On Being Hawaiian
John Dominis Holt IV
Ku Paʻa Publishing Inc., 1995
This seminal text by Hawaiian writer, philosopher and philanthropist, John Dominis Holt IV, was written in 1964. Holt, one of the first voices of the Second Hawaiian Renaissance, asks the question: What is it like to be a Polynesian in today’s Hawaiʻi?
Holt, who has for years spoken out and led the awakening of Hawaiians to their won brilliant heritage, comes to grips with this questions in a bold and original way. The problem with our ethnic identity is a crucial one in Hawiaʻi, as well as in other parts of the world. The sense of being and the desire for roots can only be realized within the framework of what is one’s own personal, cultural and spiritual heritage. As he writes: “A heritage is more that what has collected in one as genes and chromosomes: his biological endowment. It is spirit, the collective ethos of centuries of culture, and the shape this had taken under the subtle influences of environment. A heritage is also what has accumulated behind us as historical process… all the good… all the bad.”
Mr. Holt’s own heritage is typical of Hawaiʻi’s people. In him, Polynesian chiefs combine with European nobility, and Hawaiian Tahitian, English, Spanish, and Corsican blood mingles with that of the American Missionary.