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Hawaii Patriotism vs. U.S. Patriotism: Why is One Valued Over the Other?
The writer supports Americans in embracing their citizenship, but encourages them to support others in their quest for freedom and justice, starting with Native Hawaiians.

About the Author

  • Theresa Keohunani Taber
    I was born in Honolulu in 1971 and raised in Northern California. My Father is kanaka maoli and Portuguese, my mother, kanaka maoli from Molokai. My father and mother they reside in Anahola Kauai, having finally received their Hawaiian homestead after more than 30 years. I am a former mortgage banker, full-time mother and Hawaiian activist. I reside in Kea'au, Moku O Keawe, in the shadow of Mauna Kea .

I am a kanaka maoli, a direct descendant of hard-working kanaka who believed in their culture, their history and their political status as Hawaiian nationals; loyal to the kingdom and na alii.

My great, great grandparents lost their first families from Hansen’s disease — forced to leave their children, banished to Kalawao, Molokai, never to see their loved ones again. Surrounded by the impending guarantee of death, the rugged terrain, lack of hope and drowning in despair, they still had faith in love. Love for life, love for their ohana and lahui and most importantly, love of country. In the midst of despair, they still found the courage to create life, a daughter and their first born son: John Louis Kea. As standard procedure for children in Kalawao, both John and his sister Cecilia were sent to live on Oahu, so they would not be afflicted with Hansen’s.

And in their last moments of life, the Petition Against Annexation to the United States arrived. With the air heavy with death and despair, they signed the petition. They loved their country and gave their last energy, their last eha to sign for us, the future generations to come.

So when I read comments like, “The old Hawaii is in the Bishop Museum on display, the old gods are there, as well,” an overwhelming flood of emotions come over me.

Mauna Kea demonstrators group around the King Kamehameha statue fronting Aliiolani Hale before heading to the governors office at the Capitol.  21 april 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Mauna Kea demonstrators group around the King Kamehameha statue fronting Aliiolani Hale in late April before heading to the governor’s office at the capitol.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I am a product of this love, this struggle to continue life against all odds. I am not in a museum, I am proud to be a kanaka maoli, and I am against any further desecration of Hawaii nei. I am a direct descendant of first homesteaders on Molokai, who ensured the Hawaiian Homes Act was established so that kanaka maoli were able to sustain themselves in their homeland.

I do not see kanaka maoli as marginalized, as victims, as ignorant or as barbarians. To the contrary, I see the kanaka maoli inheriting the very same values that have continued to sustain them for the last 122 years of illegal occupation. Kanaka Maoli are coming into the very kuleana (responsibility) that their great, great grandparents exhibited at the time of the illegal occupation. Kanaka maoli are envisioning a world that their tutu had once lived in — where the value of a person was measured in their hard work, their integrity and their fervent belief in justice.

That aloha is a living actuality, that consideration for all mankind was pono, and that righteousness and justice is for all, not just a privileged few. No, Kanaka Maoli are not “angry hordes of Hawaiians” or “Kill Haole Day” participants. Kanaka Maoli are the direct descendants of believers of lokahi, pono and aloha. American citizens are a direct result of believers in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The literal translation of both these cultures and ideologies are one and the same.

I support American citizens in embracing their citizenship. I encourage them to be active in their rights, but also to support others in their quest for freedom and justice. The history of the kanaka maoli and Hawaiian Islands is no different than that of every indigenous culture, including Filipinos, Spanish, Malay and many others around the world.

Yes, the illegal occupation 122 years ago happened, and we should move on. Kanaka Maoli are moving on, one step at a time, with dignity, integrity and aloha. My fervent hope is that the world will step with us, shoulder to shoulder as we move forward toward the future.

I support science, but desecration is not education. I am a product of Western culture and education, yet I’m kanaka maoli in my blood and thinking.  I believe that a Hawaiian patriot has just as much right to value their political status as an American citizen. Considering how the American social and political environment has changed dramatically the last 120 years, I welcome a change to a political system based on aloha, lokahi and pono.

Let us all rise and stand for justice, righteousness and the good of all mankind with Hawaii leading the way, as a free nation liberated by the citizens of the world. One giant leap forward, no stepping back! Imua!