Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


This paper will focus on the social and environmental degradation of the Kānaka Maoli people and the Hawaiian Islands and will show how Kānaka Maoli philosophy, culture, and knowledge will not only help combat climate change but how they are necessary for the continuation of life through and after this climate crisis. The destruction of our planet and the destruction of indigenous life have gone hand in hand in the United States, and throughout history, the decisions that have affected the environment affected Native Americans and vice versa. As the United States moves towards a greener and more sustainable way of life the history of these decisions must be considered. This paper will begin with a focus on a specific Kānaka Maoli family to show the adverse effects of colonization. Then, the first chapter will outline the historical quantitative data of the environmental degradation in Hawai’i, and how it has gone hand in hand with the degradation of the Kānaka Maoli. Chapter 2 will focus on the Kānaka Maoli cultural, religious, legal, and agricultural practices that have historically been in line with environmental protection, and how these have been misunderstood, completely ignored, and destroyed. Chapter 3 will focus on the commodification Kānaka Maoli life for tourists, and how tourism destroys the ecosystem. Chapter 4 will address the current issues preventing Kānaka Maoli sovereignty, and what is currently being done to combat them. Concluding the paper, I will argue for better Kānaka Maoli representation, and a restructuring of Hawai’i’s economy to better support Kānaka Maoli lives and the Hawaiian ecosystem.