Hawaii Tosses Plastic Leis and Grass Skirts

US Senator Brian Schatz introduces the “Native Act of 2016”

While planning a trip in 2009 to California with my hanai or “adopted Spanish daughter,” she asked me if we could see some Indians when we arrived. I grew up in the Los Angeles area and the only Indians I had ever seen were on a back-film lot at Universal Studios. I was speechless. After some vague questioning, I discovered her perception of the western United States was a mix of historical fiction and Hollywood films. Sort of like me looking for Don Quixote, Flamenco dancers, and bullfighters on the street corners of my new home in Spain.

Fast forward to October 11, 2017, and I’m listening to Hawaii’s Senator Brian Schatz speak at the Maui Native Hawaiian, Chamber of Commerce, Business Fest on “Native Wisdom.”

He states, “The story of Hawaii should be in the hands of the local people, we ought to define ourselves in our own terms. Presently our hospitality and tourism sectors are owned by large non-Hawaiian corporations.”

Hmmm, could this explain why most of our “Hawaiian” souvenirs are made in China or the Philippines? Those large corporations are not looking for authenticity, but cheap trinkets to be sold to the unknowing. Ever been to a Hawaiian luau performance? Those fast-moving plastic grass skirts and leis are not reminiscent of the Hawaiian culture, but are a mixture of mass-produced accessories and Tahitian dance moves. Close, but not authentic. So I’m wondering; okay Senator Schatz, what’s your answer to massive consumerism which I fell victim to in Spain? “The Native Act of 2016,” (Native stands for: Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience).

US Senators Brian Schatz and John Thune introduced The Native Act of 2016, which President Obama signed into law in the same year. The law gives our natives an opportunity to expand their local economies and share their authentic history and culture with the world. Who else would know it better?

Tourism in the United States is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors. Of course on Maui, now that our sugar cane industry is gone, tourism is definitely number one. According to Senator Schatz, visitors are increasingly seeking out a more authentic and historically rich travel experience. We say in Hawaii, “Let’s talk story.” What better way to continue our culture and heritage than to offer visitors an opportunity to talk story with locals.

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October 20, 2017

This is good news. I was hoping to hear they were making plastic leis illegal, but I guess that’s a story for another day.

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