Teaching Activities (Free)

What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell Me: Tourism, Colonialism, and Resistance in Hawai’i

Teaching Activity. By Wayne Wah Kwai Au. Rethinking Schools. 5 pages.
Lesson on the history of Hawai’i and the impact of colonization and tourism.

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1900
Themes: Asian American, Imperialism, Pacific Islander, Racism & Racial Identity, US Foreign Policy
What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell Me: Tourism, Colonialism, and Resistance in Hawai’i (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

In this racist cartoon published on the eve of U.S. takeover of Hawai’i, President McKinley presides over the “shotgun wedding” of Uncle Sam and a bride representing the island nation. Source: C.J. Taylor, Bishop Museum.

“Sex, hula, and naked ladies!”

I had just asked a class of 11th-grade U.S. literature and history students in Portland, Ore., what images come to mind when I say the word “Hawai’i.” I received a volley of stereotypical responses: blue water, beaches, coconuts, sun, surf, luau, hotels, paradise, pineapple, palm trees, vacation, Waikiki, volcanoes, and of course, “sex, hula, and naked ladies.”

This particular answer, given by an enthusiastic young man, was different than most because of its honesty about the sexual overtones the mystique of Hawai’i holds in the “American” mind. To me, what was most significant about his remark was not just its honesty, but that it shows the need for a more critical examination of the history, politics, and culture of Hawai’i in our classrooms.

Lesson originally published by Rethinking Schools | Zinn Education Project



Rethinking Our Classrooms - Vol 2 | Zinn Education ProjectThis lesson was published in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 2: Teaching For Equity and Justice. For more lessons like “What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell Me: Tourism, Colonialism, and Resistance in Hawai’i,” order Rethinking Our Classrooms, Vol.2 with a rich new collection of from-the-classroom articles, curriculum ideas, lesson plans, poetry, and resources — all grounded in the realities of school life. See Table of Contents.


6 comments on “What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell Me: Tourism, Colonialism, and Resistance in Hawai’i

  1. Mary Anne on

    What a wonderful idea! I graduated from Manoa some years ago, and taught there on O’ahu. Being a haole, I never dreamed of teaching “culture” as I was supposed to…I am not Hawaiian, therefore I have no right to try. The Hawaiian people have been trampled on for too long. The keiki of Hawaii as well as other children deserve to know the whole truth – not just what some old white man in Texas decided to be “culturally” sensitive.

  2. Kawehi Kanui on

    Great site of more information from another’s perspective, mahalo…Been inside the movement for independence since 5 yrs. old, listening to mt grand parents and other relatives talk about that period, I would hear mt grandmother cry whenever they talked about the “illegal” US military Occupation, every professor in the UH knows and shares the truth about our history to the wprld now, it’s exciting and needed that we spread the truth together.

    Kahu Kawehi Kanui
    Ka Aha Kupuna Maluhia

  3. Gerald L on

    day by day we learn more facts about how the world has been, and continues to be, run.

    it’s been this way since history began and probably before. the powerful prey and then write the story. awareness is a start. accountability might arrive one day. we can’t undo the wrongs and we can’t fix a fantasy; only truth, approached with compassion, will do.

    doctrines like Manifest Destiny, the Monroe Doctrine belong with the “weapons of mass destruction” fable; in the cartoon graveyard.

  4. Cathaline Carter on

    Of course I never learned about any of this in school. However, my own education in the ways of imperialism makes me believe this is all true and that, though I am retired, I should get more of this information for myself.

  5. uchinanju on

    maika`i nui loa! excellent! i would add a couple more points for depth:

    1) there was never any legal annexation, that is, a mutual treaty of succession. can you imagine if the mexican congress voted to annex puerto rico without consultation w/ boricua/PR & just took it?! that’s exactly what the US did! congress passed a RESOLUTION taking the “sandwich islands,” which we know is not legally binding, thus the grounds for hawaiian sovereignty continue in int’l courts of law!

    2) the centrality of militarism on the US fed level is lacking in this article; currently, almost 25% of o`ahu island, where they lease “waikiki land” for 1$ a year! pu`uloa, bka “pearl harbor” used to sustain an island w/ 36 fish ponds- now, its a toxic dump full of nuclear powered ships.

    3) ’59 vote for statehood was a sham! non-residents such as military tilted vote in favor of USA and NO option for independence was given, as provided by UN decolonization process!

    4) queen liliu`okalani avoided bloodshed by ceding to US military force until fed investigations would reveal its illegality, or so she miscalculated that the USA would do “the christian thing” and undo theft- as a christian convert; no such integrity…just look at the ethnic cleaning by missionaries & their descendants.

    5) the Nation of Hawai`i is NOT dead! people make a nation- and many people in Hawai`i continue to fight for our right to self-determination and the illegality of the 119 year foreign occupation of this polynesian nation! its not a matter of if, but when- justice will prevail. one common ignorance about hawai`i sovereignty then and now is the misinformation by fearmongers who cry that an independent hawai`i would be “ethnic cleansing” of the many ethnicities that have made hawai`i home over the last couple centuries: wrong. the kingdom of hawai`i was multi-racial and being a citizen of the hawaiian nation wasn’t limited to those of hawaiian blood! many foreigners, e.g., chinese & japanese plantation workers, western cabinet members, etc. became citizens of the hawaiian nation, as some of us would today. in fact, when some asian plantation workers heard of the cannons pointed at `iolani palace to displace the queen, many picked up their farm tools and marched great distant to defend the government of hawai`i- because they knew of their fellow countrymen working in the USA…and how they were treated as second-class sub-humans, vs. the hawaiian nation of which the monarchy tried to restore representation to its citizens, when foreigners changed it for their self-gain.

    6) too much US history focuses on victimizing itself w/ “pearl harbor,” itself a stolen colony for imperial expansion. do not forget that the pearl harbor attack, aside from controversy if it was known in advance or not, was fundamentally military- while i am no fan of japanese fascism, almost all of the destruction hit military targets- not our taro or sugar plots…unlike the US carpetbombing of civilians in tokyo, hiroshima/nagasaki, okinawa, etc.

    The US likes to believe its military fortress in hawai`i “protects” us, but on the contrary- military occupation brought the pearl habor attack, as well as massive toxic waste, housing inflation, sex trafficking, ecocide, political misrepresentation, crime/violence, cultural genocide/appropriation, etc., etc. this is not genuine human security; its protecting political, economic interests w/ a 21 century “white man’s burden.”

    There is much more to enrich critical thinking, and could apply to other tourist fantasies, e.g., vega$. we are much more than tourism industry fantasy, imperial military outpost or endangered species capitol (incld. hawaiians!) of the world.

    What happened in iraq, started some 118 years ago in hawai`i…FREE HAWAI`I! ALOHA `AINA.

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