Owen Lloyd of the Deep Green Resistance News Service recently interviewed Hawaiian activist and filmmaker Anne Keala Kelly on traditional practices such as the lū‘au, hula, and giving of lei. They explore how the dominant colonizer culture has appropriated and corrupted those traditions, in part to sell a tourism industry, and as part of the larger assimilation and undermining of Hawaiians.
Lloyd ends by asking the crucial question:
What advice do you have for non-Hawaiians wishing to stand with Kānaka ʻŌiwi against cultural appropriation and colonialism more generally?
Kelly: Great question! And I want to say upfront that we are dealing with a settler-colonial situation in Hawaiʻi, but it’s a prolonged, belligerent occupation under international law because we are a nation state whose citizens never consented to becoming American. Hawaiians, in fact, were very clear in their opposition to being annexed to the U.S. That’s why there was never a treaty of annexation and that’s why what the U.S. has done instead is conduct what may actually be the longest running occupation of a nation state in history. For Americans that’s a tough statement because they’re comfortable lumping us in with what was done to the natives on the continent– they’re okay with the narrative of us as tragic and past. They can talk about the occupation of Palestine, but Hawaiʻi? That implies present tense possibility.
An important interview for anyone wanting to understand the relationship between the occupying settler culture and Hawaiian culture, or how cultural appropriation works in general. Read the entire interview at Consuming Hawaiʻi: Anne Keala Kelly on the Appropriation of Hawaiian Culture.