Letters to the Editor

The answer

In his column “Are Hilo Projects Money Well-spent?” Bob Jones wonders whether there will be jobs for all those Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language graduates being churned out from UH-Hilo at taxpayer expense?

Mr. Jones need not worry – because the Legislature is making work for them. SB-406 will force every state government agency to hire OHA-approved bureaucrats to brainwash directors and employees in OHA’s views about Hawaiian “rights” and culture. HB-109 will force all government stationery and documents to be printed with UH-style Hawaiian grammar, syntax and diacritical marks. Both bills are headed for final passage.

Kenneth R. Conklin

Living language

Bob Jones asks what I hope is a rhetorical question, “So we’re preserving a language. Is that essential?”

Language is defined by culture and vice versa. No better way to send a race into oblivion than by wiping out its language. That nearly happened when missionaries decided to remake Hawaii in their own image. And this is what Mr. Jones seems to be advocating.

He says: “Traditional knowledge left by kupuna is important for present-day Hawaiians. How about non-Hawaiians?”

All knowledge has value. If our population intends to somehow feed itself in due time, that traditional knowledge is essential. The people with the best understanding of sustainable living were pre-contact Hawaiians. Some of that information is slowly being rediscovered and implemented.

Here’s an example. People say there’s no fish because fishermen are wiping them out. What very few think about is that no creature can exist if there’s no food and no shelter. The reef has been wrecked by silt and pollution. Algae specific to the diets of many herbivores are gone because fresh water critical to estuarial environments has been diverted or cut off.

What we have today is extensive construction without considering environmental consequences, particularly to our ocean resources. Some of the old fishponds are now subdivisions: Hawaii Kai, Wailupe Circle. That was just over 50 years ago.

Prior to the loss of the Kuapa fishponds, there were runs consisting of hundreds of thousands of mullet. Fishermen had permanent fishing stands in Ala Wai Canal and elsewhere. In the 1960s, these stands began to fall apart, neglected because the mullet disappeared. And the mullet disappeared because their most productive habitats were buried under a subdivision.

Traditional Hawaiian knowledge made it possible for major aquacultural projects to consistently provide fish for the people of Hawaii. These fish didn’t have to be fed; unlike cattle that requires the cultivation of a crop to feed the livestock, Hawaiian fishponds thrived without having to deplete another resource. What kept these ponds going were sunlight, fresh water, and nutrients that naturally fed the ponds. Compare that to today’s large-scale aqua-culture projects.

If the language is lost, the subtle details of that wisdom also are lost. For Mr. Jones to even raise questions about the value of the Hawaiian language is disrespectful of the culture and all Native Hawaiians. And it deprives the rest of us non-Hawaiians the benefit of learning other ways of doing things better.

Dean Sensui
Executive Producer,
“Hawai’i Goes Fishing”