Just last week, I defended Democrat U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) after Republican Ted Yoho of Florida allegedly directed inappropriate language toward her (story). This week, AOC threw shade on one of Hawaii’s most respected and revered figures — St. Damien of Moloka’i. AOC criticized a statue of Father Damien that stands in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol.
“This is what Patriarchy and White Supremacist culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence White Supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture & how it impacts the present day.”
As we reflect on the challenges the world faces at this time due to the C19 pandemic, the Hawaiian government and King Kamehameha V passed a law mandating lepers self-quarantine in an isolated colony on the island of Moloka’i beginning in the 1850s. They didn’t understand the disease and isolated those infected to protect their communities.
A local bishop asked for volunteers to minister to the leper colony and Father Damien presented himself. He began his work there in 1873. By 1884 he had contracted leprosy, and continued to minister until his death in 1889. [source]
“Any Hawaiian here who is aware of their history–which most Hawaiians are–would absolutely, Catholic or not, defend the legacy of Damien as a man who was embraced by the people, and who is a hero to us because of his love for the Hawaiian people.”
Dallas Carter, native Hawaiian and catechist for diocese of Honolulu
Hawai’i District Chair Richard Medeiros took issue with AOC’s account of history. He scolded her saying, “I hewa no I ka waha” which means the fault lies in the mouth. The representative believes AOC failed to accurately portray the heroic efforts of the Catholic priest.
Native Hawaiians Desecrate History of the Sandwich Islands
In my humble opinion, Chair Medeiros is correct in his rebuke of the congresswomen from New York City. She “womansplained” in an uneducated and callous attack on a world hero.
On the other hand, Richard Medeiros, who describes himself as a Native Hawaiian, Catholic, and member of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i, furthers his own distorted account of history. He claims the United States of America committed atrocities against his ancestors. This is false. The USA committed no atrocities in the islands.
I answered the rep’s comments on social media and include those below. Also attach the entire letter to AOC from Chair Medeiros for you to review.
There will never be healing in America or the Sandwich Islands if we do not have the courage and ethical character to be honest with each other. The United States of America did not begin as a perfect nation. None of the Founders were perfect; none of us are perfect today. We have worked to evolve this nation, as we strive to better ourselves. In seeking truth, we will find greater freedom and reach the ideals of America.
Open Letter Submitted to Hawai’i District Chair Richard Medeiros
Honorable District Chair Medeiros — you correctly pointed out in Hawaiian: “I hewa no I ka waha.” (fault lies in the mouth)
The United States of America committed NO atrocities in the Sandwich Islands. Let’s be clear. British Captain Cook landed on Kaua’i in 1778 — setting off a Clash of Civilizations. He found the island, as did those from the Marquesas or Tahitian islands, by accident.
Kamehameha I soon acquired canons and heavy weapons from the British. Beginning in 1782, he turned these Weapons of Mass Destruction on Polynesian villages and pushed opponents off cliffs to create HIS Patriarchy and Supremacy here in war of 30 years.
Neither Americans nor the British did this. This was not a cooperative union, as witnessed in the budding USA where 13 colonies FREELY joined together. Kamehameha The Great One said, “Join with me or die!”
Kamehameha further claimed HIS bloodline to be superior to others … and II, III, IV and V sat on the throne. The monarchy then allowed a Constitution and for outsiders to hold and purchase land. This made them Part Owners in the kingdom. In 1893, Queen Lili’uokalani tried to undo the Constitution signed by her brother, King David Kalakaua.
A small group of landowners considered this to be treason. They pushed the monarchy off the throne. Similar to U.S. Founders in 1776, apparently they were tired of paying taxes to kings and queens. This was an economic and political squabble between wealthy and privileged actors — people who had been friends and business partners until the deal soured.
The USA didn’t initiate this takeover. Sanford B. Dole became the Republic of Hawaii’s first and only president. The queen appealed to Washington, D.C. for assistance. This was her mistake. The U.S. had strategic interests in Pearl Harbor and continued sugar imports. If 4-5 businessmen could destabilize the kingdom, Russia, China, Japan or others would consider Hawai’i a prize to be taken. The Kanaka had no way to protect themselves or the islands.
I believe King Kamehameha I would have taken back his throne with force if necessary. He would not have bowed to officials 6,000 miles away. The queen acted differently. She was a gentle soul. Beautiful in spirit as she was, her worldview was inappropriate for the harsh realities of the period.
A patriarchy and system of supremacy was established by the Kamehameha dynasty, not White Americans. The greatest atrocity here wasn’t furthered by man — but nature — as the estimated 500,000+ Kanaka in 1700 dwindled to around 25,000 in 1900 due to germs, STDs and disease. With U.S. protection, the Native Hawaiian population has flourished and now exceeds over 300,000 strong members. The USA saved the Kanaka from extinction.
Like AOC, you tell a warped story about history in these islands. And, as you correctly scolded the NY representative, you also should “think before you make comments about people who influenced Hawai’i. You should learn the history of it.”
Open Letter Submitted to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez
August 1, 2020
Aloha Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez,
I am a Native Hawaiian, a Catholic, and a member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. As a Native Hawaiian, I have to daily engage in a battle within myself to accept the atrocities that the United States of America has committed against my ancestors while still navigating life to be an American citizen and to try to provide hope to the people I serve. I work for a Hawaiian non-profit organization that seeks to help Hawaiian people connect to their culture and provide resources to develop the skills needed to thrive in this western society. I am a Catholic man as well. I understand the acts committed against native peoples by missionaries all over the world and I do not make excuses for that which happened. Just like I don’t make excuses for the imperialism rendered upon my people by the United States of America. I do what I can to move forward without forgetting history. Lastly, I am a member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii where I currently serve as the District Chair for House District 43 in the State of Hawaii.
I understand your comments about patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like. I face it often in my line of work and in my life experiences. Saint Damien of Molokai is NOT an example of that. Saint Damien gave his life to help people suffering in Kalaupapa. Saint Damien learned, spoke and preached in the Hawaiian language. That is not typical of patriarchy or white supremacy. Furthermore, your comments about not having a statue of our last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani in the US Capitol is offensive to me as a Native Hawaiian. Our queen was put under house arrest by Americans and had our government overthrown and illegally annexed to the United States of America. Until we have a degree of autonomy over our own native lands, our queen should never grace the halls of the United States Capitol. King Kamehameha should be a constant reminder to all in Congress of what the United States did to Hawaii.
We have a saying in Hawaii, “I hewa no I ka waha” which means the fault lies in the mouth. With all due respect Congresswoman, I think before you make comments about people who influenced Hawaii, you should learn the history of it. Please in the future, refer to our delegation who I’ve sent copies of this email, before making embarrassing statements about Saint Damien or Queen Liliuokalani.
Mahalo for your time,
Works at Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
Worked at Farmers Insurance Hawaii
Studied Politics at Willamette University
Went to Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus
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