Eye on history
Exactly 20 years after witnessing the horrors of Tiananmen Square, Pasadena photographer heads to DC to show plea for Hawaiian sovereignty
By Joe Piasecki 06/04/2009
On June 4, 1989, Pasadena photographer Catherine Bauknight was in Beijing when the tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, making her one of only a handful of Western photographers to document the government’s bloody crackdown against students and others who opposed its authoritarian policies.
Today — June 4, 2009 — Bauknight is in Washington DC for a special screening of her recently completed documentary, “Hawaii: A Voice for Sovereignty,” inside the US Capitol building. The film explores the ongoing threat that unchecked development poses to native Hawaiian culture and traditional ways of life.
Though 20 years and more than 5,000 miles separate her filmmaking in Hawaii from her witness of political bloodshed in China, Bauknight, a Pasadena Weekly contributor, sees a common thread: “It’s oppression of people by their government,” she said.
Convincing the world of government oppression in China — where, according to news reports this week, authorities have cut off access to social networking tools such as Twitter to prevent discussion (already banned in news reports and textbooks) of Tiananmen — is easy.
The situation in Hawaii is less clear-cut, but its narrative is a familiar one: Empire colonizes nation, disrupts traditional ways of life and nearly obliterates the pre-existing culture.
While native language and customs are making a comeback in Hawaii, which was colonized by the United States 116 years ago, battles for access to land and its resources continue.
“Water has been diverted more and more to hotels and golf courses, disrupting people who have lived off the land for generations,” said Bauknight, whose film also explores ongoing legal battles between developers and people who claim rights to occupy and farm land under rights granted to their families before the US takeover.
Proposed by Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Akaka, the Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act would allow native Hawaiians to organize greater political representation and create an Office for Native Hawaiian Relations under Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Along with Salazar and members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, Pasadena Congressman Adam Schiff has been invited to attend the screening.
“The land itself belongs to the culture, and through the culture each person takes care of each other. They are responsible for this land from now until forever,” said Bauknight.
“Hawaii: A Voice for Sovereignty” screens at 7 p.m. after a 5:15 reception in the atrium of the Capitol. For more information, visit catherinebauknight.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.