Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion
Oxford Research Encyclopedias recently contacted me to ask if I would be interested in contributing an entry on Hawaiian religion. This invitation, which I have accepted, speaks to the ways that current work in this field, but also Hawaiian activism for nā mea Hawaiʻi (things Hawaiian) such as efforts to protect sacred mountains like Mauna Kea and Haleakalā, are raising awareness around the world about the fact that many Hawaiians still practice their traditional religion and the culture of which it is part.
For far too long, Hoʻomana (the Hawaiian term for that which is normally described as "Hawaiian religion," has been ignored, dismissed, and/or misrepresented, in part because of religious bias and in part because of authenticity discourse—such as the idea that the only authentic Indigenous peoples are those who existed before the arrival of foreigners to their lands, or that Indigenous religions practiced today are somehow inauthentic.
Religions are dynamic and Indigenous religious traditions evolve just as any other religion, but this point is ignored. For example, Christianity was once a new religion, although it is rooted in an older tradition. Christianity has also evolved, such as when, in the early 1500s, when Protestantism came about because of Martin Luther. But even Protestantism have evolved, as evidenced by the many different denominations, which include, but are not limited to Lutheranism, Calvinism, Presbyterian, Anglicanism, Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostalism.
This refusal to acknowledge that Indigenous religions are valid and evolve like other religions of the world such as Christianity is problematic in several ways. It contributes to the erasure of Indigenous peoples; to the historical trauma to which Indigenous peoples have been subjected, which includes racism and religious bias, and thus othering them as uncivilized and thus less than human.
I have a collection of textbooks used to teach "World religion" courses, many of which have problematic entries for Indigenous religions, including Hawaiian religion. Such problematic entries compound the aforementioned issues, normalizing and cementing them in the minds of each generation.
I look forward to being able to rectify, at least in part, by contributing a essay on this topic for such a prestigious series.
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