Hawaiians are Not Science Fiction, But We Should Be: Imagining New Stories for Our Futures – KE KAUPU HEHI ALE

Hawaiians are not science fiction. We are not futuristic. No indigenous person is. At least that is what they seem to be telling us. We are not in any of their visions of the future. We do not go boldly where no man has gone before. “Excelsior” doesn’t translate into any of our languages. We are not John Carter of Mars or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century or Flash Gordon of wherever and whenever he was supposed to be from. If we do show up, it is as Nalo Hopkinson says in her introduction to So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy: “one of the most familiar memes of science fiction is that of going to foreign countries and colonizing the natives . . . for many of us, that’s not a thrilling adventure story; it’s non-fiction, and we are on the wrong side of the strange-looking ship that appears out of nowhere.”
They don’t seem to really want us in their present either. We only belong in their past. Just look at the comments section of any newspaper article on indigenous struggles against colonialism, to prevent mining companies and pipelines from destroying our mother, to prevent free trade agreements that leave us anything but free. Astronomer Tom Kerr wrote about the fight over telescopes on Mauna Kea in 2011, saying: “It seems to me that it’s an argument about returning to the stone age versus understanding our universe and it’ll be interesting to see who wins in the end.” We are impediments to progress. We want to keep everyone in the Stone Age. We should be thankful for the gifts of colonization. We need to accept reality and stop living in the past.
Yet if any of that were true, how is it that on these islands, surrounded by the vast blue Moananuiākea, you will find some of the most futuristic places imaginable? They are terraced stone nestled in wrinkled green valleys. Breathing fishponds dozens of acres in size sitting at the generative convergence of fresh and salt water. Platforms for ceremonies that reaffirm our genealogical connection to land. In those places, you will find people building and rebuilding dry stack rock walls, some of which have stood for six hundred years. You can join in as they retell the stories of their land, speak the names of those who came before, plant garden beds for food and medicine, practice traditional aquaculture, share agroforestry traditions from other Pacific islands, reforest with native species, and engage in community food production. Paepae o Heʻeia, Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili, Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, Papahana Kuaola, Hui o Kuapā, Waipā. These are just a handful of names for the future.
To those people who are so certain that we are stuck in the past, this will sound like the opposite of futuristic. These aloha ʻāina who work the land don’t use any flying cars or cybernetic implants or robot servants. They use picks and shovels and rubber boots. And if their projects have funding, chainsaws and backhoes. These people who have love for our future are restoring the traditional agricultural systems that were there before. They have built and blessed traditional hale pili, grow traditional medicines and make tinctures, and produce enough food to give away.

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