Vision Statement for Bishop Estate trustee application

These are selected parts of the essay I submitted as my application to become a trustee of the Bishop Estate. It was evidently not what the search committee was looking for, nevertheless it sums up my thoughts about the qualities that I believe are necessary to move Hawaiʻi into the future, not just as a Bishop Estate trustee but as a leader of our State:


 

Bishop Estate Trustee Cover Letter and Vision Statement

“There was once enough for everyone. That was before Captain Cook “discovered” our Hawaiian islands on his way to find a northwest passage, before the missionaries came to save our heathen ancestors and before the American businessmen called in the U.S. Navy to protect their land investments. For centuries before western contact, the Hawaiian people flourished. There was no disease, no hunger, no homelessness, no economic recession. That was then. Today, we who call Hawaiʻi home are mostly mainstream Americans, often holding two or more jobs just to survive, and are dependent on the outside world for everything, even bottled water.”

This was the opening paragraph of “Economic Recovery – Hawaiian Style”, an essay I wrote last August 2009 for a national competition entitled “Native Insights on Economic Recession”, sponsored by the Alaska Federation of Natives. This essay was selected as the winner of the Native Hawaiian category and was published in several national journals and newspapers, including the Honolulu Star Bulletin, in addition to winning a cash prize. It was most recently the single piece chosen among the winning essays for publication this past March in Yes! Magazine, a national journal that supports active engagement in building a just and sustainable world.

Writing this essay last summer was an opportunity to contemplate the nature of economic problems, from micro to macro, Hawaiʻi to the global marketplace and the many variables that control the delicate balance between growth and recession. I didn’t have any startling revelations, just the conclusion that we already have everything we need, not only to maintain a thriving economy but also to live healthy, fulfilled lives. This is a belief I have been living, writing about and encouraging for many years, including in my novel, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me:

“Looking directly back into Moana’s eyes, Uncle Buddy responded. “Your family has always been very connected to the ocean. The cultural practices of your ancestors assured that food would always be plentiful, that the sea, in its bounty, would provide for everyone. This was our peoples’ way of life for centuries. Everyone took individual responsibility for their kuleana. Today, outsiders with different values control our islands… [They] will simply leave when there is nothing left to take. Many of the old ways that sustained us have already been lost, traded in for fast food and television. Moana, your ancestors gave you the knowledge of how to take care of the ‘āina, the kai, but it is up to you and your generation to decide how you will use it and what will become of Hawaiʻi.” (pp. 95-96)

In thinking about leadership and the future of our Islands, there is much to consider that goes beyond the narrow scope of how to grow the economy. The practice among Hawaiʻi leaders, including those in both government and industry, has been to rely heavily on outside and unsustainable solutions to fix our problems. This includes waiting for lower worldwide oil prices that will in turn increase tourism, the single industry that continues to determine the success or failure of our overall economy; favoring construction jobs as a quick fix for unemployment, regardless of environmental or future economic impacts; and reducing public services while imposing higher taxes on a community that is already stretched to its limits.

The outcome of such leadership is evident – foreclosures and bankruptcies that continue to rise in spite of renewed economic growth, public school furloughs that lasted a full school year, and increasing homelessness. And Native Hawaiians bear the worst of the socioeconomic impacts, as we have for well over the past one hundred forty years.

The specific mandate of the Bishop Estate trustees, as clearly articulated in Section Thirteen of Princess Pauahi’s Will and Codicils, is to maintain the Kamehameha Schools, manage her estate, and to the extent possible, educate and support Native Hawaiians in indigent circumstances. The issues of survival and well being of the Hawaiian people have not gone away since Pauahi wrote this one hundred twenty seven years ago, they have only evolved with the times.

I believe that strong leadership is at the heart of change, and change we, as a community, must if our future is to include a stable economy, a clean environment and a healthy population. Literacy, technological skills and sustainability are of utmost importance in achieving these goals and vision, and strategies must proceed at all levels and on all fronts. As long as all policies are made in the context of what is best for Kamehameha Schools students, the Native Hawaiian community and our beloved ‘āina, such decisions, will, in turn, benefit the entire Hawaiʻi community, now and in the future.

Each trustee brings his – and her – particular perspective, skills and life experience to the board, and the more diverse the individuals, the greater the synergy. Vision, courage and a deep respect for Hawaiian values must be at the core of each trustee’s principles, and from there will be an assurance of integrity and fairness in all decisions.

Motivated by a desire to pursue creative projects, I left my last full time job six years ago. Since then I have most notably produced several short films, taught, managed a business and written. My creative projects have allowed me to travel to present my work and participate in forums with other indigenous filmmakers and writers. [This past June I received] the American Indian Library Association award for ʻBest Young Adult’ fiction of 2010 for Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me. This is the first time Hawaiian literature has been acknowledged by this long-standing and influential organization and I am honored to help create opportunities for future Native Hawaiian literary writers to have their work recognized and embraced by a larger audience, as I have always believed strongly in the importance of telling our own stories.

For the past eighteen years I have also paddled on outrigger canoe crews, competing successfully in regattas, Molokaʻi channel crossings and international world sprint races. Paddling has, besides keeping me healthy and in touch with the community, been an important link to both my culture and my seafaring ancestors. I especially value the ongoing lessons of haʻahaʻa and laulima, both of which are integral to the teamwork of making the canoe move forward swiftly and smoothly.

There is much work to be done to fulfill Pauahi’s vision. The Kamehameha Schools will always be at the heart of her directives, yet in the times in which we are living, in which so much has already been lost, the objectives must be broad if they are to accomplish the survival and well being of the people. I believe it is possible for the leadership of the Bishop Estate to move the entire Hawaiʻi community in this direction.

Submitted by Lurline Wailana McGregor

May 26, 2010

Review: August 2010 Honolulu Magazine

Lurline McGregor, a local screenwriter and film producer, can now add another title to her list of credits: award-winning author. McGregor spent two years writing her 2008 novel Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me; this year, it won the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Young Adult Book.

REVIEW2010“It’s very exciting,” says McGregor, who traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to accept the award from the American Indian Library Association (AILA). She’s the first Native Hawaiian to win an AILA award. “This is my first attempt at writing fiction,” she says. “I feel very grateful and blessed for everything that’s happened.”

In the novel, a Hawaii-born anthropologist is torn between a glittering career on the Mainland and her Hawaiian ancestral responsibilities—in particular, the repatriation of a cultural artifact. The dilemma was inspired by the real-life controversy earlier this decade in which the group Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei reburied artifacts loaned to it by the Bishop Museum.

McGregor was also inspired by how the New Zealand-themed movie Whale Rider authentically portrays Maori culture, while remaining a universal story that resonates with a wide audience. In the same way, she wanted to write a story about her own Hawaiian culture and was concerned about it being accurate.

“I wrote [Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me] to be true to the culture, to tell a fictional story based in our history, beginning at a time when humans and gods moved freely among each other,” she says. “I’m not glamorizing or stereotyping or otherwise manipulating information about cultural practices or the community for the sake of entertaining the reader.”

Her dedication to cultural accuracy has also paid off in another way: Since the spring of 2009, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me has been used in school curricula, both locally and on the Mainland, at the high school and college level. “It shows there is a demand, at least in curriculum, for local and Hawaiian literature,” she says.

McGregor is currently working on a prequel to her book. “It’s a whole different journey and it’s been very rewarding doing the research,” she says.

Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me is available at major bookstores and at kamehamehapublishing.org.

 

 

 

Merata Mita

I was shocked and deeply saddened to read that Merata Mita passed away. It was evidently sudden and totally unexpected and so a flood of memories rushes in as I think of the tremendous impact she had not only on the indigenous filmmaking community in general but on my life in particular.


 

I first met Merata sometime in the early nineties, when she came to Hawaiʻi to present one of her films at a fledgling film I had started as executive director of Pacific Islanders in Communications. I wasnʻt very familiar with her or the world of Maori filmmaking before then but by the time she left, I was in complete awe of her and of everything going on in the Maori film community in Aotearoa. Intimidated is probably a better word as I held her in such high esteem for everything she was doing for her community that I felt inadequate, and she was an inspiration to do much more. I learned much about my own culture listening to her and learning about what “indigenous storytelling” really means in telling a story through film.

We became friends over the years and she was very generous towards me with her time and advice. I will always be most grateful for the day and a half that she came to my house and sat with me to go over every word of my screenplay, “Between The Deep Blue Sea and Me”. She had had sent me copious notes in advance, as a result, our meeting was probably one of the most productive writing meetings I have ever had. She did this as a favor, not as a paid consultant, and told me she would mentor me to direct the film because she felt so strongly that I should direct it. The novel that I have since written from the screenplay (also “Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me”) even has phrases that are her direct words that I wrote as she talked. She encouraged me in whatever work I was doing, even invited me to sit in on one of her “Indigenous Esthetics” film classes as I was preparing to teach my own film course in indigenous esthetics.

Thanks to Merata and her keen intellect, her steadfast convictions, her cultural sensitivities, her creative mind and her unending generosity there is not only an indigenous film community but it is healthy and growing, including the body of work she has left behind. Her own Maori community of filmmakers has already achieved a level of recognition and excellence that we as Hawaiian filmmakers hope to reach ourselves some day. And thanks to Merata I am a better filmmaker if not a better teacher and person. Mahalo nui loa Merata. Your life mattered to many, many people and I grieve with the rest of the Maori and indigenous filmmaking community at your passing.

Economic Recovery – Hawaiian Style

This is an essay I wrote for a Native Insights contest on Economic Recovery. This essay was one of five winning essays and was chosen in the Native Hawaiian category.


 

There was once enough for everyone. That was before Captain Cook “discovered” our Hawaiian islands on his way to find a northwest passage, before the missionaries came to save our heathen ancestors and before the American businessmen called in the U.S. Navy to protect their land investments. For centuries before western contact, the Hawaiian people flourished. There was no disease, no hunger, no homelessness, no economic recession. That was then. Today, we who call Hawaiʻi home are mostly mainstream Americans, often holding two or more jobs just to survive, and are dependent on the outside world for virtually everything, even bottled water.

When Captain Cook arrived on our shores in 1778, the population size was somewhere between 400,000 and a million. Complex agricultural systems, sophisticated fishing laws and a deep spirituality that was at the heart of government and community life were all evidence of a highly advanced people who had been living throughout the islands for many hundreds of years. Hawaiians knew when to fish and when to plant according to seasons and the phases of the moon, they knew what herbs and prayers to use to cure illnesses and broken bones, they had names for everything. Our ancestors had highly developed arts and leisure time. They spoke in poetry and metaphor and had great oratory skills. They could trace their genealogies back to the time when gods and humans lived freely among each other.

In the Hawaiians’ worldview, everything was connected, including the trees, the stones, the birds, the stars. As humans, their role, or kuleana, was to be the guardians, to maintain the balance and harmony of all things. To help carry out these responsibilities, Hawaiians were born with spiritual powers, or mana. Any abuse or misuse of these powers would result in a loss of one’s mana, as in leaders who showed greed or who did not act in the best interests of the people. Mana could also grow in those who demonstrated exceptional skills, whether it was in fishing, healing, canoe making, and so on. Great warriors and leaders were revered as having very powerful mana.

The cultural practices of the people assured that food would always be abundant and that the earth, in its bounty, would provide for everyone. These practices were based on taking only what one needed and only when those things were plentiful. When fishermen had successful catches they fed their families, then the community. They would trade with farmers for taro and other staples. Nothing was wasted.

After over two hundred years of western influence and immigration to our islands, our sovereign government is long gone, mana has no correlation to leadership and the global market now dictates the success of our tourism-based economy. In the mainstream, we are like most other Americans, bombarded by slick ads and peer pressure to buy large screen televisions, bigger cars to protect ourselves from everyone else’s big cars, and more food on our plates than we can – or should – eat. We are encouraged to buy things we can’t afford and don’t need. Natural resources are being depleted faster than they can be renewed to keep up with this compulsory demand, a trend that making our land and water toxic and has contributed to our Islands’ loss of sustainability.

High fuel costs and the downturn in the national economy have taken an enormous toll on our state. Fewer visitors to our islands have caused businesses to close and new construction to be delayed, which in turn has increased unemployment and is draining the State treasury. Our government leaders’ response to this economic crisis has been to raise local taxes, decide which government programs to cut and whether to furlough or lay off state employees. These quick-fix choices do not present courageous or visionary solutions to this or future recessions, instead they only serve to reinforce how dependent we have become on the outside world for survival and what little control we as individuals have over our own lives.

While analysts predict that recovery is around the corner, they caution that the economy will not likely return to the high growth rates of the past few years, at least not anytime soon. This contention is supported by the ongoing instability of foreign governments, the aging of our own American population, now increasingly concerned about having money for retirement, and in the longer-term, the effects of global warming on the environment. Although we are gaining confidence that it is safe to spend again, we would be well served to take the experts’ warning as an opportunity to re-think the economic philosophies that guide our country, our state, and most importantly, our own ways of thinking.

Although much in Hawaiʻi has changed, the values of our culture have been passed down to us, and by looking both backward and forward, we can forge real solutions that will improve our sustainability now and in the future. Growth in our western economic system is based on increased consumption. This is a contradiction to the most basic precept that our ancestors passed down to us: take only what you need. If this idea can be at the heart of decisions that leaders, corporate executives and even consumers make, then economic crises will become obsolete.

We do not have to stop consuming or abandon our western lifestyles to achieve sustainability, nor does the gross national project need to grow at high rates every year to maintain a stable economy. If we consume only what we need, even when we are not in a recession, the economy will eventually adjust downwards and stabilize. This would decrease the power of the multinational corporations and the volatility and impact of global economics on our local communities. To think, this could all happen because we stopped buying things we don’t need, or at the very least, started buying less of what we don’t need!

The earth and the economy are inextricably tied together. As we deplete our natural resources we can expect that there will be increasingly less of everything in the future unless we think in terms of using less and replenishing what we take. This idea is consistent with the Hawaiian concept of kuleana, that is, taking personal responsibility to be sure that what we take is not more than we need and that we replace or compensate for what we take so as not disturb the balance of all things.

We adopted the ways of the colonizers in order to survive. In spite of the decimation of our populations, we are still here, and we still carry the DNA of our ancestors who understood the rhythms of nature and lived in harmony with the earth. Americans are starting to lose confidence that past solutions to our economic problems will continue to be effective. Our system may eventually collapse if we do not fix what’s really wrong. As Native people we are in a position to help shift the paradigm of western economic thinking by leading through example – consuming less and taking only what we need. The more we take responsibility for our own actions and support leaders whose policies are in our best interests, the sooner the changes can start to be made that will assure the survival of our grandchildren, their descendants and most importantly, our beloved Earth.

The Hurt Locker/Avatar

The Oscars are tomorrow night and two of the movies up for Best Picture are The Hurt Locker and Avatar, both of which I actually got to see. I just saw Hurt Locker last night at a theatre – there were only around half a dozen other people in the theatre, which I presume means everyone else is watching it on dvd.

This was a very powerful movie. Painful to watch but I believe a very important movie. We invaded Iraq in 2003 under the false pretense of searching for weapons of mass destruction. We predictably didn’t find any yet we are still in Iraq seven years later, fighting a war that is not ours, in a country that is not ours, in a situation that we can’t possibly win and where we are hated by most people in that country. Hurt Locker featured three main characters, each representing a different kind of soldier. Some people have said the plot was weak and the characters were unlikely. Regardless of that, the movie is a very real snapshot of the damage that is being done as much to the American men and women who are fighting in this war as to the Iraqi citizens who are living in constant fear and chaos. It is disturbing and it is impossible to imagine living in this kind of situation, either as a soldier or a civilian. It explains why troops who return from this war may have most of their body parts intact or put back together but their hearts and minds are gone, the psychological damage is beyond repair. It also explains why we are hated. We should not be fighting wars in countries that do not want us on their land, that have been fighting their own civil and tribal wars since time immemorial and that have no hope of resolution, at least by the United States. The soldiers have a clear disdain for the Iraqi people, maybe because the soldiers resent risking their lives for people who are not European and/or Christian. It seems that if one is going to risk one’s life, it should be for a cause one believes in and this movie leaves me wondering if the soldiers have any idea who the enemy is and what will constitute victory. There is genocide going on in the world that we are ignoring because those countries do not have anything we want (oil, harbors, for example). We are not fighting for justice, we are fighting to protect and feed our greed and I hope people watch this movie and think twice about the high price we all are paying, who is benefiting and if it is really worth it.

On that note, I hope The Hurt Locker wins. And I definitely hope Avatar does not. While people may get caught up in the New Age and environmental themes, those of us who are indigenous laugh at how it takes a member of the colonizers (ie the white guy) to save the tree hugging people who are entirely too inept to save themselves. The “hero” gets the ultimate wannabe wish to become indigenous and lead the people, who fall at his feet. Sorry, it doesn’t ring true for those who know the history of invasion, colonization and genocide of native peoples. It’s ironic that these two war-themed movies, directed by two people who were once married, are so different. Real vs fantasy, truth vs fiction. May the truth prevail.

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