BAYAN USA offers its deepest condolences and full solidarity to the thousands of victims of the wildfires in Maui. We call on people across the country not only to support financially through trusted, grassroots networks, but also by acting in political solidarity with the people of Hawai’i in demanding justice from governments and corporations who have for centuries created the conditions for such a disaster to occur.
The wildfires — which sparked in Lahaina and Kula around August 8 — have killed over 100 people, and left almost 3,000 buildings damaged or destroyed across more than 2,000 acres of land. A majority of these buildings were residential, and much of what was burnt down was sacred for the Kānaka Maoli, or Indigenous peoples of Hawai’i. Immediate financial assistance for food, water, shelter, livelihood, and other essential needs remains a priority, and we urge you to donate through any of the trusted avenues listed below.
Beyond donations, it is crucial for people to learn the people’s history of Hawai’i if we are to act in genuine solidarity and support the Kānaka Maoli, and other exploited and oppressed communities who were affected, in organizing and fighting for long-term solutions to man-made and capitalist-driven disasters. “It is very important to question what led to the fires in Maui. Historical events are not just from the past, they impact us and the land we live on today,” said Fredi Misay, Vice Chair of BAYAN USA, who grew up in Lahaina.
Lahaina, once the royal capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, was not always susceptible to such fires. Its natural wetland ecosystem was illegally drained of water by colonizers who stole land and established sugar plantations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For the sake of their profits, plantation owners diverted water streams to their crops and introduced non-native plant species for animal grazing that were more likely to catch fire.
The violent overthrow of the native government in 1893 — at the hands of the U.S. state, sugarcane plantation owners, and the U.S. and European financial oligarchy — also marked the consolidation of the U.S. capitalist class’ control over the lives, land, and water of Hawai’i. The policies passed by the sham government would go on to protect and enlarge the profits of the plantation owners, and eventually those of corporations behind the tourism industry.
The tourism industry in Maui now accounts for almost 40 percent of its economy, and resource ownership and distribution — especially of water — has been forcibly seized to meet industry needs. Companies such as West Maui Land and its subsidiaries now control water supplies, which are pumped into luxury resorts and golf courses. Meanwhile, many Kānaka Maoli have no access to county water lines, fire hydrants, or paved roads that can be used for evacuation. On top of this, because the economy is driven by parasitic industries rather than by ones controlled by the masses, the working class of Maui are being forced to go back and seek livelihood within the very same corporations that have caused devastation to their communities.
The sum impact of these centuries of violence on people, land, and water mean that not everyone has been impacted by the fires in Maui in the same way. Making up 10 percent of the Lahaina community, the Kānaka Maoli have been hit especially hard, especially as Lahaina is home to many working class and multi-generational families. The Kānaka Maoli already experience the highest poverty levels in their native land, and are twice as likely to be unhoused. This is not to mention the irreparable damage to the sacred land and possessions of native peoples in Lahaina.
BAYAN USA also recognizes that other exploited and oppressed communities were affected by the fires. This includes many Filipinos who were forcibly displaced to Hawai’i over decades of labor export, originally to be exploited as cheap labor in the same sugar plantations that robbed the Kānaka Maoli of their land and water. Filipinos are the second largest population in Lahaina, and the majority of Maui’s workforce is Filipino. “You would find Filipinos working in grocery stores, food and beverage industry, and especially the hotel and tourism industry. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins work in different hotels in Ka’anapali and Kapalua as housekeepers, maintenance technicians, front desk receptionists, and baristas,” shared Misay. “And contrary to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs’ infuriating claims that no Filipinos were affected, we know that thousands of Filipinos — including my own family — have lost virtually everything but one another,” Misay continued.
We share in the righteous anger at the U.S. government for their murderous neglect and active undermining of the people’s right to life. In the wake of the Maui fires, government officials on Hawai’i and water corporations have been colluding to roll back the hard won water rights protections fought for by Kānaka Maoli communities for generations. And while those same officials are releasing public pleas to realtors not to take advantage of families via land grabbing, they continue to protect the big capitalists that have historically preyed on the people of Hawai’i. We are also outraged at the response of the Philippine government, who, based on reports from the ground, even took the stance that it was not their job to help Filipinos in need when community organizations called the Philippine consulate in Honolulu to help.
The road to rebuilding will be long and arduous. The road to realizing self-determination, sovereignty, and a genuine people’s government and economy of and for the Kānaka Maoli — the real solutions to averting man-made climate disasters — will be even longer. BAYAN USA commits itself to full solidarity with the peoples of Hawai’i in their own national liberation movement, and in doing our part in fighting against the imperialist system responsible for the suffering of the masses the world over.
Please donate to the following trusted organizations and directly impacted communities:
- Hawai’i Workers Center: hawaiiworkerscenter.org/donate
- Kōkua Maui: bit.ly/kokuamaui
- Maui Mutual Aid Fund: bit.ly/mauimutualaide
- Hawai’i People Fund: hawaiipeoplesfund.org
- Support BAYAN family members: gofundme.com/f/misay-ohana-lahaina-fire
- Lahaina Ohana Venmo: instagram.com/lahaina_ohana_venmo/