LIKE MANY OTHER increasingly vocal indigenous peoples, native Hawaiians are seeking to redefine their place in their own homeland. Recently, they received advice and support from Rigoberta Menchu Tum, the first indigenous woman honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Speaking from her own experience and that of other Guatemalan Maya, Menchu offered inclusiveness as an alternative to the cycle of repression and reaction that has often been the pattern when native peoples have been displaced. Menchu has, of course, practiced what she was preaching. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her efforts toward ending the decades of civil strife in Guatemala by bringing the adversaries together and for her advocacy on behalf of indigenous people worldwide. Her struggles had been vividly chronicled in I, Rigoberta Menchu, a biography by Venezuelan author Elizabeth Burgos based on a twenty-six-hour taped interview during which Menchu described the plight of Guatemala's Indians and the atrocities committed against her parents and brothers, all of whom were killed. To this day, Menchu cites the work first when she lists her accomplishments.
"This book broke the world's silence in regard to the armed conflict in Guatemala," she said. "It is my life's testimony of which I will be forever proud."
After receiving the prestigious award, Menchu again made headlines when some of the most dramatic episodes in her book were denounced as false or distorted. Subsequently, the Nobel committee conducted its own investigation and chose not to revoke the prize. In light of the controversy though, some have suggested I, Rigoberta Menchu be considered the biography of a people rather than a personal biography.
"In some ways they are right," Menchu answered, "but I defend my...