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5 major events of the 1970s Hawaiian Renaissance Movement

In the 1970s, the Hawaiian community experienced a cultural renaissance. The growing interest in the Hawaiian language, music, traditional navigation and voyaging, and hula sparked new pride amongst Hawaiians. Cultural awareness spawned political activism seeking greater autonomy and sovereignty, protection of traditional native gathering rights, and an end to the bombing of Kaho`olawe island for military training purposes.

Below are 5 major events that happened specifically in the 1970s.


Kalama Valley

Protests against evictions in Kalama Valley were part of a decade of activism on Native Hawaiian issues. Scholar and activist Haunani Kay-Trask would later write that Kalama Valley is widely considered the start of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance.

​​In 1971, nearly three dozen Hawaiian activists were arrested in Kalama Valley in East Oahu while protesting the evictions of local pig farmers from land owned by Bishop Estate.

A Honolulu Star-Advertiser article describes demonstrators singing and chanting, and saying to police officers, “Hey, you guys are Hawaiian. You should be up here with us.” The protest was peaceful and had been anticipated for a month.

Meanwhile, other activists picketed Bishop Estate to protest the arrests.

Hawaiian activist Haunani Trask wrote in 1987 that the evictions and arrests are largely considered to be the beginning of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance.


Aloha Association Telethon

The A.L.O.H.A (Aboriginal Lands of Hawaiian Ancestry) Association holds a telethon as part of a push for reparations for the Native Hawaiian people.

The purpose of A.L.O.H.A was to:

  • To eliminate existing past debts of the A.L.O.H.A. Association as well as future out-of-pocket expenses of researching, including studies, interviews, systems, and fact-finding programs, such as public hearings, etc.

  • To establish and maintain state-wide administrative offices and staff;

  • To conduct thorough research for the reparations effort including lobbying, state and national;

  • To produce for and distribute to native Hawaiians, educational and informational materials regarding reparations;

  • To conduct publicity programs and community-related promotions which would communicate our reparations effort to the general public in the most positive ways

  • To unite our Hawaiian People, organizations, and societies, towards the objective of the A.L.O.H.A. Association, Inc.


Kahoʻolawe Protests

Perhaps the most famous example of Native Hawaiian activism is the fight to regain control over the Navy target island Kahoolawe, which took decades and cost two lives.

Kahoolawe had been a bombing range since 1953, and the Navy even simulated an atomic bomb explosion there. By the 1970s, an organization called Protect Kahoolawe Ohana was formed to protest the bombings and get the island back. Activists took boats to the island off the coast of Maui in defiance of Navy rules.

Numerous protesters were arrested for illegally trespassing on Kahoolawe, including a Time Magazine journalist who accompanied activists. Although the protests were peaceful, they weren’t always safe. Activists George Helm and Kimo Mitchell disappeared while traveling between Kahoolawe and Maui.

After a lawsuit, the Navy agreed to stop the bombing in 1980. But the island wasn’t formally given back to Hawaii until the 1990s. The federal government funded a $300 million cleanup in the early 1990s.

Still, Kahoolawe remains littered with unexploded ordnance, and visitors are warned against walking around unaccompanied.


Waiahole-Waikane Protests

Protests against evictions in Hawaii were common in the 1960s and 1970s, but among the best-known is the refusal of farmers and other tenants to leave Waiahole-Waikane despite plans for a big 7,000-unit development in the Windward Oahu valley.

More than 200 people blocked traffic on Kamehameha Highway in January 1977 to protest the evictions. Organizers told reporters that they did so because they heard police were on their way to forcibly remove the tenants, although police denied this.

Like the TMT protests, where Native Hawaiian activists serenaded one another, a reporter described the Waiahole-Waikane protests as musical:

“Out near the highway a group of young Hawaiians was holding new signs boasting “We Stopped the Cops.” But it was not an angry or defiant scene. One was playing ukulele; another, a guitar. One was singing — a song his father or maybe even grandfather had sung years before, perhaps in this same valley.”