Talk of Jean Charlot

July 11, 1971, at Kawaiahao Church

on the formal acceptance of his symbol by the

Ad Hoc Committee for a Hawaiian Trustee of the Bishop Estate[1]


This picture is not just a work of art but a symbol of the present mood of Hawaiians in the community.  I have no Hawaiian blood, but as an artist I have received much inspiration from Hawaiians as a race.  It is hard to explain how mana comes to a non-Hawaiian, but the turn of the wrist when a woman speaks, the earthy weight, the extraordinary strength and sweetness that are not found in other races….  So I am in love with Hawai‘i, but especially with the Hawaiian people. 

I saw a photo of the Reverend Akaka with a blessing bowl looking sad, and I thought if it’s so bad, the world must be going to the dogs.  I wanted to do something, so I consulted with Arthur Trask.  Arthur gave me lunch, which softened me up.  I said to Arthur that I wanted to do something.  I offered $5.  Arthur wanted more.  So I said I could do a drawing. 

I looked for something to make unity among the different groups.  There is no unity yet.   If you read the Sunday paper, you could have your doubts, but you shouldn’t lose faith in the tale of the broken paddle.  It’s like Washington and the cherry tree.  The parable of the broken paddle can do us good.  It can beat wisdom into someone’s head.  The newspaper writer said paddles were so strong that they couldn’t break, but Kamehameha’s skull could do it.  But since the paddle is so strong, don’t use it on ourselves––don’t destroy ourselves while our enemies watch.  In the Gospel of Mark, we see that a blessing reserved can do as much as a paddle.  [Gospel: Mark 5: 1–20.]

The drawing had to be simple for posters and letterheads.  The drawing is clear––both big and small.  That’s not easy to do, but I’m happy to be able to do something for Hawaiians because I love them.


The Reverend Abraham Akaka: Thank you.  He says he has not one drop of Hawaiian blood, but he has 100% Hawaiian spirit.  I’m asking the Hawaiian people to tune the brown string.[2] 



[1] The Ad Hoc Committee for a Hawaiian Trustee of the Bishop Estate was protesting the appointment of a yet another non-Hawaiian trustee.  Charlot’s symbol was announced in Richard Hoyt, “anti-Takabuki symbol: ‘splintered paddle’ law,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 8, 1971, A-12.  This was attacked by Samuel Crowningburg-Amalu, “the ‘Law of the Splintered Paddle’ upset,” The Sunday Star-Bulletin & Advertiser, July 11, 1971, A-7.  Amalu was supported by Pilahi Paki, “law of ‘mamalahoa,” The Honolulu Advertiser, July 16, 1971, A-21.  On the Law of the Broken Paddle, see John Charlot, The Hawaiian Poetry of Religion and Politics: Some Religio-Political Concepts in Postcontact Literature, Monograph Series, Number 5, The Institute for Polynesian Studies, Polynesian Cultural Center (Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i: Brigham Young U, 1985), 37.  A tape-recording exists of this talk, but has not been located.  This text is edited from my handwritten notes.  Editor: John Charlot. 

[2] The Reverend Abraham Akaka, pastor of Kawaiaha‘o Church, used the four-string ‘ukulele to make the point that Hawai‘i had many races and each had the right to make itself heard.  The brown string was the Hawaiian people.