Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • On January 4th, 1976,

  • a fleet of boats left the coast of Maui.

  • The goal was to get to the Hawaiian island of Kaho'olawe.

  • For centuries Native Hawaiians had fished and farmed here.

  • And they'd worshipped at its many religious sites.

  • Its original name had been Kohemalamalama o Kanaloa.

  • The island had been very sacred and dedicated to Kanaloa.

  • The God of the ocean.

  • But by the time this group of Native Hawaiians made the journey to the island,

  • it was a very different story.

  • The US military had taken over the island of Kaho'olawe.

  • It was just littered with all kinds of artillery bombs, unexploded bombs.

  • Nothing growing.

  • It was the worst environmental damage to land

  • that anybody could ever experience

  • or view or feel.

  • This is Dr. Emmett Aluli,

  • one of many Native Hawaiians on the boats that day in 1976.

  • They wanted to take Kaho'olawe back

  • and they were willing to go up against the most powerful military in the world.

  • What happened next turned this journey into a movement

  • not just to reclaim the island,

  • but to reclaim everything that was taken from Native Hawaiians.

  • This is the story of the taking of one Hawaiian island.

  • But before I tell you that story,

  • I have to start with the taking of all of Hawai'i.

  • More than a thousand years ago, the first Polynesian voyagers made it to the Hawaiian archipelago.

  • Over time, a distinctly Hawaiian culture emerged.

  • Fishing and agriculture were common.

  • And a blend of Polynesian language, arts, and navigation traditions took shape

  • along with an intricate social, political, and religious system.

  • For centuries Native Hawaiians exercised sovereignty over the islands.

  • By 1810 a monarch united the islands as one nation.

  • Around this time, American and European missionaries arrived,

  • along with businessmen looking to turn the land into a sugar industry.

  • Many missionaries believed Hawaiian religious practices were a moral wretchedness and so,

  • they began the work of communicating to them the knowledge of Christ.

  • When the missionaries come with their promise of enlightenment and wisdom

  • our people lost contact with who they were.

  • Over the course of the next century this new western, Christian ideology

  • slowly replaced the traditions and culture of many Native Hawaiians,

  • also known as Kanaka Maoli or Kanaka.

  • The missionaries and businessmen became advisors to the monarchs who then suppressed Hawaiian language, healing practices,

  • navigation arts, and even traditional forms of hula.

  • Soon, they set their sights on privatizing land ownership

  • and changed the political system, too.

  • In 1887, a group led by white businessmen rewrote the constitution

  • forcibly taking away much of the Hawaiian monarchy s power,

  • and disenfranchising most Native Hawaiian voters.

  • When a new monarch Queen Lili'uokalani rose to power,

  • she attempted to restore Native Hawaiian rights.

  • But, in response, much of the same group of wealthy, white businessmen,

  • now known as the Committee of Safety,

  • staged a coup to overthrow the queen's government.

  • In 1893, they illegally took over the government of Hawai'i.

  • Native Hawaiians pushed back and started a movement to reclaim Hawaiian sovereignty.

  • A massive petition drive led to 38,000 signatures

  • that eventually convinced the US Congress to reject the annexation of Hawai'i.

  • But it was a short-lived win.

  • In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out.

  • Part of it was fought in the Philippines, and all of a sudden,

  • the location of the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific became valuable to the US military.

  • Congress quickly passed a resolution and illegally annexed Hawai'i.

  • Decades later, in 1959, Hawai'i became the 50th state of the US.

  • To have this 50th member is truly a unique experience.

  • But statehood made many Native Hawaiian problems worse.

  • The development of resorts and condos increasingly displaced families,

  • encroached on rural land, and exploited Native Hawaiians.

  • By the 1970s a new wave of Native Hawaiian activists demanded change

  • and their protests reignited the movement to reclaim Hawaiian sovereignty.

  • That gave rise to the ALOHA organization.

  • It stood for Aboriginal Lands Of Hawaiian Ancestry.

  • They had a bill for reparations for Native Hawaiians.

  • And the Congress was not taking it seriously.

  • ALOHA came up with an idea:

  • they would occupy federal land to bring attention to their cause.

  • The only question was where.

  • Kaho'olawe is the smallest of the major Hawaiian islands and it sits here,

  • in the middle of the archipelago.

  • Some traditional oli or chants spoke of the importance of the island and navigation.

  • If you are on Kaho'olawe and you're observing what the sky looks like,

  • you could see the where the Southern Cross sits in the sky

  • in relation to the Northern Star.

  • And this was important for training navigators.

  • Not so much how to get where you want to go but how do you get home.

  • Archaeological evidence also suggests that for centuries

  • Kaho'olawe was key to this kind of celestial navigation

  • and was the location of several sacred sites

  • including shrines, petroglyphs and burials.

  • But by 1832 the Hawaiian monarchy started using the island as a penal colony.

  • Then in 1858, the Hawaiian government leased Kaho'olawe out for

  • ranching introducing livestock that depleted the island's soil.

  • In 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor

  • the US declared martial law in Hawai'i,

  • and turned Kaho olawe into a military bombing range.

  • A few years later, when the war ended,

  • Hawaiian territorial officials thought that the island would be returned to civilian jurisdiction.

  • But instead, President Eisenhower issued an executive decree to extend the US use of the island,

  • and then they continued to train for other arenas in Asia and the Pacific.

  • Year after year, Kaho'olawe was used as a practice target for more wars

  • like the Korean War and then Vietnam War.

  • During that period there were targets on the island that resembled Korean vehicles and Korean villages.

  • And then jets would come to practice bombing those targets.

  • The top of the island has been just defaced of any vegetation.

  • It's what we call hardpan.

  • And about eight feet of the topsoil has washed away into the ocean.

  • And every time there's a big rain event,

  • it's bleeding out into the ocean.

  • In one series of Navy explosions, they simulated an atomic bomb blast

  • and exploded 500 tons of TNT.

  • And almost every day in 1970 alone,

  • the Navy used the island for bombings or weapons exercises.

  • Those who live, particularly outside Maui,

  • would see the bombing of Kaho'olawe regularly.

  • Houses would shake.

  • It's just like this way poking a knife into the spirit of the Kanaka

  • every time a bomb would go off.

  • Local residents and politicians began demanding an end to the bombings.

  • So in January 1976, when ALOHA was looking for a location to occupy as a protest

  • they chose Kaho'olawe.

  • The mismanagement of land by the Navy, the military, was just so obvious.

  • And so it was just something we kind of like felt we had to do.

  • Aluli and other activists came together from all over Hawaii.

  • And on January 4th, they left for Kaho'olawe on a fleet of boats.

  • But there was a problem:

  • a leaked press release led to the Coast Guard intercepting them

  • bringing the risk of arrest and federal charges.

  • One boat with Aluli and eight other protesters on it snuck past the Coast Guard

  • and made it to the island.

  • But the Coast Guard wasn't far behind.

  • We saw them coming with their megaphones and telling us that we needed to board the Coast

  • Guard cutter and get taken back to Maui.

  • Myself and one of the organizers from Maui, Walter Ritte,

  • we decided we didn't come to call Kaho'olawe just to get back with the Coast Guard.

  • As the Coast Guard caught up with the group on the shore,

  • Aluli and Walter Ritte broke away and went deeper into the island.

  • There were no trails to follow and the paths were rough

  • but slowly they made their way up to the peak of the island.

  • And then once we were on the top,

  • just knowing that this island was almost central in our archipelago,

  • that it must have been something real special.

  • But then you see the devastation.

  • For two days, Aluli and Ritte hid out on the island.

  • The island was muddy, was red.

  • There were old trucks that were lined up to be caravans.

  • These are the targets.

  • The whole island was littered with targets.

  • On day three, federal marshals found Aluli and Ritte,

  • arrested them, and flew them off the island.

  • But just being able to kind of be lifted up in a helicopter

  • and seeing more damage and feeling more passionate,

  • about we got to do something.

  • It was like the land was calling to me pleading, crying, asking us to do something.

  • We decided to come over and pay a visit to the governor and pay a visit to you also.

  • Inspired by what they saw, the activists formed a new group,

  • Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana, to focus specifically on caring for the island.

  • At the core of their work,

  • was the concept of Aloha 'Aina.

  • Aloha 'Aina in its simplest form is just to love the land.

  • But for us Aloha 'Aina also has a deep political meaning,

  • and that it means a love of your nation.

  • The organizing for Kaho'olawe helped spark a greater movement for Hawaiian rights

  • in what became known as the Hawaiian Renaissance.

  • Congress and American people need to know we're not just happy natives

  • dancing the hula for the tourists and playing our ukulele.

  • That we have serious problems

  • with so many of our people incarcerated,

  • so many of our families having to rely upon welfare for their subsistence

  • and very serious health problems.

  • Activists across Hawaii were pushing for

  • the revival of Hawaiian culture, language and ethnic studies education

  • along with land and water rights for residents.

  • If we can give mother nature back to Kaho'olawe, fight. We got to go fight.

  • As for the island of Kaho'olawe,

  • a charismatic activist named George Helm stepped up

  • to lead the fight to put an end to the bombings.

  • And for months, the group organized further occupations of the island.

  • And if all us Hawaiians can go there and touch it, we'll all come together.

  • So that began a movement.

  • That must have been like maybe 30 other arrests, individuals,

  • There was jail time.

  • The Navy didn't know how to handle this,

  • didn't know how to control the arrests.

  • The movement was picking up but in 1977, tragedy struck.

  • Two activists Kimo Mitchell and leader George Helm

  • were lost at sea on the way back from Kaho'olawe.

  • George Helm after he disappeared, we didn't know why he left,

  • how he left and who was responsible for it.

  • We had to reorganize our movement.

  • We all felt that we had to make a commitment to make his life worthwhile,

  • that the loss would not be in vain.

  • Prior to his disappearance, Helm had spearheaded something important,

  • a class action civil suit against the Navy.

  • The suit claimed the Navy was in violation of environmental protection laws

  • and the National Historic Preservation Act.

  • There are cultural sites that are on the island.

  • And the Navy was not doing its duty to protect them.

  • In 1980, the Navy and Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana entered into a consent decree.

  • The Navy would have to start cleaning up the island,

  • and give the activists partial access too.

  • One of the first things activists did was revive the Makahiki ceremony

  • a religious celebration that had been suppressed for 200 years.

  • The most important thing that the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana has probably accomplished

  • is reviving our connection as Native Hawaiians to our our Kua,

  • our natural elements and and calling our our deities back into our lives

  • and reviving our soul as a people.

  • After another decade of continued pressure,

  • in 1990 President George H.W. Bush ordered the complete halt to bombing practices on the island.

  • Congress also ordered the return of the island to Hawai'i

  • and Hawai'i s state legislature banned any future commercial activity on the island.

  • Fourteen years after the first landing on Kaho 'olawe,

  • a grassroots movement was able to take on the US Navy

  • and win.

  • Today, the restoration of Kaho'olawe is ongoing.

  • The US government still hasn't gotten rid of all the bomb fragments and unexploded ordnance.

  • But with the help of Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana and a state reserve commission,

  • the island is slowly healing.

  • The closer you get,

  • you see the island is getting green.

  • It's important that we have places like Kaho'olawe to sort of serve as

  • these kipuka, as we call them or little circles,

  • little areas where where life regenerates

  • to really reengage with environment and earth

  • and see the importance of Aloha 'Aina really.

  • Kaho'olawe is now a symbol of hope.

  • And for Native Hawaiians, who continue to fight for sovereignty,

  • reclaiming Kaho'olawe is a step towards reclaiming all of Hawaii.

  • Kaho'olawe is a model of what can be done on other islands and other communities.

  • The only disappointing frustration is that

  • I'm not going to be around for the next generation.

  • Kaho'olawe is the hope that brings us deliverance from our colonized past

  • to who we are and who we will be in the future.

On January 4th, 1976,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 US Vox hawaiian island native hawai navy

How Native Hawaiians fought the US Navy, and won

  • 5 0
    joey joey posted on 2021/06/08
Video vocabulary