John Wise on Hawaiian Homes and more, 1921.

The Question about the Work Ethic of Hawaiians.

Your writer [John Wise], continues to defend the Hawaiian lahui from being attacked by that question above.

The Hawaiians have perhaps become much talked about amongst those who do not know them and who are not familiar with their accomplishments of today and of the past. And maybe mostly these days for the land being given to us. Your writer frequently clashes with all kinds of other people who protest the giving of land to Hawaiians, because of the ridiculous idea that they don’t know how to work or that they are lazy.

In these attacks, we can see, O Lahui, that they are carried with criticisms and that it is would be a waste to confirm their misbeliefs. But so that the Hawaiians may answer these questions, your writer wants to be made known for all times the sound justification for our side. The readers of past issues of the Kuokoa have seen the responses given by the Commissioner in Washington, and they have seen also the other justifications given, in the newspaper.

The ultimate representation of the skill of a people is their supplying themselves with food and the things necessary for their livelihood. There perhaps is no better response than that. This lahui was living by  themselves for centuries, supplying themselves with everything, and received no assistance from the outside.

But there are things made by this lahui, things that attest to their fine craftsmanship, that will serve as a measure of their skills. Those that see Hawaiian canoes and their manufacture and how they can get Hawaiians through great gales, remaining solid in the dangers of the pounding of waves; how they could make beautiful canoes by using stone adzes; the distance they were taken from mountain to the sea; the patience of the canoe makers. All of these things will show, without being contradicted, that just by seeing the quality of the canoes can one see that this is a lahui that knows how to work. We see the canoes of today being made by people from other lands, and the canoes made by Hawaiians are far more well made and beautiful.

The beauty of things crafted by a people are undeniable proof of the work ethic of that people. Where will you find things more beautiful, O Hawaiians, if you travel all over the world, than the ahuula that are preserved at the Museum of Kamehameha School. Where is the lahui that lives on today, or perhaps has disappeared, that can make these outstanding works, with a beauty second to none, with fine craftsmanship, and patience; with a true sense of work ethic. Snaring birds is a great task all in itself, the inserting [kuku ana] of the feathers is a big job. One mamo feather cloak was said to have been started during the time of Umi and completed during the time of Kamehameha. For this ahu, the entire ahu were done with mamo feathers. And by our counting back, we see that ten generations of ancient kings passed on before the completion of this ahu; showing that it took from about 250 to 300 years of work. Where is there a great work that was completed by a people taking hundreds of years to construct? We perhaps can think of huge things, but as for something of this nature which required the knowledge and patience of men, there is no equal.

The olona netting that secured these ahu, is something that took great effort and skill to make. The olona was first twisted, and when it was all spun evenly, then the laying of the feathers would be even as well. This was all done daintily, and its beauty was beyond compare to see. A famous haole stated:

“If this was the only work remaining of the Hawaiians of old, it would be enough to show that this is a celebrated people, and a people that know how to do fine work. A people who are able to carry out work of this kind, they are fit to be amongst list of learned people of the world.”

This haole has seen one of these garments made by this lahui, and he concluded without knowing any Hawaiians, that this is a learned people.

These defenses above can be indeed be used for our ancestors. But the generations of today cannot stand behind of these works of our kupuna and say that we ourselves know how to work, for we must defend ourselves. So therefore it is upon us lies the responsibility of for defending ourselves from the attacks. By what means are we to show our knowledge? In the countryside today, we can find canoe makers, and the beauty of their work is like that which was made by their parents. Look towards the people of the country, they are farming their piece of land. By this work, it can be seen that knowledge lies in the children of today; but the only problem is there are no means by which to show this knowledge.

Here are lands that are being given, and when it is secured, the lahui will realize they have this people have their independence. The strength of a people cannot be seen if their backs are to the wall. The strength and fearlessness of a lahui cannot be see if they have fallen into a pit. But if this lahui is pulled up, and they stand firmly upon their feet, the lahui that was thought of as cowardly will be seen to change into people raring to fight. Our problem these days is that we are lacking in all things. If we gain our independence, we will be transformed, and we will walk resolutely.

Let us not be afraid to take the land, thinking that there are rocks, or that it is a small piece. There is no land that is without rocks; and a man is not rich by the size of his land. Effort and patience is the road by which every man attains prosperity.

Lets take the works of the people who have passed on, and make those works monuments upon which we constantly look to. Let us take canoe building. The trees fit for carving into a canoe is all the way up in the mountains. There were probably no oxen or horses that could pull it; there were no yokes; it was only done with the effort and patience of man. When the tree was cut down, sometimes the log was rotten; you would cast aside that log and cut down another. Those days there was the stone adze. It was with great effort and over a long many days that the tree would be cut down. It would take a number of days to bring it to shore; and the great work of carving was not just done to the outside, but digging out the inside was the more tiring job. Stone adzes and fire were the tools used; but the canoes made by our kupuna were huge; this great effort was the reason the canoes were well cared for. All things done with great effort were things most treasured, because they took much work. Things gotten easily do not last long.

So too are we these day. This attack will become something that will urge on the desires within us to strive to push aside this defamation, and we will make ourselves into people who labor, who are steadfast, who strive, and who seek out things to educate ourselves; so that we understand what will make the realization of our desires easier. Be patient, and you, O Lahui, will reap the benefits. Forget the things of the past and reach out to the good things that lie ahead.

[The second page of the Kuokoa was devoted to the subject of Hawaiian Homes from 11/18/1921 to 12/27/1923. John Wise was the writer of this page.]

(Kuokoa, 12/30/1921, p. 2)


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke LIX, Helu 52, Aoao 2. Dekemaba 30, 1931.

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