Lāhui
E hele ka ʻelemakule, ka luahine, a me nā kamaliʻi a moe i ke ala ʻaʻohe mea nāna e hoʻopilikia.E hele ka ʻelemakule, ka luahine, a me nā kamaliʻi a moe i ke ala ʻaʻohe mea nāna e hoʻopilikia.
Let the old men, the old women, and the children go and sleep on the wayside; let them not be molested.
A law decreed by Kamehameha I.
— (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #280)

Do you paddle canoe for a club? Or maybe run track for your school’s team? Or perhaps you hula for a hālau?

 

What if you don’t do any of those things? Are you still a part of a group? Sure you are! We all belong to many groups based on things like shared interests, geographic location, common goals, or even things that we can’t necessarily control, like whose class we are in. Some groups, like your school’s track team, may be small while others, like your whole school, may be large.

 

Can you think of some small groups that you’re a member of? How about any larger groups? Well, let’s look at how our connection to Hawaiʻi puts us into certain groups.

What is a lāhui?

A lāhui is essentially a group of people. Here in Hawaiʻi, we have two basic ways that we use lāhui: lāhui Hawaiʻi and lāhui ʻōiwi. The lāhui Hawaiʻi grouping refers to nationality or citizenship, while lāhui ʻōiwi refers to ethnicity. People’s nationalities are determined by the country of their birth or parentage, so someone’s nationality could be American, but if they moved to France and became a citizen, their nationality would change to French. Their ethnicity, on the other hand, is derived from their ethnic background and wouldn’t change, even if they became a citizen of many different countries. So, do you have to be a Native Hawaiian to be a member of the lāhui Hawaiʻi? During the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, the ʻōiwi or natives were the clear majority of the lāhui Hawaiʻi, but non-natives that were officially classified as “non-aboriginal” were also a part of the lāhui Hawaiʻi.


On November 28, 1843, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was officially recognized as an independent nation-state. At the time, Hawaiʻi was the first and only nation-state to receive international recognition without a European head of state.

He aupuni ko Kamehameha.
Kamehameha has a government.
A warning not to steal. Kamehameha united the islands and made laws that gave everyone peace and safety. Killing and stealing were utterly prohibited.
(ʻŌlelo Noʻeau # 552)


What’s your nationality?

Have you ever been asked what your nationalities are? Did it seem weird to you? Well, if that never sounded strange to you then, it will soon. That question is really asking how many countries you are a citizen of, but most people want to know your ethnicities when they ask you that. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between nationality and ethnicity.

In Hawaiʻi, a “national” is a person who is a Hawaiian subject or someone who became a citizen of Hawaiʻi. A subject was either (1) born in Hawaiʻi and acquired Hawaiian citizenship or (2) applied for naturalization because they either lived in Hawaiʻi for at least 5 years and applied to be a subject or were not born in Hawaiʻi. A lot of countries confer citizenship on people born within their borders. The United States is another nation, like the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, that does so. So what if a Hawaiian subject takes a trip to America and has a child there? Well, the child would be American by birth but Hawaiian by parentage. That is what we call a dual citizen! If you’re a direct descendant of a Hawaiian subject from the Kingdom, you would be considered a Hawaiian national. If you’re a direct descendant of someone in America, you would be considered a U.S. citizen. Therefore, a person’s citizenry through birth or naturalization is her or his nationality. So what if you have a direct lineage to a Kingdom of Hawaiʻi national and you’re native to Hawaiʻi? How do you differentiate the two?


The late King David Kalākaua was very tech-savvy.  ʻIolani Palace, built during his reign, was equipped with both electricity and the telephone before the U.S. White House.


Well, what is your ethnicity?

While nationality identifies groups by their citizenry, ethnicity identifies the group according to commonalities such as language, customs, culture and genealogy. The Hawaiian term for those of Hawaiian ethnicity is lāhui ʻōiwi. This is a term used to describe the ethnicity of the native population of Hawaiʻi. Were there other Hawaiian nationals of different ethnicities? Yes! Here are some early examples of ethnic groups that were lāhui Hawaiʻi: English, Irish, Guamanian (Chamorro), and Abdullah from Kolkata, India. So, if an Indian national came to Hawaiʻi and gave birth, that child would be a Hawaiian national by birth and an Indian national by parentage. But the child may also be of Indian ethnicity as well, or a Hawaiian national of Indian ethnicity.

For Hawaiians, the meaning of lāhui by itself shifted from something like nationalism to ethnicity and back. In the 1830s, when the Hawaiian-language newspapers first began, lāhui was mainly used to refer to what we would consider nations, entities that had sovereignty. European countries were referred to as lāhui, as were Native American tribes.

This use stayed pretty consistent throughout the kingdom era, and the idea of the lāhui Hawaiʻi was used as a rallying point through a lot of the political troubles at the end of the nineteenth century. Hawaiian nationals knew they could garner the support of their allies when they called the lāhui Hawaiʻi together. After the overthrow and illegal annexation, however, a lot of new people came into Hawaiʻi, and they weren’t dedicated to the idea of an independent Hawaiian nation the same way Hawaiian nationals were. They were not necessarily a part of the lāhui Hawaiʻi. As it became harder to rally the lāhui Hawaiʻi as a national entity and American ideas about race became more prevalent, lāhui came to refer more to ethnicity in common usage. Now, with increased understanding of Hawaiian as a nationality as well as an ethnicity, the different ways to understand lāhui are returning.

 

He aupuni palapala koʻu; ʻo ke kanaka pono ʻo ia koʻu kanaka.
Mine is the kingdom of education; the righteous man is my man.
Uttered by Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III.
(ʻŌlelo Noʻeau # 553)

Aloha ʻāina!

So now that we’ve learned more about the difference between lāhui Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian nationality) and lāhui ʻōiwi (Hawaiian ethnicity), what do we do? Be an aloha ʻāina! That’s a person who loves her or his land and country. Though it is similar to a patriot in English, an aloha ʻāina also has a deep connection to the land itself. Whenever you’re a citizen of a country, your allegiance is to the country, and it’s your civic duty to be a part of the government, to maintain its growth, to increase its growth, and to maintain its independence.  So what’s your nationality and what’s your ethnicity?