I’d like to think I got a dose of both sides of history in Hawaii’s colonization growing up. I was lucky enough to attend a school that teaches kids about Native Hawaiian life. We celebrated makahiki every year, learned about Native Hawaiian navigating through Nainoa Thompson, 4th graders got to go on a Big Island field trip to visit sacred heiau and look at petroglyphs, and I can still belt out Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī from memory. We also learned about Captain Cook and sang The Lord’s Prayer in Hawaiian, sure effects of colonization but still a part of Hawaii’s history. I feel like I am lucky in comparison to Tuhiwai Smith’s history education growing up, which was solely colonial-based. I don’t think my education about history and research are perfect, but it is a working model. I always thought that history and research were good things. And to be honest, I still think they are. The difference is that it is important to have an understanding of both of their implications in colonization. Without that key piece, indigenous history would get lost forever.
Tuhiwai Smith’s beliefs about the words imperialism, history, writing, and theory are deep rooted in her own ancestry’s lineage and it comes out powerfully in her writing, more so than her speech. It is understandable why she wouldn’t like these words and I agree that they are set in the dominant paradigm and can hurt indigenous people. I can see how writing could be seen as a “mark of superiority” over oral civilizations but even those people valued history. I feel like most indigenous cultures do to some extent, that is how we get things like traditions and folklore. I would respectfully disagree and say that these words aren’t necessarily bad, but bad can come from them if they are misused and if only colonial people are allowed to use them.
Like the previous words, I would maintain the research can be very powerful. It is up to the individual what they choose to do with it: use it for good or evil. I was surprised to hear that not all societies seek out research and that it doesn’t necessarily benefit mankind. These are refreshing points-of-view that made me stop and think critically about my own views on research. I feel like I am in a generation of “need to know” everything but there are times when I find myself reaching a saturation point. Being Type A, it is hard to not want to know everything and just let things simply “be”.
I think the most important things social workers need to remember is to “critically engage with a variety of approaches.” Having lots of alternative views will hopefully create a new blend of what is taken for truths or at least we can acknowledge that there can be many of them.
Photo: a heiau at Ai’opio Beach here in Kona