[Documents menu]History of Hawaii
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 97 11:37:38 CST
From: "Workers World" <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Hawaiian youth leader: 'Respect people, land'
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Mar. 20, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper

Hawaiian youth leader: 'Respect the people and the land'

By Monica Moorehead, in Workers World
20 March 1997

Workers World recently interviewed Noelani Goodyear Kaopua, a 22-year-old University of Hawaii graduate who led a youth workshop during the Linking Up the Struggles conference in Honolulu in early February. She describes her heritage as Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian), Chinese and English.

MM: What are some of the problems facing Hawaiian youth?

NK: Considering the legacy of colonialism and imperialism, there are Hawaiian youth who are out of touch with what their heritage is and are not taught to speak our language. They do not know our religious and other traditions. They are alienated from the land and this leads to a whole lot of other problems such as kids getting involved with crime, gangs and just feeling lost.

MM: Do you see a genuine differentiation of the problems facing teenagers and young adults or is it solely generational?

NK: I think that it all stems from the same historical circumstances--the overthrow of our nation and the banning of our language.

MM: What are the main issues you are involved in now as an activist?

NK: I am mainly involved in the movement for sovereignty and independence for Kanaka Maoli. At the root of this movement is what we call Aloha Aina, a core value at the heart of our culture and traditions--which means to love the land, respect the land as you would your mother and to feel a certain responsibility to it.

You do not see the land as a commodity or something to exploit for oneself but as something to care for. In return you will be cared for.

I think a lot of young people my age feel alienated from their traditions, but there are other young people who are starting to return to the traditions and language. ... We do not want to see ourselves as solely being environmentalists because we are concerned not only about the land but about the people. They go hand in hand.

MM: With all of the day to day challenges facing Hawaiian youth and students, how do you go about seeking out and reaching out to these youth?

NK: The group that I am working with now is called Aloha Aina. What Aloha Aina is trying to do is carry out political educational programs in schools. We want to bring youth together to discuss what kinds of issues they are facing, particularly in regards to sovereignty and the need to build a new nation.

MM: If you could come to the U.S. to speak to young activists and organizers, what would be your main message to them? Also how can they show solidarity with your struggle for sovereignty?

NK: So many people do not know that there is an indigenous population in Hawaii so I would let people know that Hawaiian people do exist. And although we have been colonized for over 200 years, we still have our own distinct language, our own distinct way of living, our own beliefs and practices which are being threatened every day by the current U.S. political and economic system.

It would be important to support the idea of the sovereignty and independence for Native people here and of course, they should do the same for Native peoples everywhere. While we want people to come here to visit, we ask that they not stay in those mass tourist hotels. We want to have people like yourself come here to see what our struggle is all about.

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