Stab Magazine | Hawaii's Hawaiian Problem
622 Views

Hawaii’s Hawaiian Problem

Hawaiian Judge issues warrant for University of Hawaii professor for speaking Hawaiian in court.

news // Jan 30, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“I don’t know what that means, Mr. Kaeo,” said Judge Blaine Kobayashi last Wednesday, shortly before issuing a $750 fine and bench warrant for his arrest. (Which many were justifiably confused by, as Kaeo was sitting right there.)

Kaleikoa Kaeo, a professor at the University of Hawaii on Maui, was in court facing charges relating to his involvement in an August 2017 protest, of the construction of a massive new telescope at the summit of Maui’s Mount Haleakala. 

When Judge Kobayashi asked Kaeo if he was present, the professor and activist responded in ʻŌlelo Hawaiian, his native language, and one of the official languages of the State of Hawaii.

For reasons that remain unclear, after Kaeo responded multiple times, Judge Kobayashi responded by issuing a bench warrant, “since the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court.”

Kaeo was quick to point out that he had sat in front of the Judge on at least 15 previous occasions, leading Kaeo and his supporters to assert that the decision was racially motivated.

The warrant and fine were withdrawn without explanation the following day. 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/gCYI1GR9rK4

“The idea of [Hawaiians] being invisible is nothing new,” said Kaeo at a rally on Friday afternoon. “What we witnessed in the courtroom on Wednesday is nothing new. It’s not about the Judge, I want you guys to realize this. Yes, you can point the finger at Judge Kobayashi, but even if we change Judge Kobayashi, it does not change the system of racism and sexism that exists in Hawaii. It’s a systemic problem in which they silence our voices. They treat us as if we’re not human beings, as if we don’t know what’s best for our people.”

Judge Kobayashi’s controversial move in the courtroom has sparked outrage and appears to have left the state in a bit of a legal gray area.

The Hawaiian State Judiciary issued a statement saying, “There is no legal requirement to provide Hawaiian language interpreters to court participants who speak English, but prefer to speak in Hawaiian. In those cases, Judges have the discretion to grant or deny a request for an interpreter.”

By Friday, the Judiciary announced a policy change. It would provide interpreters to those seeking to speaking Hawaiian in court “to the extent reasonably possible.”

They noted the new policy takes effect immediately.

Meanwhile, Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing posted his response to Facebook.

“This is what they used to do to our kapuna,” said Ing (all sic). “You criminalize our native tongue so you get too scared to use it, which chips away at our culture, and actually almost eradicate our culture until some brave folks in our parents’ generation brought forth the Hawaiian renaissance, but to think in 2018 that this Hawaiian practitioner is getting forced to use the language of what he considers his oppressor is just wrong on so many levels.” 

Ing plans on submitting a bill to address the issue in greater detail. It’s worth noting, that there is only one Hawaiian interpreter in the state officially recognized to serve as a court interpreter. In the case of Kaeo’s situation, the cost of said interpreter is believed to be approximately $70.

On the flip side of the coin, proponents of the judge’s actions argue that if Kaeo was able to speak English he should have done so.

“This gentleman is clearly and unequivocally, remarkably, proficient in the English language and what he’s using this for is to follow up in the type of protest that he had on Haleakala,” said former prosecutor Peter Carlisle. 

Kaeo was one of a half-dozen protesters arrested during the August 2017 Haleakala protest, which drew hundreds of activists and locals to prevent construction crews from getting to the top of the sacred mountain. 

Kaeo is facing petty misdemeanors charges for Disorderly Conduct, obstructing a sidewalk, and disobedience to police officers.

 “It’s really important that we stand up and speak out and take heart when something like this happens,” noted Ing. 

“The only ones that can free us from this dehumanization is us working together.” says Kaeo, who’s conviction and dedication to his people has only been reinforced since last week’s incident.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/RmRpTfcdwNs

 

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

1:38

Can A GQ Cover Boy Take Out Teahupo’o?

Kauli Vaast is your incredibly handsome Tahiti trials winner.

Aug 11, 2022

Watch: Ramble On With Caity Simmers 

An action-rich tour behind the scenes of her triumphant first voyage to Oz.

Aug 11, 2022

PSA: Surf Filmers Not Welcome In Nicaragua

Cameras and drones are being seized on arrival, Stab spoke with two recent visitors.

Aug 11, 2022

Inside The Alternative Surfboard Marketing Machine 

Two of the biz's best — Matt Parker and Blake Peters — spill many beans.

Aug 10, 2022

The Tragic Parallels Between The Murder Of Ricardo Dos Santos & 8x World Jiu Jitsu Champion Leandro Lo

Two Brazilian sporting icons killed brazenly by off-duty police officers.

Aug 9, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: In The Belly Of The Beast

Finger flips, shaping with Zion Wright, slurpees, Hawaiian takeovers, and the king of Surfline rewinds.

Aug 8, 2022

Albee Layer Discusses His Not-So-Budding Acting Career And The Upcoming Film “Sweet Adventure”

"Matt and Nora were tripping a little harder than I was just because they weren't…

Aug 8, 2022

Zeke Lau & Bettylou Sakura Johnson Win The Vans US Open Of Surfing 

Hawaii dominates HB.

Aug 8, 2022

How A Former CT Surfer Gets “Absolute Beginners” Barreled In A Matter Of Months

Luke Stedman elaborates on his Blackball surf programs.

Aug 7, 2022

5:50

Sweeter Than Stolen Honey 

A versatile Haydenshapes x Dylan Graves HP (and soft board) tested in weird waves.

Aug 7, 2022

15-Year-Old Ladybird Erin Brooks Makes Final In All-Men’s Tuberiding Event

And Clay Marzo takes the dub.

Aug 6, 2022

Are We Looking At Reef Sculpting The Wrong Way? 

The pros, cons, possibilities, and mechanisms of changing reefs to suit our surfing desires.

Aug 6, 2022

The Gudang Trio Discusses Brotherhood And How To Make It To The Mountain Top Together  

Positive sibling vibrations we should all aspire to.

Aug 6, 2022

9:03

Everyone’s Local Zone Has A Mythical Wave

Kai Lenny, Imaikalani DeVault, Eli Hanneman and friends get to surf theirs.

Aug 5, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: Harry Bryant Vs. The Wedge

A lot of swell, stolen identities, surf masochists, mutilated noses, The Wedge, skull-crushing pylons, and…

Aug 5, 2022

When Gabby And Kolohe Pull Out, The Hog Pulls In

Tahiti wildcards named.

Aug 5, 2022

First Look: The 2022 Electric Acid Surfboards

Did our questionable EAST gamble pay off for Mick Fanning's Maldivian quiver ?

Aug 4, 2022

How Boardshorts Work

They are your one chance to look cool while actually surfing. Don’t blow it.

Aug 4, 2022
Advertisement