View Point

Saturday, April 3, 1999

More needs to be
known about statue

DOES anyone know who Kamehameha the First is? Certainly not the thousands of tourists who swarm the downtown statue bearing his name.

Go there and you'll find buses pulling in and out, depositing crowds of people at the base of the monument. They stare up at the towering figure with the golden cloak and take his picture or pose in front while a friend with a camera records the occasion.

Sometimes a group of local school kids will stop by. The statue is clearly one of our most popular attractions.

Yet these visitors will learn nothing about the man they are observing. They will find no information on when he lived or died, where he resided, or the great deeds he accomplished. It has been like this since 1883.

The only indication that Kamehameha was a king is on the sidewalk, where an old HVB metal sign with paint peeling says, "King Kamehameha Statue" in 1.4-inch, barely readable letters. Travel around the mainland and you'll note even the most obscure historical residence or battleground is accompanied by a detailed explanation.

At the back of nearby Aliiolani Hale, past security guards and a metal detector, is a wonderful historical section. But the life of the king, a "national hero," is reduced to three sentences. Few people bother to visit.

This disgraceful situation occurs in a state where tourism is critical to the economy, where annual spending on marketing tourism is second in the nation among states, and where industry experts now agree that, if Hawaii is to successfully compete as a visitor destination, we need to reach beyond our "sun and surf" image.

It is, likewise, disgraceful when one considers the revival ofinterest in our monarchial past; our critical examination of the events surrounding the annexation; and the rise of the sovereignty movement with its celebration of "Hawaiian-ness" -- our highly unique culture and traditions.

So why do we continue to fail to tell the world about a man who is, perhaps, the most important figure in Hawaiian history? How can we expect people to appreciate and enjoy Hawaiian culture and traditions if we neglect to provide them with basic information?

FORTUNATELY, two enlightened legislators have decided to do something. Sen. David Matsuura and Rep. Lei Ahu Isa have introduced resolutions (SCR 203 , SR 89 and HCR 172) that request the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to "fund historical signage" for the statue.

Why OHA? Because the trustees are charged with perpetuating Hawaiian culture and, as of Jan. 31, they had $336,718,196 in cash and investments, whose daily appreciation would more than cover the cost of a splendid sign.

Besides, OHA wants to get in the tourism business (as evidenced by its desire to join the Hawaii Tourism Authority). Shouldn't the trustees do something to help this struggling industry, that employs so manypersons of Hawaiian ancestry?

Adding a sign to the statue will be a positive step toward improving the visitor experience and educating residents. Our next target? The king looks across the street to another great monument in island history, equally lacking in signage: Iolani Palace.

C. Richard Fassler is the vice chairman
of the Manoa Neighborhood Board

Monday hearing

Bullet What: Hearing on reso-lutions concerning signage for Kamehameha Statue.
Bullet Who: Senate Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs
Bullet When: 1 p.m. Monday.
Bullet Where: Conference Room 225.

OHA Ceded Lands Ruling

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