Telling Oregon’s Hawaiian story

'DISplace,' a new virtual exhibition at Five Oaks Museum, explores the long history of the Hawaiian diaspora in the Pacific Northwest

Why are you where you are now? What history shaped you into the person you are today? 

Five Oaks Museum in Washington County has launched DISplace, a new digital exhibition exploring what these questions of personal and communal history mean to the Pacific Northwest’s seldom-recognized Hawaiian diaspora, which extends back as far as 1787, when the first Hawaiian, a woman named Waine’e, came to Nootka Sound, British Columbia, on a merchant ship. The exhibition opened on Thursday, Nov. 12, and will continue online through June 2021.

Following the first contact, a steady stream of Hawiian laborers came to the Pacific Northwest to work in the booming fur trade, logging industry, and in building the infrastructure of new towns developing in the region. Today, the driving forces bringing Hawaiians to the Pacific Northwest are better educational opportunities and cheaper cost of living as housing prices continue to increase in Hawai’i.

DISplace curators Lehuauakea (left) and Kanani Miyamoto.

DISplace curators Lehuauakea and Kanani Miyamoto, mixed Native Hawaiian artists, find themselves in the Pacific Northwest for some of these reasons. Both have spent nearly 10 years in Oregon, and the two have had to  grapple with finding a sense of belonging, place, and identity while being members of a diasporic community whose history has been largely ignored.