Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Hawaiian Uncle

Yes, I'm referring to none other than Uncle Charlie!

Let me remind you of his contribution to the Shark feeding ban in Maui.

Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. reminded council members that many Native Hawaiians honor sharks as aumakua, or guardian spirits, and said treating the animals as entertainment was invasive and disrespectful.
"Any time you organize a tour to look at the mano (shark), you're disturbing their environment," he said.

I found it hypocritical then - but now that I know what he does, I'm just simply stumped.

In a previous post, I've blogged about a breed of Pacific islanders who make an excellent living in bullshitting the ever-so-politically-correct and google-eyed Palangi with pseudo-cultural mumbo jumbo which they make up on the fly.
They exploit the all-pervasive bad conscience of the previous conquerors and colonialists and know all-too-well that for lack of any written tradition, Pacific culture was handed down orally and that as a consequence, it is virtually impossible to verify, and especially, to refute those claims objectively - however far fetched and preposterous they may be.

In the softest possible way, Hawaii is a most fertile breeding ground for unscrupulous ethno-scamsters, native and Haole alike - and good old Charlie seems to have carved himself a most convenient little niche smack within the tourism industry in Maui.

Turns out that among many other things,

Maxwell (also known as "Uncle Charlie") along with Sam Ka'ai and other respected Hawaiian practitioners are part of an elite group of Hawaiian Cultural Advisors who share their mana'o (knowledge) for Maui Ocean Center's various educational and conservation programs.
In addition to paying homage to Hawai'i's
'aumakua, these guardians also contribute to the marine park's standard of operations and service, preside over blessings of important functions and facilities, as well as empower and train employees through their love and respect for the island's host culture.

Well well.
That must be Uncle Charlie's very personal help in

... stopping the practice of using the "Aloha Spirit" to lure tourist to these islands pretending that everyone is "spreading the Aloha Spirit" when they are not.
The visitors will have to be shown the true Hawaiian culture in dance and song and not "theatrics" of the fire and knife dancing with plastic fern leis. If the visitor industry proposes to keep tourism then they, along with the state of Hawaii, will have to keep promoting every phase of the culture.

as he himself wrote in 1997!

So let's examine his culturally relevant contribution.
This is what I read with awe on the Maui ocean Center's website.

Even before the marine park officially opened its doors on March 13, 1998, the Hawaiian Aquarium paid respect to Hawai‘i’s cultural legacy by building a ko‘a (fishermen’s shrine) on property. Located on the left side of the Seascape Ma‘alaea Restaurant, this structure was erected days before the facility’s opening and was dedicated to the ‘aumakua mano (shark guardian) of “Uncle Charlie” Maxwell’s family’s ancestral gods who come into the bay of Ma‘alaea.
The pohaku (stones) to build this fisherman’s shrine were gathered from Maxwell’s family ancestral home in Ukumehame, about seven miles (Lahaina side) from Ma‘alaea. When these stones were brought to the marine park, it rained continuously until the structure was built. As soon as the last stone was placed on the ko‘a and the chanting started, the rain stopped. Hawaiians called it hoailona (a sign of good luck).
The next day, the tiger sharks came to the Maui Ocean Center.

They came??? Really??
Yes, the Center displays Sharks, i.e. Tiger shark, hammerhead shark, blacktip reef shark, grey reef shark, whitetip reef shark, sandbar shark, spotted eagle ray, broad stingray, and dozens of species of tropical reef and pelagic fish!

1. Blessing Sharks?

My awe cannot but increase when I read that

... when a shark is brought into or released from the aquarium, it is blessed by one of Maui Ocean Center’s Hawaiian cultural advisors, for sharks are considered na ‘aumakua (deified ancestors or personal gods) by old Hawaiians.

Do you really believe that under ancient Hawaiian culture, there is a ceremony for blessing Sharks that are caught and brought to an aquarium?

2. Catching Sharks?

So, do those Sharks "come" - or are they collected exclusively from waters around the Hawaiian Islands? If the mere looking at the mano is disturbing their environment, how about catching them?

Uncle Charlie: Is catching and keeping Sharks in captivity disrespectful of the 'aumākua??

Check out this video.
This is what the less, uh, polished native Hawaiians think about a recent slaughter of Sharks - sanctioned by the State of Hawaii Shark Task Force where Uncle Charlie sits as a Hawaiian member!

3. Feeding Sharks?

Which brings to mind the next question: are those captive Sharks been kept hungry? Or may it be that somebody is -anathema!- feeding them?

So, Uncle Charlie, is feeding captive Sharks disrespectful of the 'aumākua??

4. Displaying Sharks for Money?

And what about the Shark dive, where people pay 199 bucks to go and dive with those poor captive Sharks? Remember the sage words of the great Uncle when Maui passed the infamous Shark feeding ban?
Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. reminded council members that many Native Hawaiians honor sharks as aumakua, or guardian spirits, and said treating the animals as entertainment was invasive and disrespectful.

Uncle Charlie: Is displaying captive Sharks for entertainment and for commercial purposes disrespectful of the 'aumākua??

So lemme get this right:
According to the stupid anti Tourism legislation which has been spawned by the infamous Shark Task Force and that has been passed by Maui and is being threatened by Oahu

... shark tours, the practice of charging residents and visitors to venture into ocean waters to view sharks attracted by fish feeding, .... is disrespectful of Hawaiian culture, alters the natural behavior and distribution of sharks, and may be disruptive of ocean ecology and the natural environment. 

But catching, and then displaying and feeding Sharks in the Maui Ocean Center is none of the above - because of Uncle Charlie's blessing and obvious approval?

Did I say ethno-scamster?
In US popular culture, there's already an infamous "Uncle".
As of today, I've added another one to my very own personal vocabulary.


Robert said...

Great reporting again Mike.
Is Uncle Charlie protesting the shiploads of shark fins in Hawaiian harbors or the selling of shark fin soup in Hawaii?? Probably not since he may be making money from those abuses as well.
In my opinion, he is a unrepentant criminal.
Mary and I have discussed diving the Hawaiian islands but now refuse to support this state in that manner until we win this unnecessary fight. Plus we hear about the massive private aquarium trade that has rape the waters of its fish.
You are losing money and embarassing yourself Hawaii.

DaShark said...

Not sure about the "criminal" - having seen scores of those guys around the islands, he's just your average island con man.
He's obviously part of the vocal and aggressive Hawaiian Renaissance and having successfully browbeaten the Palangi into submission, he's playing the reverse racial card.
I have no doubt that his "association" with the aquarium is not completely devoid of coercion, explicit or hidden within all of his cultural mumbo jumbo.
I got a lot of feedback by Hawaiians after posting the "Hawaii" thread and everybody bemoans the influence those buffoons have on local politics, all the way to brazen blackmail and extortion.

Robert said...

You may be right about the ""Not sure about the "criminal"" but I use the term when someone like Charlie steals from his neighbors and tourists. I say steal because he is taking away many things from them and us. He stole money and pleasure from the operators, other tourism infrastructure and tourists by telling lies and profiting from the other end. He probably will never get locked up but still a criminal in my mind.
I could go on and on but when you break down what he has done and is doing, he could find himself in a civil suit.