Collection, Hawaiian

An Evolution from Paniolo to the Grammy Awards: A Master of the Slack Key Guitar

Click for more photos.

By Emilio Eusebio, Spring 2013 intern

Wearing his trademark glasses and hat, Dennis Kamakahi is a descendant of the slack key guitar sound that was brought to Hawai`i by Mexican and Spanish cowboys in the late 1880’s and later adopted by Hawaiian paniolos. Dennis started his career with the Na Leo Nuuanu group, but after the departure of the legendary slack key guitarist Gabby Pahinui, he found more prominent success with the group Sons of Hawaii. With the Sons of Hawaii, he wrote, performed, and played many Hawaiian songs that became classics. After several years playing in the Sons of Hawaii, he branched off and recorded his own solo material. His music garnered favorable acclaim and he won several awards and honors including three Grammys. His music continued to reach a wider audience when both him and his son contributed to the original soundtrack for Disney’s animated movie Lilo and Stitch 2. The melodic and tranquil sounds that emanate from Kamakahi’s guitar leave no question to the listener of the mastery of his craft.

Through Dennis’ generous donation to the museum, we are able to expand our collection and highlight different genres of music within the United States.   Among the items that Dennis donated include: an Ovation Ultra Deluxe-6 string guitar, sheet music, albums, and photos. Dennis performed with this guitar during his time with the Sons of Hawaii from 1986-1992.

Downloads: Podcast and Teacher’s Guide

  • Click here to download the podcast (mp3 file, 11 minutes, 7mb)
    History Explorer: Discovering Slack Key Guitar History with Dennis Kamakahi
    What do British cattle and Mexican cowboys have to do with the history of Hawaiian folk music? A lot, as it turns out. Slack Key guitar master Reverend Dennis Kamakahi explains in this episode of History Explorer. The episode features songs Rev. Kamakahi played during a ceremony in which he donated one of his guitars to the museum.
  • Click here to download the Teacher’s Guide

Related Links

General APA, Hawaiian, Japanese American

Remembering the Life and Service of Senator Daniel Inouye

Senator Daniel Inouye is second from the right. This photo was taken at the Press Conference for the Congressional Gold Medal Tour, September 13, 2012.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center remembers the life and service of Senator Daniel Inouye.  The story of Daniel Inouye is the quintessential Asian American story.  He will be remembered as a great man who served his home state of Hawaii and the nation for more than a generation.

Related Links:

From the Office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye:

Statement on the Passing of Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Monday, December 17, 2012

Senator Inouye began his career in public service at the age of 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Senator Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.

Following the war he returned to Hawaii and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura, and graduated from the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University School of Law.

After receiving his law degree, Dan Inouye, returned to Hawaii and worked as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu. He recognized the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, and in 1954 was part of a Democratic revolution that took control of the Territorial Legislature.

Following statehood in 1959, Dan Inouye was privileged to serve as Hawaii’s first Congressman. He ran for the Senate in 1962 where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.

Dan Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources. He worked to expand the military’s presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command.

He has worked to build critical roads, expanded bus services statewide and secured the federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project. He championed the indigenous rights of Native Hawaiians and the return of Kahoolawe.

He fought for the rights and benefits for veterans. Senator Inouye has left an indelible mark at the University of Hawaii, including support for major facilities and research assets. He has long supported local agriculture and alternative energy initiatives.

Dan Inouye was always among the first to speak out against injustice whether interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

A prominent player on the national stage, Senator Inouye served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and was the first Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

After developing a reputation as a bipartisan workhorse, who always would put country above party, he was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair. This was after a successful tenure as a member of the Watergate Committee.

When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, Dan said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”

His last words were, “Aloha.”

Collection, Hawaiian, History, Japanese American

Got Documents?

Birth Certificate from Hawaii

Birth Certificate from Hawaii

APA Collections Update from Noriko Sanefuji:

I recently had an opportunity to meet Maureen Kuwano Hinkle, who kept her parents’ documents from the early 1900’s!  Among the documents was a birth certificate.   Her father, Douglas Tsuneo Kuwano, was born in Puunene, Maui, Territory of Hawai`i in 1906. Douglas’ father was a laborer like many other Japanese immigrants in the sugarcane fields of Maui for most of his life, and his mother made clothes for plantation workers.

In the fall of 1926, Douglas enrolled at the University of Colorado where he majored in electrical engineering and graduated with honors in 1930.  He also met his future wife Daisy Sasaki his junior year, and they got married in June of 1930. The depression deprived Douglas of an anticipated position at Westinghouse in Pennsylvania, so the newlyweds went back to Hawai`i.

Douglas’ birth certificate is five pages long, including not only a photo, but a witness statement by his father’s friend. I wonder if this is the long birth certificate that President Obama was also questioned for?  On the other hand, Daisy, who was born in Colorado in 1909, had a much different birth certificate. It is only one page, without a photo, and was not filed until 1927.  It is interesting to note that there is a section on “Legitimate” status and what they listed under “color” might be surprising.

Maureen also donated some travel documents, passport, and her parent’s wedding certificate.

Birth Certificate from Colorado

Birth Certificate from Colorado

Certificate of Marriage

Certificate of Marriage

All documents donated by Maureen Kuwano Hinkle
Source: Meeting with Maureen Kuwano Hinkle

Hawaiian, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: The Annexation of Hawai‘i

March 16, 1898 — The Annexation of Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i was annexed by the United States in 1898 under the presidency of William McKinley. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 when American planters, threatened by a tariff on their sugar product, staged a coup and removed Queen Liliuokalani from power. The planters received assistance from U.S. sailors at a nearby Navy vessel that had been dispatched by President Harrison. Under the leadership of Samuel Dole, the planters quickly formed a new government. Although the planters favored annexation (even sending representatives to Congress in 1894), the newly elected President Cleveland opposed it and suggested a restoration of the monarchy, but it was rejected by Congress. It wasn’t until 1898, during the Spanish-American War, that Hawai‘i was officially annexed.

Due to its position in the Pacific, Hawai‘i had become important to the U.S. in the mid-1800s as a provisioning station for U.S. whaling ships. Economic ties were further strengthened by the growth of sugarcane production.  In 1875, a trade reciprocity agreement was reached to cement this new relationship. The sugarcane trade greatly shaped the composition of the Hawaiian population as the planters brought in laborers from across the Asia-Pacific region. This made the decrease of the native Hawaiian population even more stark.

There has been considerable controversy over the U.S. role in the coup and subsequent annexation of Hawai‘i. In his review of the coup, President Cleveland believed that the planter-declared republic had been aided by an act of war on the part of the U.S. In 1993, a Congressional resolution apologized for the hand that the U.S. played in the overthrow.

1891 Hawaiian Flag

1891 Hawai‘ian Flag: Kamehameha the Great commissioned the design of a flag in 1816. It has remained the official flag of the kingdom, the republic, the territory, and the state of Hawai‘i. Gift of Lt. Herbert Campbell.


Collection, Hawaiian, History

Collections: Hawai‘i Overprints During WWII

APA Collections Update from Noriko Sanefuji:

When I visited the Numismatic collection at the National Museum of American History, I found some interesting currency with the word “HAWAII” printed on them. I got curious and wanted to find out the history behind it.

It turns out that this Hawai‘i overprint currency dates back to World War II. These notes were issued after the attack on Pearl Harbor to serve as emergency currency on the Hawai‘i Islands. These bills ($1, $5, $10 and $20) were distributed on July 15, 1942. The bills have “HAWAII” printed on the back in big letters and on the front with smaller letters in two places on the side. These measures were taken to easily identify the money.  Just in case currency falls into the enemy’s hands during an invasion, it would be easily rejected as counterfeit money. This currency stayed in effect until October 1944.

Hawai'i Dollar Bill

The U.S. Treasury donated these notes to the museum along with 800 pieces of currency, many of which are very rare. These pieces of currency had a face value of nearly $600,000 back in 1978.


Arthur L. Friedberg.  A Guide Book of United States Paper Money: Complete Source for History, Grading, and Prices, 2005.

The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, August 1942

Collection, Hawaiian, History, Japanese American

Collections: Alice Kono’s WAC Uniform

APA Collections Update

During World War II, over 150,000 women served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) or Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Special legislation was required before the women could serve in the army. The law authorizing the WAAC was signed by President Roosevelt in May 1942 and the first WAACs began training in July 1942. Initially WAACs were only assigned to duties in the continental United States, however, when General Eisenhower requested trained secretarial, clerical and administrative personnel, a WAAC detachment was sent to his headquarters in North Africa in early 1943. A WAAC battalion was sent to England in the spring of 1943 to provide similar expertise to Army and Air Force units gathering for the invasion of Europe. Later in 1943, Congress authorized the Women’s Army Corps as a full-fledged army organization.

All WAACs were either converted to WAC status or discharged. Women were assigned as drivers, mechanics, cooks, ordnance specialists, and radio operators; they worked in communications, logistics, public affairs, medical, intelligence and many other specialties. Alice Tetsuko Kono, a resident of Molokai, Hawai’i, was born in Lanai, Hawai’i to Japanese immigrants. She joined the army as a Military Intelligence Service Linguist where she could utilize her Japanese language skills. After her basic training in Georgia, she trained at the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) in Fort Snelling, Minnesota. In the summer of 1944, there were over 6,000 Nisei men and about 50 Nisei women assigned to MISLS. They served in the United States and in all overseas theaters and many Nisei women served as translators in occupied Japan. Because of their excellent record, women were made a part of the regular military establishment in 1948.

The National Museum of American History has collected over 30 WAC uniforms. This particular uniform is the first to be worn by a minority woman.

Alice Kono's WAC Jacket

This jacket was worn by Alice Tetsuko Kono, Women’s Army Corps (WAC) who was assigned as a linguist to the Military Intelligence Service from 1944-1946.

Gift of Alice Kono


Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United Stated since 1850. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.

Interview with Alice Tetsuko Kono. July, 2010.

Hawaiian, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: 1963 Children’s Petition on Civil Rights Bill to Senator Hiram Fong

Senator Hiram Fong

On October 9th, 1963, 64 multicultural schoolchildren from Mānoa Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, ages ranging from 9 to 11 years old, signed a petition that urged the Senate to pass the Civil Rights Bill (Public Law 82-352); a bill which would later become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill stipulated that any discrimination on the basis of “sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing” was forbidden. (National Archives)

Written on a 10 feet long by 2 feet wide scroll, the petition moved former Senator Hiram Fong to present it to the Senate. The petition would then later be inserted into the Congressional Record.

The following excerpts are taken from the petition itself:

“We are 64, 9- to 11-year-olds from Manoa Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii. In this nice school of ours we have all kinds of faces.

There are Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Korean, Norwegian-German, Scottish-Irish, French-Japanese, and Hawaiian-Chinese faces. Religiously we represent Episcopalians, Buddhists, Friends, Baptists, Methodists. Protestants and Catholics. We have fun learning and living together. (We have disagreements too.) We would miss the different races and religions if they were gone. Today we play together, tomorrow we earn together.” —(Odo, 347-348.)

“In today’s world, too many people are oppressed and unhappy. Many are merely struggling to exist day by day. Let democracy radiate hope for all men.

Let us begin at home. Let us begin with something as fundamental as civil rights. Let us begin to lift all men upward. Let us make real democracy as P.W. Bridgman writes: ‘For, of course, the true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a man does with it, not by what he says about it.’” —(Odo, 349.)


Odo, Franklin. (2002). The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, (Ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.