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‘Forget you are Hawaiians; you are Americans’

By Staff | Jul 2, 2015

WAILUKU – In the year 1900, The Maui News commented that Hawaiians “must forget they are Hawaiians and remember only that they are Americans. It is a monotonous untruth that the native Hawaiians have been cheated of their lands by the missionaries or the sugar planters or anybody else. On Maui, the bulk of sugar plantations were formerly arid lands that nobody wanted and have been made valuable only by the outlay of vast sums for irrigating dishes and pumps… “

These and other fascinating facts and fictions can be found in the old book “Kalai Aina, County of Maui” published by Maui County, which relates everything from when the first horseless carriages arrived on the island to the identity of the first Lahaina soldier to be named a lieutenant in World War. II. The volume is an example of the many that can be picked up for a song at the Friends of the Library’s three used bookstores and now in my bookcase.

“Kalai Aina” sheds a lot of light on how Maui evolved in post-kingdom days, with The Maui News saying it best (or worst, considering your point of view), showing the kind of thinking that almost destroyed the rich Hawaiian culture.

In 1900, The Maui News noted that concerns that “Hawaiians would continue to cling together in a party composed wholly of Hawaiians” was both “groundless and silly… Let them have time to grasp the (great thought) that all hopes of a restoration of the monarchy is (sic) gone.”

“New issues are before the people today, and it is not right or wise to keep digging into the unpleasant past,” someone wrote in The Maui News (it isn’t clear if it’s a letter or article in the book). “If hot-headed royalists wanted to cut off the heads of the obstreperous haoles, if sugar barons wanted to head the royalty off… that is all over now, and we are all to be good American citizens.”

In 1900, again, the first election to the territorial legislature is held. The Republican Party, organized by the plantation owners and managers, is competing with the Hawaiian Home Rule, Native Hawaiian Party. “Republicans tried to appear to be the Hawaiians’ best friends.” “The campaign boiled down to a bitter contest between the haoles and Kanakas (Hawaiians)” The Maui News reported. The Home Rule Party achieved an overwhelming victory.

Some 27,920 souls lived on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Eleven sugar plantations were the most productive in the islands.

In 1901, Hawaiians wanted to rename Maui County to Liliuokalani County in honor of the deposed queen, with Lahaina as the government center. Sheriff I.M. Baldwin organized a mass protest when the Wailuku courthouse was “no more than a grass shack,” the author of the book writes. Wailuku won out, despite the fact that Lahaina had an imposing courthouse. The sheriff’s salary was $600 a year. The first legislature was known as the “Lady Dog Legislature,” because of a law requiring taxpayers to pay $3 for every female dog and $1 for males.

In 1905, the first automobiles appear on Maui.

In 1910, the county Board of Supervisors, predecessor to the County Council, acquired its first typewriter.

In 1929, InterIsland Air begins passenger service. The Maui News sponsors a model airplane contest with 183 entries.

By 1930, the Maui population doubles to 55,541. Today, it is more than 140,000. Filipinos are the biggest group working on the plantations. Six sugar plantations include Wailuku and Olowalu Sugar and Pioneer Mill Co. Canned pineapple became Maui’s second largest industry (Baldwin Packers in later years operated a cannery where Lahaina Cannery Mall now stands). An early attempt to preserve most of the cannery’s structure for the mall failed.

In 1940, war seems imminent. The county makes the first of many preparations by organized blackouts (drivers were asked to pull off the road and extinguish lights).

1951: Maui survives the war. Final lava rock is blasted away to finish the road over the Pali (and completion of the tunnel the next year), literally paving the way for the tourism industry in West Maui.

Hawaiians struggled for another five decades before their rich culture would begin to come back through the Hawaiian Renaissance, and lately in immersion schools where only Hawaiian is spoken. Despite these strides, the culture would never be the same.

Columnist’s Notebook: Another column this summer will recount the war years. Quotations here come from “Kalai Aina, County of Maui” by Antonio Ramil, publication date unknown.