Monday, April 15, 2013

N is for Native


N is for native. Native as in the Polynesian people who lived in Hawaii before it was “discovered” by Captain Cook in the late 1700s. In other words, native Hawaiians, who are often depicted as brown-skinned people with brown hair and brown eyes and smiling faces. 

Since advertising for Hawaii is meant to entice and seduce, so that you want to vacation here, native women in vintage tourism ads were depicted as willowy and slender maidens, native men as tall and muscular youths. In other words, natives have been depicted as sex symbols and that cliché Hawaiian image has mostly stuck through the years.

Reality is a bit more complicated. This isn’t the right place to delve deeply into Hawaiian history, but it was messy, not unlike the history of native Americans on the continent we call “the mainland.” Native Hawaiian population declined from introduced diseases, alcohol, and cultural clashes.

Without going into a lot more history and getting in over my head, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

The romance of Hawaii in this vintage Pan Am advertising poster. This is a public domain image issued by the New York Public Library.

  • Native Hawaiians can have many body types from slender and muscular to round and curvy.
  • A lot of people who were born in Hawaii have moved to Las Vegas or the West Coast, because Hawaii’s too expensive for them! Las Vegas, by the way, is very popular for Hawaii folks. 
  • There are very few people in Hawaii of 100% native Hawaiian ancestry. Which is why the term “Hawaiian” does not mean anyone who lives in Hawaii. Hawaiian means you are “kanaka ma’oli” (a native) and have Hawaiian blood running in your veins.
  • Native can also refer to native or indigenous plants or animals.

A native is someone who I consider to be of native Hawaiian ancestry, even if it’s not a huge percent, even if this person is not born in Hawaii.

So what do we call people who live in Hawaii?  We call people who live in California Californians... 

There are few different terms that we use:
Local is usually the term I use for someone born and raised here, whether or not he/she is of Hawaiian blood. It’s a confusing term because other people use the term local for anyone who has lived here past a certain number of years. Also, I would still consider someone local who may have been born somewhere else, whose parents are from Hawaii, and then from earliest childhood was raised in Hawaii.

“Kama’aina” meaning “of the land” is often what I use for anyone who has lived in Hawaii a long time, and whose heart is in Hawaii. It can refer to locals or people who moved here from somewhere else.

A local resident as opposed to “local” is a term I often use interchangeably for “kama’aina.” I sometimes also use the term Hawaii resident for someone who lives here.

I’m not even sure I consider myself local because I wasn’t born and raised in Hawaii although I did grow up here since the time I was 7. Though other people might consider me local, I’m kind of in that fuzzy place. 

So it is kind of confusing, and people who have lived in Hawaii for many years and consider it home may feel insulted if you don’t consider them “local.”  And a lot of people who I consider locals and who are born and raised in Hawaii do really make a distinction when they say, “Flown here, not grown here.”

Anyhow, it’s food for thought.

You might also enjoy this post about Native Intelligence, a beautiful retail store that promotes Hawaiian culture

Aloha and mahalo for reading!

If you are commenting from the A to Z challenge, please include a link. 

12 comments:

  1. I've been researching Hawaiians for a novel project and looking at historical pictures. It's been fascinating looking at the differences in appearance.

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  2. I love this post! The whole resident vs local vs native issue applies here in Texas, too. I know some folks whose family tree extends back for generations, my hubby has lived here 20+ years, and I have been here for nearly 4... So when someone calls me Texan, it doesn't quite seem right! I often call myself a "Texpat" instead. :)

    ~Tui, from A to Z challenge

    Twitter: @mentalmosaic

    blog: Tui Snider's Texas, Travel, Photos & Reviews

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  3. Being born and raised on Kaua'i, I have to try and explain this to people all the time. I know the frustration that can occur sometimes. Great post!
    Elliot
    We Are Adventure

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  4. It sounds like a complicated history with a melting pot of different ethnic backgrounds just like the rest of America. I like the "of the land" - someone who has lived in Hawaii a long time and whose heart is in Hawaii. I also like the artwork of the Hula Girl featuring Diamond Head in the background.

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  5. Elliot, I'm excited to read your blog. I've been wondering about blogs from Kauai. Mahalo for commenting!

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  6. I'm copying this from the commenter (it didn't post maybe because it was from a mobile device?): I love this post! The whole resident vs local vs native issue applies here in Texas, too. I know some folks whose family tree extends back for generations, my hubby has lived here 20+ years, and I have been here for nearly 4... So when someone calls me Texan, it doesn't quite seem right! I often call myself a "Texpat" instead. :) ~Tui, from A to Z challenge Twitter: @mentalmosaic blog: Tui Snider's Texas, Travel, Photos & Reviews (www.mentalmosaic.com/blog)

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  7. Thanks Linda, I will try to find your blog.

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  8. This is an excellent discussion of these terms and the distinctions among them in the Hawaiian context. The misuse of Native in a very colonial sense is a pet peeve of mine. Thank you!

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  9. A Daft Scots LassApril 19, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    I love your theme! What an A to Z challenge this has been this year. So many diverse people and cultures...

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  10. Your theme is great too. I love the Scottish lingo.

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  11. Mahalo so much for commenting!

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  12. Texas Girl Finds AlohaMay 10, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Loving your blog! I'm just getting started and have learned tons from your site (I think we may be neighbors too.). Mahalo!

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Comments are important to me, so mahalo for adding a comment! I will try to follow up when I receive one.