115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hawaiian Literature as Pedagogy: Indigenizing Critical Pedagogy and Place-Based Theory

Scott Kaalele, University of Hawaii, Manoa

For indigenous scholars and instructors, there is a constant struggle between cultural and academic worldviews. This presentation will discuss the use of indigenous literature as a gateway to engaged student writing and productive community action. By conflating critical pedagogy and place-based writing theories, I argue that this kind of strategy can facilitate and affect a broad-spectrum of students in the composition classroom.


The goal of this project is to indigenize my first first-year composition course at the University of Hawaii, in order to engage Native Hawaiian writers in their community. Focusing on the conflation of place-based writing and critical pedagogy, in this essay I argue that an indigenous approach to composition pedagogy can affect a broad-spectrum of writing students. In Decolonizing Methodologies, Smith defines “indigenist processes” as “a centering in consciousness of the landscapes, images, languages, themes, metaphors and stories of the indigenous world.” Smith describes various indigenizing projects and possibilities, including writing, where  “the boundaries of poetry, plays, song writing, fiction and non-fiction are blurred” as writers invoke language to capture the messages and nuances of indigenous lives. Distilling Smith’s work, ho’omanawanui’s pedagogical concept of  “ʻIke ʻAina” emphasizes foundational aspects of Hawaiian literature such as oral traditions and a relationship with the land, implementing an indigenous Hawaiian approach to teaching writing and cultivating culturally based literacy. Although ʻIke ʻAina is primarily concerned with native Hawaiian experiences, I contend that models like this that resound location as a site of struggle (Reynolds 2004), and that reflect the Freirean ideal that the oppressed must be their own example, can be effective teaching strategies. As indigenous literacy inherently involves “speaking, listening, [and] reading…combined with intuitive and critical thinking” (Williams-Kennedy 2004), indigenizing place-based theories and critical pedagogy develops both indigenous and non-indigenous students as writers and community advocates.