Category Archives: communities

Celebrating Kamehameha the Great

“He wishes to increase the happiness and not the wants of his people.”

~Captain Otto Von Kotzebue (1787-1846) Russian Navigator

Although there is some debate as to the precise year of his birth, Hawaiian legends claimed that a great king would one day unite the islands, and that the sign of his birth would be a comet. Halley’s comet was visible from Hawai`i in 1758.

The name Kamehameha means “the one set apart.” For 13 years, from 1782 to 1795, he waged numerous battles to conquer the islands, ultimately uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, becoming the first king, and establishing a dynasty that endured for over a century.

As a leader in restoring the islands, he urged his people to work and to grow food. They said of him,

“He is a farmer, a fisherman, a maker of cloth, a provider for the needy, and a father to the fatherless.”

As king, Kamehameha took several steps to ensure that the islands remained a united realm even after his death. He unified the legal system and traded shrewdly with the foreigners that followed Captain Cook. He did not allow non-Hawaiians to own land and this edict ensured the islands’ independence during a time when other Pacific island nations were succumbed to colonization. When Kamehameha died in 1819 his body was hidden by his trusted friend Hoapili, and his wife Keopuolani. It is said that only the stars know Kamehameha’s final resting place.

Each year on June 11th a state holiday honors Hawaii’s first monarch.  In addition to the traditional draping of lei on his statues, floral parades take place throughout the islands. With hundreds of riders on horseback, the parades showcase pa‘u equestrian units, marching bands, private mounted units, hula halau, floats, and more.



MAUI NUI is world-renowned for magnificent beachfront, currently boasting a Makena beach property listed at $22 million.  But there is another reality to living on the beach…

According to the HOMELESS SERVICE UTILIZATION REPORT, HAWAI`I 2010, the number of Maui County persons served by Shelter and Outreach Programs has reached 1,161 — tripling since 2005.   11% of this population is employed, and 9% consist of families with children.  (

These numbers do not account for the hidden homeless, who sleep on a relative’s sofa, or in their cars, or camp in areas not as visible as the public beaches.  The housing boom and bust sweeping across the U.S. is displacing families nationwide, but the problem in Hawaii — where land costs are more than five times the national average — is particularly acute. Rents in Hawaii are among the highest in the nation. Both the inventory of public and affordable housing, and the availability of emergency shelter is limited.

 “If we don’t do something to address the crisis in affordable housing we are not going to solve homelessness.”

Nan Roman, President-National Alliance to End Homelessness

YOU CAN HELP.  Start by visiting:



PIDGIN: Help or Hindrance?

 “Every time we close the door on pidgin, we close the door on culture.”               ~Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Hawaii Author

Pidgin, or Hawaii Creole English as experts call it, began as a form of communication used between non-English speaking immigrants who came to work on the plantations, and the Hawaiian and English speaking residents.  Pidgin has been influenced by the many languages of settlers in Hawai’i which included Portuguese, Cantonese (Chinese), Japanese, Filipino and Korean, as well as Spanish, Mexican and Puerto Rican.

Pidgin started to be used outside the plantation between ethnic groups in the community, and school children learned pidgin from their classmates. Eventually it replaced their original languages and became the primary verbal communication of most of the people in Hawai’i.

Hawaiian Creole English borrows vocabulary and syntax from Hawaiian.  Most place names are retained from Hawaiian, as are some names for plants or animals.  For example, tuna fish are often called ahi.   Some expressions, such as brah and da kine, have found their way to other places.  Syntax often follows that of Hawaiian.  Certain words can be dropped if their meaning is implicit.  For example, instead of saying “It is hot today, isn’t it?,” a pidgin speaker is likely to say simply “stay hot, ah?” Grammatically, pidgin follows an English translation of the Hawaiian language.

In the classroom however there was intolerance of pidgin by Hawai’i’s teachers and administrators as it was considered to be a hindrance to learning standard English.

But in the 1970s, linguists studying the varieties of Creole English throughout the world came to consider these dialects to be languages in their own right and advocated their use in the classroom as a means of reaching pidgin-speaking students who could not understand the teachers.

Many Hawai’i children grew up speaking standard English in the classroom and at home, then switching to pidgin, or Hawaii Creole English,  in the playground and neighborhood. Those who can switch between two languages have an added skill and are known as ‘code switchers.’

“They have a clear advantage in that they can negotiate in different situations,” says Walter Wolfram, a North Carolina State University linguist.  In a 2004 study published in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers determined that bilingual speakers are better able to deal with distractions, and that may help offset age-related declines in mental performance.



In 2008, voter turnout in Maui County was 61.1%, the lowest in the State — with Hawaii ranked the lowest in the nation.

                                                                                                                                                                 Soon some of us will head to the polls and vote. But based on history, most of us won’t. Voter turnout has been declining so stubbornly since the 1960s that barely half the electorate votes in presidential elections, and only 36 to 38 percent does in off-year elections such as this one. Actually, voters are America’s newest, most powerful minority.

Just how much do we value our constitutionally protected right to choose our own leaders?

In 2008, just 36 out of every 100 Maui Nui residents cast a vote. Did these voters represent your voice, and your choice in determining who would lead our county into the future? Did they share your vision for Maui Nui? Did they speak for you?

There is no right to vote in the United States Constitution, so each state’s standards have evolved separately. When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10-16 percent of the nation’s population) had the right to vote. And in spite of a successful, 200+ year universal suffrage movement the United States was one of the last Western nations to guarantee the vote to all citizens.  Yet Americans vote less than any other people in Western societies. 

 Low turnout is most pronounced in off-year elections for state legislators and local officials, as well as in primaries. And there are enormous disparities that exist in America across income levels in all forms of participation, particularly voting. Add certain barriers to voting, such as registration and the untimely scheduling of elections during the workweek, that further expand the disparity in turnout between low and high-income voters. It is clear that the removal of barriers has the potential to not only increase turnout, but also to narrow the gap in voting disparities.

However, turnout decline cannot be blamed solely on  barriers because voter motivation is by far the biggest factor involving participation. Rules like voter registration laws, early voting and polling place accessibility that affect voter access do matter. But when addressing motivation there are a range of factors, such as voter perceptions of the importance of the choice, how close the election is, and how much different potential outcomes will affect their lives – that matter more.  Even if those perceptions do not reflect reality.

The issues facing Maui County, and the State of Hawaii, like every other county and state in America, are unique. But as an extended ohana we are joined together as a nation, and depend on each other to be the best that we can be, individually and collectively. 

 Voter turnout is a necessary factor for a healthy democracy. We must do better. The schools can do more to give students a decent civic education and to help them register so that the first election upon graduation is a step toward lifelong participation. Other entities-including the churches, the news media, the universities, the nonprofits, unions, and corporations-must also use their power to assist people in the exercise of the vote. 

If citizens cannot be encouraged to participate more fully, our community, our county, our state, and our nation will face the far greater challenge of how to maintain self-government — of the people and by the people — when people don’t vote.





OUR TOWNS: Wailuku

Wailuku was the home of Kahekili, Maui’s most powerful chief, who ruled Maui from 1736-1793.

WAILUKU, meaning ‘Water of Destruction’, was a center of power and population in pre-historic Hawai’i and the home of Kahekili (1706-1793), named after the God of Thunder, who reigned over Maui prior to Western  contact.  Kahekili’s kingdom extended to include all of the Hawaiian Islands except Hawai’i Island.  Rumored to be the biological father of Kamehameha the Great, Kahekili paved the way for Kamehameha’s unification of   Hawai’i. He maintained a court at the entrance to I’ao Valley at what is now the mauka [toward the mountain] area bounded by the corner of Main, High, and Vineyard Streets.

From the missionary era through the plantation era, and during the political shifts from Kingdom to State, Wailuku remained a most desirable place for its location, agricultural richness, and climate.  In 1905, the Territorial Legislature designated Wailuku as Maui County’s seat of government.   By 1920, Wailuku had  become a bustling commercial and government center.  Many homes and buildings in Wailuku date from that earlier heyday and offer a special glimpse into the past.  Starting in the 1950s, with Kahului’s growth as Maui’s ‘new’ commercial center, began a progressive economic decline for Wailuku.

But today Maui Nui’s capital town is enjoying the results of on-going revitalization efforts, initiated in the 1980s with community, government, and stakeholder investment.  Refurbished and new buildings along Market, Main and Vineyard Streets display Wailuku’s heritage.  And anchored by the historic Iao Theatre, these plantation style and Art Deco structures now house many unique shops, restaurants and offices.



“In this diverse society, we should not isolate ourselves socially, politically, economically or physically.”

~Daniel K. Inouye, Senator, U.S. Congress 

November 21, 1958: Maui County Board of Supervisors Resolution 84

Representing 42,597 citizens of Maui County the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Resolution 84, stating that they

“…respectfully request and urge the Congress of the United States to grant immediate statehood to the Territory of Hawaii…”

The Goal was Democracy

Hawaii was officially proclaimed the 50th state of the United States by President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959.  The presidential action was followed by the unfurling of a new fifty-star flag, which became official the following Independence Day.

Much of the decades-long opposition to Hawaii statehood came from Southern members of Congress who took a dim view of the mixed racial strains of Hawaii’s population.  But in mid-March 1959 Congress approved Hawaii’s statehood bill setting up the required plebiscite and statehood elections.  This action extended the rights and benefits of full American citizenship to an isolated group of islands with a multi-ethnic population.  Observers called it the first major piece of civil rights legislation to be passed by the postwar Congress.

It had been a long journey to statehood for approximately 500,000 citizens of the Territory of Hawaii who finally had the opportunity to vote on the Admissions Act of 1959, and to elect, for the first time, their own judges, governor, senators, representatives and president.