DISplace shines light on the widely unknown connection between Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Northwest, and the communities that continue to flow between these two regions. As far back as 1787, people coming from and through the Hawaiian Islands to what’s currently considered the Pacific Northwest have made important contributions to culture and industry throughout the region.
This exhibition is created by Five Oaks Museum 2020-21 Guest Curators Kanani Miyamoto (she/her) and Lehuauakea (they/them), with historical research and text by Lehuauakea. The Guest Curators are themselves a part of this living history: both are mixed-Native Hawaiian, have family roots in Hawaiʻi and are now based in Portland, OR. This online exhibition runs from November 2020 to June 2021.
DISplace was created from the idea that the representation of the connected histories of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Northwest are often inaccurate and inadequate throughout mainstream education and rhetoric. The overlapping connection between these two regions from pre-fur trade era up until present-day is widely unknown, even within our own communities. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations are too often overlooked as significant communities, but in fact they are a long-standing demographic of the Pacific Northwest and the fastest growing group in both the US and within the area local to this museum. This exhibition developed out of a goal to recover these histories, honor their contributions, and rebuild the narrative through the voices of families and individual descendants today.
Both of us are members of the large mixed-Native Hawaiian community that has, for one reason or another, found their way to the Pacific Northwest. Throughout our years away from Hawaiʻi, we’ve discovered similarities in the experiences of others with a similar story — the obstacles faced in a region away from the islands, the importance of community roles, and how we express and connect our stories to others around us. These connections, and many more from families outside of our Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) communities, were vital to the narrative of DISplace and its programming. In order to help build this narrative, we have woven in pieces of our community’s visual art, family stories, music and food, and more, within the historical timeline.
We began the work and research of DISplace as the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning to take hold. Over the course of the months leading up to the opening in November, many shifts were made to the structure of the exhibition as the uncertainty of the virus unfolded. The resiliency of our cultural communities over the generations, the generous flexibility and commitment from all of the exhibition’s participants, artists, and storytellers must not be overlooked.
The title of this exhibition was chosen as a nod to the communities in both the Northwest Coast and Hawaiian Islands, and their interwoven histories as represented by local slang and pidgin languages. Hawaiʻi is known for its pidgin—the result of the linguistic melding of multiple communities with no initial commonly spoken language. This “language” developed largely within diverse plantation communities. But what many don’t know is other versions of pidgin also developed along the west coast starting with the fur trade, which created a combination of English, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, French, Chinook, Salish, and other Indigenous languages from the local regions. The pidgin associated with what is now considered the Portland metro area was known as “Chinook jargon,” named after the original stewards of this land. Because of the extensive Native intertribal trade networks prior to the arrival of settlers on the continent, Chinook jargon was spoken from Northern California all the way north through parts of Alaska.
“Dis place” is a pidgin translation of “this place,” a way to reference one’s location and symbolize pride in one’s home. It is also a phonetic reminder of the challenges and obstacles faced by these communities as they navigated displacement from their original homelands. In these ways, DISplace and its title is a small yet significant way we honor the multifaceted resiliency from these voices throughout history and up until present day, and in the many places that we call “home.”
In the midst of the uncertainty, it is an amazing opportunity to open this online platform to the many communities with untold stories to tell. While this exhibition is merely a glimpse of the larger histories at play, it is our hope that DISplace honors and contextualizes these stories while broadening the understanding of their impact on the region that we share today. In many ways, we see DISplace as a collective jumping-off point for further conversations, research, and connections ahead, within our audiences and beyond. Mahalo piha, many thanks, to the Five Oaks Museum for this opportunity and to our exhibition contributors who made DISplace possible. Let’s keep going. Holomua.
—Kanani Miyamoto and Lehuauakea
Lehuauakea (they/them) is a mixed-Native Hawaiian interdisciplinary artist from Pāpaʻikou on Moku O Keawe, the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
Their art practice serves as a means of reflection on cultural and biological ecologies, spectrums of identity, and what it means to build a life rooted in Indigenous sustainability and traditional practices. With a particular focus on the labor-intensive making of ʻohe kāpala, kapa cloth, and natural pigments, Lehua ensures this mode of Indigenous storytelling is carried well into the future.
The artist is currently based between Portland and Pāpaʻikou after earning their BFA in Painting with a minor in Art + Ecology at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Kanani Miyamoto (she/her) holds an MFA in Print Media from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and a bachelor’s degree in Art Practices from Portland State University. She is originally from Honolulu, Hawai‘i and is currently living in Portland, Oregon.
Miyamoto is a passionate printmaker and educator. Her work is inspired by her personal experiences as an individual of mixed heritage as well as life in Honolulu.
Additionally, Miyamoto loves collaborations of all kinds and is supportive of community based art. She teaches with Pacific University, Portland Community College, Young Audiences, The Right Brain Initiative and NW Noggin’s STEAM program.
Featured Artists and Storytellers
Additional Materials & Events
Learning Materials: Follow the stories of Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest, from early travelers to contemporary artists, in these learning materials for all ages. Learn more and download here.
Opening Night: Celebrate with music and personal stories between Hawai‘i and the Pacific Northwest. Video Recording coming soon.
Curator’s Talk: A virtual, behind-the-scenes tour with the guest curator duo. View Video Recording Here.
Artist’s Talk: Creating Hawaiian Futures: Lehuauakea in conversation with Kalei’okalani Matsui and Kevin Matthew Kaunuali’i Kiesel. Video Recording coming soon.
Welcome to the Exhibition Gallery
How to view:
- Click on a story page to read the text and view historic images.
- Click on an artwork to see it fullscreen. Click on an artist’s name to link to their page, where you can view all of their works included in this exhibition and read their bio and statement.
- View the Citations and Glossary here or at the end of the gallery.
Stringing Lei –
HI-story of Struggle-
Ghost Net Landscape: Sea Stories –
He Ola Nō –
The roots set in place by the first few generations of immigrants from Hawaiʻi, including those mentioned and beyond, paved the way for the community connections that remain alive and well today. Regardless of the modality—through religious beliefs, shared backgrounds and spoken languages, similar cuisines, common strengths, and more—these diverse communities rose up time and time again in the face of the countless acts of racial discrimination and generational stigmas.
Today’s communities in the Pacific Northwest reflect these complex, interwoven stories rooted in shared displacement and intergenerational resilience. Their stories, widely overlooked or misrepresented in textbooks and media, offer insight into the contributions to industry, development, culture, politics, and activism that the region continues to benefit from today.
Regardless of ethnic affiliation, time period, or region in which they settled, one thing is clear about these communities that have flowed and continue to flow between Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Northwest: the challenges of being displaced from one’s home are no match for the power of community through shared resilience, resistance, and determination grounded in cultural identity.
ʻAʻohe loa i ka hana a ke aloha.Distance is ignored by aloha.
The Pacific Ocean is the bridge that connects Hawaiʻi to the Pacific Northwest. If one traveled in a straight line across the ocean from the viewpoint of this image, they would arrive in Hawaiʻi directly from the Oregon Coast. This point is only a few miles from areas of the coast sailed by Chief Kaʻiana and John Meares’ crew in 1788-1789.
Five Oaks Museum thanks our exhibition sponsors for supporting DISplace and the community. Sponsors are fiscal donors only and have not participated in the curation or writing of the exhibition.
With additional funding from The Collins Foundation & the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.