Hawaii had a stable society, culture, religion, and language for at least 500 years (Wikipedia). Then the haole immigrants showed up. From Lonely Planet Hawaii:
The missionaries found one thing that attracted avid, widespread interest: literacy. The missionaries formulated an alphabet for the Hawaiian language, and with this tool, Hawaiians learned to read with astonishing speed. In their oral culture, Hawaiians were used to prodigious feats of memory, and ali?i understood that literacy was a key to accessing Western culture and power. By the mid-1850s, Hawai?i had a higher literacy rate than the USA and supported dozens of Hawaiian-language newspapers.
Conversion to a Western-style property system didn’t work out well for the natives:
Amid often conflicting foreign influences, some Hawaiian leaders decided that the only way to survive in a world of more powerful nations was to adopt Western ways and styles of government. Hawai?i’s absolute monarchy had previously denied citizens a voice in their government. Traditionally, no Hawaiian ever owned land, but the ali?i managed it in stewardship for all. None of this sat well with resident US expatriates, many of whose grandparents had fought a revolution for the right to vote and to own private property. Born and raised in Hawai?i after Western contact, King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) struggled to retain traditional Hawaiian society while developing a political system better suited to foreign, frequently American tastes. In 1840 Kauikeaouli promulgated Hawai?i’s first constitution, which established a constitutional monarchy with limited citizen representation. Given an inch, foreigners pressed for a mile, so Kauikeaouli followed up with a series of revolutionary land reform acts beginning with the Great Mahele (Great Division) of 1848. It was hoped the Great Mahele would create a nation of small freeholder farmers, but instead it was a disaster – for Hawaiians, at least. Confusion reigned over boundaries and surveys. Unused to the concept of private land and sometimes unable to pay the necessary tax, many Hawaiians simply failed to follow through on the paperwork to claim titles to the land they had lived on for generations. Many of those who did – perhaps feeling that a taro farmer’s life wasn’t quite the attraction it once was – immediately cashed out, selling their land to eager and acquisitive foreigners. Many missionaries ended up with sizable tracts of land, and more than a few left the church to devote themselves to their new estates. Within 30 to 40 years, despite supposed limits, foreigners owned fully three-quarters of the kingdom, and Hawaiians – who had already relinquished so much of their traditional culture so quickly during the 19th century – lost their sacred connection to the land. As historian Gavan Daws wrote, ‘So the great division became the great dispossession.’
Haoles weren’t content to overrun the islands themselves:
The natural first choice for plantation workers was Hawaiians, but even when willing, they were not enough. Due to introduced diseases like typhoid, influenza, smallpox and syphilis, the Hawaiian population had steadily and precipitously declined. By some estimates around 800,000 indigenous people lived on the islands before Western contact, but by 1800 that had dropped by two-thirds, to around 250,000. By 1860 Hawaiians numbered fewer than 70,000. Wealthy plantation owners began to look overseas for a labor supply of immigrants accustomed to working long days in hot weather, and for whom the low wages would seem like an opportunity. In the 1850s wealthy sugar-plantation owners began recruiting laborers from China, then Japan and Portugal. After annexing Hawaii in 1898, US restrictions on Chinese and Japanese immigration made O?ahu’s plantation owners turn to Puerto Rico, Korea and the Philippines for laborers.
Haole immigrants gradually decided that they needed political control:
The 1875 Treaty of Reciprocity, which had made Hawai?i-grown sugar profitable, had expired. Kalakaua refused to renew, as the treaty now contained a provision giving the US a permanent naval base at Pearl Harbor – a provision that Native Hawaiians regarded as a threat to the sovereignty of the kingdom. A secret anti-monarchy group called the Hawaiian League, led by a committee of mostly American lawyers and businessmen, ‘presented’ Kalakaua with a new constitution in 1887. This new constitution stripped the monarchy of most of its powers, reducing Kalakaua to a figurehead, and it changed the voting laws to exclude Asians and allow only those who met income and property requirements to vote – effectively disenfranchising all but wealthy, mostly white business owners. Kalakaua signed under threat of violence, earning the document the moniker the ‘Bayonet Constitution.’ Soon the US got its base at Pearl Harbor, and foreign businessmen consolidated their power.
Native Hawaiians now face one of the toughest real estate markets in the country:
In 2014 Hawaii was ranked the healthiest state in the nation, with high immunization rates and lower than average rates of smoking. Over 90% of residents have graduated from high school, and nearly 30% have a bachelor’s degree or higher (both above the national average). Unemployment, which dropped to 4.3% in mid-2014, and violent crime rates are also lower than the national average. Despite the mass quantities of Spam consumed in the islands, Hawaii had the second-lowest obesity rate in the US in 2013 – only Colorado, another outdoors-oriented lifestyle state, did better. In 2012 Hawaii’s median annual household income ($ 66,259) ranked sixth and its poverty rate (11.6%) was seventh lowest among US states. Those last statistics, however, gloss over glaring inequity in the distribution of wealth. There are a large number of wealthy locals and mainland transplants with magnificent estates and vacation homes skewing the average, while a much larger number of locals, particularly Pacific Islanders, struggle with poverty and all the social challenges that come with it. The state is currently trying to control one of the highest rates of ice (crystal methamphetamine) abuse in the US, a problem that leads to illness, unemployment, robberies and violent crimes. Homelessness remains another serious concern: on average, more than 6300 people are homeless statewide. Most telling about the cost of living in Hawaii is the following statistic: up to 42% of its homeless people are employed, but still can’t make ends meet. Sprawling tent communities have popped up at beach parks and other public areas. Every now and then police disperse them, but the problem is never solved – only moved. Hale o Malama, the state’s new strategic plan for ending homelessness, aims to more closely coordinate among city, county, state and federal agencies that offer emergency housing, medical services and social support to Hawaii’s homeless population. At the same time, the state is giving free plane tickets to some homeless people in Waikiki so that they can fly back to wherever they came from on the mainland – a proposal that is politically controversial, not to mention expensive.
[The above excerpt is kind of interesting for the use of the word inequity, “injustice or unfairness”, to characterize an unequal situation. It a “glaring” injustice that the person who works 80 hours per week running a business has a higher spending power than the person who collects SSDI and relaxes on the beach.]
Haoles don’t seem to feel guilty about having grabbed this prime land and then paving over paradise with Walmart and Costco parking lots They point to Western education and medicine as advantages for the native Hawaiians. Yet the Hawaiians could have gotten everything useful from the West via trade, hosting Westerners as visitors and tourists, and sending Hawaiians out to Western schools. One historian there said that the U.S. was the last country on Earth that the Hawaiians wanted to be part of. Great Britain, for example, would have been much higher on their list of countries with which to ally.
Philip Greenspun’s Weblog