Was Hawaiian Language Illegal?
Did the Evil Haoles Suppress Hawaiian Language As A Way of Oppressing Kanaka Maoli and Destroying Their Culture?
(c) Copyright 2002 - 2005 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved
Hawaiian sovereignty activists like to say that "Hawaiian language was made illegal." They like to say that "Here in our own homeland we were forbidden from speaking Hawaiian, and our grandmothers have told us how they were punished for speaking it."
The activists like to say Hawaiian language was illegal because it magnifies their claim to victimhood status. It's one more way those haole oppressors turned the natives of this land into a poor, downtrodden people who have the worst statistics for education, health, incarceration drug abuse, etc. "Those haoles stole our land, and our nation, and even made our language illegal right here in our own homeland. So of course we're angry, we feel deep pain, and we're entitled to huge reparations for the damage done to us."
The editor of this website, Ken Conklin, has personally heard and seen such claims frequently asserted on TV, in Hawaiian history and language classes, and in published newspaper articles, since first coming to live permanently in Hawai'i in 1992. Some Maui high school students started publishing letters to editor trumpeting this claim in December 2003; at which point Ken Conklin decided to begin accumulating these statements for posterity. See Claims Of Victimization By Language Suppression.
But of course, today we know that there were Hawaiian language newspapers publishing continuously, right up through about 1950 when they finally died out. Hawaiian language was spoken in the Hawai'i Territorial Legislature in the early 1900s. And yes, if granny spoke Hawaiian in school as a little girl she might have been punished by the teacher, just as the little Japanese girl was punished for speaking Japanese. But even at home, granny as a little girl might have been punished by her own parents for speaking Hawaiian in the home, because the parents recognized that the path to social and economic success would be through English. The parents would speak to each other in Hawaiian, but would speak only English with their children. The parents did that not because the language was illegal, but rather because they wanted what was best for their beloved children.
In recent years we have learned that Hawaiian language was not banned in the society and culture of Hawai'i, and remained in everyday use in newspapers etc. But the remnant of the "illegal language" claim is that Hawaiian language was banned in the schools. That is also absolutely false. Hawaiian language was not singled out, the law applied to all Asian, European, and other non-English languages as well. Courses where Hawaiian language (or any other language) was the subject matter were specifically allowed by the carefully written law. The law applied only to require the use of English to teach non-language courses, such as math, science, history, etc. The law did not prohibit private schools for after-school instruction in language and culture. The law only said that such "immersion" schools could not be the main school attended by a child that the government would recognize as meeting the compulsory school attendance law.
Perpetuating this myth, that Hawaiian language was banned in society, or in school, serves the agenda of the sovereignty activists to portray ethnic Hawaiians as victims and to stir up resentment and anger. Thus the need for this webpage.
This webpage consists of two parts: (1) A personal note by Ken Conklin, describing my 10-year odyssey toward learning the carefully-hidden truth about "suppression of Hawaiian language"; and (2) What the law actually said, and why Hawaiian language nearly died out.
A Personal Note by Ken Conklin
(1) A personal note by Ken Conklin, describing my 10-year odyssey toward learning the carefully-hidden truth about "suppression of Hawaiian language"
When I moved to Hawai'i to live here permanently in summer 1992, I immediately signed up to take courses in Hawaiian language, history, and culture beginning in September. I was repeatedly told by the instructors and by my fellow (ethnic Hawaiian) students that Hawaiian language had been illegal right up until only a few years previously. They said that after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, the Provisional Government and its successor the Republic of Hawai'i had passed a law making Hawaiian language illegal. The purpose of the law was allegedly to oppress kanaka maoli; to strip them of their language and culture in order to force them to assimilate to American culture. This suppression of the language and culture was accompanied by the theft of Hawaiian land accomplished by the illegal Republic of Hawai'i ceding the government and crown lands of the Kingdom to the U.S. as part of the illegal annexation of 1898. My instructors and fellow students told me they had heard their grandmothers telling stories of being punished for speaking Hawaiian.
But as I learned more, I began to question what I was being told. For example, I was also told that the Constitution of the State of Hawai'i (resulting from a Constitutional Convention in 1978) declared that Hawaiian and English are the two official languages of the State of Hawai'i. So, how could Hawaiian language have been illegal after it was made an official language in 1978? And why were all the street names Hawaiian? And how did the songs and hulas and genealogies get passed down through the latest several generations if the language was truly illegal? (standard totally baseless answer: it was done in secret!) I asked for the names of even a few people who had been arrested for speaking Hawaiian, but none were forthcoming. I asked for a citation of the laws in the Hawai'i statutes that made the language illegal, and nobody could provide them. I was already pressing the limits of cordiality by asking such "niele" (overly inquisitive) questions, and to press harder would have been considered "maha'oi" (rudely impertinent, or perhaps "politically incorrect").
Summer 1998 was a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of annexation. Hawaiian sovereignty propagandists had "rediscovered" a long-forgotten petition against a treaty of annexation. The petition had been created and delivered to the U.S. Senate in 1897 and had been safeguarded in the National Archives all along -- and it was written in Hawaiian language! So, clearly the language was not illegal in 1897. The sovereignty activists also mentioned some anti-annexation articles that had been published in Hawaiian-language newspapers! Clearly the language was not illegal. Later I learned that Hawaiian-language newspapers had been published continuously right up to about 1950 when they finally died out for lack of readership.
Finally, six years after I started asking questions, a Hawaiian sovereignty activist who had some respect for the facts told me that the Hawaiian language had never been completely illegal; but that a law had been passed in 1896 (Republic of Hawai'i) making the language illegal in schools. My informant told me the language was made illegal in all the schools, both public and private, and that indeed children were punished for speaking Hawaiian in school. I was told that the purpose of this law was to "haolefy" the children and colonize their minds; i.e., to diminish the influence of Hawaiian culture and language in the formation of the children's minds and to force the children to assimilate to American culture and English language (turn ethnic Hawaiian children into coconuts -- brown on the outside but white on the inside). The purpose was to oppress kanaka maoli and destroy their culture.
As the evils of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement became more clear to me and I began making public statements in opposition to that agenda, I continued asking questions about this law from 1896 that made the Hawaiian language illegal in all the schools. Finally, in summer 2002 I discovered the truth, explained in part (2) below.
Twisting history is an activity where Hawaiian sovereignty activists have great expertise. Many of them simply don't know the truth. Some know only certain portions of the truth which were told to them in distorted ways. A few actually know enough of the truth to realize that what the activists are saying is nonsense, yet they knowingly continue to commit historical fraud. One such fraud is the claim that Hawaiian language was completely illegal, or that at least it was illegal in the schools. It is very easy for someone to say "They stole our nation. They stole our land. They made our language illegal in order to oppress us and force us to assimilate." It is then easy for dozens more people to shout such nonsense. The nonsense takes only ten seconds to say. It takes a long time to do the research, and a long time to explain the truth. Citizens of Hawai'i and of the U.S. must no longer allow the sovereignty activists to commit historical fraud. That's why this website is called "Hawaiian sovereignty: thinking carefully about it." That's one reason why this page on the "illegal" Hawaiian language is so important -- it probes deeply into one particular falsehood and serves as an example of how such falsehoods are perpetuated in service to the Hawaiian victimhood grievance industry.
What the law actually said
(2) What the law actually said, and why Hawaiian language nearly died out.
Most nations or their political subdivisions (like the states of the United States) have laws protecting children from physical and economic abuse. Part of that protection is a compulsory attendance law, requiring children to attend school until they reach an age where they may freely decide whether to remain in school or leave. One purpose of a compulsory attendance law is to ensure that children will get an education enabling them to become productive members of society capable of earning a living in an occupation of their own choice. Part of that purpose is to protect children by ensuring that parents or other adults cannot force children to abandon their schooling at an early age in order to work to support their parents or to provide cheap labor for some farmer, fisherman, or factory.
The Hawaiian kingdom had a compulsory school attendance law, which was continued (with modifications) under the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory, and State of Hawai’i. Any compulsory school attendance law must include a definition of what constitutes a “school.” To make sure parents or factories cannot get around the law by establishing sham “schools,” the government defines the minimum requirements that must be met before a “school” is certified as meeting the requirements of the compulsory attendance law. Such minimum requirements for facilities, curriculum, and performance review apply to all schools, both government and private. Thus, a government has an agency responsible for certifying schools that meet the requirements. Government certification of schools for purposes of the compulsory attendance law does not prohibit other schools or academies. For example, churches can operate “Sunday schools” for religious instruction, or ethnic groups can set up after-school or weekend academies to perpetuate a culture and language.
Following the overthrow, the Republic of Hawai'i passed a law in 1896 specifying that English must be the language of instruction in any school receiving certification as meeting the compulsory attendance law. Here is the exact wording of that law:
1896 Laws of the Republic of Hawaii, Act 57, sec. 30: "The English Language shall be the medium and basis of instruction in all public and private schools, provided that where it is desired that another language shall be taught in addition to the English language, such instruction may be authorized by the Department, either by its rules, the curriculum of the school, or by direct order in any particular instance. Any schools that shall not conform to the provisions of this section shall not be recognized by the Department." [signed] June 8 A.D., 1896 Sanford B. Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii.
The law clearly concerns only schools, not society at large. It does not single out Hawaiian language at all -- it applies equally to all languages other than English, including Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, etc. (the majority of the children at that time were children of Japanese and Chinese plantation workers, and there were also numerous immigramts from Portugal working on the plantations, mostly as lunas [overseers of small work gangs]). The law does not prohibit establishing private after-school or weekend academies where the medium of instruction could be Hawaiian (or any other language) -- it merely states that such schools will not be recognized by the government as satisfying the requirement that all children must attend school. The law clearly states that Hawaiian (or any other language) may be taught in a language course.
Some ethnic groups, most notably first-generation immigrant Japanese plantation workers, did indeed have private schools for "after school" or weekend instruction in their language and culture (see astonishing information about just how prevalent this was, near the end of this webpage). Many, perhaps most Hawaiian parents went so far as to demand that their children speak only English at home as well as at school. There was simply no desire among Hawaiian parents to set up special academies to perpetuate Hawaiian language. Ethnic Hawaiian plantation workers were legally free to do what the Japanese actually did. The Hawaiians were also being paid at a higher wage rate than the Japanese, who were at the bottom of the scale (until Filipinos started coming to Hawai’i and occupied the bottom). The Japanese felt it was important to invest their time and money to perpetuate their culture and language; while the Hawaiians, to the contrary, felt it was important to demand that their children speak English and assimilate to Euro-American cultural values.
Japanese plantation workers were on three-year contracts and most intended to return to Japan; therefore, they strongly wanted their children to grow up speaking and feeling Japanese. Plantation workers were unskilled laborers and therefore low-paid by the standards of the U.S. or Hawai'i. Yet from 1885 to 1894 they sent back to their families in Japan about $2.5 Million. That was an enormous sum: for example, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate including about 400,000 acres of land was valued at only about $300,000 during the probate of her will circa 1886; and the value of all 1.8 million acres of ceded lands in 1898 has been estimated at around $2.7 million. Despite low wages and large remittances to their families back home, Hawai’i’s Japanese had private schools perpetuating their culture and taught in their language, attended by children during afternoons and weekends following their attendance at English-language schools certified as meeting the compulsory attendance law in conformity with the English-language law of 1896. Some of these Japanese schools were established by Christian missionaries of Japanese ancestry who had financial resources not available to the plantation workers. But if ethnic Hawaiians had wanted to preserve their culture and language by means of similar schools, there were plenty of wealthy ali’i who could have provided money as the Japanese Christian missionaries were doing; and the laws would have enabled the Hawaiians do so on the same basis that the Japanese actually did it.
Even within the official government-recognized schools, the law clearly does not prohibit Hawaiian language or other languages from being taught. The law merely says the language used for teaching all courses other than language courses shall be English. Indeed, the law explicitly states that language courses can be taught.
Here is some information about the laws of Hawai'i concerning Hawaiian language, taken from a sheet distributed by kumu hula John Lake in his Hawaiian culture classes. 1901 [note: 5 years after Hawaiian language was supposedly made "illegal"]: All laws become legally binding only when published in both an English daily newspaper and a Hawaiian weekly; 1913: Law requiring announcements relative to the sale of government land must appear in Hawaiian; 1913: $10,000 appropriated for publication of a Hawaiian dictionary; 1919: Law that Hawaiian shall be taught as a subject in all high schools and teachers' colleges; 1923: $2000 appropriated for writing and publishing textbooks in Hawaiian; 1935: Daily instruction of at least 10 minutes in Hawaiian conversation or writing required in elementary schools serving Hawaiian Homes children. Clearly, Hawaiian language was alive, and received government funding in the schools throughout the Territorial period.
The purpose of the 1896 law was both political and social, to promote the use of English as a universal language. Thus the barriers separating ethnic groups could be reduced and a growing feeling of social unity underlying cultural diversity could be enhanced. The government of Hawai'i was looking forward to U.S. annexation. English was already the primary language in Hawai’i’s burgeoning local and foreign-trade economy, and in government operations. Many kanaka maoli parents both before and after the overthrow of the monarchy spoke Hawaiian between themselves but insisted that their children speak only English at home as well as at school. “Pidgin” (Hawaiian creole) was the language of the streets and the plantations -- a blending of Asian, European, and Hawaiian languages into a distinctively local way of communicating. But while pidgin helped people cross language barriers and gave them a convivial feeling of belonging to a “local” lifestyle, it lacked the ability to forumulate complex abstract concepts or precise legal contracts. Worst of all (or best of all!), it was incomprehensible to outsiders. Many Asian parents made decisions to remain in Hawai’i -- such decisions were made either explicitly when a first labor contract expired, or more gradually as time passed and they found themselves putting down roots. The primacy of English for business, law, and politics; and the formal attachment of Hawai’i to the United States through Annexation; made both Hawaiian and Asian parents recognize that the path to social and economic success for their children would increasingly be through English, not Hawaiian or pidgin or any Asian language.
The practical result was that use of Hawaiian language declined to the point where it was nearly extinct as a daily-use language by the time of statehood (except for its use in hula and other special cultural activities). Even many hula dancers memorized the Hawaiian language lyrics without understanding their meanings, just as some American-born opera singers memorize their Italian or German lines without understanding them. But now, thanks to a growing group of dedicated kanaka maoli and non-kanaka maoli, the language has been saved and is flourishing.
The use of Hawaiian language today carries political overtones, unlike the mere fact of using other langauges in the homelands of those languages. Some kanaka maoli speakers use Hawaiian language as a political weapon to assert cultural hegemony, in somewhat the same way as a Roman Catholic priest 50 years ago might use Latin in church (even knowing that hardly anybody understood it). This use of Hawaiian language adds a sense of mysterious spiritual power and is an implied assertion of superiority. For example, public chants and prayers are given at the opening of political rallies for Hawaiian sovereignty, or at the opening of formal hearings by the Army to take testimony regarding military use of Makua Valley. Sometimes those who offer the chants or prayers, or sing along, might not know what they mean, but have merely memorized them to make a political point. People with no Hawaiian blood are generally encouraged to learn Hawaiian language, but only up to a certain limit. If someone who has no Hawaiian blood uses Hawaiian language phrases or even longer passages to make public statements in opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty, that is considered insulting and grossly improper. Some kanaka maoli who have not yet learned the language but are active in the sovereignty movement are extremely resentful or even angry toward non-kanaka maoli who do use the language, even just to give a sentence or two of friendly greeting or to express thanks for a favor. "How dare you speak my native language to me when I don't know my language because your people oppressed my ancestors and suppressed our language!"
A scholarly study of the history of language in Hawai'i was done as a dissertation by John Reinecke at the University of Hawai'i in 1935. The dissertation was improved and published as a book. John E. Reinecke, "Language and Dialect in Hawaii: A Sociolinguistic History to 1935." Edited by Stanley M. Tsuzaki. Honolulu: Universiry of Hawaii Press, 1969. Reprinted 1988. Paperback edition February, 1995.
Mr. Reinecke says the shift from Hawaiian language to English began under the Kingdom and was very far along by the time the monarchy was overthrown (see Table 8, pp. 70-73). Reinecke's chart summarizes the number of schools and students operating in Hawaiian and English based on Education Dept reports from 1847 to 1902. The number of students in Hawaiian language schools falls continuously through this period while the number in English-language schools rises; likewise the numbers of schools operating in the respective languages. The number of students in Hawaiian-language schools dropped below 50% in 1881 or 1882. By 1892 (the year before the overthrow), only 5.2% of students were in Hawaiian language schools and there were only 28 such schools in the Kingdom; at the same time, 94.8% of students were in the 140 English-language schools.
According to Reinecke, there were several factors accounting for this switch from Hawaiian to English as the favored language even before the overthrow.
(A) as early as the late 1840s, the Kingdom government had a policy of gradually increasing education in English because the government saw that as the more valuable language for developing the country in the long run (see factor C). They probably figured that parents could teach their children Hawaiian at home but the schools should teach English as much as possible to open up opportunities.
(B) English language schools were considered better schools by almost everyone and initially charged extra while the Hawaiian schools were free. A lawsuit was actually filed over the the extra charge for English-language schools! Naone v. Thurston 1 Haw. 220 (1856) Asa Thurston (grandfather of revolutionary Lorrin Thurston) unsuccessfully argued that he was being discriminated against by having to pay about $5 extra to educate little Lorrin and his siblings). Later, when the government got enough tax revenue to be able to afford to stop charging extra, people of all ethnicities (including Hawaiian) rapidly shifted their children to the free English language schools. But even before the extra fee was abolished, people of all ethnicities, including Native Hawaiians, were switching schools in favor of the English-language ones as soon as they could afford to pay the extra fee.
(C) Immigrants to the Kingdom, especially the Portuguese who brought their families, wanted to have their children educated in English. The Portuguese had no cultural reasons to prefer one language foreign to themselves (English) over another language foreign to themselves (Hawaiian); but all the practical reasons favored learning English rather than Hawaiian. English was already the language of business in Hawaii and certainly of the international business in the Pacific at that time. English was increasingly the language of government, even before Annexation. English (at least pidgin English) was the lingua franca that allowed immigrant Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos (who started coming soon after 1900), etc. to communicate with each other; so the better their children learned English the more opportunities they would have. There may be a few immigrant families who chose Hawaiian as the language for their children’s assimilation -- I know of one case where a Japanese man married a Portuguese woman, started a rice farm, and the entire family spoke Hawaiian as their primary language in their home in Wai’alua, O’ahu. But “the exception proves the rule”: most immigrant families chose English as their language of assimilation to Hawai’i, because English was clearly becoming the language for economic and social advancement.
(D) Reinecke also stresses another factor in the shift from Hawaiian to English: intermarriage between Hawaiians and others. The hapa (mixed-race) Hawaiian children picked up English rather than learning either or both of their parents' original languages fluently. Reinecke cites statistics showing that, at any given time, hapa-Hawaiians were more fluent in English and relatively less fluent in Hawaiian than pure Hawaiians. One explanation might be that at any given time the median age of hapa people is lower than the median age of "pure" anything because intermarriages have become steadily more common, leading to a growing number of hapa children in each new generation. Since the overall trend is towards English, English fluency is positively correlated with youth.
Sovereignty activists who don't know John Reinecke's background might routinely try to discredit his findings by accusing him of being a running dog of the haole capitalist imperialists -- the activists like to attack opposing scholars this way. But Reinecke was an activist in the union movement in Hawaii, accused of being a Communist in the late 40s and early 50s. He was a school teacher for decades and active in Democratic party politics. His wife, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese), was also active in political life, and was a highly respected schoolteacher. Mr. Reinecke’s approach is scholarly and he seems to have been trying to show that public education was used intentionally to level out the economic and ethnic hierarchy of plantation-era Hawaii. For example, he spends considerable effort looking at the ways the varieties of pidgin and standard English were used as social class markers. If everyone were to grow up speaking good English, such markers would vanish and it would be harder to discriminate against people of lower ethnic or social class by immediately recognizing their dialect.
Another book confirms that the transition from Hawaiian to English as the medium of instruction was well underway voluntarily by the midpoint of the Kingdom, and was nearly complete before the monarchy was overthrown. See Albert J. Schutz, "The Voices of Eden: A History of Hawaiian Language Studies," (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994). It was an official policy of the Kingdom's schools to promote English-language instruction, because learning English opened the door to the outside world both commercially and culturally. Many ethnic Hawaiian families preferred English-language schools to Hawaiian language schools. As first-gereration Asian immigrants began producing children who reached school age, especially after the overthrow and during the Territorial period, very few of them showed any interest in Hawaiian language and were glad to have their children educated through the medium of English. During the Territorial period, Hawaiian language was taught as a second language in the public schools, and enrollments in Hawaiian were greater than enrollments in Japanese. Hawaiian language studies at the University of Hawai'i go as far back as the 1920s. By contrast, Kamehameha School (exclusively for ethnic Hawaiian children by a policy decision of its board of trustees) prohibited Hawaiian language from 1887 up to about 1923, when the school began teaching Hawaiian as a second language. And here it’s worthwhile to note that Kamehameha was teaching Hawaiian as a second language at a time when today’s sovereignty activists like to say that the 1896 English-language law would ban Hawaiian language in any school, public or private.
It's interesting to imagine what would have happened if current ideas of ethnic nationalism, multiculturalism and bilingual education had been available to the plantation operators in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They had a conscious policy towards their workers of "divide and rule" and were distinctly unenthusiastic about giving the workers' children enough education to do more than chop sugarcane. The plantation operators got overruled by government officials who insisted everyone was entitled to an education and all those children should be taught to be good American citizens.
The plantation operators’ policy of divide-and-rule is also more complex and less divisive than commonly ascribed to it. For example, it made sense to provide housing for the workers that grouped them in “camps” according to ethnicity and native language, where they could feel at home with each other. It also made sense to organize work-gangs according to language and culture, so workers could communicate easily and work efficiently and cooperatively. Due to major differences in dialect and culture between different prefectures (regions comparable to American states) in Japan, the Japanese workers on Hawai’i’s plantations were often further sub-grouped by prefecture for plantation housing and work gangs.
If the plantation operators were truly determined to pursue a divide-and-rule strategy, and if they had the advantage of today's theories of "multiculturalism," they might have responded that they wanted to respect the ethnic heritage of every nationality by ensuring that each group had its own separate school system operating in its own language (Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, English, etc.). That would have ensured that only the haole children would have gotten English educations in segregated schools that equipped them for the management jobs, top government jobs and international trade. It would have made sure that everyone else was on track for a dead-end job chopping sugar cane. And it would be nearly impossible to organize a union if the workers couldn't talk to each other. But that segregated outcome was prevented by hundreds of now-anonymous school teachers who insisted that every one of their pupils was a 100% American who had a right (and duty) to learn English and get a good education. And that outcome was also prevented by the 1896 law that required all schoolchildren to learn English as the medium of instruction in the “compulsory attendance law” schools, both public and private.
One final point regarding the claim that even private schools were prohibited from using Hawaiian language as the medium of instruction during the Territorial period. In Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923) the US Supreme Court held that the Constitution does not allow a state to forbid private schools in languages other than English. The case involved a ban prompted by anti-German feelings during World War I. Hawaii's government could not have made teaching in Hawaiian illegal even if it had wanted to.
On pages 127-129, Reinecke mentions that despite efforts by the Territorial government to suppress Japanese-language schools, there were a great many such schools. These Japanese schools, of course, were not certified by the government of Hawai'i as meeting the compulsory attendance laws. Children of Japanese ethnicity went to learn Japanese language and culture at these private schools after already spending the day in the regular government-certified English-language schools. About 5 out of every 6 ethnic Japanese children in Hawai'i attended these after-school Japanese language and culture schools -- In 1931 the figure was 87%.
During the 1920s the Territory of Hawai'i tried to shut down these Japanese language schools in an effort to Americanize the children. When the Territorial government passed a statute to ban the Japanese schools a lawsuit was filed. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which followed the decision in Meyer v. Nebraska and affirmed the 9th Circuit's strongly worded opinion upholding an injunction against the Territory's statute. Interestingly, the statute had not applied to Hawaiian language schools because Hawaiian, like English, was favored. The result was very strong legal support for the concept that there is a right under the Constitution for parents to have their children learn whatever language and culture they wish, so long as they do so in addition to attending the government-certified (public or private) English-language schools. The 9th Circuit Court rejected the Territory's argument that it had to severely limit Japanese language schools in order to Americanize Japanese-American children, saying: "You cannot make good citizens by oppression or by a denial of constitutional rights." 11 F.2d at 714. It went on to quote from the Supreme Court's Meyer case: "The protection of the Constitution extends to all; to those who speak other languages, as well as those born with English on the tongue."
The legal citations regarding the statute banning Japanese language schools, and the lawsuit against that statute, include the following: The Supreme Court case was: Farrington v. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927), affirming the 9th Circuit decision Farrington v. Tokushige, 11 F.2d 710 (9th Cir. 1926). On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The original suit in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu was by T. Tokushige and others against Wallace R. Farrington, Governor of the Territory of Hawaii, and others. The 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the trial court (U.S. District Court in Honolulu) did not abuse its discretion in granting temporary injunction forbidding an attempt to enforce the provisions of Laws Hawaii Sp. Sess. 1920, Act 30, as amended by Laws Hawaii 1923, Act 171, and Laws Hawaii 1925, Act 152, regulating foreign language schools and teachers thereof. Constitutional right of pupils to acquire knowledge of foreign language and right of others to teach it is beyond question (Rev.Laws Hawaii 1925, § § 390- 399).
Recent Literature on Attempts to Abolish Japanese Language Schools
In July 2005 a newly published book included a substantial amount of information about the 1919 to 1927 effort by the Territorial government, and by the U.S. Government in California and Washington, to abolish Japanese language schools.
Hawaii sugar plantation managers endorsed Japanese language schools but, after witnessing the assertive role of Japanese in the 1920 labor strike, they joined public school educators and the Office of Naval Intelligence in labeling them anti-American and urged their suppression. Thus the "Japanese language school problem" became a means of controlling Hawaii's largest ethnic group. The debate quickly surfaced in California and Washington, where powerful activists sought to curb Japanese immigration and economic advancement. Language schools were accused of indoctrinating Mikadoism to Japanese American children as part of Japan's plan to colonize the United States.
Previously unexamined archival documents and oral history interviews highlight Japanese immigrants' resistance and their efforts to foster traditional Japanese values in their American children. They also reveal complex fissures of class and religion within the Japanese communities themselves. The author's comparative analysis of the Japanese communities in Hawaii, California, and Washington presents a clear picture of what historian Yuji Ichioka called the "distinctive histories" as well as the shared experiences of Japanese Americans.
Noriko Asato is associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Postscript #1: On April 29, 2004 the Honolulu Advertiser published a short notice regarding the 120th anniversary celebration of Kuhio Elementary School. This item is noteworthy because it mentions that the school was founded as a government school in 1884 using Hawaiian languiage as the medium of instruction, and then changed to English as the medium of instruction just four years later, in 1888 (all during the reign of King Kalakaua).
Kuhio Elementary observes 120th
Kuhio Elementary School will celebrate its 120th anniversary with a lu'au and fair at the school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 15. The school was founded in 1884 as Kamo'ili'ili School and renamed Mo'ili'ili School in 1888 when it converted from a Hawaiian language to English language government school. It was renamed again in 1923 for Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, who died the previous year. The event will include entertainment, games, prizes and baked goods. Presale tickets for the lu'au plate are $12 for adults and $8 for children. For more information, call 973-0085.
Postscript #2: On August 2, 2005 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling that the racially exclusionary admissions policy of Kamehameha Schools is illegal. The 3-judge Kamehameha panel made the following observation on page 6 of the pdf copy of the ruling here: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling
"As the Schools' 1885 Prospectus observed: 'The noble minded Hawaiian chiefess who endowed the Kamehameha Schools, put no limitations of race or condition on her general bequest. Instruction will be given only in English language, but The Schools will be opened to all nationalities.'"
So here we have the most wealthy and powerful native Hawaiian chiefess, able to set up her school to use whatever language she preferred. And here we have the Trustees she appointed, opening a school 8 years before the overthrow of the monarchy, and two years before the "Bayonet Constitution," when the Hawaiian "merrie monarch" King Kalakaua ruled and was reviving hula and Hawaiian language. And that school is conducting its courses solely in English language. That was clearly a free choice, and supports the findings of this webpage that Hawaiian language went into a coma due to natural causes and not because of suppression.