Lana`i Plantation Period Oral History Project

Submitted by Colbert Matsumoto

At the recent funeral for Mr. Isamu Honda one of the speakers recounted his role as one of the founding owners of Pine Isle Market (the former Yet Lung Store) in 1949. That was a noteworthy time in the history of Lanai as the post-war economy was rapidly expanding and the “baby boom” generation was being born.  This was also when the ILWU was organizing the plantation workers throughout Hawaii.  It was shortly after Pine Isle Market was established that in February 1951 the workers on Lanai struck the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (Dole Pineapple Company).  Among the thousands of pineapple workers throughout Hawaii, only the workers on Lanai struck and they remained on strike for 201 days until the employer finally agreed to concessions.  Pine Isle Market was one of the stores on the island that extended credit to the striking workers enabling them to buy food and other provisions during that long period.  It was a bold gesture of support by a young man that could have wiped out his business.  Acts of courage like this and the leadership of individuals in the community like Pedro Dela Cruz, Richard Tamashiro, Shiro Hokama, Catalino “Pete” Agliam, and many others, exemplified the sense of community that enabled the workers and their families to endure the long strike and strengthen their ties.

The passing of Mr. Honda was a reminder that our link to the past that shaped Lanai’s plantation community and left a unique legacy in Hawaii’s history is quickly disappearing.  This is why the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center (“LCHC”) is undertaking an important project to preserve that past through oral histories.  The LCHC is working with the University of Hawaii’s Center for Oral History to record the oral history of Lanai’s Plantation Period.  This project is scheduled to begin this fall and will involve interviews with people who lived through the plantation period and can share their experiences and their direct knowledge of that history.  The goal of this project is to capture the important lessons in values, community spirit, collective action, courage, and leadership through the oral histories that will inspire current and future generations.

Your help is needed to undertake this project.  The LCHC is looking to identify current and former residents who are able to share their “oral history”.  We need suggestions on who might be appropriate candidates to share the many stories covering the several aspects of Lanai’s plantation history. Please contact the LCHC to offer names and contact information for Lanaians who we can interview.  Please communicate your suggestions to Kepa Maly, Executive Director, at kepa [at] LanaiCHC [dot] org or by phone: (808) 565-7177.

LCHC also needs help in meeting a “challenge grant” of $10,000 to underwrite the cost of this time sensitive project.  That grant requires that the LCHC raise $1 in donations for each dollar of the challenge grant.  If successful in raising the matching donations, LCHC will have the $20,000 it needs to fully fund the oral history project.  We humbly ask for your support to enable us to undertake this project.  Please consider making a donation to the LCHC for the “Plantation Period Project”.  Your donation at this critical time will help ensure that the stories about the Lanai plantation will be recorded and preserved for future generations.

Donations may be mailed to: Lanai Culture & Heritage Center, P. O. Box 631500, Lanai City, Hawaii 96763.  LCHC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible.  Please visit the LCHC website at: