Green. We were in the interior of O’ahu, Hawaii, in February and everything around us was green: trees, grass, fields - apart from the colors from flowers or trees, like the orange flowers of the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) and the soil which is as red as in Georgia. We saw beautiful shades of green - far indeed from the snow in the USA.
About 40 minutes from Honolulu driving down the Kamehameha Highway we went by large pineapple fields.
Then we arrived at the Dole Plantation. It is a large complex, set up mostly for tourists where a supersized gift store welcomes you. There are no free samples and everything is overpriced.
Click on collage to enlarge then click on each picture to biggifyI bought some postcards and mints. I also bought a tiny package of chocolate, the size of my index finger (priced at $6.) I was tempted by a jar of guava preserve but I cannot show you its picture as it was confiscated at the Los Angeles airport.
There is also a garden maize, a little touring train, gardens and a restaurant. Various admission prices apply. We were told the plantation now only produces “boutique” pineapples, whatever that means since “une boutique” is the French word for “a shop.” Their crops also include coffee and chocolate.
It started to rain so we left. This would be my shortest post if it were not for my usual habit of researching more about my subjects. In this case I thought I would read about the Dole Company. Well, I have been at it for a week now and it is fascinating. This reading opened a door on the history of Hawai’i as the Doles were connected with it from the beginning of the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. I have learnt a lot about Hawai’i that surprised me and also about the USA - most of it painful. Growing up in France we had so much to study with French history, then the history of the rest of Europe that we barely studied the United States – the French and Indian wars, the War of Independence helped by the French, the Civil War and that’s about it.
We never learnt about the US “empire” as such (this is what it is called) and establishment of US colonies like Hawaii, Guam, The US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico (Liberia, Cuba and the Philippines were given back.) I also did not know that Hawaii had its freedom curtailed unlawfully, that a silent coup deposed the queen (and imprisoned her in her own home.) Hawai'i was forcibly annexed and illegally made to become part of the Union (without native Hawaiian input).The islands of Hawai’i being in the middle of the Pacific were isolated for centuries. They had a rich and successful culture. When in 1778 Captain James Cook arrived into Kauai he brought with him many diseases which almost wiped out the population. Then from 1820 to 1840 came 200 devout Christian missionaries ready to convert the heathen Hawaiians. This they did – not always for the good of the natives. They destroyed their native culture and forced them to deny all aspects of their heritage, because they said it was evil. The Hawaiians were forced to embrace the “superior” Christian Puritan American culture. Many Hawaiians died. Missionary Hiram Bigham (1789-1869) described them as “almost naked savages, whose heads and feet and much of their sunburnt swarthy skins are bare and appalling” and called them “stupid.” Even though he came from a nation enjoying separation of Church and State and the Bill of Rights, he proclaimed the 10 Commandments the code of laws.
Portrait of Hawaiian woman circa 1900 (courtesy of the Hawai'i State Archives)
Another missionary, Dr Gerrit Parmele Judd (1803–1873,) refused to have doctors inoculate the Hawaiians with an effective smallpox vaccine, instead forcing a cheaper alternative. As a result 5,947 died but Dr. Judd saved $60. The missionaries and their children started to buy land – for almost nothing (these were really land grabs.) This was followed by usurpation of political power. While in Hawaii the writer Herman Melville (best known for his work Moby Dick) railed against the Protestant missionaries who could have helped eliminate poverty, disease, starvation and death but instead preached moral values on Sunday and then acquired native land the rest of the week. Since he had sympathy for the Hawaiians, literary reviewers of the time advised their readers not to read his work.
Descendants of these missionary families still own large amounts of land in Hawaii. One of the missionary families was the Daniel Dole family. Their son, Sanford Dole (1844-1926), was instrumental in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It ended the Native Hawaiian sovereignty through unconstitutional means. Sanford Dole appointed himself, with the help of a little group of American Missionary/businessmen, the first president of the forcibly imposed Republic of Hawaii from 1894 till 1900, then governor until 1903. This coup makes for interesting reading and I am still reading on it. I have ordered some books on the subject and will talk more about this in a future post.
Sanford Dole (1844-1926)
Several years later Sanford Dole helped his pastor/cousin’s son, James Drummond Dole (1877-1958), to acquire land and begin his pineapple company. Since the arrival of the earlier foreign traders and missionary/businessmen, the native Hawaiian population had gone down from over 500,000 to less than 60,000 so the planters imported underpaid and sometimes unpaid labor in the form of foreign workers.
The fruit and sugar plantations actively recruited Japanese immigrants sending agents to sign long-term contracts. They also recruited Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese and African Americans.
In many plantations on the islands they worked long hours from dawn to dusk in hot, dusty fields and lived in communal barracks. European-American overseers enforced company rule with harsh fines and whipping.
In 1907, James Dole, known as the Pineapple King, created a cannery near the Honolulu harbor. In operation until 1991 this cannery was one of the world’s largest. I also found out that actress Bette Midler, born in Honolulu, was an employee in the cannery for a time.
Bette Midler, born in Honolulu in 1945His company used a new advertising concept by publishing recipes in the popular “ladies’ magazines.”
Demand increased his production to a million cases of pineapple a year and made his company, called then the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, a world leader. As demand grew for pineapple, more land was required. In 1922 Dole bought the Hawaiian Island of Lana’i. It became the largest pineapple plantation in the world with thousands of workers and their families. It supplied 75% of the world pineapple for 70 years. In 1948 the company was renamed The Dole Pineapple Company.
Pineapple production on Lana'i ended in October 1992. Today, descendants from original missionaries, Castle and Cooke, own nearly the entire island of Lana’i - they are the real estate arm of Dole Pineapple. The children of the missionaries' families would ultimately make the greatest change in Hawai'i by “acquiring” the land and dispossessing the native Hawaiians. As we drove by large tracts of land we were told that one of the original families owns it – this was a 250,000 acre ranch with 50,000 head of cattle. The Dole Company is now a mega multinational corporation named Dole Food Company, Inc. , based in the US but operating around the globe.In 2007 its revenues amounted to $6.9 billion. It stopped production of pineapple in Hawaii in 2007 as it was not profitable enough. Now cheaper labor is found in Costa Rica and the Philippines although there have been some controversies about working conditions and pesticides.
"The United States is “just” –[it is] a land of liberty. The people there are the friends - the great friends of the weak. Let us tell them - let us show them that as they love their country and would suffer much before giving it up, so do we love our country, our Hawai'i, and pray that they do not take it from us."
Hawaiian woman circa 1900 (courtesy of the Hawai'i State Archives)