A Literary Analysis of “Blood Quantum” by Naomi Losch

This stifling of native identity and culture is apparent in “Blood Quantum,” by Naomi Losch. Published in 2003 in Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, Losch creates a dialogue about how indigenous ways have been oppressed.

Throughout modern indigenous literature, there is often an allusion to the effects of westernization and indoctrination and how it suffocates one’s native identity and culture.

This stifling of native identity and culture is apparent in “Blood Quantum,” by Naomi Losch. Published in 2003 in Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, Losch creates a dialogue about how indigenous ways have been oppressed.

Diction and syntax in particular are used to convey the struggles of the Hawaiian community under western oppression.

(Photo by Keith Champaco | Unsplash)

In terms of diction, this diglossic poem incorporates both the English and Hawaiian language, which also embodies how in Hawaiʻi today, ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi is becoming more accessible and used in everyday life.

Losch deliberately writes, “‘O ka mākou one hānau kēia,’” meaning we are born of this place, as a follow up to the question posed in the line before. The use of the rhetorical question “Aren’t we of this place?” brings attention to the turmoil and pure exasperation that Losch and many other kanaka maoli face.

There was surely a time where kanaka would have been ashamed of their identity, would have rather answered in English if they answered at all. This post-Hawaiian Renaissance lāhui have reflected on the suffocation of their kupuna’s culture and have since been determined to embrace their language and identity.

Although the ratio of Hawaiian to English use is nowhere near what it was during King Kalākaua’s reign, it is evident that through efforts of the Native Hawaiian community there is a resurgence of language.

Losch’s strategic use of mainly negative verbs like “fought,” “opposed,” “didn’t want,” “aren’t,” “can’t live,” “didn’t choose,” “colonized,” and “divided” gives the poem an exhausted, yet somber aura. It invokes a sense of injustice; an urgent yearning for help that leaves readers feeling disadvantaged.

Photo by little plant on Unsplash

Interestingly, the author capitalizes the word “Homestead,” emphasizing its significance not only within the poem but also in Hawaiʻi’s complicated history based on land ownership. Given the context provided at the end of the poem, this refers to Hawaiian Homestead Land stewarded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. As American outsiders essentially had the power to determine who was Hawaiian enough to receive aid from OHA, it was deemed that those with 50 percent or more Hawaiian ancestry are “native Hawaiian” and those with any Hawaiian blood are “Native Hawaiian.”

Simply capitalizing one letter could now separate one’s ability to live in their homeland. By its very nature, this divides and classifies indigenous people of Hawaiʻi and is a common tactic used by ignorant colonizers throughout history. Losch also honors prominent cultural figures and places, like Liliʻuokalani and Nuʻuanu, as symbols of Hawaiian identity. This catches readers’ attention as these are easily recognizable and highly revered in Hawaiʻi. Mele and manaʻo; many that also lamented the loss of Hawaiian culture and sovereignty, immediately come to mind from these words.

This piece is a declaration to bring a sense of injustice to readers who now have insight into why kanaka are frustrated with being alienated in their homeland and have since started to fight back by reclaiming their culture.

Overall, Naomi Losch’s poem “Blood Quantum” portrays common frustrations within the lāhui regarding the effects of americanization on native identity and culture through diction and syntax.

Please follow me, Mackenzie Plunkett, for more articles about all things kanaka maoli! Mahalo nui!

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A Young Native Hawaiian Woman Passionate About Indigenous Sovereignty & Life In Hawaiʻi Nei

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Mackenzie Plunkett

Mackenzie Plunkett

A Young Native Hawaiian Woman Passionate About Indigenous Sovereignty & Life In Hawaiʻi Nei

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