Anne Keala Kelly: U.S. Occupation of Hawaii Killing Indigenous Roots

If you've just tuned in and missed Part One of this compelling interview with Hawaiian filmmaker, Anne Keala Kelly on her documentary film 'Noho Hewa', then go check it out.

In the Part Two, Keala:
  • shares how Hawaiians have lost their spiritual center 
  • talks about desecration of the land 
  • offers her opinion of what we can do 
  • briefly touches on how poverty kills resistance 
Exploiting Natural Resources is Part of the Ongoing Genocide
Our natural resources are exploited in every conceivable way.  Water is diverted from farming to golf courses and condos and hotels.

Our land is tortured and used to death by the military industry… 60 % of what the military uses right now in Hawai'i is on the most contested land in the archipelago, the Crown and Government land of the Hawaiian Kingdom, referred to as “ceded land.” But it’s land that was never ceded… it’s land that was illegally taken and is illegally and immorally occupied by the U.S. military.

Another issue is with regard to land is desecration.

Our people’s bones are buried throughout this place and our sacred sites are everywhere as well. The practices here is removing our ancestors and bulldoze the sites to make way for foreigners.

It’s part of the ongoing genocide in Hawaii. Cultural genocide and spiritual genocide of Hawaiians, nobody else, just us Hawaiians.

And the GMO industry here… we have the largest concentration of open field genetically modified organism test sites in the world.

While we have more endangered species habitat per square mile than any other place on earth, we have the largest military command on earth to go with it.

So our natural resources are being used to manifest the most unnatural things imaginable: food that cannot be eaten and the practice of murdering people and dominating the world through the U.S. military.

And just a quick note on resources: water and land are finite. To waste it on polluting industries that can’t feed us, and only destroy what we need to survive here is evil.

But it’s business as usual here.

Our land can grow whatever we plant in it. Instead of living off the land, about 98% or more of what people consume here in Hawai'i is shipped in from the continent. So the way natural resources are used here is insane, economically and otherwise.

Poverty Has Taken Its Toll on Hawaiians

As the economy gets worse and worse, yes, the homeless population grows. There are lots of people out there who are not Hawaiian, but about 70% or more are Hawaiian.

It’s an ongoing problem because a) our disappearance or assimilation, which is the same thing, is the U.S. agenda here, and b) poverty is a powerful tool for removing a people from their land. It keeps them from political action because they are too busy trying to survive.

The homeless woman you see in the trailer is Annie Pau. She was a friend, and I say was because she died this past August. Poverty probably shortened her life by 20 years or more.

Image Credit: jayul

Destroying Our roots Has Caused Spiritual Damage

This is a tough one for me right now because I see so little resistance these days. I see fear and assimilation and I see Hawaiian gatekeepers, mainly from the academic industrial complex and non-profit industrial complex.

I see Hawaiians selling us all out for their individual middle class lives and personal gain. There is more energy put into containing the movement than there is into growing it.

It’s disappointing and depressing to see how many excuses Hawaiians come up with for not resisting. Whereas just a few years ago when I was reporting regularly and filming “Noho Hewa” resistance was everywhere.

Now there are more Hawaiian gatekeepers than there are gates to go around.

So I don’t know what to say about the status of the movement or resistance. To me, if a movement is co-opted by the academic industrial complex that means it’s not in the streets and if it’s not in the streets it’s reduced to intellectual arguments.

I have come to see the dozens of panel discussions that go on, many of which I have participated in over the past decade, as a way of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Hawaiians these days are far more comfortable not taking on their oppressor in any serious way.

It’s sad to say this to you, Simba, because I did so much reporting on the movement when you were at FSRN. And it was hopeful then.

As I always believe, forcing people of the earth to live in an un-natural concrete jungle destroys roots.

In what ways has militarism, tourism and the influx of Americans (traditionally colonialists from Europe) affected Hawaiian roots?

In every way I’ve mentioned and more. 

Of course, it’s easy to talk about the “issues” and point to the evil capitalist empire (!) and say “bad white people” and “bad Asian settler people” and so on.  

But the real damage, the most costly and the one that has to be addressed if we are going to survive, is the spiritual damage.  

When you destroy a people’s land and force them to assimilate and erase their knowledge, they lose their spiritual center.  

Hawaiian world, Hawaii itself… the spirit of the place can still be felt.  

Personally, I have had more “spiritual” experiences in Hawai'i than I can number. And I believe every single one of them is ancestral, something genealogical being transmitted.

I can also say there are places I can’t go anymore, like Kona. That’s where my genealogy is from, where most of my relatives still live. But over the past five years the desecration of that place has become so pervasive that I physically, emotionally and psychologically can’t bear to be there.  

Until then, Kona… it was my homeland, it was like my true north on a compass.  

Now it’s rare that I am in Kona for more than an hour or just to pass through.  

This is not an easy thing to say, but it’s true to say that a place can be desecrated to a point where the sacred ceases to exist there. That’s what has happened in Kona, although there are still sacred sites and Hawaiians are still there, such terrible things have happened there for so long that it's spiritually has taken a huge toll.

I don’t know how to measure that cost. It is generational, this spiritual damage.

Hawai'i… the largest export from the land of “aloha” is death, murder and destruction of nature. 

Before the U.S. performs war on other countries it practices it here and destroys our land first, kills our way of life, which makes sustaining life here impossible. As Monsanto and Syngenta and other GMO giants develop their industry of dead food, they kill our land and use our water to do it.

It’s no accident that the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base is in a place called Mokapu. That place was sacred, and it is featured in “Noho Hewa” as the site of the largest ongoing desecration in Hawai'i. Thousands of Hawaiians have been dug up, their bones sitting in boxes in the Bishop Museum. 

How’s that for insanity, necrophilia, and genocide?

And in place of those burials, murder is practiced. And those marines get on planes and ships and they take what they learned in this desecrated place to other countries and practice what they learned on the burial grounds of my ancestors.

When Hawaiians are taken out of the ground, when we cannot grow the food that makes us healthy, our roots, and our literal proof of our belonging to this place, of our being of this place is eviscerated.  

How can we continue raising awareness about the ongoing indigenous struggle?

That’s the question, what can we do?  We can do what we can do… we can do what you do with this blog and your reporting.

We can do what I do with filmmaking and speaking out. There’s no shortage of ways to communicate these days, right?

But the most challenging part of raising awareness is to do it in a way that makes people understand their responsibility and that they have a role to play in life, in history, as part of humanity.

And that everyone’s participation is necessary if we are going to change the direction we are headed in as a species.

I am reminded of something I saw about 6 or 7 years ago when I was at the beginning stages of shooting “Noho Hewa.”  I had just gotten back from Maui and while there I had filmed Kaleikoa Kaeo. He is a very powerful speaker and super knowledgeable on Hawaiian history, language, culture and politics.

So a week or so after I shot all this footage of him, I was online checking out a BBC story about how mining is forcing Bushman of the Kalahari out of their homeland, even forcing them out of the reservations they have been forced to live on. Because mining interests are rich and powerful and they want what they want, right? Even if it costs the future of a people.

So I’m watching this program and I see this man in his 30s, and he’s wearing a t-shirt and shorts and sneakers and I’m thinking (with my colonised mind!) wow, so that’s what a Bushman looks like?

I guess I expected he’d be wearing traditional garb, probably the way people expect to see Hawaiian men wearing malo (loin cloth).

And as I was observing my own ridiculous thoughts, acknowledging the degree to which I have been conditioned to expect certain ideas, the man spoke about how his people are being forced out of their homeland.

He talked about how foreign interests are determining their future. He talked about how his people need to have access to their land, their natural resources to survive.

Simba, he literally spoke in a way and about the same issues Kaleikoa had spoken of just the week before. I almost fell out of my chair. He was literally the Bushman equivalent of Kaleikoa, only he was talking about a mining company and Kaleikoa was talking about the military industry.

But other than that, these two men, approximately the same age, were saying the exact same thing, only one was in Africa and one was in Hawai'i.

When it comes to indigenous issues, we may have slightly different variations on the colonial experience, but our issues are identical.

The last thing I’d like to say on this matter of “raising awareness” is that among ourselves as indigenous, we have to be willing to raise our own awareness.

We need to be aware of who among us is selling us out and refuse to go along with it. We need to be brave enough to speak the truth even if the first people we need to speak it to are our own people. It’s hard to accept the betrayal of our own kind, but harder still to bear the oppression those among us are so willing to burden us with.

We don’t stand a chance of surviving if we can’t be honest with each other and ourselves first.