Rad Reading: "Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism"

by Abaki Beck

Even within indigenous studies in the US, Hawaiian history is often overlooked, which is why texts like this - especially written by Native Hawaiian scholars - are so essential. This book is especially exciting because it uses sources in the Hawaiian language itself - not simply settler recordings of Hawaiian history.

Text: Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism

Author: Noenoe K. Silva

Quote to Highlight: “How do colonized people recover from the violence done to their past by the linguicide that accompanies colonialism?...The epistemology of the school system is firmly Western in nature: what is written counts. When (family) stories can be validated, as happens when scholars read the literature in Hawaiian and make the findings available to the community, people begin to recover from the wounds caused by that disjunctor in their consciousness.” (from the Introduction)

Quick Summary: Noenoe K. Silva argues that though it is often written out of settler versions of Hawaiian history, Native Hawaiians have always actively resisted colonialism. She views Hawaiian language newspapers as spaces of political resistance and re-examines efforts of Hawaiian leaders to uplift both stories of “visible” resistance like petitions as well as more “subtle” resistance through hidden meanings in songs or stories in the Hawaiian. She argues that one of the reasons this form of resistance and organizing was likely overlooked by scholars and historians is that they are exclusively in the Hawaiian language, not English. Part of the project or “goal” of the colonization of Hawaii was the completely suppress Hawaiian cultural practices and the language, rendering these forms of resistance “invisible.” She argues that is essential to recognize and validate oral histories and those in the Hawaiian language for contemporary Hawaiian people to be empowered by their history and inspire their continued political activism. Silva both critiques the field of history in how it portrays Hawaiian history, as well as aims to uplift stories of Hawaiian resistance.  

File it under: Native Hawaiian history, colonial resistance, settler-colonialism, activism, indigenous languages

Type of text: Academic text, references theorists

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POC Online Classroom celebrates the intellectual tradition and knowledge production of marginalized communities. Rad Reading is a series that highlights texts to read, writers to support, and ideas to discuss. We post every Tuesday!