The process of colonialism seeks to demean Indigenous intellect and destroy Indigenous literary traditions. Reconstructing those legacies is thus an act of anti-colonial resistance. This is the impetus behind Noenoe K. Silva
’s The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History
(Duke University Press, 2017). Silva, Professor of Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa, focuses on two writers from Hawai’i’s tumultuous late nineteenth and early twentieth century past. Joseph Poepoe and Joseph Kanepu’u both wrote extensively in Hawaiian language newspapers at a time when American colonial officials worked hard to stamp out the Hawaiian language. Their writing thus constitutes a rare archive of Native Hawaiian language, narrative forms such as mo’olelo, and concepts such as ‘aina. The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen
is an argument against settler colonial power structures and an insistent reminder that Native societies across the world have intellectual histories of their own.