Monday, November 29, 2010

 

Bishop Museum archeology database


by Larry Geller

My thanks to Tara Calishain of Research Buzz for posting Bishop Museum Putting Hawaii Archaeological Site Information Online (11/29/2010). I have subscribed to the email version of Research Buzz for exactly 12 years. November 1998 is the earliest email I can find. Each email brings one or more new resources and reminds me that there are people out there who truly understand research as a science, not just something you do with Google. And that there is no replacement on the Web for access to a flesh-and-blood research librarian.

The database mention  reminds me that it’s important to recognize when anything serious is done to preserve Hawaiian culture. There’s nothing Hawaiian in our news unless there’s a parade, it’s not in our language except for a couple of words like aloha, mahalo and pau.  Hawaiian is the second official language of the state but there isn’t even voting information distributed in Hawaiian while it is for a number of Asian languages.

And while we recognize something called the “aloha spirit”or “indigenous culture,” we seem to practice just the opposite. Except in hotels, and that’s problematic.

The Bishop Museum Hawaiian Archaeological Survey (HAS) online database will be a contribution to the scientific community, and that’s a good thing.

By “preserve Hawaiian culture” I don’t mean in a pickle jar, however. The Bishop Museum is preserving artifacts that would be lost without their efforts. That’s not enough. The culture is not dead, it is very much alive. Preserving has a different meaning when something is endangered. It means you stop endangering it.

I’m troubled with archeology practiced on a living people. Am I alone in this? I’m bothered, I think, because of the systematic annihilation of the Hawaiian language and culture and then we study it like a dead civilization. We need to do more than preserve, we have a responsibility to quit the damage we are doing at least for a start.

So while this database is certainly a valuable undertaking, what would be even more valuable would be to get busy with the real work of respecting and restoring the ability of a people to choose their own culture and yes, their country, again. Apologizing for the illegal overthrow was step zero, we need to move to step one.


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