-clad bathers for a moment, and reconnect with the coast the way I like it: rocky and sublime, overrun with birds and seaweed. I found a rock near the tide on which to sit and watch the pelicans fly by. I befriended a cormorant. I made good use of my binoculars, which was especially rewarding in watching the pelicans.
My friend the cormorant

My friend the cormorant

After sitting along the shore for about thirty minutes, I decided it was time to head back to San Juan Capistrano. I had taken the Amtrak train in from Los Angeles that morning (an 80-minute ride, or thereabouts), and I needed to catch the train back to L.A. later in the afternoon. So I walked all the way back to the OCTA bus, waited a good forty-five minutes for a bus to come round, then rode back upland to San Juan Capistrano. With an hour left to kill before my train departure, I decided to visit the Los Rios Street Historic District near the San Juan Capistrano train station. There I discovered a 1790s adobe house, apparently one of the oldest adobe houses in all of California. So that was cool! I got an iced tea and a vegan cookie at a nearby coffeehouse and waited for the train...

Montanez Adobe, c. 1790, San Juan Capistrano

 I got back to L.A. around 7pm, and I was back at my hotel in Pasadena by eight. It was a very successful day! My last adventure in this iteration of the California research adventure.

I leave here in four days... so there will be one last installment of this series, probably a week from now when I am ready to look back upon my whole month in southern California and evaluate how it all went.

Thanks for reading!