Recording The Story Of Hawaii’s People

Recording The Story Of Hawaii’s People

Lorraine Oda
Vol. 4, No. 18, Sept. 16, 1983

Until the Ethnic Studies Oral History Project sought them out, Edith Yonenaka, Charlie Santos, Yuzuru Morita, Ernest Malterre and Raku Morimoto considered themselves ordinary working people. But now their life stories are part of history, preserved for all time in “Five Life Histories,” soon to be available in hardbound transcripts of taped interviews at public libraries statewide.

Since the ESOHP was established in 1976, its staff — motivated by a sense of urgency in collecting the oral histories of Hawaii’s earliest settlers — has interviewed about 250 people from different ethnic and occupational groups. The staff recently reviewed some 10,000 pages of transcripts to select 12 of the best life histories for a book, “Hanahana: An Oral History Anthology of Hawaii’s Working People,” expected to be published next fall by the University of Hawaii Press. (Hanahana is the Pidgin-Hawaiian word for “work.”)

According to project director Warren Nishimoto, the long-term goal of the ESOHP is to compile a book about the history of the state of Hawaii from the working people’s perspective. He said the ESOHP plans to document the oral histories of people from one geographic area at a time until enough information is gathered for the book. So far, ESOHP has prepared cassette tapes, slide shows, videotapes, brochures and displays on taro farming in Waipio Valley (Big Island), the coffee industry in Kona (Big Island), storekeeping in Paia and Puunene (Maui), the sugar cane plantations in Waialua and Haleiwa (Oahu) and the “tough” neighborhood of Kakaako (Oahu). Other topics include women workers in the pineapple industry, the 1924 Filipino sugar cane plantation strike in Hanapepe (Kauai), Native Hawaiians and Uchinanchu (Okinawans) in Hawaii. The next project is to interview representative immigrants and refugees in Kalihi-Palama, covering the years 1900 to the present. Michiko Kodama, who does most of the interviewing for the ESOHP, said the area is significant in that Kalihi is “generally, the first home of immigrants.”

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