This land is our land: The social construction of Kaho'olawe Island
How is place communicated? Places of significance are often contested areas. How do communities talk about these places? Can they talk about them in ways that make their meanings understood to others? In this dissertation, hearings from the Kaho'olawe Island Conveyance Commission hearings are analyzed in an effort to understand the many layers of meaning imbedded in a particular place; the island of Kaho'olawe in the State of Hawai'i. These hearings are unique in many ways, because they are the culmination of a twenty year effort to get the United States government to recognize Native Hawaiian claims to the island.
This dissertation looks at metaphors of the land, the social drama which covers the 20 years since the first trespassers landed on the island, and at the stories told by two witnesses about their connection to the land. Each way of looking at what people are saying about the island highlights the differences in the way Hawaiians and the military construct place. In part, these differences are emphasized by their use of the same symbols. Both the military and Hawaiians emphasize the uniqueness of the island and its importance in the maintenance of their culture. Analysis of the testimonies also foregrounds deep tensions in the relationship between the military and Hawaiians that stem, in part, from differing definitions of who are Hawaiians.
The conclusion is that the island is a place of cultural significance to both Native Hawaiians and the military. However, each side frames the symbols that they use very differently, and thus, the two sides have difficulty communicating in meaningful ways with each other.
0326: Cultural anthropology