Come fight for Aloha against corporate cultural appropriation!
Aloha Poke Co is a Midwest based restaurant that has aggressively threatened Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) families with legal action for the use of the word “Aloha” in their business or social media. Not only are they capitalizing on an Indigenous traditional dish that they have no rights to, but they also have the gall to try and bar our own people from using a word in our language that has deep cultural meaning and symbolism. A language that up until 1987 was illegal in schools in Hawaii.
Aloha Poke Co.’s lawyers have sent cease-and-desist letters to small businesses demanding they “stop all use of Aloha and Aloha Poke in association with selling your food, products and services” as well as demanding the “removal of Aloha and Aloha Poke from any company name, domain name, Facebook page or other social media site.”
Aloha Poke Co. has yet to confirm how many of these cease-and-desist actions were undertaken by their lawyers. But two small businesses, including a native Hawaiian-owned restaurant, have been forced to rebrand their entire businesses due to this legal threat so far.
The root base of aloha are the words ALO and HA. Alo means presence, or as some kupuna have described it, recognition. HA means the breath of life. Therefore when we as Kanaka Maoli say “Aloha” we are recognizing being in the presence of another person’s breath of life. To threaten suit to Kanaka Maoli families who are simply trying to practice their generations old culture and feed the community? So that you can profit off of a culture and a people that are not yours to sell? That is what we call HEWA.
We as Kanaka Maoli also stand in solidarity with the Algonquin peoples who are the First Peoples of Chicago and were driven from the land by settlers. This is still pertinent because not only do the Algonquin people still live and struggle today, we know from the struggles of working class Chicago peoples that Aloha Poke Co is a part of a progressive wave of gentrification, commodification, and cultural appropriation that is criminalizing and driving out poor and people of color from the urban core.
We understand because half of our own people cannot afford to live in Hawaii due to the cost of living. We as Kanaka Maoli and all those who ally with us seek not only to be free from oppression, but to be free from the use of our culture in the oppression of others. As we struggle to cease the exploitation of our people, lands, culture and foods, so also do we refuse to have our language and culture participate in the gentrification of the homes of our allies abroad.
We call upon Aloha Poke Company, LLC to “cease and desist” from the use of the words “Aloha”, “Aloha Poke” and “Poke” from all current and future businesses. We believe the words “Aloha” and “Poke” belong to the whole Hawaiian culture – not to a U.S. company in Chicago. We understand that this will come at some cost to you, but we think that cost to a multi-million dollar company is comparable to the cost that you have asked these small families to suffer when you have demanded they remove theirs.
Mahalo nui loa, (not copywrited, still not yours to have)