It was already full light, and wet from the night’s rain, when Koko and I went out walking a bit later than usual this morning, seeing as how it’s Friday and a low-energy new moon and I’ve had a busy week. The visual interest wasn’t in the colors of the sunrise, since there were few, but in the swirls of silver and gray clouds billowing in from the coast and the sheets of rain that drifted across the slopes of Makaleha and obscured Kalalea and blew into our neighborhood just as we returned home.
The rain is a welcome respite to the heat, as have been recent evenings at the beach, where the sea is sloughing off summer, depositing clumps of limu along the water line, moving around great masses of sand and washing up treasures like a perfect helmet shell that came home in my pocket.
It’s feeling like fall, and last night I thought the anniversary of Kauai Eclectic must be near and sure enough, it’s today. Two years, 629 posts and more comments than I wanted to count have passed since I launched this blog not really knowing what I was doing or getting into, but at this point, very glad that I did.
The blog has changed over that time, because I have, which is a good thing, because as nature reminds me every day, life is not about stagnation.
So thanks, everyone, for helping to keep Kauai Eclectic alive by reading and commenting and sending me emails, like this one following the recent posts on ag TVRs and farm worker housing:
Read your last two blogs and had my head spinning with the apparent contradiction.
I've been a farmer, and I know some of the problems of not actually living on the land you farm.
I was leasing the land, and the only reason the lease was cheap enough to permit farming to make economic sense (one of them, anyhow) was that the land could not qualify for a house.
Bunch of small time farmers [in Moloaa] have been able to buy land cheap because it couldn't have a house. Permit a house on those lots, and the next buyer will be paying far more than agriculture can support, it seems likely.
So to keep the land cheap enough for farming, you need to keep farmers in slapdash hovels that can't qualify for a mortgage because of zoning restrictions. That's not fair either.
If we resolve an issue for this generation of farmers by allowing farm dwellings, which seems appropriate, do we damage the opportunities for the next generation of farmers?
None of this is easy.
Life, full of difficult or impossible choices.
Tis true, and the difficulties are heightened when we have people making the choices who aren’t especially progressive or bright or thoughtful, or are governed by extreme self-interest. That’s why we’re having such a hard time figuring out how to reform health care, pull out of Afghanistan, protect Kauai’s ag lands and rectify the wrongs committed against indigenous people.
On that note, I was interested to learn that Henry Noa, prime minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, just returned from Aotearoa — the Maori name for New Zealand.
It seems some Maori are also interested in achieving independence and wanted to learn more about Prime Minister Noa’s model for building a nation. Representatives from Fiji and Samoa were there, too, as well as the Kingdom of Tonga. It’s good these guys are getting together, as they face many similar issues.
And they’re not the only ones in the Pacific. I’ve also been reading lately about the efforts of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, to gain greater autonomy and cultural recognition from Japan. As Koichi Kaizawa, a leader in that movement, wrote:
….[A]fter I got to know other foreign indigenous peoples, I started to wonder why I had to abandon my ethnicity and why the majority could deny the minorities’ culture.
To be honest, I dreamt of Ainu independence when I was in my twenties. That would allow us to recover our culture and language. But when I traveled to China and talked about that with the government executives, they said, “You could be independent, but if you want independence you will have to shed blood to achieve it. That is because Hokkaido, the United States, China and the Japanese government would not accept you becoming independent, so you had better rethink about seeking independence.” So I thought “That is true. There is no use for the people to kill each other. Of course, the Ainu spirit called ukocharanke tells that we should solve problems through discussions rather than by force. So, we gave up becoming independent and concentrated our efforts on restoring our culture through negotiation.
Yet the Ainu serve as a good example of how the legal process has failed indigenous people, as evidenced by a dispute with Japan over plans to build the Nibutani Dam on land the Ainu consider sacred:
On March 27, 1997, as part of the Nibutani Dam case (Kayano v. Hokkaido Expropriation Committee), the Sapporo District court became the first state organ to officially recognize the Ainu people as indigenous, which the Japanese government still refuses to do. The decision by the Sapporo court also recognized that the Ainu’s right to the enjoyment of their own culture is protected under both Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution.
The ultimate outcome of the case, however, rendered the legal content of Article 27 and the constitutional protections as mere rhetoric. While the court held that the administrative decisions to expropriate Ainu land and approve the dam project were illegal, it would not reverse the all-but-complete dam construction.
Hmmm. Kind of like the situation involving Joe Bresica's house atop the burials at Nae.
So if indigenous people don’t want to resort to violence, and they’re shut down in the courts, what avenues do they have for settling their very legitimate beefs with their colonizers?
I guess you just have to keep forming new alliances and putting up resistance, and chipping away at the resistance of the dominant culture. That's the approach the Ainu took in more successfully fighting a second dam project and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is taking in opposing Kauai County’s plans to build the bike path on Wailua Beach, which kanaka consider sacred. As OHA administrator Clyde Namu`o wrote in a letter to the federal transportation agency helping to fund the path construction:
Economic stimulus is truly important in this time of difficulty. We also believe that spiritual stimulus is equally important as well and the well-being of a populace can be measured in many different ways.
It’s not impossible to right some of the wrongs that have been committed, or to show greater respect for indigenous cultures and beliefs. We just have to make the choice, which for many is difficult, to do it.