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Reaction Essay: Gazing Back: Communing With Our Ancestors

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The article by J. Osorio entitled Gazing Back: Communing with our Ancestors, began with a tribute to David Hanlon who was an inspirational and important teacher and figure in Osorio's life. For me, reading this article was so moving, inspiring and a microcosm of an entire semesters' accumulation of knowledge and insight into a culture which I have lived along side my entire life but never fully understood. I do not know if comparing my appreciation for professor Osorio to his of David Hanlon is a worthy praise because Hanlon has affected Osorio's entire life, but I do know that I have never believed in the spirit of contemplation of a culture so much until now and sitting through six weeks of Hawaiian Studies class.

As I read this article I found myself feeling guilty as I have on many occasions during the course of this class. Growing up as a white kid in Kahuku I always felt I was not one of the haole people who were ignorant and foolish in their understanding of "native issues" - I thought that I was instilled with the values of respecting our 'aina and my desire to understand 'olelo Hawaii was a characteristic that set me apart from my peers. As a teenager, I always had more respect for local people and minorities, infact, to me, white people never helped at all in my growth into an adult. The people that hurt me the worst were my white parents and the people that did not help me when I needed it most were my stuck-up, rich white family. The people that were there for me as I struggled through not just adolescence, but abusive parents and drug addiction in every facet of my nuclear and extended family - were families who were Hawaiian and Filipino. They were people who descended from a community that relied on sugar cane plantations in Kahuku. My family was not my mom and dad, my family was a community of people that were there for me and treated me as their own. I never liked being white. What pride is their in that, to be part of a culture which has conquered and destroyed almost all other civilizations on the face of earth in the name of an unforgiving God. I felt set apart from my ethnicity and always wished I could be dark, be anything other than what I am - and I succeeded in feeling this way for a long time. However, I can not say this feeling of equality and respect with Hawaiians, minorities, and darker people has stayed with me beyond my childhood. As I grew older and left my community, I came to the university in an attempt to be educated and lost the respect I had for the people who sacrificed so much to help me grow. I felt so ashamed for not remembering who was there when my own family were not. However, this essay to me is like a sum of everything we have learned about the respect for a culture that hasn't been lost, but instead has been hidden and misrepresented.

As I went through History 151 and 152 and before that through high school history lessons, I suppose I was never given a respect for native Hawaiians. So much was portrayed to make me believe they were stupid peoples who took iron and nails as compensation for food and made foolish decisions about their land, leading to their demise. Gazing Back: Communing with our Ancestors shows us the reconstructing of the characters of ali'i nui like Kamehameha, showing us an insight into a person that was not a heathen



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