The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) stands in solidarity with the people of Maui, and with Kānaka Maoli who, as they work to survive and recover from the devastation and trauma wrought by the August 2023 wild fires, do so as part of a long and ongoing struggle against settler colonialism, and for a free and independent Hawai‘i.
The wildfires that ravaged Maui, and particularly Lahaina, have killed over 100 people, with 1,300 still missing. The fires destroyed entire neighborhoods; thousands of people lost their houses. Over 11,000 of Maui’s 164,000 population has been evacuated. As part of the devastation to historic Lahaina Town, a cultural and historical epicenter and former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the fires wiped out the Na ‘Aikane o Maui Cultural Center, home to cultural and historical documents, carvings from revered elder Sam Ka’ai, and other art and artifacts.
Kānaka Maoli community leaders have spoken powerfully to the cause of these gutting losses, and to how the decimation of Lahaina owes not to natural disaster, but to the effects of settler colonialism. As Kaniela Ing explains, “The original ‘Big Five’ oligarchy in Hawai‘i, missionary families that took over our economy and government, they continue on today as some of our largest political donors and landowners and corporations. They’ve been grabbing land and diverting water away from this area for a very long time now, for generations. And Lahaina was actually a wetland. … But, you know, because they needed water for their corporate ventures, like golf courses and hotels and monocropping, that has ended. So the natural form of Lahaina would have never caught on fire. These disasters are anything but natural.”
Activist Noelani Ahia, who as a co-founder of the Mauna Medics Healers Hui, is coordinating efforts to provide support to those hit hardest by the fires, concurs, “The overtourism, the overdevelopment, the dispossession of Kānaka Maoli from our lands, the monocropping, as Kaniela Ing was talking about, those are all things that contributed to the conditions that created this.” Naomi Klein and Kapua’ala Sproat analyze how “the desiccated conditions that made the region so vulnerable are a result of over a century of settler colonialism, in which Indigenous resources have been hoarded by the plantations and their successors.”
The Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) remarks upon how, in the aftermath of the fires, settler practices of extraction and dispossession will only intensify. They note, “For centuries, settlers and colonial business enterprises illegally diverted Maui’s water to produce sugar and profit, which they didn’t share with Kānaka Maoli, the Indigenous people of Hawaiʻi. Then tourism came and similarly, sucked up water and other precious resources, without sharing their rich bounty with locals. Wealthy people from the U.S. and across the world also bought up increasingly expensive real estate, driving up housing prices and making it harder for Kanaka to survive on their homeland. Now, with Maui devastated and thousands evacuated, real estate speculators are seeking to double down. They’re not looking to help, just looking to further their profits by buying cheap and selling later when prices are high again. This will only drive more Kānaka from the ʻĀina, the Land. This is the logic of capitalism and colonialism– extract profits, extract people from their native and ancestral Land, and disregard the immense damage done to people and place. This is the logic and these are the systems we must overturn and overcome to have a livable future.”
Settler logics and practices of colonialism and extraction conjoin Hawai‘i and Palestine as they accelerate climate catastrophe. To resist these logics requires international practices of solidarity, and support for those who, as they grieve, are working on the ground to establish forms of mutual aid, to get their land back, to see that their history remains known, and that their culture continues to thrive as Indigenous people defy the violence of colonialism.
USACBI stands with the Kanaka Maoli who, in the face of colonial and capitalist greed, are organizing on the ground even as they grieve to restore Lahaina, to assert their never-relinquished sovereignty, and to support those most harmed by the fires. In the face of the government’s unresponsiveness to working with grassroots organizers, Kaleikoa Ka‘eo insists, “the families who are from, again, since time immemorial, in Lahaina, should be at the forefront in developing, managing and planning not just what’s going on now, but really in the revitalization in Lahaina.” We call upon you to support their efforts in the following ways:
- Donate a VISA gift card to the Mauna Medics Healers Hui. Send it to MAUNAMHH@gmail.com
- Donate to Nā ‘Aikāne o Maui here. All one time donations will go directly to assisting the residents, especially Kānaka Maoli, and then rebuilding the Nā ‘Aikāne Cultural Center after things settle.
The USACBI Organizing Collective