native Hawaiians

What is Hawaiian? That is the Question

It's Aloha Friday! That means that in preparation for the weekend, I have prepared something a little more historical and intellectual for the blog. Fridays from here on out are reserved for answering questions about Hawaiian history and culture. Today's question asks, What is Hawaiian?. The answers to this question will illustrate what is meant when the word "Hawaiian" is used and delve into some detail of what this word connotates both in the islands and on the mainland. In a future post, I will talk about the history and origin of common Hawaiian icons. But for now, let's talk about the concept of 'Hawaiian'.

So, what is Hawaiian?

The Associated Press Stylebook defines Hawaiians as "members of an ethnic group indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and are also called Native Hawaiians. Use Hawaii resident or islander for anyone living in the state." This definition is important because AP Style is used by almost every news organization in America. This also means that "Hawai'i" would never appear in the newspaper, except maybe in Hawai'i. I understand that this might mean that the title of the blog is misspelled, but "kawaii" doesn't have an 'okina (the glottal stop symbol that looks like the apostrophe) and I am anal about consistency. I would have to misspell one or the other or else change the name of the blog entirely.

What is a Native Hawaiian? According Section 3, Definitions, of Senate Bill No. 147, March 2005, sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI),

(1) ABORIGINAL, INDIGENOUS, NATIVE PEOPLE. - The term "aboriginal, indigenous, native people" means people whom Congress has recognized as the original inhabitants of the lands that later became part of the United States and who exercised sovereignty in the areas that later became part of the United States.

According to the U.S Census Bureau Demographic Profile, there are over 400,000 Native Hawaiians currently living in the United States. About half of these people live in the state of Hawai'i.

Hawaiian could also refer to the Hawaiian language, one of the two official languages of the state. It was originally an oral language until missionaries in the 19th century created a written form in order to teach Hawaiians the word of the Bible. It's very similar to the Samoan, Tahitian and Marquesian languages. In 2002, the University of Hawaii at Hilo established a masters program in the Hawaiian Language. In fall 2006, they established a doctoral program in the Hawaiian Language. In addition to being the first doctoral program for the study of Hawaiian, it is the first doctoral program established for the study of any native language in the United States of America.

With all this in mind, what does 'Hawaiian' mean to you?