The University of Hawaii Manoa’s Graduate Student Organization is pushing to return Dole Street, a major road through the campus, to its original Hawaiian name.
At a Manoa Neighborhood Board meeting Wednesday night, members of the student group asked for support in restoring the name Kapaakea Street.
The name Kapaakea has ties to the area’s Native Hawaiian history, while Dole symbolizes American oppression of the Hawaiian people, students said.
The students worked with board members Bronson Kekupa‘a Silva and Dylan Armstrong to draft a resolution in support of the name change. Some of the neighborhood board members had not reviewed the resolution Wednesday’s meeting, and the panel plans to vote on it at a meeting in February.
To change a street name, notices detailing the proposal must be distributed to affected property owners, the fire department, the police department and the post office, according to Honolulu law. If all state agencies and a majority of property owners approve, the change would be approved by the county’s director of land utilization.
As the petitioners, members of the student group are responsible for surveying property owners.
Benton Rodden, the group’s advocacy chairman, told the board that the resolution was the students’ first step in attempting to build community support and that they will soon walk door-to-door to tell Dole Street residents about the history of the current and former names.
“I think it’s a good step in Native Hawaiians taking control of their landscape again.” — Bronson Kekupa’a Silva
Hawaiian Kingdom documents show Dole Street was known as Kapaakea Street from the mid-1800s until it was modernized in the 1950s and named after Sanford B. Dole, according to the resolution. More than 9 acres of land in the area were once owned by Caesar Kapaakea, father of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, the resolution states.
Dole was the first president of the Republic of Hawaii and first governor of the Territory of Hawaii from 1894 to 1903.
He had aligned with American sugar planters to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani in 1893 and was part of a primarily white group that drafted the 1887 “Bayonet Constitution,” so named because King Kalakaua was forced to sign it at gunpoint, the resolution states.
The students maintain the change would reflect a UH Board of Regents policy that states the university has a “unique commitment to Native Hawaiians.”
The resolution concludes that “the name Dole Street glorifies a legacy of injustice and is a direct insult to Native Hawaiians in pursuit of a college education.”
Nearly 15 percent of UH Manoa students (2,651 people) are of Native Hawaiian descent, said Nalani Balutski, research and assessment specialist for UH Manoa Native Hawaiian Student Services.
Noel Kent, a UH Manoa Ethnic Studies professor, testified in favor of the resolution. He said the name of a campus building, Saunders Hall, had been changed from Porteus Hall when it was discovered that Stanley Porteus, a former psychology professor, wrote demeaning things about the character of Filipinos and Japanese in the 1920s.
“And here we have a man, Sanford Dole, whose actions were far more heinous than Porteus … who conspired with U.S. forces to destroy the monarchy,” Kent said. “This person does not deserve the distinction of having a street named after him.”
Kepo‘o Keli’ipaakaua, vice president of the Graduate Student Organization, said after the meeting that the group felt the name Dole Street glorified illegal annexation. He called Dole “a traitor to the kingdom” and said photos of him have been removed from other state buildings.
UH Manoa’s dorms, whose residents include students from the mainland who are largely unfamiliar with Hawaiian history, are located off of Dole Street.
The Dole name is more often associated with the pineapple empire founded by Sanford’s cousin, James Dole, Keli’ipaakaua said. Changing a street’s name may seem to be of little consequence, but it can impact the way history is remembered, he said.
“It’s a really strong point to make that it’s not necessarily so much about getting rid of the bad things in history as to acknowledge that there was a history that has been obscured,” Keli’ipaakaua said.
While Caesar Kapaakea was father of a king and queen and a landowner in the area, “Kapaakea” often refers to white coral, so the original street name may indicate that such coral once grew nearby, Keli’ipaakaua said.
Like much of Manoa, Keli’ipaakaua said, the Kapaakea area was “bountiful” land, home to more than 46 taro pond-fields. He said there was also a fish pond nearby, unusual since Manoa is so far inland.
“A lot of our Native Hawaiian constituents, the fact that they’re subjugated to this history every day as they traverse these streets on the way to get a higher education was really a big slap in the face for them,” Keli’ipaakaua said. “The Center for Hawaiian Studies itself is located on the very end of this street and has to include the name Dole in their address and any communications they send out.”
In the early stages of drafting its proposal, the student group consulted with Honolulu City Councilwoman and longtime Manoa resident Ann Kobayashi.
“The Center for Hawaiian Studies itself is located on the very end of this street and has to include the name Dole in their address and any communications they send out.” — Kepo’o Keli’ipaakaua
Kobayashi told Civil Beat that she shared with them her experience with unsuccessfully trying to change the name of a Manoa street. Two streets with the same name were causing problems with emergency responders, but some residents didn’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with changing an address, like ordering new checkbooks.
She said the students’ case is more compelling.
Still, there are challenges. Kobayashi admitted that she wasn’t familiar with the history, but had thought Dole was a well-respected name in Hawaii.
“Renaming a hall is a little easier. … You can just do it,” Kobayashi said, referring to UH’s change from Porteus Hall to Saunders Hall. “But a public street … you have to get signatures and all that.”
Silva, the Manoa Neighborhood Board member who helped draft the resolution, said it was good (and rare) to see coordination between the UH community and the board.
A graduate of UH Manoa’s Hawaiian Studies Department, Silva said he had long thought it problematic that the Hawaiian Studies building bore a Dole Street address.
“Me, as a Hawaiian, actually my great grandparents were alive during the overthrow … this gave us an opportunity to sort of make history right,” he said. “I think it’s a good step in Native Hawaiians taking control of their landscape again.”