Cultural Misappropration

The Hawaiian islands are quite interesting in many respects. Here no single ethnicity has an outright majority. The history behind this makes for fascinating reading. The sugar industry created a need for agricultural labor that was the driving force resulting in the mass importation of several cultures, primarily Chinese, Japanese and Filipino, and to a lesser extent several others. In addition to the original Hawaiian inhabitants and later Americans immigrants the islands became quite culturally mixed.

Navigational Heiau
Upright stones of the navigational heiau north of Mahukona
The largest group now present are those of Asian decent making up 37% of the population. This is while Caucasians make up only 26% of the population and native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders represent 10% in total. The resultant cultural mix is something that many, including myself, enjoy about the islands. Throughout the year you are exposed to cultural ideas, language, the foods and festivals, of half a dozen cultures.

While there are many benefits of several coexisting cultures, there are issues as well. Hawaiʻi is in many ways ahead of much of the world. These cultures have, for the most part, learned to coexist in ways that much of the world is still struggling with. This is not to say that everything is perfect. Controversy has a way of revealing issues that otherwise often avoid exposure, and we have seen a bit of controversy as of late. There are existing issues that have long been present, but are avoided as they are neither simple nor easily resolved. It is no surprise that the issues have stemmed from the clash of cultures that have landed on these islands across the centuries.

It is the first arrivals here, the Hawaiians, that often see themselves as having lost the most with the arrival of so many immigrants from various other nations. The issues surrounding Mauna Kea have given Hawaiian activists a new rallying point and increased visibility that they have taken full advantage of to express their cause.

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Parker Ranch Rodeo

Growing up in the west I have seen quite a few rodeos. I have always preferred small town rodeos.

Parker Ranch Rodeo
Riders compete in the 2015 Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo
I have seen the big rodeos, living in Tucson we attended the Tucson Rodeo several times. Six days of professional level events, riders competing for a chance at the national championships. No question, the competitors were very, very good.

The big rodeos do feature very high levels of performance, the top riders making it look easy. It isn’t of course, but professional level sports just seem contrived to me. Be it bull riding, pro football, or any professional sport, something is lost when it becomes a profession.

Small town rodeos are entirely different. Here cowboys, or paniolos in Hawaii, demonstrate the same skills they use day to day on the ranch. The event may be practiced, but the skills of great horsemanship, roping and riding are real. The scores tell another story, wildly different from rider to rider. These are not polished professionals, these are real cowboys.

Horse Racing
A rider and horse lean into the curve at the 2015 Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo and Horse Races
The island rodeos are perfect examples of this, small town rodeos that showcase local ranching skills and traditions.

It has been a few years since we last attended the Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo and Horse Races. The last couple years we seem to have found ourselves elsewhere come early July. Last year we were in Alaska when the 4th appeared on the calendar. Not so this year, a couple tickets and an early alarm for a Saturday saw us headed to Waimea.

Good timing all around, a beautiful day with perfect weather for a rodeo. Deb and I moved about, looking for good photo opportunities. Down at the end of the spectator area for the horse races. From there we could shoot the riders coming around the curve of the track. A little elevation was needed to shoot over the rails of the fencing. Unfortunately a barrier now keeps spectators away from the arena fence, this was not there years ago. No shooting through the rail. Maybe a press pass next year?

I have no idea who won or lost, it was just not important to me. Simply watching the skills on display was the good part. Each throw of the rope, the steer going down, the horse neatly backing and keeping tension in a rope without a rider giving directions. Simply impressive to watch.