kamaʻāina Discounts

The timeshare guy winked at all us poolside tourists and chuckled into his karaoke microphone--"Don't forget to ask for kamaʻāina discounts!"
For what?

"Local discounts" growled my husband.

The tourists were happy to hear about a sneaky way to "stick it to the man" in Hawaii, even though most of them probably immediately forgot how to pronounce the words and certainly no vendor would be hoodwinked by a sunburned tourist in white shorts and a new aloha shirt.

But still.

These discounts are in place to mediate some of the puffed-up prices, an apologetic shrug to locals for having to put up with the general ransacking of Hawaiian culture and landscape.

The discounts at hotels and shops and restaurants are the kind of gentle slacking of the rules and prices that folks will give their cousin, their auntie, their cousin's auntie, and her good friend-- but made official.

Tourists asking for it makes vendors check IDs and generally takes the friendly local spirit out of the whole thing.

Now, even though I have my Hawaii drivers' license and address, I still feel dumb asking for kamaʻāina discounts.


My problem is semantics:
nvi. Native-born, one born in a place, host; native plant; acquainted, familiar, Lit., land child. Koʻu kamaʻāina, kaʻu malihini, my host, my guest. (from wehewehe.com)
The word is too loaded, with too much reference to roots and permanence and race. I wasn't born here, I'm not Native Hawaiian or naturalized haole. I'm not the host, I'm the guest.

nvs. Stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom; new, unfamiliar, unusual, rare, introduced, of foreign origin; for the first time. Malihini mākaʻikaʻi, sight-seeing visitor, tourist. (from wehewehe.com)
In the early days of Hawaiian tourism, in the beginning of the 20th century, kamaʻāina meant Native Hawaiian, and Malihini meant newcomer, even if you had lived here for 30 years. Aunty Aiu, a well known kumu hula, describes visiting local malihini on Kauai in the 40s. They were certainly part of the local landscape, important in the community, but they simple weren't kamaʻāina. That just means something different.

Like all appropriations, this one forces a semantic drift to reclaim the lost proprietary meanings. Now that kamaʻāina no longer carries the social and racial weight that it did, native Hawaiians use more forceful words to describe themselves and the other:

kanaka maoli
n. Full-blooded Hawaiian person. He kanaka maoli, a true human, a mortal. (from wehewehe.org)

This is in opposition to:
nvs. White person, American, Englishman, Caucasian; American, English; formerly, any foreigner; foreign, introduced, of foreign origin, as plants, pigs, chickens; To act like a white person, to ape the white people, or assume airs of superiority [often said disparagingly, especially of half-whites]. Hoʻohaole ʻia, Americanized, Europeanized; to have become like a white person or have adopted the ways of a white man. (from wehewehe.org)
I feel too presumptious, too exploitive to come out and say, excuse me, I'm kamaʻāina, don't you have any discounts for me, even though I've only lived here a couple of years, and I'm part of the problem, newcomers taking up jobs and space and resources? Don't I deserve a break?

Next time I'll try asking for haole malihini discounts.


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