With more people moving to Hawai'i for school, work, whatever it may be, there is an important message that everyone coming here needs to know. Though I cannot speak for the natives and locals that live here, these are important lessons I learned in the past few years of living here. Messages that some students and people that are currently here still need to learn.
1) We are on stolen land.
To put it bluntly, this isn't our land. Yes, Hawai'i is a part of the United States, but what everyone needs to know is that Hawai'i wasn't given much of a choice. The Kingdom of Hawai'i was overthrown and their Queen was imprisoned in her own palace. Simply put: Hawai'i was wrongfully taken from its people and colonized. To this day, native Hawaiians continue to fight for their sovereignty and struggle daily. Due to the colonization of their island, the price of housing has skyrocketed and most Native Hawaiians can't afford homes on their own land. Do not make it harder for them to re-claim their land.
2) Please learn Hawaiian culture/history.
If you're here for school, please take a Hawaiian class and learn of its people and history. If you're not a student, do your own research about Hawaiian culture and history if you plan to live here. Learn to appreciate the people around you and their land. Their culture is sacred and not something to be taken for granted. Learn from their perspective, and not a white-washed version told by American school systems. Being from California, we were taught that Hawai'i was annexed to the United States in 1898 and nothing more. Nothing about their previous history or how their kingdom was illegally overthrown. By learning Hawaiian history, people shift their perspective and can be more aware of the prevalent issues still in Hawai'i. Don't contribute more to the colonization in Hawai'i.
3) Respect the land and wildlife.
This is someone's home. While you can leave, this is their home, so please don't ruin or disrespect it. Not only is it someone's home, but Native Hawaiians are connected to this land both culturally and spiritually. They believe the land and ocean to be a source of life. Please be mindful of cultural and historical sites, protect their environment, and be considerate everywhere you go. It does not only apply to the land, but the wildlife that lives on it. There are many animals and wildlife in Hawai'i, so extend the respect to them as well.
4) Not everyone from Hawai'i is Hawaiian.
Just because you live in Hawai'i, does not make you Hawaiian. It is not similar to other states where you can say you're a "Californian" or a "New Yorker." It is different in Hawai'i because they have their own history, culture, traditions, and language. To be Hawaiian is to be part of the indigenous populations that originated in Hawai'i. They have their own ethnicity and it is disrespectful to call yourself a part of that group simply because you live on their land. To be considered Hawaiian depends on ancestry and not where you live.
5) It's not a "paradise" to escape to
It's beautiful, but it has the same issues as any city in the United States. Even through all of its problems, the tourism industry still sells off the idea of Hawai'i as a paradise that people can escape to (even during a global pandemic). Which, in turn, hurts the current residents. Hawai'i (O'ahu especially) has a terrible homelessness problem. When people "run away" here, they contribute to the colonization and exploitation of these islands. They contribute to housing prices rising and forcing Native Hawaiians to be homeless since they cannot afford the steep prices. People still have regular lives here, where they have to go to work everyday just like anywhere else. You don't get to just relax at the beach all day and your problems don't just melt away when you're here. Please stop romanticizing Hawai'i.
6) The least we can do is educate ourselves. Do something to help!
While educating ourselves is super important, it is the bare minimum, and we can do more while we live here. We aren't helping colonization. I understand it's not as easy as just turning around and leaving since people may be in leasing contracts or have committed to going to school here. So while you're here, do something with your time. It's not just about educating yourself, but also helping spread the lessons and messages you've learned to the rest of the United States. Join your local community, support and help fight for Hawaiian issues, participate in a local beach clean-up, help combat homelessness. These are just a few examples of how you can help Hawai'i be recognized for the beauty of its culture and not just recognized as a tourist destination.