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Mālama 'āina: Respect the land

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Photo by Jess Loiterton / Pexels
Photo by Jess Loiterton / Pexels

This text will be the linkRespect the land: a statement so simple, yet a concept rarely practiced.

Having had the distinct privilege of growing up in Hawaii — Ewa Beach to be specific — I was able to witness the disparity in this regard between the population of military personnel, big corporations, and tourists in comparison to local families and Indigenous people native to the islands of Hawaii.

This article is meant not to make people feel guilty but to educate and make a brighter future for those that are struggling to exist in a place they call home.

I had the opportunity to speak with several people who were born and raised in Hawaii and was able to gather their opinion on tourism and the impact outside people have on the islands.

Marley Rall
I started with Marley Rall, a 38-year-old bar owner born and raised on the island of Oahu. She offered her perspective on tourism in Hawaii, saying that "everything in life is a balance." Tourism is a vital part of the economy. Money needs to come in. But there needs to be a balance. Tourists need to respect the land and the people that live there and leave the place better than they found it.

There is also a contrast of fantasy versus reality when it comes to tourists and the people that call Hawaii home. Rall shared that going to Hawaii for vacation is essentially traveling to someone's home and not a theme park. "Hawaii isn't Disneyland. Disney is a fantasy. Hawaii is a reality."

Part of the culture of the 50th state is having multiple generations of family members living under one roof. That can be helpful when it comes to a mortgage and property taxes, but when there are several sources of income in one household and people still can't afford to pay their bills, there is a larger problem at hand.

The islands have only so much real estate. Astronomical property taxes are pricing families that have lived there for generations out of their homes. People who are buying their second home or dream vacation spot are part of that problem.

Reign Ferrah James
I also interviewed Reign Ferrah James, a drag queen new to Seattle. Born and raised on Oahu, this 28-year-old entertainer had a lot of wisdom to share in regards to respecting the land she calls home.

As to how tourists can be more respectful when visiting Hawaii, she said that there are several things that can be done. Among those, "they can research Hawaiian values and culture prior to going to the islands." The 50th state has a long history — it's not just a group of tropical islands. "It's the history our ancestors left behind for their families," she added. "People take pride in their home. When you go anywhere, always remember there is history there."

As for people buying vacation homes and large corporations buying up land, Ferrah had this to say: "They affect local families, because these people buying properties are pushing Hawaiian residents out, making it unaffordable for them to live. This is why so many Kama'āina [Hawaiian residents] are forced to live in multigenerational households, or even move out of state to afford to live and buy property."

Hawaii is a place with a vast and rich history. Ferrah said that one should "think twice about whose legacy, family, homes, traditions, and memories you are affecting before destroying historical places" and the lands of Hawaii.

The islands are a beautiful place. Help take care of the aina (land) and respect the history and families of the beautiful people of Hawaii. Please enjoy one of the most beautiful places on Earth responsibly.

You can support Marley Rall by visiting the Brewmaster's Taproom at 2000 Benson Rd. S., Renton, WA. You can find Reign Ferrah James on Instagram @thereignfjames