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The Hawaiian Renaissance by George S. Kanahele
May 1979

I asked the librarians in the Hawaiian Room at the main branch of the State Library and in the Hawaiian Collection at Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii and the State Archivist whether they have noticed any increase by the public in the use of material relating to Hawaiiana. "No question," they said. the increase in recent years is anywhere from two to four times. One librarian wearily complained about the "hoards of instant historians descending on us looking for God knows what." according to the State Archivist, what people mostly look for in the Archives is genealogical information relating to land matters.

Not only librarians, but kupuna are being sought out to tell what they know about events, people, songs, things--anything about the past. I'm not so sure how all the tutus feel about all this attention, but it is good to know that some are willing to share their secrets.

This surging interest in research and study has led to demands on the part of students and teachers for the University of Hawaii to recognize Hawaiian studies as a legitimate academic program. As a result, two years ago, the University set up a Hawaiian studies Program and last year appointed its first permanent director, Abraham Pi'ianaia, though only on a half-time basis. Another half-time position has been added and some funds for curriculum development and publications. However, the University president has still to act on whether to approve a bachelor's degree in Hawaiian studies as well as a separate degree in Hawaiian language. I understand it's only a question of time. The university moves slowly, but we have good reason to wonder why it has taken the University of Hawaii so long to recognize Hawaiian studies as a serious subject worthy of academic standing.

And we might also ask the same question as to why the University has just gotten around to designating a professor of Hawaiian History in the history department. But never mind, better late than never. Fortunately, its first appointee is a Hawaiian, Professor Nawahine King Joerger. Out of her classes and the Hawaiian studies program should come a new occupational or professional group of Hawaiian specialists who will help to shape the Renaissance of the future.

What have we to show for all this study and research? A helluva lot. An enormous output ranging from songs and chants, to dances and art works, crafts and writings of all kinds--poems, plays, novels, articles, books, monographs, dissertations, and assorted publications. Let me prove this with some figures. Dave Kittelson, curator of the Hawaiian collection at the University of Hawaii , reports that 129 titles, i.e., books, reprints, pamphlets, leaflets, monographs, dealing with Hawaiiana subjects in Hawaii and the U.S. were published during the years 1960 to '69. But during the 1970s so far 371 titles have already been published. That more than a 200 percent increase. It is also interesting that outside Hawaii during the 1960s 11 master's or doctoral theses were produced dealing with Hawaiiana subjects, whereas in the 1970s so far 28 have been produced. That's more than a hundred percent increase. While I do not have any figures for the University of Hawaii, I would guess that there would be comparable increases.

Who is responsible for these writings? To be honest, I think mostly non-ethnic Hawaiians. But there is a growing number of ethnic Hawaiian writers and scholars who have already produced more in this decade than in the past two or more decades. Maybe the Renaissance has not yet produced the great Hawaiian historian, poet, dramatist, or novelist, but I think it is only a matter of time.

The intellectual ferment we see developing among Hawaiians today will certainly bring about a class of respected native intellectuals. A Ph.D. is no guarantee of a person becoming or being an intellectual, but it is worthwhile to note that more Hawaiians are earning doctoral degrees now than ever before. Prior to the '70s a Hawaiian with a doctorate was a rare species, but it's no longer very true.

You know, it was only four years ago when a popular guidebook on Hawaii, published by a well-known international firm in the field stated and I quote: "So far there have been no Hawaiian intellectuals. There may never be." Why? The reason it gives is because Hawaiians are "allergic to thought."

If it's any comfort to you, that guidebook today no longer contains that statement.

It was also about four or five years ago when Zulu used to tell funny jokes about the dumb Hawaiians who went to school only to eat lunch and so on. From no on I think you're going to hear less and less, and eventually none of those kind of jokes.

In our reflecting on our pst, I think we should remind ourselves of the important place that the intellectuals occupied in the Hawaiian elite. They were, after all, the kahunas, the scholar-priests, or at least some of them were. Since there was no written language everything had to be recorded in the memory banks of these intellectual giants. The old Hawaiians, therefore, must have had enormous respect for the human mind and for those who were gifted in its use. How good it is to see us rediscovering this traditional value.

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