The Fight To Take Back Hawaii | Foreign Correspondent



For over a century, the destiny of this island paradise has been in the hands of outsiders. Now native Hawaiians are reclaiming their culture, language and land.
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“Hawaii is being sold to the global elite. It’s not give and take. It’s just take, take, take, take.” Filmmaker Chris Kahunahana

“They took it away in three generations. We’re going to get it back in one. Whatever it takes.” Waterman Pomai Hoapili.

It’s a slice of paradise for some but behind the postcard façade, native Hawaiians have a different story to tell.

Theirs is a stuggle for land, language and culture, forcibly taken from them by the United States of America.

Housing prices in Hawaii were already sky high, but in the midst of the pandemic they exploded as mainland Americans bought up island boltholes. The housing crisis is hitting native Hawaiians hardest, forcing many out of their own homes. The state of Hawaii now has the third highest homeless rate in the USA.

This is one of many problems facing native locals who are fighting to ʻKeep Hawaii Hawaiian’.

Reporter Matt Davis visits the Hawaiian Islands to hear from the people fighting to keep their culture alive. In a visually stunning journey, Davis explores the lives of people on the frontline of this modern-day native Hawaiian rennaisance.

“Resistance is not only how we get our land back,” says school principal Kalehua Krug. “But it is also medicine – that resistance is how we heal.”

At his school on the island of Oahu, the curriculum focuses on redsicovering the modern story of Hawaii after the kingdom was overthrown in 1893. The students study the Hawaiian language, hula dancing and other cultural practices alongside the mainstream curriculum.

Davis takes a tour around the back streets of Waikiki with celebrated filmmaker Chris Kahunahana, the first native Hawaiian to direct a feature film.

“Hawaii was seen as Hollywood’s back drop. It served as a beautiful location for a Caucasian centred hero,” he tells Davis.

His movie Waikiki shows the darker side of these tropical islands – the reality for many native Hawaiians.

Davis visits the powerhouse community leader Twinkle Borge who has set up a permanent camp to provide shelter for Hawaiians who are sleeping rough. She reveals an extraordinary plan to reclaim land and build a village for her community.

And he goes out on the jet ski with waterman Pomai Hoapili in the middle of the worldʻs most famous surfing competition – the Pipeline Pro.

Between surfing on the North Shore and rescuing people caught in the giant waves, Pomai has enrolled in Hawaiian language classes. He practices speaking with his 10-year-old daughter, who’s also learning.

He says it’s urgent for native Hawaiians to practice their culture.

“Be Hawaiian, speak Hawaiian live Hawaiian…If we stop down the line, people stop talking about us, we disappear…we’ve got to keep practicing.”

In Hawaii to compete in the Pipeline surfing competition, the world’s most famous surfer Kelly Slater asks the world to pay respect.

“Everyone who comes Hawaiian should, should take care of this place and really respect the culture and the locals,” says Slater. “It’s their home and it’s your place to visit, but, you know, take care of it and look after it and ever one can enjoy it.”

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Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.

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