Thinking about native cultures

Our family enjoyed a luau this evening at the Hale Koa hotel in Honolulu, which is the military hotel on Waikiki. Since my dad is USAF-retired he could get us all tickets. The food and show were great. I am sure the closing fire dance act will be one of the big memories my kids keep with them after our trip is over.

This “Waikiki-style” show contrasted sharply with the hula program my relative Alice Rogers arranged for us to experience last Saturday night at the north shore camp where we were for our family reunion. That program was put on by a group of older women who share the stories and traditions of authentic Hawaiian hula. I was struck tonight by how different the infusion of native Hawaiian culture is here in Hawaii, compared to what we see in most parts of Oklahoma. While shows like the one we saw tonight have a performance/show feel and are certainly not pure examples of cultural preservation and sharing, they do serve important educational purposes as well as being sources of entertainment for tourists like us. I would guess there are varying opinions among the native Hawaiians about the instrumental and intrinsic value of these programs. While I wouldn’t think a commercialization of Oklahoma native cultures similar to what we have seen in parts of Hawaii over the years would be good from a tribal history standpoint, I do think it is positive in many ways that Hawaiian language and culture are bigger mainstream influences here. It is interesting how casino economics are changing some tribes in Oklahoma, and interesting to see how some are using that revenue to build up their respective cultural identities.

I think it would be both fun and worthwhile to lead a group of “storychasers” from Oklahoma here to Hawaii to explore some of these issues in-depth with various types of media, and continue that exploration back home in Oklahoma.

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