Native Hawaiians (in Hawaiian, kānaka ōiwi, kānaka maoli or hawaii maoli) refers to the indigenous Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants. Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the first Marquesan and Tahitian settlers of Hawaii (possibly as early as AD 400), before the arrival of British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau report for 2000, there are 401,162 people who identified themselves as being "native Hawaiian" alone or in any combination. 140,652 people identified themselves as being "native Hawaiian" alone. The overwhelming majority of native Hawaiians are residents of the United States in the State of Hawaii, and in California, Nevada and Washington. Two-thirds live in the State of Hawaii while the other one-third is split among mainland states. Almost half of the mainland share of the population is in California.
The history of native Hawaiians, and of Hawaii in general, is classified into four major periods: antiquity (Ancient Hawaii), monarchy (Kingdom of Hawaii), territorial (Territory of Hawaii), and statehood (State of Hawaii).
In the context of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 10-2, Hawaiians are defined as:
Native Hawaiians are defined as:
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs also differentiates between:
In general usage, however, this distinction is often ignored, with both capitalizations being used to describe the native Hawaiian population as a whole regardless of bloodline.
The term "Hawaiian" first existed as a geographic identity limited to the Big Island, and upon the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, as either an ethnic or political identity. The term “Hawaiian” is today mainly used to describe people of partial or total Native Hawaiian ethnicity or ancestry. Less commonly, and seen by some as less acceptable because of its political connotations, it can also describe Hawaii-born or Hawaii residents without any Native Hawaiian ancestry.
The use of the term "indigenous" to describe native people, including Kanaka Maoli, is the subject of some political controversy, with some seeing that label as clearly demanding special considerations. The Akaka Bill currently pending in Congress draws upon the "indigenous" nature of native Hawaiians for its rationale, and is of particular debate.
For further discussion about terminology commonly used to describe Native Hawaiians, see the article Native American name controversy.
An Office of Hawaiian Affairs survey in 1984 reported that 61% of Native Hawaiians had less than 50% native Hawaiian blood. That same report indicated that only 8,244 pure blood native Hawaiians existed out of the 208,476 total native Hawaiians surveyed.
The Hawaiian language was once the primary language of the native Hawaiian people. Today, native Hawaiians predominately speak the English language as a result of both the emphasis that the Kingdom of Hawaii placed on learning English, as well as over a century of being a part of the United States of America, as a Territory and then as a State of the Union. Another contributing factor was an 1896 law which provided that English "be the only medium and basis of instruction in all public and private schools." This law did not prevent Hawaiian language from being taught as a second language, but further accelerated the trend of native Hawaiian families insisting on English first. Some native Hawaiians (as well as non-native Hawaiians) have learned the native Hawaiian language as a second language. As with others local to Hawaii, native Hawaiians often speak Hawaiian Creole English, referred to as pidgin English, a creole which developed during Hawaii's plantation era in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the influence of the various ethnic groups living in Hawaii during that time.
The Hawaiian language has been promoted for revival most recently by a state program of cultural preservation enacted in 1978. Programs included the opening of Hawaiian language immersion schools and the establishment of a Hawaiian language department at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. As a result, Hawaiian language learning has climbed among all races in Hawaii.
In 2002, the University of Hawaii at Hilo established a masters program in the Hawaiian Language. In fall 2006, they established a doctoral (Ph.D) program in the Hawaiian Language. In addition to being the first doctoral program for the study of Hawaiian, it is the first doctoral program established for the study of any native language in the United States of America. Both the masters and doctoral programs are considered by global scholars as pioneering in the revival of native languages.
Hawaiian is still spoken as the primary language by the residents on the private island of Niihau.
In all U.S. states, native Hawaiian children are publicly educated under the same terms as any other children. In Hawaii, native Hawaiians are publicly educated by the Hawaii State Department of Education, an ethnically diverse school system that is the United States' largest and most centralized.
Hawaii is the only state without local community control of schools. Under the administration of Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano (D-HI) from 1994 to 2002, the state's educational system established special Hawaiian language immersion schools. In these schools, all subject courses are taught in the Hawaiian language and use native Hawaiian subject matter in curricula. These schools were created in the spirit of cultural preservation and are not exclusive to native Hawaiian children. Currently, these schools are challenged by a relative lack of native speakers of the Hawaiian language and a dearth of educational materials in Hawaiian, since olelo Hawaii is typically only a first language for those who live on Niihau.
Some native Hawaiians are educated by the Kamehameha Schools, established through the last will and testament of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a princess of the Kamehameha Dynasty. Arguably, the largest and wealthiest private school in the United States, Kamehameha Schools was intended to benefit indigents and orphans, with preference given to native Hawaiians. Although this Hawaiians-only preference is not explicitly stated in her will, subsequent Bishop Estate trustees have interpreted her wording to mean just that. Kamehameha provides a quality education to thousands of children of whole and part native Hawaiian ancestry at its campuses during the regular school year, and also has quality summer and off-campus programs that are not restricted by ancestry. Kamehameha Schools' practice of accepting primarily gifted students, in lieu of intellectually challenged children, has been a controversial topic amongst the native Hawaiian community. Many 'rejected' families feel that the gifted students could excel at any learning institution, public or private. Thus, the Hawaiian community may be better served by educating children from high-risk, high-crime districts so that a greater proportion of disadvantaged youths may grow up to be responsible community contributors.
Since the late 1990s, Kamehameha Schools has been facing several high profile legal battles. One involved the choice and payment of trustees. Others have concerned the admission of non-Hawaiians to the school. A few non-Hawaiians have sued for admission, claiming that the last will and testament of Bernice Pauahi Bishop has been misinterpreted, and the policies of race-based admissions are discriminatory and should be struck down. In 2007, Kamehameha's Maui campus graduated its first non-Hawaiian student. The student's 2002 admission to the school created an uproar within the Hawaiian community.
As with other children in Hawaii, some native Hawaiians are educated by other prominent private academies in the Aloha State. They include: Punahou School, Saint Louis School, Mid-Pacific Institute and Iolani School.
A comprehensive Hawaiian culture curriculum was introduced into the State of Hawaii's public elementary schools teaching: ancient Hawaiian art, lifestyle, geography, hula and Hawaiian language vocabulary. Intermediate and high schools were mandated to impose two sets of Hawaiian history curricula on every candidate for graduation.
Statutes and charter amendments were passed acknowledging a policy of preference for Hawaiian place and street names. For example, with the closure of Barbers Point Naval Air Station in the 1990s, the region formerly occupied by the base was renamed Kalaeloa.
Another important outgrowth of the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention was the establishment of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, more popularly known as OHA. Delegates that included future Hawaii political stars Benjamin J. Cayetano, John D. Waihee III and Jeremy Harris enacted measures intended to address perceived injustices towards native Hawaiians since the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. OHA was established as a trust, administered with a mandate to better the conditions of both native Hawaiians and the Hawaiian community in general. OHA was given control over certain public lands, and continues to expand its land-holdings to this day (most recently with Waimea Valley, previously Waimea Falls Park).
OHA is a semi-autonomous government body administered by a nine-member board of trustees, elected by the people of the State of Hawaii through popular suffrage. Originally, trustees and the people eligible to vote for trustees were restricted to native Hawaiians. Rice V. Cayetano reached the United States Supreme Court suing the state to allow non-Hawaiians to sit on the board of trustees and for non-Hawaiians to be allowed to vote in trustee elections. Justices ruled in favor of Rice on 23 February 2000 forcing OHA to open its elections to all residents of the State of Hawaii regardless of ethnicity.
There is some controversy as to whether or not native Hawaiians should be considered in the same light as Native Americans.
Washington-based constitutional scholar Bruce Fein has outlined a number of counter-arguments disputing the accuracy of the assertions made in the Apology Resolution.
This bill came under significant scrutiny by the Bush Administration's Department of Justice as well as the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. The political context surrounding the Akaka Bill is both controversial and complex. Proponents, who consider the legislation an acknowledgement and (partial) correction of past injustices, include Hawaii's Congressional delegation as well as the current Republican Governor Linda Lingle. Opponents include the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who question the constitutionality of creating race-based governments, libertarian activists who challenge the historical accuracy of any claims of injustice, and other native Hawaiian sovereignty activists who feel the legislation would thwart their hopes for complete independence from the United States.
A poll commissioned in 2005 by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs asserted that 68 percent of Hawaii residents support the bill, 17 percent do not support it and 15 percent refused to answer or had no opinion. Another poll conducted earlier that year by The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii indicated that 67% of Hawaii residents were against the Akaka bill. It has been speculated that the phrasing of the questions asked in both of the respective polls influenced the results, and so no definitive survey to determine levels of public support has yet been carried out in Hawaii.
With the support of the Bishop Museum, the Polynesian Voyaging Society's double-hulled canoe Hōkūle‘a has contributed to rediscovery of native Hawaiian culture, especially in the revival of non-instrument navigation by which ancient Polynesians originally settled Hawaii.