Much of Hawaii’s history has been lost or whitewashed for tourists, including the story of Eddie Aikau, a Hawaiian lifeguard and surf legend who was proud of his native cultural identity, and taught others about Hawaii’s true history of Western exploitation:

The beach had been a refuge for Eddie, but, like many Hawaiians during the 1960s, he was becoming aware of the impact that annexation and statehood had had on native traditions. It’s impossible to know for sure how many Native Hawaiians lived on the islands at the time of first contact with British explorers, in 1778, but historians estimate that before Cook arrived there were around five hundred thousand. By 1890, disease, wars between islands, and poverty had reduced the number to a mere forty thousand. The history Kelly taught the younger surfers contradicted the story of a conflict-free annexation and statehood they’d learned in school. The reality was grim. The U.S. military was testing weapons on the island of Kaho‘olawe; sugarcane and pineapple plantations had replaced diverse, sustainable agriculture that preserved the scarce freshwater supply; Hawaiians were subject to the rule of a government based nearly five thousand miles away. As Kelly drove Eddie and his friends past Hawaiian valleys and mountains toward its beaches, they began to comprehend how Hawaii had been transformed into America.

“Eddie is Gone.” — Nicole Pasulka, The Believer

More Believer

Longreads
The staff of Longreads.