Hawaiian Language as a Political Weapon

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BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — Hawaiian language is a great treasure for Hawaii and the world. But it is also used as a political weapon in ways unlike any other language. The worthy goal of preserving Hawaiian language and helping it thrive has been hijacked by using tax dollars to pay for programs whose hidden intention and practical effect is to foster racial pride, racial separatism, and ethnic nationalism, thereby undermining the sovereignty of the State of Hawaii and of the United States.

The public school system provides a Hawaiian studies component in all schools, plus charter schools focusing entirely on Hawaiian culture, plus classrooms and entire schools using Hawaiian language for teaching all subjects.


Aside from the schools, Hawaiian language is used for political purposes in government operations and personal expression. For example, Hawaiian language has been used in both chambers of the legislature for singing Christian hymns and for giving prayers to both the Christian God and the Hawaiian gods as part of official committee hearings on the Akaka bill to establish a race-based government, and also in the opening of each day’s proceedings.

Prayers to the Hawaiian gods are always in Hawaiian language, and even prayers to the Christian God are usually in Hawaiian when politically-correct culturally-mandated “blessings” are given for new or rededicated buildings or roads. But it is politically incorrect for people lacking Hawaiian blood (especially Caucasians) to use Hawaiian in that way, especially if they are expressing views in opposition to sovereignty or racial favoritism.

Hawaiian activists assert a right to sovereignty by demanding that street names must be Hawaiian. A Honolulu County ordinance was adopted in 1978 that every new street on Oahu must be given a Hawaiian name. That ordinance was adopted as part of a big Hawaiian sovereignty political push that included the creation of OHA in a 1978 state Constitutional Convention. But aside from requiring Hawaiian names for new streets, there have also been very aggressive moves in Honolulu County Council and the state legislature to force the removal of existing street or place names honoring World War 2 military events, or honoring Caucasian historical figures who were active in the Hawaiian Kingdom and Republic, to be replaced with Hawaiian names.

Politicians and ordinary people giving speeches or writing newspaper commentaries often sprinkle their English with Hawaiian words, or even entire sentences, as a way to create the impression that what they say is both profound and authentically Hawaiian — sort of like the Catholic church formerly used Latin for the Mass even though nobody knew what the priest was saying.

A large and heavily documented new webpage explores the following topics, at https://tinyurl.com/668vqyz

(1) Demanding that the names of places and streets must be Hawaiian — historical background and 4 case studies: Thurston Ave. (Kamakaeha), Barbers Point (Kalaeloa), Dillingham Military Reservation (Kawaihapai), Fort Barrette Road (Kualakai).

(2) Demands that Hawaiian language as an “official language” of Hawaii be taken seriously by requiring that it must be used in government documents and that people must be allowed to use it when filing court documents or giving testimony before boards and commissions, or in court.

(3) How Hawaiian language, and the ancient Hawaiian religion, are used as political weapons in government hearings and political performances.

(4) The essential role of Hawaiian language in Hawaiian religion

(5) Sprinkling Hawaiian words occasionally throughout a speech or essay, to create an appearance of authentic Hawaiian-ness.

(6) The insistence on using Hawaiian grammar or spelling when speaking or writing English. Examples of pluralizing nouns and using ‘okinas.

(7) Hawaiian culture and language are used for political indoctrination in the tax-supported public schools — the Hawaiian Studies component of the general curriculum; the Hawaiian-focus charter schools; the Hawaiian language immersion schools; how Kamehameha Schools has infiltrated the public schools.

(8) Why are there no automated translation programs for Hawaiian, when such programs are easily available for other languages? It appears that Hawaiian language experts want to keep control of the language so it can be used only for “politically correct” purposes, and also to provide job security for a growing cadre of instructors and independent-contractor translators who must be politically correct to keep their jobs.

(9) There are political and emotional implications of using Hawaiian language rather than English, and sometimes those implications depend on the race of the speaker.

(10) How Hawaiian language, culture, and sovereignty are interconnected

(11) The role of the Christian missionaries and their native partners in creating a written Hawaiian language.

(12) A brief history of the dominance of English language in Hawaii — How English became almost exclusively the outside language whose words were incorporated into Hawaiian, and how English gradually replaced Hawaiian as the dominant language among foreigners and natives alike.

(13) The false claim that Hawaiian language was made illegal by the Republic of Hawaii after the monarchy was overthrown, and that this was done for the purpose of destroying Hawaiian culture. How this false claim is used for political purposes, to evoke anger and solidarity among ethnic Hawaiians and sympathy among non-ethnic Hawaiians to support demands for sovereignty.

(14) The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (and its predecessor the Honolulu Star-Bulletin) publishes a column every Saturday in Hawaiian language with no English translation. Often the topics are twisted versions of Hawaiian history intended to stir up anti-American or anti-Caucasian hostility.

For details on all these topics please see https://tinyurl.com/668vqyz





  1. I believe that anything used to exclude or separate people, by race, color, age, sex, and religion, is immoral, improper, and in certain situations, illegal. I am part-Hawaiian and speak Hawaiian; however, I look like Dr. Conklin so I do indeed experience the pain of separatism, or discrimination, based on color. However, I also do not approve of inaccuracies made in the name of advocacy (even if I agree with the bottom line point). My mother was indeed punished for speaking Hawaiian, and I listened attentively as she and her friends described incidents of punishment for having spoken Hawaiian, even at recess. If alive today, my mother would be 96 years old. As for the use of the Hawaiian language, please see Article XV Section 4 of the Hawai’i State Constitution. Several of my professors, friends, and mentors at the University of Hawai’i were not of Hawaiian ancestry, but spoke Hawaiian fluently. They chose to learn the Hawaiian language. I do agree that one’s ethnicity, race, and/or chosen language, should not be used as a point of separation between people. I think we actually agree but have arrived at the same point along different roads.

    • Aloha dahukilau,

      Thank you for your comment. Please read my large and heavily documented webpage devoted to the claim that Hawaiian language was made illegal. You need to read what the law of 1896 said, and how it was implemented.

      As I point out in that webpage, it is certainly true that children who spoe Hawaiian in school, even at recess, were punished. The same was true for ethnic Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, etc. who spoke anything other than English at school. The law applied equally to all races and languages, to require English-only. The purpose was to be sure that EVERYONE would have at least one language that they could all speak.

      What’s also pointed out in the webpage is that most Hawaiian kids (probably including your grandma) were also punished by their own parents for speaking Hawaiian in the home. Most Hawaiian parents insisted that their kids speak only English, even while the parents themselves continued speaking Hawaiian between themselves.

      Please read that webpage at https://tinyurl.com/6zrka

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