Between Australia and North America is the vast Pacific Ocean, containing half of the world’s free water with more surface area than all of the land masses combined. The ocean is home to just 0.03% of the world’s population. There are some of the greatest concentrations of Indigenous cultures who together speak one quarter of the world’s languages, despite suffering the ravages of European colonisation over the past two hundred years.
Hawaii sits at the edge of this vast ocean expanse as the northern tip of Polynesia. It is the most isolated island archipelago on earth. Archaeological evidence suggests the earliest human habitation of the islands occurred around 300CE, making it one of the last places on earth to be discovered by humans, and native Hawaiian culture to be the youngest Indigenous culture. Hawaiians have strong traditions of voyaging and deep connections to the sea. I will save that for a later post.
The current population of 1.4 million contains approximately 10% of native Hawaiians. Native Hawaiians are under-represented in white-collar professions and over-represented in service-oriented, low-status jobs. It is estimated that up to 30% of native Hawaiians are functionally illiterate.
Cultural factors have severely limited the educational success of Indigenous Hawaiians. There have been some positive developments in recent decades in an attempt to restore some balance. The 1978 constitutional amendment established Hawaiian as an official language. Hawaiian studies is now a subject in schools and a language immersion project introduced in the late 1980s combined Indigenous and traditional ways of learning.
The great contradiction is that to succeed in western education they are seen to be adopting western values and rejecting traditional Hawaiian culture.