Hawaiian Ali’i and Western Architecture

There always was criticism about the houses and dress of Hawaiians in the 19th century particularly the ali’i. I have heard Hawaiians say “Oh they wear haole clothes” and “Oh they live in haole houses”. Statements such as that are totally poho and po’opa’a. In this century, we live in a time that Hawaiians can wear a malo during a graduation ceremony at UH. But the mentality back then a century ago was sharply different due to political, social, and cultural pressures. Hawaiians were a recognized nation and one of the last Pacific countries to avoid colonialism. Tahiti and Aotearoa’s colonization had directly impacted the minds of many of the Hawaiian ali’i. Hawaiians were being –yes even during the Kingdom era–to become “civilized” (read Westernized. That was not only true of Hawaiians, but also of Japanese, Chinese, Turks, and Thais. There was a long period of time in the 19th and 20th century where the Japanese Imperial Family and the Thai Royal Family was rarely ever photographed or painted in their national attires. Japan and Hawai’i in particular pursued a strong and deliberate national policy of internal-Westernization in order to cope with the traumatic changes emanating from Europe and America as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The motto of the Meiji government at that time was “Western Technology, Japanese spirit”. In Hawaiian newspapers there’s tons of comments about being “civilized”. 
No automatic alt text available.
Queen Emma’s pili grass hale
The ali’i were constantly being pressured to adopt English, to behave as proper English aristocrats, and to be well versed in European history and law in order to project to the major powers that Hawai’i was a country that the West could do business with on equal terms. There was also the mana’o of many Hawaiians that we needed to adopt these ideas, ways of living and technology because it would improve the lives of the people (i.e. hospitals) and would put Hawai’i on an equal footing with other powers. But the ali’i were still Hawaiian. Queen Emma lamented on her travels to England how she missed fish and poi. The photo attached is a photo of Queen Emma’s pili grass hale that one stood at Hanaiakalama. This is where she would relax, talk in Hawaiian with her staff and be Hawaiian All of the ali’i were like that. All of them felt more comfortable in the traditional Hawaiian ways than what they were being pressured to adopt. Western clothes did not make a Hawaiian ali’i less Hawaiian. It is only when a Hawaiian has decided against maintaining their ancestral ties to the land, turns away from his/her kuleana to the community and has adopted values alien to Hawaiian culture such as unbridled consumerism that the Hawaiian has lost touch.

Concepts in Hawaiian Succession

Many people nowadays think that simply because they are somehow related to Kamehameha, that is sufficient to claim the Hawaiian Throne or to think of themselves a royal. That is absolutely not true either in the traditional Hawaiian sense nor in the Hawaiian Kingdom’s constitutional framework. In the West, lines of succession went from father to eldest son. That’s because Western countries adopted ideas about succession from Christianity, which in turn adopted patriarchal ideas from Judaism and from Roman civil law. Hawaiian society was not patriarchal. All of the early Western and Hawaiian accounts agree that the mother’s genealogy was of more importance than the father’s genealogy. Women’s ranks were fixed and in the age where women could have many husbands, paternity could be difficult to establish. Normally, the woman’s highest ranking male husband could claim any of her children as his own. If a husband wanted to ensure that a child would be his, he would negotiate a schedule with the wahine and would have to pay an uku or tax to each of her other husbands and/or sometimes to her parents. Kamehameha had such an arrangement with Keopuolani. The same process would also be true of a woman who wanted to ensure that her children were of a particular father. A person’s social standing within Hawaiian society depended on the rank of the mother. The rank of the mother served as the baseline in traditional Hawaiian society because no one could question maternity. The first source of mana always derived from women. titles could be inherited from the mother, but titles from the father side were more difficult to inherit. A person could improve his/her social rank through: having children of higher rank (hānau akua); through conquest (kūnaʻina); through acclamation (ololani); revolution (including usurping the throne); and, through deification (hoʻākua). Kūaliʻi for example was acclaimed as ruler of O’ahu by the ‘Aha ‘Ula who was struggling with a people’s rebellion and civil war between the Lono and Kū line of chiefs, though Kūaliʻi came from a junior line of chiefs. ‘Umi-a-Liloa was a low ranking chief though he was recognized as a son of King Liloa. The people overthrew his higher ranking brother Hākau and placed ‘Umi on the throne. In both Kūaliʻi and Umi-a-Liloa’s cases, they were regarded as usurpers by some but they solidified their positions through conquest and having high ranking children. Their successes as well as their devotion to the traditional akua legitimatized their lines and seemed to indicate the affection of the akua towards them. In China one had the “Mandate of Heaven”. In Hawai’i you had the “Ka pili mahamaha o nā akua a me ka lehulehu” or the Affectonate Relationship of the Gods and the People”. No ali’i could justify their rule without this “mahamaha” or affection. That was the way to maintain their mana.

Now fast forward to Kamehameha III. When he began the process of turning Hawai’i into a Constitutional Monarchy, he divided the ali’i into three major categories: royals; stewards or potential royals; and ali’i. Only the members of the Royal Family could be considered “royal” and these had to be confirmed in public decree with the approval of the Kuhina Nui and the House of Nobles. Higher ranking chiefs who had been loyal warriors and advisers to his father were considered to be stewards of the dynasty and as such some of their children were put into the Chief’s Children School. The rest of the chiefs were ali’i and the bulk of the people that the king recognized as chiefs derived from kaukau ali’i, middle-lower level chiefs who owed allegiance to the House of Kamehameha. Even during the time of Kamehameha III, having ali’i blood was not a rare thing as the population was collapsing due to foreign diseases. It still is not a rare thing. With the implementation of the Hawaiian Civil Code, ali’i and royals who had children outside of their legally recognized marriages were not entitled to the same benefits as legitimate children. Kamehameha III, V, and Lunalilo all had known illegitimate children. King Kamehameha III had two very well known illegitimate children and the most well known was Albert Kūnuiakea. Though he was legally adopted by Queen Kalama, due to his mother’s genealogy and the new legal code, Kamehameha III ensured that his successor would be Alexander Liholiho Kamehameha. Kamehameha III also set into motion a constitutional process that demanded that all ranks be publicly proclaimed during the lifetime of the sovereign and confirmed by the Hawaiian National Assembly in order to avoid civil war between rival heirs. When Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma had their son, Prince Albert Edward Kaleiopapa-a-Kamehameha, his rank had to be confirmed by the Privy Council , the Kuhina Nui, and the House of Nobles even though the son was legally legitimate. Kamehameha V had three very well known daughters from a Hawaiian commoner and one of these women served as a personal attendant of Queen Kapi’olani at the court King Kalākaua. Kamehameha V also stiffened Hawaiian nobility by declaring in 1865 that hereditary privilege in terms of titles and ranks was to be abolished and all ranks, titles and decorations awarded would be returned upon death to the awardee. When Princess Victoria Ka’iulani was born, her rank also had to be confirmed by the organs of state in the same manner as Prince Albert Edward Kaleiopapa-a-Kamehameha even though her mother was proclaimed a princess in 1875. In other words, she did not inherit the title of “princess”. She was proclaimed a princess in her own right because hereditary titles and ranks were abolished decades earlier. Under Hawaiian tradition and under Hawaiian constitutional law, succession always depended on several factors. We still have a lot of ali’i descendants alive today, perhaps two out of three Hawaiians have some ali’i blood, but we legally stopped having royals upon the death of Prince Jonah Kūhiō.

Some thoughts about Queen Kapiʻolani

n the dining room of my grandmother’s house before in Papakōlea, there used to be two photographs. One was of Queen Lili’uokalani and the other was Queen Kapi’olani (the one depicted here with the dark velvet dress serving as a backdrop for her lei hulu manu). I talked a little bit about my family’s connection with Queen Kapi’olani in the post about “God is in the Flowers”.  I wanted to share something more personal about Queen Kapi’olani that always resonated with me. Queen Kapi’olani knew Hawaiian culture. She knew the language. But she spent most of her life feeling like an outsider. Although by lineage, she outranked the Kamehameha I, she was the niece of Prince Keoki (George) Humehume, the son of King Kaumuali’i that broke his oath to Kamehameha II and tried to regain Kaua’i’s independence. Due to Humehume, the line of Kaumuali’i was excluded from the Chiefs Children School by Kamehameha III and therefore the succession to the Hawaiian throne.  However, excluded from the succession, Kamehameha III awarded their family the lands once promised to them by Ka’ahumanu I and to which they had ancestral claims to. Kamehameha III felt that excluding them from the land of their own ancestors was too much of a punishment and un-Christian. Queen Kapi’olani eventually married The Honorable Noble Benjamin Nāmākēhāokalani, one of the uncles of Queen Emma and a man 35 years her senior with a teenage daughter. Benjamin Nāmākēhāokalani served as a personal envoy of Kamehameha IV to the Micronesian and Polynesian Christian missions. Kamehameha IV envisioned that Hawai’i would one day annex parts of Kiribati and the Marquesas to prepare them for independence in the manner of the Hawaiian Kingdom, but that was not to happen. Queen Kapi’olani suffered two know miscarriages and went through a period where she devoted herself only to church. Eventually, Queen Emma had Prince Albert Leiopapa-a-Kamehameha, the Prince of Hawai’i (Island).  Queen Kapi’olani became the head kahu of the new Crown Prince and devoted herself to the child, as any mother would especially someone who had lost their own children due to miscarriages.  When the young Crown Prince had his temper tantrum, Kamehameha IV ordered her to bath him in cold water to calm him down. Kapi’olani disagreed politely and the king dismissed her and tossed the Crown Prince into  cold water. Some days later, the Crown Prince died. Queen Emma, who had once been close to Queen Kapi’olani, blamed her and refused to allow Queen Kapi’olani to attend the funeral of the Crown Prince because she blamed the Kapi’olani for not being more assertive with King Kamehameha IV and for not being able to control the Crown Prince’s temper.
For the next twenty years, Queen Emma did everything she could to undermine Queen Kapi’olani due to this misunderstanding. When King Kalākaua was campaigning for the throne against Queen Emma, Queen Kapi’olani refused to campaign with her husband out of respect to Queen Emma. When King Kalākaua won the election, she refused to recognize Queen Kapi’olani as Queen-consort and on several times in public, said some very undiplomatic things about Queen Kapi’olani including that Queen Kapi’olani had an affair with the younger David Kalākaua while she was still married to Nāmākēhāokalani. But Queen Kapi’olani never gossiped against Queen Emma even though there were rumors that Queen Emma wanted to organize a coup against her husbands regime. Before Queen Emma died, she reportedly told her Rooke cousin that Queen Kapi’olani was not allowed to attend her funeral. Queen Kapi’olani on a trip to Moloka’i to visit the leper colony once remarked that she could understand some of the pain of the lepers because could understand how it felt to be excluded.  Her marriage with David Kalākaua was overall a happy one because they shared many of the same ideas. As Queen, she preferred to spoil her niece, Princess Ka’iulani, with jewelry. But she used fashion to showcase her ideas. During the daytime, she preferred Hawaiian holokū and Ni’ihau shell leis. In the evenings, she mixed Japanese silks, Chinese silks, English velvet, and Italian satin with something Hawaiian–normally fine feather work, beautiful pearls from Maui, or translucent Ni’ihau shells. This was the new era, the Hawai’i that her husband was trying to achieve–a nation that was seamlessly multicultural and cosmopolitan yet distinctively and proudly Hawaiian. This was the Hawai’i that had no laws for mixed race couples, unlike in the US at the time and no Crow laws. This was the Hawai’i that a Hawaiian Queen could give out sake prizes to Sumo wrestlers and then attend an Italian opera. But Queen Kapi’olani was also a person who quietly tried to make those who felt excluded, included in her quiet way.  I could not imagine the strength it most have taken to be constantly humiliated by someone whom you considered to be your niece for something that really was not your fault and to never once say a bad comment in reply especially when her husband went at length to extend every dignity and courtesy to Queen Emma including allowing her draw a salary yet Queen Emma seemed unmoved.  Instead of feeling bitter or upset, Queen Kapi’olani focused on devoting her time, her energy, and her tears to serving the country that she so dearly loved. She also always kept a portrait of Queen Emma in ‘Iolani Palace because though they did not get along, for the sake of the nation and for history, Queen Kapi’olani recognized the contributions that Queen Emma made to the Hawaiian people. She separated her personal feelings for someone because history demanded it and the Hawaiian people, who were being decimated by the thousands by introduced diseases and vices, needed heros and role models to rebuild the nation and themselves. They needed people to love and to feel loved. Queen Emma was still someone, despite her personal flaws, that loved her people and loved her nation–as Queen Kapi’olani also did. Queen Kapi’olani was one of those who also loved Queen Emma and had hoped until the passing of Queen Emma, they could find peace with each other. But that sadly did not happen. After Queen Emma’s passing, Queen Kapi’olani ordered pink roses to be sent to Queen Emma’s tomb on the death anniversary of Queen Emma–a very Hawaiian custom–as a sign of her respect and forgiveness. Forgiveness and respect that unfortunately these two very strong Hawaiians did not find in their lifetimes. It must have been heartbreaking, especially for Queen Kapi’olani. 
When the US had their annexation ceremony, members of the Royal Court held a gathering at Washington Place. Missing from that famous photograph is Queen Kapi’olani. Officially she was ill. But unofficially, though frail, she went to Kaua’i to quietly mourn in her ancestral kingdom and then she made a one last trip to Maui to visit the tomb of her grandfather, King Kaumuali’i.  Seven months later, Queen Kapi’olani passed away and in  accordance to her wishes, no state services were to be held and donations to one of the Queen’s charities in lieu of flowers was to be made. Though Hawaiians loved her, many did not realize until much later how much Queen Kapi’olani had done and secretly donated to various causes and individuals. That was the way of the older generation of chiefs–to never boast your own genealogy, to give liberally without fanfare, and to love especially those who need to be loved. Whenever I think of Queen Kapi’olani, the Bible verse 1 Corintians 13:4-8 always springs to my mind:

4. O ke aloha, ua hoomanawanui, a ua lokomaikai; aole paonioni aku ke aloha, aole haanui, aole haakei; 5. Aole hoi e hoohiehie, aole imi i kona mea iho, aole hiki wawe ka huhu, aole haohao hewa; 6. Aole i lealea i ka hewa, ua lealea i ka pono. 7. Ua ahonui i na mea a pau, ua manao oiaio i na mea a pau, ua manao makemake i na mea a pau, ua hoomanawanui i na eha a pau. 8. He mea pau ole ke aloha….
 (4. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8. Love never fails…)

Kalakaua: An International Perspective

Reposting this important article from the Journal of the Hawai’i Historical Society

King Kalakaua in Japan, 1881

King Kalakaua: An International Perspective

NIKLAUS R. SCHWEIZER, former Swiss Consul to Hawai’i 

This year marks the 100th year of the death in San Francisco, on January 20, 1891, of David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last king.

T H E KING KALAKAUA JUBILEE Centennial Celebration, organized by the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace in November of 1986, presented an opportunity to reassess the achievements of this seventh monarch of the Hawaiian Islands. For an entire week, from November 9 until November 16, the most impressive events staged 100 years earlier were reenacted, such as the firemen’s torchlight parade, the first public illumination of the Palace with electric lights, the royal ball, the military drill, the grand lu’au. Nothing of importance was omitted, and when on the last day the traditional 21-gun salute reserved for a head of state thundered across the palace grounds, those who had the good fortune to be present witnessed a scene they would not easily forget.

Kalakaua, of course, did not always enjoy such popularity.

Most historians present this sovereign, who was born in 1836 and who reigned from 1874 until his death in 1891 as a fairly controversial figure. They generally leave us with the impression of an unpredictable leader and lighthearted spendthrift who, above all, liked parties, drank inordinate amounts of champagne, and most certainly deserved the epithet of “the Merry Monarch.” A good part of this criticism is the legacy of Kalakaua’s enemies, who in 1887 imposed the “Bayonet Constitution” upon him and in early 1893 proceeded to detrone his sister Lili’uokalani.

In recent years, attempts have been made to evaluate Kalakaua and other leading Hawaiian figures in a more sympathetic vein. In addition, the long-neglected Native point of view is now reinterpreting the colonial experience in the strongly accentuated theses, articles, and speeches delivered by young Hawaiians like Haunani-Kay Trask, Mililani Trask, and Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa

While not everyone applauds this trend, it nevertheless constitutes an important part of a process which is as necessary as it is inevitable and which ultimately will enrich our understanding of these Islands and their fascinating history. A central aspect of Kalakaua’s reign has so far not been given the attention it deserves, however, and that is his foreign policy. It is precisely from a closer examination of his respective efforts that we gain important insights into the character and the goals of a king who shaped the future of his realm to a greater extent than is generally recognized.

When High Chief David La ‘ amea Kamanakapu’u Mahinulani Naloia’ehuokalani Lumialani Kalakaua ascended the throne on February 12, 1874, the outlook for his small kingdom located in the central Pacific was not particularly propitious. The second age of colonialism, dominated by England and France and influenced towards the end of the 19th century by the German Empire and the United States, cast a growing shadow onto the world’s largest ocean. To the southwest of Hawa i ‘ i, Fiji had shortly before
yielded her sovereignty to Great Britain, while Samoa barely held her own. In 1880, the king of Samoa would have to submit to the collective wisdom of a council formed by the consuls of England, Germany, and the United States; and in 1900, his archipelago would be carved up by the latter two, while London would be given carte blanche in the Solomons and Tonga. The Tongan sovereign, Tupou I, would manage to cling to his throne but would also have to consider foreign “advice,” in his case the guidance of a British agent and consul with headquarters conveniently located next to the royal palace. As to Australia and New Zealand, they had been British colonies from the beginning of British exploration.

To the south, Kalakaua and his advisors were confronted with the tragedy of the valiant Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti, who in 1843 had been obliged to submit to a French protectorate, nothwithstanding strong Native opposition against the intruders. In 1874, she was still the sovereign, nominally at least, but, just as in Tonga, a foreign governor, French in this case, resided next door. In 1880, her son Pomare V would ignominously sign his kingdom over to Paris as a co-called “gift.”

To the northwest, the ancient Empire of Japan had been “opened” in 1853 by Commodore Matthew Perry and his “black ships,” and the even older Empire of China was under great pressure to grant trading concessions to an assortment of Western nations including Germany and the United States. To the north, the icy wastes of Alaska, known also as Russian America, had been purchased in 1867 by Washington from Tsar Alexander II.

To the northeast, the United States, having overcome the ravages of the Civil War, oscillated between a policy of expansionism advocated by the Republican Party and one of self-restraint championed by the Democrats.

Far-reaching minds were discussing the feasibility of digging a canal through the isthmus of Nicaragua. They reasoned that such a waterway, built in a similar manner to Ferdinand de Lesseps’ Suez Canal, which had opened in 1869, would enable Washington to guard the Pacific as well as the Atlantic coasts with only one fleet instead of two. In such a case, control of the Hawaiian Islands would help to defend the western approaches to the envisioned canal. The international situation was, therefore, not promising. To make matters worse, the dubious notion that might makes right had of late received a strong if unintended impulse from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). This work, which at first glance appeared to be limited to the fields of biology and geology, was swifty applied by social scientists to politics as the doctrine of “the survival of the fittest.”

At home in Hawai’i there was not much cause for optimism, either. It was true that the Hawaiians still represented the majority of the population, and it was equally true that they were deeply loyal to the throne, regardless of the fact that many would have preferred the unhesitatingly pro-British attitude displayed by Emma, the dowager queen, to Kalakaua’s friendly overtures towards Washington. The mortality rate of the Native people exceeded the birth rate with depressing regularity, however, and the small but vigorous Caucasian population kept growing just as steadily as the Native ranks were thinning. Prominent among the Caucasians were the children of the missionaries. Their parents had undertaken the dangerous voyage to the Islands, inspired by noble dreams of doing God’s work in a remote land. They had displayed much courage and resolve, but they had also been driven by convictions which elsewhere were considered rather excessive. They cherished their Calvinist faith and thus occupied a position not far removed from the radical fringes of Protestantism. As the lineal descendants of those Puritans, who in 17th century England had executed the unfortunate Charles I and had established a short-lived republic, they were by nature opposed to pomp and circumstance in general and monarchy in particular, unless it served their own purposes. They had a tendency to be self-righteous, and, in accordance with their Calvinist creed, money played a considerable role, because in a curiously roundabout way the possession of wealth was supposed to prove that a man was reckoned by God among the saved and would thus be spared everlasting damnation. As a matter of course, they did not much value the cultural achievements of indigenous peoples.

It was difficult for Hawaiians to forget various threats to their autonomy. In 1854, for example, missionary advisors had suggested to a hard-pressed Kamehameha III, who had seen his country’s independence challenged first by Great Britain, then by France, and finally by the possible arrivals of filibusters from California, that as a last resort he could cede his realm to the United States. It was still harder to ignore the fact that many missionary families had kept American flags at the ready to be hoisted immediately over their houses, should the King have followed this advice. There resided more moderate Caucasians in Hawai’i, notably leading British and German citizens, as well as a number of Americans, but the Hawaiian patriots could hardly be blamed if they remained skeptical. Even earlier, in 1815, Georg Anton Schaffer of the Russian America Company had tried to first take over O’ ahu, and a year later Kaua ‘i and Ni’ihau. In 1843, Lord George Paulet had hoisted the Union Jack over the Islands, and it had flown for half a year. There followed several threatening appearances of French men-of-war, culminating in the so-called “War of the Calabashes” of 1847 when Admiral Legoarant de Tromelin fired the guns of the Poursuivante at the fort of Honolulu.

By the year of Kalakaua’s accession, these dangers of dominance had been overcome, however, and the new king was not willing to give in to the demands of some other power now. Thus, he set about to fashion his policies which essentially rested on three pillars: one, in order to placate the restless Caucasians who at that time were mostly interested in securing their struggling sugar plantations and related ventures, the King supported long-standing efforts to conclude a reciprocity treaty with the United States, the nearest market for the Kingdom’s exports; two, since close economic cooperation with a great state inherently carried the risk of political domination, Kalakaua at the same time set out to pursue a foreign policy designed to emphasize the status of Hawai’i as a fully independent nation; three, the King took measures to strengthen the viability of his own people and to support their rich heritage. He established the policy of ho’oulu i ka lahui, to make the nation grow, and initiated a revival of the hula, “the life-blood of his people,” as he called it.

Ultimately, Kalakaua’s actions can be understood in the light of these three principles. Although they were never officially formulated in any one particular government document or master plan, they were apparent in the strategies pursued, and little time was lost in implementing them.

In 1874, Kalakaua personally went to Washington, D . C ., and became the first head of state of any foreign nation to address a joint session of Congress. He successfully concluded the negotiations for the reciprocity treaty which eventually was ratified by both Hawai’i and the U. S. When the treaty became effective, it brought huge profits to the planters and to business in general. Kalakaua also stepped up the diplomatic and consular presence of his nation. By 1892, the monarchy maintained no fewer than 93 legations, consulates general, and consulates, a network which spanned the globe. In Great Britain alone, there were a legation and 13 consulates from Liverpool to Edinburgh. In the United States, there was the legation in Washington, D . C ., and there were eight consulates reaching from coast to coast. In the German empire, the Hawaiian colors were displayed in five cities. There was a consul in Vienna and one in Rome, and a Hawaiian consul even resided in Pape’ete, the capital of Tahiti. Most of these positions were honorary, but that was the general custom in those days, and the extent of Hawai’i’s presence abroad in any case was noteworthy.

In close conjunction with these diplomatic measures, the requirements of protocol and international etiquette were strictly observed in Honolulu. The King, the Queen, and the national flag were accorded a 21-gun salute, an ambassador extraordinary and plentipotentiary rated 19 guns, a governor or high commissioner 17, an admiral of the fleet 15, a minister resident 13, a charge d’affaires 11, a consul general nine, and a consul seven.

On the educational plane, a “studies abroad program,” as it would be called today, was designed to ensure a pool of gifted and highly schooled Hawaiians who would enable the government to fill important positions in the foreign ministry and other governmental branches. As Agnes Quigg states in “Kalakaua’s Hawaiian Studies Abroad Program,” a group of 17 promising young men and one young woman were sent on government funds to the four corners of the world: five to Italy, four to the U . S ., three to England, three to Scotland, two to J a p a n, and one to China. Several other students went abroad on funds of their own.

Royalty was not spared the pangs of homesickness and the challenges that had to be faced in foreign lands. Princess Ka’iulani, expected to become the next heir to the crown after Lili’uokalani, left the Islands for Great Britain to receive the education deemed necessary for a sovereign destined to reign in the 20th century. The three princes, David Kawananakoa, Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, and Edward Keli’iahonui, who ranked directly after Ka’iulani in the line of succession, attended a private school in San Mateo, California.

Kalakaua himself decided to see the world firsthand and circumnavigated the globe in 1881, a feat never before achieved by any ruling monarch in history. This unique royal progress added greatly to the prestige of the small mid-Pacific nation, notwithstanding the fact that it was carried out with a minimum of means. The King was accompanied by two officials and one valet. Kalakaua’s erudition, his excellent command of English, and his charm left a lasting impression in many places. He is still remembered in Vienna and in Berlin, and it was while he was traveling in the German empire that he was presented with a resplendent Schellenbaum, an ornamental instrument characterized by a boom.

Other missions on the highest level followed. In the spring of 1883, Kalakaua was invited by Tsar Alexander III of Russia to send an envoy to his coronation. This interesting invitation came about as a direct consequence of Kalakaua’s own coronation on February 12 of the same year, which had attracted international attention. The Hawaiian sovereign dispatched Colonel Curtis Pi’ehu I’aukea as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Moscow and St. Petersburg. I’aukea, who was not yet 28 years old, had at his disposal the services of a single secretary, part-Hawaiian Henry Poor. The United States, on the other hand, dispatched a warship to accomodate the large American delegation headed by Minister William Henry Hunt.

Notwithstanding the miniscule size of his party, I’aukea made a most favorable impression with the potentates of Europe and the brilliant society gathered at the Kremlin. He was received by the tsar and tsarina, met with a great number of dignitaries, and conversed no fewer than five times with Count Nikholai Karlovich von Giers, Russia’s foreign minister. Deeply moved by the importance of the mission entrusted to him, I’aukea later wrote of his first evening in Moscow that “the sight of my country’s flag floating over the entrance to the Hotel Duseaux besides those of the United States and Japan, gave me an added incentive to meet the responsibilities that lay ahead and discharge them with honor.”

From Russia, I’aukea traveled to Berlin, Vienna, Belgrade, London, Rome, and then by way of the Suez Canal to India and Japan. There he was received by Emperor Meiji and proved instrumental in the plans that established full scale immigration from Japan to Hawai’i after an initial attempt in 1868 had ended in failure.

In 1887, Queen Kapi’olani and Crown Princess Lili’uokalani attended Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in London, the capital of what then was the most powerful nation in the world.

In the meantime, on January, 1882, Hawai’i had joined the World Postal Union, one of the first truly international organizations. The Union had been established in Berne, Switzerland, in 1874, the year of the King’s accession. Kalakaua, who once had served as Hawai’i’s postmaster general, understood the importance of worldwide cooperation, and thus Hawai’i became an early member of this global institution. In addition to the increased prestige which membership conferred upon the Kingdom, the practical benefits were lower postal rates and unimpeded service to Europe.

No effort was spared to place the independence of Hawai’i on a solid basis. All governments occasionally make mistakes and commit blunders, and Kalakaua’s administration was no exception. Walter Murray Gibson, premier from 1882 until 1887, came under particularly heavy attack by his opponents, the sugar planters, lawyers, and businessmen led by the sons and grandsons of the Calvinist missionaries. A complex personality, he was a dreamer and a visionary pursuing goals which were not entirely free from self-interest. He was eminently practical as well, contributing in substantial ways to the welfare of the Kingdom and in particular the indigenous Hawaiians. Recent reassessments of this controversial figure, to whom we owe ‘Iolani Palace and the statue of Kamehameha I, have rebalanced his legacy which was erased by his opponents.

Gibson’s greatest mistake, which led to his downfall in 1887, was the attempt to forge an alliance of the Polynesian archipelagos which had eluded outright colonization, an effort culminating in the deployment of the Kaimiloa, the only vessel of the short-lived navy of Kalakaua. In 1887, Gibson’s grand scheme ended in a hasty retreat. The debacle embarrassed the King and triggered the rebellion on the part of the Caucasian opposition who imposed a new constitution at gunpoint, which quickly came to be known as the “Bayonet Constitution.” The mercurial premier and foreign minister was unceremoniously dismissed and banished from Hawai’i. He was lucky to escape alive.

One hundred years later, the political climate presents itself in a very different light, however. Regional cooperation has become the order of the day, and what was once considered an act of extreme recklessness suggests now statesmanship and foresight. It is interesting to note that King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga has recently revived Gibson’s idea in a modified form on a strictly economic and cultural plane. The last Polynesian sovereign envisions a Polynesian Economic and Cultural Community which would embrace not only independent states, but would also recognize those islanders whose territories belong to metropolitan Western nations, such as the inhabitants of French Polynesia, the Maori of New Zealand, and the Hawaiians. It shall be interesting to see whether anything concrete will emerge from the plan advanced by the King of Tonga.

In any case, it was symptomatic of the state of affairs in the second half of the 19th century  th at Kalakaua’s achievements were more readily noticed by temporary residents and visitors from Europe than by the local Caucasian establishment. For example, Marie Gabriel Bosseront d ‘Anglade, first secretary in the French legation from 1889 to 1892, described the severely restricted role to which Kalakaua had been reduced by the ” Bayonet Constitution “:

Despite his precarious mandate and legacy, Kalakaua remains a most outstanding example of the kind of devotion a sovereign can present to his people. He was sincere, he realized the impossibility of restraining the revolutionary process, he comprehended the larger interests at work, and then he submitted with good grace. Identifying immediately with the new political situation, however painful to him, he became the most proficient of constitutional kings. He presided at the opening of the legislature and read his speeches from the throne. In solemn audience he received foreign diplomats and representatives. He officiated at endless ceremonies etc.

Frederich Richter, the first pastor (1833-1887) of the German Lutheran Church at L i h u ‘ e, on Kaua ‘i, happened to be in Honolulu on October 29, 1881, when Kalakaua returned from his voyage around the world. In his rare diary entitled In feme Welt, Richter described vividly and with admiration the jubilation and the pomp and circumstance with which the home coming of the King on October 29, 1881 was greet ed by his people:

Um 2 Urh ertonte plotzlich Kanonendonner von Punchbowl und ein endloses Pfeifen vom Hafen her. Eine Fahne nach der andern flog hoch, und im Nuwufite man uberall, dafi der erst morgen oder ubermorgen erwartete Steamer von San Francisco schonjetzt ankam, und dafi der Konig an Bord war. Ichging hinunter, um den Einzug anzusehen. Auf den Strafien jagten in wilder Hast Wagen und Reiter in Uniform und Zivil hin und her und erregten einen entsetzlichen Staub. Alles drangte dem Landungsplatze und den von dort nach dem Palaste fuhrenden Strafien zu, die in wirklich uberraschendem Schmucke prangten. Ein gru’ner Ehrenbogen reihte sich an den andern, Fahnen und Guirlanden in den Landesfarben und mit hawaiischen, englischen and chinesischen Bewillkommnungsschriften zogen sich in reicher Fu’lle an den Hausern entlang und uber die Strafiven weg. Besonders phantastisch und schon waren die chinesischen Baldachine, die sich an zwei Kreuzungspunkten der Strafien im Quadrat iiber den ganzen Strafienknoten spannten, iiber und iiber beladen mit wortbedecktem chinesischen Flitter, Lampions etc. in gluhenden Farben. . . . Endlich war der Zug geordnet und setzte sich in Bewegung. Der Musik-Kapelle folgte das Militar, zwei Kompagnien Infanterie in ihren neuen preu ischen Uniformen, die eine mit roten, die andere mit blauen Federbuschen, und eine Schwadron blauer Dragoner, alles Eingeborne, von denen sich besonder die Dragoner auf ihren prdchtigen Gaulen recht stattlich ausnahmen, wenn auch die Haltung viel zu wunschen ubrig liefi. Dann kem der Konig selbst in einem prdchtigen Wagen, begleitet von den Hofchargen in godbetrefiter Uniform zu Pferde und uberall mitfreudigem Zuruf empfangen. Er trug einen dunklen Anzug und schwarzen Zylinder und sieht in seinem schwarzen Vollbart sehr gut aus. Es folgte wieder Musik, und dann die verschiedenen Schulen und Korporationen, Feuerwehr, etc. in Uniform oder reich bekranzt und mit zahlreichen Fagnen und sonstigen Emblemen. 

At 2 o’clock there suddenly resounded the thunder of cannons from Punchbowl and an endless whistling emerged from the harbor. One flag after the other shot up and in no time it was known everywhere that the steamer from San Francisco, expected only tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, was arriving already now, and that the King was abroad. I went down there to observe the entry. In the streets carriages and horsemen in uniform and civilian dress were rushing to and fro and created an awful dust.
Everyone pushed towards the landing place and towards the streets leading from there to the Palace, which were decorated in a truly magnificent way. One green triumphal arch after the other had been erected; flags and garlands in the national colors and with messages of welcome in Hawaiian, English, and Chinese were strung in rich profusion along the houses and across the streets.
Particularly fantastic and beautiful were the Chinese canopies extending above two intersections in a quadrangle across the entire square, covered completely with Chinese tinsel bearing inscriptions, lanterns etc. in glowing colors. . . . At long last the procession was organized and began to move. The band was followed by the military, two companies of infantry in their new Prussian uniforms, the one with red, the other with blue feather bushes, and a squadron of blue dragoons, all natives, among whom particularly the dragoons on their superb mounts looked rather imposing, even though their posture left much to be desired. Then came the King himself in a magnificent carriage, accompanied by courtiers on horseback in gold-embroidered uniforms, and everywhere received with joyous shouts. He wore a dark suit and a black top-hat and he looked very well with his black beard. There followed again a band, and then the various schools, associations and societies, the fire brigade, etc. in uniforms or richly bedecked with wreaths and carrying innumerable flags and other emblems.

If one takes a wider view of Kalakaua’s endeavors and achievements, it becomes increasingly clear that this Hawaiian monarch was more far-sighted than is usually granted. Hawai’i under his leaderhsip brought about a measure of good will around the globe that was without precedent. Kalakaua and his people enjoyed the friendship of Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander I I I, the emperor of Germany, and even the sympathy of Japan, that mysterious Asian nation which in consequence of Perry’s “black ships” created modern industry and built a formidable army and navy.

With a time lag of some 30 years, the wave of decolonization, which had engulfed first Asia in the late 1940s and 1950s, and then Africa in the late 1950s and the 1960s, finally reached the Pacific. Ripples of this epochal pnemonenon are now being felt even in Ko Hawai’i Pae ‘Aina, ” The Hawaiian Archipelago,” a poetic way of referring to the Islands frequently used in the indigenous language. As Hawaiians are reasserting their right to autonomy after having gone the colonization route for a hundred years, Kalakaua’s attempts to maintain his political and cultural sovereignty in the face of the highwater mark of the colonial tide serves them as a powerful inspiration.


1 Historians have frequently drawn from:
William D. Alexander, History of the Later Years of the Hawaiian Monarchy and Revolution of 1893 (Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette, 1896);  Lucien Young, The Boston at Hawaii, or The Observations and Impressions of a Naval Officer . . . (Washington, D. C .: Gibson Brothers, 1898), a work expanded into The Real Hawaii: Its History and Present Condition (1899. New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1970);  John Leavitt Stevens and W. B. Olson, Riches and Marvels of Hawaii: A Charming Description of Her Unique History . . . (Philadelphia: Edgewood Publishing, 1900); Sanford Ballard Dole, Memories of the Hawaiian Revolution (Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing, 1936); and Lorrin Thurston, Memories of the Hawaiian Revolution (Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing, 1936).
But there are other works:
See Albertine Loomis, For Whom Are the Stars? Revolution and Counterrevolution in Hawaii, 1893-1895 (Honolulu: U P of Hawaii and Friends of the Library of Hawaii, 1976); Helena G. Allen, The Betrayal of Liliuokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii 1838-1917 (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1982); John Dominis Holt, On Being Hawaiian (Honolulu: Topgallant, 1974); George Hu ‘ eu Kanahele, Pauahi: The Kamehameha Legacy (Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools, 1986); Pauline Nawahineokalai King, The Legacy of Prince Kuhio: Aloha, Aloha Kamaaina (Honolulu: Alu Like, 1979).

See Haunani-Kay Trask, “Colonization and De-Colonization in Hawa i ‘ i ,” in Class and Culture in the South Pacific, ed. Antony Hooper (Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies, U South Pacific, 1987) 154-74; Haunani-Kay Trask, ” The Birth of the Modern Hawaiian Movement: Kalama Valley, O’ a h u, HJH 21 (1987): 126-53; Haunani-Kay Trask, “Hawaiians, American Colonization, and the Quest for Independence,” Social Process in Hawaii 31 (1984-85): 101-37; Lilikala Dorton [Kame’eleihiwa], “He Mo’olelo Ka’au 0 Kamapua’a: A Legendary Tradition of Kama p u a ‘ a, the Hawaiian Pig God,” master’s thesis, U of Hawaii Manoa, 1982; Lilikala Dorton [Kame’eleihiwa], “Land and the Promise of Capitalism: A Dilemma for the Hawaiian Chiefs of the 1848 Mahele,” diss., U Hawaii Manoa, 1986. Carl Schurz, “Manifest Destiny,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (European Edition), October 1893.

2. Winston Churchill wrote of the original pilgrims on the Mayflower: “as one of their number records, ‘The place they had thoughts on was some of the vast and unpeopled countries of America, which are fruitful and fit for habitation; being devoid of all civil inhabitants; where there are only savage and brutish men, which range up and down little otherwise than the wild beasts of the same’ “: A History of the English Speaking Peoples, 4 vols. (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1956) 2:167.

3. Ethel Mosely Damon, for example, wrote: ” It was during the middle years of 1850 that the little Malumalu colony kept a silk flag of stars and stripes ready in case the news of annexation to the United States should be suddenly announced by word from abroad. The patriotic ladies of Lihue had made the flag themselves, Mr s. Reynolds, Mrs. Marshall and Mr s. Rice, and held it ever in readiness against such a happy emergency. To those who lived through the thrills of actual annexation at the end of the century, 1853 and 1854 seem remote dates indeed for such excitement to have been at white heat. But so it was.” Damon, Koamalu, A Story of Pioneers on Kauai and of What They Built in That Island Garden, 2 vols. (Honolulu: privately printed, 1931) 1:441.

Part 4: The Hawaiian Class System

Part 4: The Hawaiian Class System
From Mokupuni (Island Kingdoms) to Panalāʻau (Colony)

At the time of Kamehameha I’s unification of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1810, Hawai’i had entered into world trade. Spain still controlled Mexico, most of the West Coast of what is now the United States, Latin America, the Philippines, Micronesia, and Guam. Russia controlled Alaska and had a foot in San Francisco. The United States had just added Louisiana, Florida and the MidWest and began to build its markets in China. Japan was closed to all except for the Dutch who controlled most of Indonesia.

Since the creation of the mokupuni system began a system of monopolies through the kapu system. Part of this was to control the natural resources but it also had the effect of creating a barter system as well as limiting the accumulation of wealth by both the commoners and the ali’i themselves. Previously all natural resources belonged to the ‘ohana. While this was still true to a degree, the ali’i controlled both the supply and demand.   Some have argued that this was a form of “primitive socialism”. Others have argued that this was part of a semi-feudalistic system. Personally, I think the original Hawaiian society probably was a form of “primitive socialism” where Hawaiians exercised through collective leadership (vis-a-vis the ‘ohana) both the means of production and and distribution of goods as well as the lack of fixed land tenureship (i.e. private property). With the arrival of Pa’ao and subsequent innovations, Hawaiian society began to have a caste-like hierarchy. The top class, the ali’i, began to operate like a barter trade corporation within the framework of a semi-feudal political system. While many Hawaiians were taught that the feathers and shells were valued almost as currency, well, that’s not entirely true. Feathers, shells, and lauhala were set against prices set in pigs and other crops, but primarily pigs. Pork was a luxury meat and was seen as a sign of wealth (Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom Vol 1, p83).  Pork was also an important protein in the diet of the commoners–dog meat being the second (yes, Hawaiians did eat dogs). Therefore, the control of pork was a control on the very diet of the common people and could be another explanation why commoners tended to be significantly shorter and smaller than the ali’i (i.e. lack of protein) as noted by David Malo. 

But it was also a control of religious office as kahuna were also given pork meat by the commoners for their services render. Therefore, in exchange (or kūʻai) for making things such as fine lauhala mats, shell necklaces, and feather capes, the ali’i would grant the commoners a certain amount of pork and dog meat from their pens as part of the exchange.  During the non-Makahiki months, payments for services by the kāhuna (particularly medical services) were paid in pork meat as well (Micheal Chun. It Might Do Good: The licensing of Medical Kāhuna, 2009). In Mary Kawena Puku’i’s Olelo Noeau, there is this:

E uku ana kela kanaka i kii ka laau. He aha ka uku? He puaa.  

Note the word “uku” which does not mean flea in this case. But it means a specific payment or fee. Perhaps this is a reason why some Hawaiian politicians are very good in asking for pork barrel funds. So in old Hawai’i, pork was worth its weight in gold so to speak and it is not entirely true that Hawaiians did not understand how to barter and trade. 

With Kamehameha’s conquest, the barter system slowly ended and was becoming replaced with crony capitalism. According to Kuykendall in his Volume 1 of the Hawaiian Kingdom:

In the primitive economy of the Hawaiians, commerce in the modern sense was almost non-existent, though a sort of barter was carried on among them to a limited extent.1 The Hawaiians’ intercourse with foreigners very quickly developed the idea of trade, and the law of supply and demand soon came into operation, a fact attested by complaints of high prices made by many early visitors to theislands. It is true that in the beginning the trade was intrinsically very unequal, the Hawaiians selling valuable products for trinkets and articles of slight worth; but that condition did not prevail for long. Besides the control exercised by the law of supply and demand, prices rose as a result of general enlightenment, from observation and the information imparted by foreigners who settled in theislands. After a time, when Kamehameha had completed his conquest, we find prices and the course of trade affected by artificial monopoly. Traders at the islands in 1811 reported that pork was a royal monopoly and the purpose of the monopoly, as explained to them by John Young, was theaugmentation of the royal revenue…

At the beginning and until after 1800 trade at the islands was very simple. The commodities supplied to the ships were for the most part perishable foodstuffs—pork, fowls, and vegetables—together with wood and water, some salt, a little rope, and various minor products and curiosities. For these thetraders gave a great variety of articles; in the earlier years, large quantities of firearms and ammunition passed into the hands of the Hawaiians; at one period Kamehameha received, by choice, naval stores, and in 1805 purchased a ship; over thewhole period, the traders furnished to the islanders cloth and clothing, household furniture and furnishings, tools and utensils, and miscellaneous articles of all sorts. Trade at first was entirely by barter, but it was not long before money—mostly in the form of Spanish silver dollars—came into use to a limited extent. Much of this found its way into the king’s treasury and did not circulate. (83-84)

The money did not circulate because Kamehameha I still exercised his royal monopolies and any commoner caught with money had it confiscated.  One of the many points of Billie Beamer in her The Royal Torch is that Kamehameha I not only sold Hawaiian commoners to British and American ships to work as sailors, but confiscated their assets once they returned or forced them to have it traded in pork.  It is therefore not entirely   true that wage labor came with Captain Cook or even Captain Vancouver. The Hawaiian commoner class simply did not have any wages that they could earn while living in Hawai’i during the lifetime of Kamehameha I. Hence why the commoners learned to barter themselves (i.e. prostitution) in exchange for goods which they could carry and therefore hide.  

However, the free flow of European and Chinese goods did change the dynamics of the economy and the perception of power. The ali’i no longer had an absolute monopoly on all goods in Hawai’i. The average European sailor seemed to have more goods than the ali’i and in the eyes of the commoners, this seemed to suggest that their ali’i did not have the same mana or prestige as the average sailor. This created problems and the attempts to live up to having the same prestige as Westerners actually be one of the reasons why eventually the ali’i were all in debt before the death of Kamehameha I. Also the fact that the chiefs had acquired a taste for wine, rum, and other alcoholic beverages. 

A debt acknowledgement receipt signed by O’ahu Governor Boki

Towards the end of the reign of Kamehameha I, social inequalities were already apparent. Kamehameha I began to implement fees on docking ships. All of the wealth of the ships were only going to Kamehameha and his close group of friends (hence crony capitalism). Commoners began to once again question the ali’i. The ali’i for their part began to quite frankly wonder if the acquisition of wealth was such a bad idea especially in the face of a growing demand for sandalwood and whale oil by foreigners which they could then turn around and buy new status symbols. 

‘Iliahi or Hawaiian sandalwood
The sandalwood trade would prove to be a disaster for the common people but a bonanza for Kamehameha I.

Kamehameha learned of the value of this wood, he ordered men to go out in the mountains . . . to cut sandalwood, and he paid them in cloth and bark for making native cloth, as well as with food and fish [i.e., he furnished them food and clothing while they were engaged in this work]. Men were also detailed to carry the wood to the landings. . . .The chiefs also were ordered to send out their men to cut sandalwood. Because the chiefs and commoners in large numbers went out cutting and carrying sandalwood, famine was experienced from Hawaii to Kauai. . . . The people were forced to eat herbs and fern trunks, because there was no food to be had. When Kamehameha saw that the country was in the grip of a severe famine, he ordered the chiefs and commoners not to devote all their time to cutting sandalwood, and also proclaimed all sandalwood to be the property of thegovernment. Kamehameha then turned and ordered the chiefs and the people under them to farm,and he himself set them a practical example. The king is said to have placed a kapu on the young and small trees in order to conserve this natural resource. (Kamakau, Ka Moolelo o Kamehameha I, in KNK, Aug. 24, 1867 qtd. in Kuykendall, Vol 1, p88)

Seeing that social inequalities might threaten the new unified kingdom, Kamehameha I began to place a series of kapu including one on alcohol and another that all chiefs should live at his court so he could monitor their debts. This, however, did not work as his own children including Liholiho (who technically outranked his father) flaunted their acquired wealth and drank alcohol in front of the other chiefs.

 To compound the situation, Hawaiian succession traditions did not necessarily mean that the son of a ruling king would actually rule. Hawaiians had two sets of ali’i–ruling ali’i and non-ruling ali’i. The head of a mokupuni who was the highest ranking ali’i but did not rule was called an ali’i nui. The head of a mokupuni who actually did rule was called the ali’i ‘ai moku. ‘Ai meaning to eat was tied into the idea of governing for many reasons not to mention because of pork meat. A ruler who actually both was the highest ranking chief and the actual ruler was called the mō’ī.  A coup by Maui chiefs led by Ka’ahumanu ensured that the succession would go to ‘Iolani Liholiho and not the dozens of other sons of Kamehameha by proclaiming a regency (Kuhina Nui). To ensure the legitimacy of ali’i as a whole in the face of massive questioning of their authority by the ali’i and the kāhuna, as well as to allow the ali’i to accumulate wealth in their own right and to protect the Maui chiefs against the Hawai’i island chiefs, Ka’ahumanu then moved to abolish the entire system while wearing Kamehameha’s malo through the ‘Ainoa. This led to the First Hawaiian Civil War and ended with the defeat of Kekuaokalani (who had a claim to the throne) in Kuamo’o. 

With the end of the kapu, the exploitation of the commoners worsened and the politically, semi-feudalism (meaning the commoners occupied land in exchange for services and property to be rendered to a noble) occurred while economically, crony capitalism continued. From 1819 until 1839, there were basically only two real classes of Hawaiians–the haves and have nots.  Social inequality was probably the worst it had been in centuries. With the Makahiki innovation and later additions to the kapu system, commoners at least had a break for three months a year to focus on their own livelihood. Without the kapu, the ali’i forced the common people to work the full 12 months a year.  Men worked to gather sandalwood and were given basically nothing. The ali’i were no longer obligated to trade labor for pork meat or tapa.  The women were forced into prostitution. This is one of the reasons why Ka’ahumanu was given the nickname “Ka-Pāpale-‘ai-Aina” or the hat that eats the land. Kamehameha II was also known as “Ka-we’a-we’a” which translates something akin to “the pimp” though as king, he spent very little time in Hawai’i and more time in Rio de Janeiro and London.  As mentioned before, the first treaty between Hawai’i and the United States included a provision to supply sandalwood to American traders in exchange for the payment of the debts of the ali’i. 

With the arrival of the Congregationalist missionaries six months, a new severely exploitative crony economic system continued without much criticism.  For nearly six years, the missionaries did absolutely nothing to criticize the regime of Ka’ahumanu. This was despite the fact that thousands of commoners died not only from diseases but from the sandalwood trade.  After a year in the islands, the missionaries themselves began to record privately how bad the situation was: 

“But they found the people very poor, and it was with much difficulty that they could obtain any food of the natives, and then only by paying three times its value. The reasons why provisions are so scarce on this island is, that the people, for some months past, have been engaged in cutting sandalwood, and have of course neglected the cultivation of the land. Vegetables are sold at a very dear rate.” (Kuykendall Vol 1, p90)

Kuykendall also records other accounts in his Volume 1 of the Hawaiian Kingdom:

One of the missionaries describes the situation. In speaking of Governor Kaikioewa of Kauai, he says:

He is remarkably fond of purchasing novelties, and almost whatever is offered by foreigners, with little regard either to the cost or the utility of the article. This propensity to buy, seems indeed, to be deeply rooted in most of the chiefs. . . . (Some of the foreigners who trade here, are too well acquainted with this trait in their character.) For however bitterly they may complain, of dilatory payments, and want of veracity, and integrity in the natives, they urge upon them things which they do not want; and for which, they have no means of paying, but by imposing new burdens upon thepeople. (89)

Spring or summer of 1822. Oahu. “On one occasion we saw two thousand persons, laden with faggots of sandalwood, coming down from the mountains to deposit their burthens in the royal store-houses, and then depart to their homes, wearied with their unpaid labours, yet unmurmuring at their bondage. (90)”

April, 1830. Kauai. From the journal of Mr. Gulick: “Felt distressed and grieved for the people who collect sandalwood. They are often driven by hunger to eat wild and bitter herbs, moss, &c. And though the weather is so cold on the hills that my winter clothes will scarcely keep me comfortable, I frequently see men with no clothing except the maro. Were they not remarkably hardy, many of them would certainly perish.(90)”

In the end, however, the missionaries never protested directly to the government on the treatment of the common people. As long as the ali’i allowed them to preach and later to control political offices, they did not protest to Ka’ahumanu. In fact, they extolled her on her Christian virtues. An infamous story said that commoners attended the funeral procession of Ka’ahumanu to make sure she was really dead. 

The missionaries, however, did begin the institution of free market capitalism (i.e. meaning the end of royal monopolies) but this was to widen crony capitalism so that it could include themselves. Then, as now, many churches operate stores and seminaries. Most of these stores sell church items, books, and other things for Christian living. The missionaries did not just bring books about Christianity, they brought books on European history, architecture and literature. These books  became the textbooks in which they would teach Hawaiians in their seminaries, particularly Lahainaluna.  The stores also included proper European clothing, eating utensils, clocks, and jewelry. Naturally, congregations were told to buy these items from their stores because it would support the mission and make the Hawaiians more “civilized”. Through their sermons, their seminaries and their stores they introduced Hawaiians to a wage-based economy and materialism.  Materialism for Congregationalists was not a bad thing. John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, believed that material wealth on earth was a sign of salvation because basically Adam was cast out of the garden to labor. At the same time, the flaunting of wealth and excess wealth were sins. So the missionaries had to teach Hawaiians the benefits of materialism in relation to salvation. To do this, the mission stores became show pieces of “civilization” where the missionaries and their Christianized Hawaiian students could teach the common people what every proper home should look like and all the trappings of salvation such as clocks and books. However, this was slow as Hawaiian society was still beginning to still figure out its place in the world and there were several rebellions that broke out including the Second Hawaiian Civil War (aka Humehume’s War) in 1824 on Kaua’i.

With the death of Ka’ahumanu, one of my ancestors, Princess Kina’u became basically the ruler as Kamehameha III was basically living with Kaomi and partying with a group of young Tahitians and Hawaiians who called themselves the Hulu Manu. Princess Kina’u began to push for the development of more missions.  At the same time, Kamehameha III under the more equalitarian influence of Kaomi, began to push for a nation-wide public school system.  This became formalized with the beginning of a constitutional government of a Declaration of Rights in 1839. The Declaration marked a formal start of a wage-based economy or what others such as Noam Chomsky would call Industrial Feudalism.  The missionaries back the development of wage-based capitalism as they believed it was part of their Calvinist mission. To implement this new economic system, a public school system was established in 1840 with the missionaries being the primary body to approve, print and buy textbooks. 

In time, materialism and capitalism set in for both the chiefs and the common people–though in varied degrees. Some ali’i caught on quickly and pushed for more dramatic reforms such as the private ownership of land. Contrary to what is taught, the missionaries supported the idea of private property as it was one of the hallmarks of Western civilization. But they were not the only ones pushing for it. The Western trained chiefs such as Papa I’i and Kuhina Nui Kina’u were heavily involved. Now that commoners had rights and their property could not be easily confiscated, the ali’i were losing income and were complaining to the Kuhina Nui.  The natural evolution would be to secure land which could then be used to pay off their debts. The other question came into play that since Kamehameha III had no legitimate children, whoever was his successor would still in theory control all of the land in Hawai’i. What if the successor did not like the missionaries? He could in theory ask them to turn over their churches to another denomination of his choice.  

With death of Princess Kina’u in 1839 and the 1843 take over of Hawai’i by the British,  Kamehameha III acted upon the recommendations of his Privy Council (most of whom were appointed by the new Kuhina Nui, Kekāuluohi). Within five years, the Great Mahele was promulgated and the American denizens and former American missionaries now controlled the Cabinet and the Judiciary. Two years after that, in July 1850, the Alien Land Ownership Act was proclaimed. So from 1848 until the Kuleana Act was passed in August of 1850, Hawai’i was technically a feudal society. With the Kuleana Act of 1850, commoners could own land in their own right and this dramatically changed the relationship between the commoners and the ali’i more so than the Declaration of Rights did because this in theory gave them the rights to their means of production.  

But, this assumes that they could understand the concept of private land ownership–which in Hawaiian there was no word for. The word they used was kūʻai which actually meant to barter. But in the Hawaiian sense, how can you “buy” or “barter” for land that your family had lived on for generations? Even if you understood the concept, where would you get the money to pay for a survey of your land (by a surveyor) just to begin the application for the land grant considering for the last two generations, your forests and property were ripped from you under Ka’ahumanu regime? To make it more confusing, the law itself called itself the Kuleana Act. 

There were also serious opposition to the Great Mahele showing that Hawaiians did understand the ramifications and did distrust both the missionaries and many of the ali’i.  Sally Merry in Colonizing Hawai’i points out that Kamehameha IV and V were strongly opposed to the Great Mahele, to the Alien Land Ownership, and nearly everything Kekāuluohi was doing. Some of the commoners and lower ranking chiefs questioned the Kuhina Nui, Kekāuluohi, believing that she was moving too quickly in reforms and in doing so was acting in the interests of the Americans.  Some began to question if she was the Kuhina Nui of Hawai’i or of Boston. The Alien Land Ownership Act, which allowed non-Hawaiians to own land, was passed in July of 1850. The Kuleana Act, which allowed the commoners the right to own land, was passed in August of 1850. This right away shows you the priority of the government of that time. Petitions after petitions were sent to the King, but he not only ignored them but at times wrote back statements rebuking the intelligence and patriotism of the petitioners themselves. Furthermore, both the Kuleana and the Alien Land Ownership Acts were passed when Kamehameha IV and V–the leading ali’i opposition figures–were away in Europe. Thus the way foreigners and commoners got the right to own land were deliberately done in such a way that no input outside of those loyal to Kekāuluohi and the Americans in the Hawaiian government could or would be heard.

With the Great Mahele, ali’i and the urban commoners were able to purchase their ancestral lands.  Since the high ranking chiefs and the Americans had the inside track on land surveys due to their positions in the government, they were among the first to locate and buy valuable land. I will get more into the Great Mahele in another post. The ali’i in general became asset rich (due to their land holdings), but capital poor as they could not develop all of their properties.  The missionaries on the other hand were capital rich (some of it due to the mission stores, their high government salaries, as well as their own businesses) and focused their efforts on buying select property and developing those properties. Not to mention that they enjoyed the support of government offices, the judiciary, and the pulpit.

With the passage of a bi-lateral free trade agreement (aka Reciprocity Treaty) with the United States during the reign of King Kalākaua, American capital floated the islands and what began to be developed by the missionaries, flourished under their sons. By 1880, the United States was the main importer and exporter of Hawaiian trade and a form of wage-based plantation feudalism was in place. With American dominance in capital and a government infrastructure and institutions geared towards their interests, they began to buy out the asset rich ali’i. What they could not buy, they quiet titled and used eminent domain laws.  Despite efforts made by various cabinets under King Kalākaua, English became more widely spoken in Hawaiian households and Hawaiians were demanding that schools teach their children in English because English was the gateway towards jobs. The wage-economy mentality had set in. Hawaiian courts and the Hawaiian legislature itself began to use more and more English in its deliberations so much so that by the end of the 1880s, the King stopped issuing a “Speech from the Throne” in Hawaiian though he continued to issue public proclamations in both Hawaiian and English. In theory, Hawai’i was independent under a constitutional monarchy. In practice, Hawai’i had all of the basic elements that resembled US neo-colonies in Latin America for most of the second half of the 19th century. 

At the same time, the commoners began to gain a more united working class consciousness as a result of the election of Lunalilo, a freer press, and new economic and political theories coming out of Europe. A Mechanics Union was formed. Sugar plantation workers began to mobilize for strikes. The ali’i were still one of the most conservative reactionary forces within Hawai’i, however, many of them had been influenced by the nationalism of Kamehameha IV and V including the Princess Lili’uokalani. While as regent in 1881, she publicly stated her support for a labor strike on Maui and believed that workers had the right to re-dress. This lead her to become of the most popular ali’i of her time. Although she was an ali’i and was a product of her class, she and her sister-in-law, Queen Kapi’olani, questioned the social inequalities of their time including those imposed upon women. Marginalized Hawaiians also questioned more loudly “Who owns the nation?” and political parties as well as more new newspapers began to be formed. At one time, Hawai’i had over 70 newspapers–all of them of different political persuasions.    

Kalākaua, once upon a time a newspaper editor himself, saw these questions and demands as part of an evolutionary step in the political maturity of the Hawaiian people and did not stop it, even when the attacks were directed at him. As much as the King was also part of a crony capitalist economic system, the king was also a member of the Hawaiian cultural elite. He was still an ali’i. To try to stimulate the growth of a new middle class, Kalākaua tried to finish projects that Kamehameha V had began, projects that would industrialize Hawai’i and move Hawai’i from an agricultural based wage economy to a industrial and service based wage economy which in time could be transformed further. This is one of the reasons why he floated huge loans from the United Kingdom, France and United States. In addition, in trying to develop a middle class, the king was also trying to reshape the dynamics between the ali’i and the common people by stressing his version of Hawaiian nationalism over the old Hawaiian class system as well as to expand the traditional patronage politics that had existed with the help of Walter Murray Gibson. 

In 1887, reactionary plantation owners and mercenaries took over the Palace and forced a new constitution to limit the king, who they felt was “extravagant”. The reality is that they wanted to keep Hawai’i as a low wage backward agricultural country and stop further political developments which might push Hawai’i away from the orbit of the United States. The same reactionary force would then find allies with the US diplomatic agent, John L. Stevens, and remove the liberal Queen from power six years later before she could implement a new constitution because it was speculated that the Queen wanted to restructure the entire Hawaiian economy starting with land reform. While they did not Kalākaua, they intensively disliked his sister because of her understanding of Western economics. In addition, there was a feeling of entitlement which Kalākaua and Lili’uokalani sought to remove from their minds. It was only in the reign of Lili’uokalani that the first commoner was appointed a cabinet position. 

With the subsequent occupation of Hawai’i and the proclamation of what called itself a republic (which in fact was a plutarchy or an oligarchy dedicated to plunder), an ethno-class system (some have called it “plantation feudalism”) was built up. The P.G. (Provisional and Protectorate Governments) and the “Republic” sought to replace developing class and Hawaiian national consciousness with that of a strictly ethnic consciousness while trying to enforce Anglo-American values (minus the democratic ones of course). Thus the plantation owners began allowing for cultural groups to be organized on the plantation and would later use these organizations against unions. When the sugar plantations began in the 1860s, plantations operated as towns. But beginning in the late 19th century, plantation owners enforced the ethnic divisions by formally dividing up living quarters into ethnic camps. The system would be refined for the next one hundred years.     

In 1898, what had been a resisting neo-colony became a real colony or panalāʻau.  


Part 3: The Hawaiian Class System

Part 3: The Hawaiian Class System
From ‘Ohana to Mokupuni

In the previous post, I went into how early Hawaiian society was primarily composed of clans headed by experts and respected elders and which slowly developed a governing class, mostly as a result of later migrations. These later source clans eventually developed themselves into a hereditary aristocracy known as the ali’i.  In Irvin Goldman’s Ancient Polynesian Society, he makes the point that Polynesian societies were originally “open chiefdoms” meaning clans where the governing class were fluid (sometimes elected). Open chiefdoms then developed into “traditional chiefdoms” as in the case of Tahiti at the time of Kahiko and the Maori in Aotearoa (New Zealand). From traditional chiefdoms, some Polynesian societies developed into “stratified chiefdoms” meaning that there was a distinct class system and a hereditary elite. This was the case in Samoa, Tonga, and in Hawai’i. Mary Kawena Puku’i had argued in The Polynesian Family system in Ka’u that Hawaiian society bore a resemblance to Samoa, but the system was less stable because of the way land tenureship was. 

I actually argue that Hawaiian society developed in such a way that if you threw 15th century Hawai’i somewhere in 11th century Malaysia or Indonesia or 14th century Philippines and Thailand, the systems would fit right in. This is basically because in both the case of Hawai’i and many of the Thai, Malay and Indonesian states, “open chiefdoms” went directly into “stratified chiefdoms” or kingdoms and as a result, there wasn’t the type of feudal relationship that Europeans or for that matter the way Samoan aiga (family units) and certain matai had with the land. Even later innovations such as the office of the kuhina nui paralleled similar offices in SE Asia such as the Krom Phrarajawang Bavorn Sathan Mongkol of Thailand, the Mahapatih of Jawa (Java), etc and had no equivalent in Polynesia. In terms of basic structures, both the Hawaiian and the Malay case, clans maintained a strong voice within the governing system which is why again in both cases, the commoner class could simply pack up and leave. The lower ranking ali’i (or datuks or rajas in the case of the Malay states) could change their allegiance at will and in both situations, at the death of a high ranking ali’i or noble, the land divisions came up for review and re-division. This was something totally alien in the Samoan and Tongan system where land was fixed to clans and the matai. In fact, it still is that way. In the Malay case, it was not until an introduced religion, Islam, that land in general became a fixed individual property subject to hereditary Islamic rules. The only exception in the Malay and Indonesia cases are where the matriarchal kingdoms where land was indeed fixed but to female heirs. In Hawai’i, it was not until the introduction of Christianity that land became view as hereditary individual property. 

So how did Hawai’i move from “open chiefdoms” (or what I prefer to call the ‘ohana system) to a “stratified chiefdom” (what I dub the mokupuni system) without going through a period of “traditional chiefdom” as in other Polynesian societies?  Hawaiian accounts are almost universal in declaring that this was due to the arrival of a man named Pa’ao.

In Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith, she recounts the two versions of the Pa’ao legends as follows:

Tradition ascribes to Paao the introduction of human sacrifice into the temple ritual, the walled heiau, and the red-feather girdle as a sign of rank; all typical, says Handy, of late Tahitian culture and not found in Samoa. Other institutions ascribed to him are the pulo‘ulo‘u tapu sign, the prostrating tapu (tapu moe or -o), and the feather god Kaili; some would call Paao rather than La‘a-mai-kahiki the introducer of image worship. Most of these things characterize the Ra‘iatea ritual. That Paao took his ideas from Tahiti is further indicated by reference to “Vavau” and “Upolo” as places where he owned land, probably old districts so named in northern Tahiti in the Aha-roa division of that island, and the name Aha-ula (later called Waha-ula) for the first heiau erected by his party on Hawaii suggests such a connection. Paao is said to have brought the puhala (pandanus) to Kohala. He brought soil from the hills and planted trees about the heiau, still standing, of Wahaula, some of which seem to have survived to Fornander’s day. Stones near the heiau of Mo‘okini are pointed out today as “Paao’s canoe,” his “paddles” and “fishhook,” and the fields he cultivated are called “the weeds of Paao” (na maau o Paao) and left untouched for fear of storm. To him are ascribed those severities of religious observance which built up the power of chief and priest during this later period of migration from the south. The land was revolutionized and all the old kahunas were put to death during Paao’s time, says Kepelino.

(a) Emerson version. The priest Paao and his older brother Lono-pele have a bitter quarrel. Lono-pele accuses Paao’s son of stealing tapu food and Paao insists on cutting open his son’s stomach to prove the accusation false. He broods over his son’s death and builds a double canoe to leave for other lands. Lono-pele’s son drums upon the canoes with his fingers while they are under tapu and Paao has him slain for a sacrifice for the canoes and buried beneath them, where the buzzing of flies reveals to the father the child’s dead body.
Paao acts as priest for the voyage, Makaalawa as navigator and astronomer, Halau as sailing master, Pu-oleole as trumpeter; and there are forty paddlers, besides stewards and awa chewers. Na-mauu-o-Malawa (The grasses of Malawa), sister of Paao, accompanies the party. Kanaloa-nui the canoe is called (Or Ka-nalo-a-muia, The buzzing of flies). They pass under the Kaakoheo bluff and the prophet Makuakaumana asks to be taken aboard. Paao says all the places are full except the projection of the stern. Makuakaumana leaps and gains this position (but this incident probably belongs to the return trip to Tahiti).
Lono-pele sends as storm winds Kona-ku, Kona-nui-a-niho, Moae, Kona-heapuku, Kiki-ao, Lele-ula, Lele-kuilua, followed by a north wind, Ho‘olua, and a monster bird, the Iwa, called Ke-kaha-ka-iwa-i-na-pali. Paao invokes Lono and first a school of aku fish, then one of opelu come to quiet the waves. These fish have ever since been sacred to the Paao family.
Paao lands first in Puna on Hawaii, where he builds the heiau at Pulama [now called Waha-ula (Red mouth) but formerly Aha-ula]. He goes on to Kohala and erects the famous heiau of Mo‘okini at Pu‘uepa, the stones for which are passed from hand to hand a distance of nine miles from the seacoast.
(b) Kamakau version. Upon Paao’s prayer to the god of ocean (Kanaka-o-kai, says Green), the aku and opelu fish “leaped up and skipped in the waters and quieted the waves.” At the time of the prophet’s leap, several other “gods” attempted the feat and were dashed to death. His success is heralded in a chant:”You are like the flying fishSkimming easily through the sky,Traversing the dark waters of ocean,O Halulu at the foundation house of heaven,Kane, Makua-kau-mana,The prophet who made the circuit of the island,Who circled the pillars of Kahiki.”(Paao brings with him several mo‘o kupua from Kahiki, all worshiped as sacred stones on Oahu today. These are Makapu‘u, Ihiihi-lau-akea, and Malei. Makua-kau-mana returns to Kahiki but Paao remains on Hawaii and his bones rest in the cave of Pu‘uwepa in Kohala. An early school composition makes Paao brother to Pele.) (p370-373)

Tales of the Night Rainbow by Koko Willis and Pali Jae Lee gives the following account

Around 1250 A.D., a priest named Pa’ao came on a visit from Tahiti. 

We knew Tahitians for there were many Tahitians who had come here to live. Any family who wished to come and live on these shores was welcomed and they were helped to establish themselves. They usually adapted to our way of life quickly and there was harmony among the families. All these people were considered to be Hawaiian. Where they came from was of no importance. The heart (kana’au) [my note. ka na’au actually means gut or liver not heart which makes perfect sense for Native speakers since the na’au was believed to be the seat of consciousness, emotions and culture not the heart but makes no since to an English speaker] was what we saw and heard. Pa’ao was noticed for many reasons. He came wearing white. The color was not used by us for it represented the absence of life. The men who came with him wore the Tahitian red malo (clothing) with which we were familiar. Pa’ao visited every island asking questions, always asking questions. People wanted to be helpful and so told him of harbors and tides, fertile valleys and all the things he asked about. No one thought much about it he’d ask questions, the people tried to answer. Then suddenly he was gone. The people questioned each other about him. He made many feel an unease that they were not used to. They called him the man who wore death, because of his undyed kapa. Several years later, we learned that Pa’ao did indeed wear death for he returned bringing devastation to our land. 

To us, they were invaders. Pa’ao had gone back to Tahiti and gathered thousands of people to come to Hawai’i and take over the land. The men were tall fierce warriors. They did not believe in the force of light, only in the force of the closed fist, in mighty armies that killed, took and plundered. (21-23)

According Legends and Myths of Hawai’i by King Kalākaua:

When the high-priest Paao arrived with Pili he introduced some new gods while recognizing the old, strengthened and enlarged the scope of the tabu, and established an hereditary priesthood independent of, and second only in authority to, the supreme political head. Different grades of priests also came into existence, such as seer, prophets, astrologers and kahuna of various function,including the power of healing and destroying. In fact, the priesthood embraced ten distinct grades or colleges, each possessing and exercising powers peculiar to it, and mastery of all of them was one of the qualifications of the high priesthood. The tutelar deity of the entire body was Uli. The form of the heiau, or temple, was changed by Paao and his successors, and the masses mingled less freely in the ceremonies of sacrifice and other forms of worship. The high priesthood became more mysterious and exclusive, and assumed prerogatives above the reach of royalty. (p38)

Kalākaua also describes in his book that Pili would try to conquer the entire archipelago but would fail at Kaua’i where he was taken ransom. But the new social order brought by Pa’ao would last for the next five hundred years–with serious innovations.  

The arrival of Pa’ao and the attempted unification of Hawai’i under Pili  in the 13th century fits into what was also occurring elsewhere in the Pacific. Samoa and Tonga began to move to a stratified feudal society and took turns conquering each other and sometimes their neighbors like Fiji and Tuvalu as well. Samoa also began to build cities such as in Mu’a. In the Western Pacific, Islam began making headway and the traditional Hindu and animist rulers began fleeing to Bali, the Maluku, Flores, southern Philippines and possibly as into the middle of the Pacific itself including Papua-New Guinea.  In Micronesia,stratified chiefdoms were formed and construction of the building of floating cities such as Nan Mandol begun. The Rapa Nui, Rarotonga, the Austral Islands, Huahine, Borabora and Tahiti also began a period of redefining its traditional social structure and religious megalithic building. Much as the Warring States Period of China produced some of the great thinkers of Chinese history such as Kung Tzu (Confucius), Laozi, and others, this dramatic period of social change in the Pacific also saw the birth of social innovations and thinkers. Its believed that at this time the Arioi movement began in Tahiti under the prophet-deity Oro, the Bird-Man cult of Rapa Nui, the Uritoi society began in Guam, the Kaioi society of the Marquesas. The common major social changes that occurred from one end of the Pacific to the other end, from Jawa (Java) to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) at roughly the same century, however, was the strengthening of a class system and the birth or arrival of new religious and mystical movements–most of which were started by “prophets”, “saints”, and “visionaries”. The new religious movements may have been a reaction to the strengthening of class prerogatives of the ruling class as well as dealing with an increase in the population due to a high birth rate at the time as well with another wave or exploration and migration throughout the Pacific. As such Pa’ao may have been part of a reactionary authoritarian movement against these religious ideas and introduced these reforms into Hawai’i. 

One has to also take into account that the two hundred years prior to Pa’ao, Hawaiians were increasingly aware of the outside world. Those were the times of Kupe, Hema, Hawai’iloa, Mo’ikeha, and many others. So Hawai’i was connected to not only Polynesia but in other places in the Pacific.  But just as Willis and Lee mentioned, new settlers into Hawai’i tended to blend into the local culture. The awareness of different races (as the Kumulipo and other chants mentions) and the openness to outside ideas is probably why Hawaiians did not develop xenophobia that would have prevented Pa’ao and Pili from setting foot in Hawai’i.  

We also know from archaeological remains that the Hawaiian population was growing rapidly beginning in the 13th century. This probably led to some areas having tight competition for resources. This also allowed for a large potential labor pool. Hawaiians began to build fish ponds, ‘auwai systems, and probably still practiced some kind of ‘ohana clan leadership type of system mentioned by Puku’i and Lee. However, there was no type of central leadership. Pa’ao’s reforms allowed for a central hereditary leadership to push for wider projects and the enforced caste-like system (with the variations of kahuna orders and emphasis on ali’i blue blood) essentially gave jobs to the labor pool which made them less restless and co-opted them to supporting the new order. His reforms also probably drove the fear of God into the indigenous population as he also introduced human sacrifice and a new series of kapu including puhi ahi kanaka or the burning heretics and criminals. I always imagined Pa’ao to be sort of a Polynesian Torquemada like in those Monty Python skits “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”. For those who are reading this and saying “Wait, I didn’t know Hawaiians burned heretics”. Yes, they did. While many Polynesian groups ate their captives, criminals, and those who spoke against the chief or the Gods, Hawaiians did not practice cannibalism. But they did practice ritual burning, ritual drownings, and other things that one probably wouldn’t read in Ka Wai ‘Ola o OHA anytime soon. But all of those mentioned death rituals were all said to have been introduced by Pa’ao. Almost every Hawaiian source points their finger at Pa’ao. Pa’ao, as noted by Kalākaua also introduced megalithic temple building and new forms of ki’i. Archaeologically speaking, this can be varied not only by the remains of the various heiau which double or tripled in size after the 14th century but by the Mokumanana site which dates prior to the 16th century.

two reconstructions of a luakini

Mokumanamana ki’i
temple images
Temple of Kamehameha I in the Kona District at Kamakahonu. Courtesy, Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

Tournament during the Makahiki

A couple of centuries after Pa’ao, the deity Lono arrives. According to Martha Beckwith in Hawaiian Mythology:

The Lono order of priests in the days of Kamehameha set up heiaus to pray for rain, abundant crops, or escape from sickness and trouble. A prayer to Lono, recorded in the Fornander collection under Thrum, shows how, after the coming of Kane and Kanaloa and the establishment of the ancestral line through Kumuhonua and Lalohonua and its spread over the island through Wakea and Papa, from whom were born the chiefs, there came Lono also from the ancestral birth-place, to whom were offered the redfish, the black coconut, the whitefish, and the growing awa; to Kane and Kanaloa were made sacred the red fowl, the pig, and awa: ‘Ku, Kane, and Kanaloa are supreme in Kahiki.’ The coming of Lono is heralded by cloud signs in the heavens and finally:

Lono and Keakea-lani,Living together, fructifying the earth,Observing the tapu of women,Clouds bow down over the sea,The earthquake soundsWithin the earth,Tumbling down thereBelow Malama.

Beckwith says that:

According to Kupihea the great gods came at different times to Hawaii. Ku and Hina, male and female, were the earliest gods of his people. Kane and Kanaloa came to Hawaii about the time of Maui. Lono seems to have come last and his role to have been principally confined to the celebration of games. At one time he was driven out, according to Kupihea, but he returned later. Kane, although still thought of as the great god of the Hawaiian people, is no longer worshiped, but Ku and Hina are still prayed to by fishermen, and perhaps Kanaloa–Kupihea repeating to me softly the prayer with which he himself invoked the god of fishes.
Of the coming of the gods he had explicit evidence to offer: “Ku and Hina were the first gods of our people. They were the gods who ruled the ancient people before Kane. On [the island of] Lanai was the gods’ landing, at the place called Ku-moku. That is the tradition of our people. Kane and Kanaloa [arrived there], but not Lono. Some claim that Lono came to Maui. It is said that at the time Kamehameha quartered his men at Kaunakakai on Molokai before the invasion of Oahu, he went to Lanai to celebrate the Makahiki [New Year] festival and on that occasion he said, ‘We come to commemorate the spot where our ancestors first set foot on Hawaiian soil.’ So it seems as if it must be true that the first gods who ruled our people came to Lanai.” (p11)

So Pa’ao most likely brought with him various clan legends about Kāne, Kanaloa, Wākea, Papa and a modified version of Kū in order to underpin not just the authority of the ali’i but to re-enforce that Hawai’i was as a  Mo’ikeha chant puts it:

Eia Hawai‘i, he motu, he tanata
He kanaka Hawai‘i, e –He kanaka Hawai‘i
He tama na Tahiti
He pua ali‘i mai Tapa‘ahu
Mai Moa‘ulanuiakea Kanaloa
He mo‘opuna na Kahiko, laua o Kapulanakehau
Na Papa i hanau…..

A child of Kahiki or Tahiti. An offspring.  When an island group is called a child of another island group, it denotes that group was in tributary or inferior relationship in ali’i-speak. During the Tongan-Samoan wars, the Tu’i Tonga, the Tongan rulers, would sometimes refer to Samoa as a child of Tonga. Samoan rulers would sometimes refer to Tonga as their child. This was done even in the 19th century when Enele Ma’afu of Tonga conquered parts of Fiji and described his realm as being a child of Tonga. If rulers wanted to express that their realms were equals, they would use the term for siblings or friends.

With the coming of Lono (whether he was an akua or some kind of prophet from a religious movement in the South like the Arioi as some speculate, we do not know), the tired population welcomed yet another innovation into the religious system and the Makahiki Festival was introduced which allowed the population some degree of relief from the restrictions placed by Pa’ao– similar to how a Mardi Gras where one can freely poke fun of norms and social conventions. The Makahiki Festival also allowed an avenue where people could channel their frustrations through sports–something similar to the Greeks and their Olympics and Americans and their Superbowl. Without the Makahiki innovation, Hawai’i probably would have seen more revolts. The ali’i were most likely also happy because the kapu system also restricted their interactions with each other and allowed them a time to rest before preparing for war in the next season.
The Makahiki Festival in Waimanalo
Furthermore, as an additional release valve, the reason that land tenureship was made flexible could have also been as a way to co-opt various ‘ohana and Kūlanakauhale (villages). By the time Pa’ao had arrived, larger extended families probably lived in Kūlanakauhale and met in hālau loa. The original meaning of hālau was not just school or a canoe shed, but it was a neutral area within a large settlement where several ‘ohana could meet and deal with common issues. These types of meetings in the hālau were originally led by experts (kahuna) considered to be neutral but in later times, by a konohiki appointed by the ali’i nui (high chief). If the land tenureship could change with the death of a new high chief, it meant that the appointments would also die with him. Therefore, an aspiring commoner could in theory gain an appointment as a konohiki therefore basically become a mini-ali’i in the kūlanakauhale.  In addition, by not having fixed land tenureship, it gave the ali’i nui a free hand in disbursing favored lands to his supporters– that is to say his favored ali’i and clans alike.  Those who did not support the ali’i nui were free to leave. This also favored ambitious ‘ohana who by supporting a winning ali’i nui, could displace a rival ‘ohana off their lands. This also favored a patron-client type of relationship that continues until this day.    

With the new combination of a stable hereditary aristocracy caste-like structure (introduced by Pa’ao), unfixed land tenureship, the sanctioning of a separate kahuna class (also introduced by Pa’ao and this new institution would in turn be obligated to support the state-sponsored clan founder mythology), and a valve to release social pressure (through the Makahiki), this created the Hawaiian mokupuni structure that reached its zenith under Umi-a-Liloa and was carried over until the 18th century.  

Part 2: The Hawaiian Class System

Part 2: the Hawaiian Class System
Before Wākea, Before Pa’ao, the ‘Ohana System
“Na ali’i o ke kuamo’o o Haloa” 
Chiefs of the lineage of Haloa…
Said of high chiefs whose lineage goes back to ancient times. 
Mary Kawena Puku’i – ‘Olelo No’eau
Hawaiian family. Courtesy of the Bishop Museum

In Tales of the Night Rainbow by Koko Willis and Pali Jae Lee there is this interesting passage:

Family, to us, on Moloka’i was seen as a solid unit. A whole, of which we
were each a part. In actuality, the family was a community or group of people
living together, growing together, working out their problems the best way they
could together, all connected, all learning and growing and assisting each other
fingers of the same hand; parts of one body.
Each ‘Ohana was governed by a group of kupuna (elders). Age alone did
not make one a part of this group. There were many old people who were not.
To become part of the ruling body of the family you had to be accepted by all
of the elders. Everything was decided on consensus of opinion. The ruling body
varied in size, and always consisted of kahuna (experts) of many kinds.
When a person proved himself through years of hard work and wise thinking,
if they were known for being loving and unselfish in all things, and had mastered
many of the family secrets, sooner or later their name would come up and the
kupuna would discuss making this person a part of their group. No vote was taken.
If everyone was in agreement, then at the family ‘aha (meeting) they were
requested to join the other kupuna who ruled, on the upper part of the circle.
It may sound simple. It was not.
One of the kupuna was our chief or ruling elder. He did not rule alone like
the ali’i. All our ruling elders ruled together. This one person met with other
family heads when there was need of it, and brought us news of what was going
on in other families. (p33-34)

It is important to note here that Lee makes it a point to say that kahuna means expert and not what it has come to mean post-1820 which is priest or something related to “sorcery”.  I will delve into that important distinction later. 

In Mary Kawena Puku’i’s “The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u” we find this on page 2:

In Hawaiʻi political control was constantly in flux and political institutions were ill defined; land titles were evanescent due to redivision of spoils amongst faithful supporters upon the accession of every new high chief (whether he had acquired power through conquest or election by family council); and the external mechanism of family form and authority was less well regulated, though the family was, internally, completely integrated… 

Because old Hawaiʻi lacked village units regulated by established institutions such as existed in New Zealand and Samoa, it must not be concluded that the community was not a reality and a fundamental factor in the old political and economic order.

The fundamental unit in the social organization of the Hawaiians of Ka-ʻu was the dispersed community of ʻohana, or relatives by blood, marriage and adoption, living some inland and some near the sea but concentrated geographically in and tied by ancestry, birth and sentiment to a particular locality which was termed the ʻaina.

Puku’i writes further that:

There are ample indications that in this legendary era pioneering Hawaiians were tribal groups, under individual chiefs, many of whom came from islands south of the equator, generically referred to as “Kahiki” (generally meaning “a land overseas”). From the point of view of Polynesian history, a study of these evidences, scattered through legends, myths, chants and genealogies, is capable of yielding rich rewards, in interest and in scholarly returns. (p41)

 and then quotes Sir Peter Buck by:

Dr. Buck writes (The Coining of the Maori, p. 338): “All members of a Maori tribe are related to each other by blood descent, and the record of a common tie is preserved in the family genealogies…. The kinship terms in use are capable of expressing the relationship between any two members of the tribe… (42)”

The arrangement mentioned by Lee and Puku’i is not as unusual or idealistic as it may sound. On Ni’ihau, the term “‘ohana” does not mean family. It means a family meeting, a sort of ‘aha. The term for family unit is pilitana. In the old Hamakua dialect of Hawaiian which my grandmother spoke, the word ‘ohana refers to a village meeting. Specific related persons or family units were called pilihanau. So the structure mentioned by Lee and Puku’i bares a resemblance to those mentioned concepts. It also bares a resemblence to what existed in other Austronesian societies in the Pacific.  

For those who are unfamilar with the term, Austronesian has nothing to do with Australia but is a linguistic and anthropological classification pertaining to the indigenous populations of Oceania, parts of SE Asia, and Madagascar. Austronesian simply means “South Sea Islands” in Greco-Latin just as “Polynesian” means “Many Islands” in Greco-Latin and the Austronesian family of languages is believed to be one of the oldest language families dating back to at least 4,000 years.  The Hawaiian language is a part of the Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family of languages. Since language is the primary carrier of culture and being that Hawaiian was not a written language until 1822 or 1823 (depending on which source you’re using), one of the ways that one can verify if a practice is indeed an ancient one or a local innovation is by looking at the origins of the terminology and the concepts and comparing cognate (similar) terms or concepts by various Austronesian languages. For example, the word maka or mata means “eye” in most Austronesian languages (including in Philippine, Indonesian, Malagasy and Maori languages) so we can conclude that the body part name and the word itself dates back several thousand years because of its prevalence in other Austronesian languages.   

In a symposium on “Austronesian diaspora and the Ethnogeneses of people in Indonesian Archipelago” which the proceedings were published by the Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (Indonesian Institute of Science in 2006 under the same name as the symposium, a paper discusses some common Austronesian terms including the term matua. Every Hawaiian knows the word makua. Today, it means parent. In the symposium proceedings, it lists matua in Macassarese and Buginese as eldest, elder (kinship) or old (p214).  I know that in Toraja, matua refers to the older generation, well older than the speaker. The creator being in Toraja mythology is Puang Matua. The Malay word for “lord” or “noble” is tuan and is believed to come from either the word matua or matuang and the word datuk or datu which now an aristocratic title is believed to have originally referred to the ancestor of a clan (ed. Thomas Reuter, Sharing the Earth, Dividing the Land, p116). Datuk among certain Dayak tribes in Borneo also means expert, medicine man and the head of a tribe–similar in some respects to what Lee was writing about in regards to expert. In Chamorro, matua or matoa refers to chiefs and likewise means old or dignified. 

In old Hawaiian, a makua was anyone one generation removed from the speaker which is why the makua used to also refer not just as parent but as to uncles, aunts, and older cousins.  So like in Macassarese and Buginese, the word also implied someone who was more senior than you. But in Hawaiian, it meant one generation removed. Matua could also be one of the root words for akua. Thus an akua was originally the founder or makua of a clan.  This could explain why early Hawaiian Christians did not see the necessity of having makua and akua in the same sentence.  Early Protestants as one knows were very fond of saying “Father God”.  Kupuna on the other hand meant two generations removed from the speaker thus it came to mean “grandparent” in English.    

In Sharing the Earth, Dividing the Land, several authors make the point that the clan was the single fundamental social unit. This is in opposition to the Western idea where the fundamental social unit is the individual. In the surveyed cases–from Indonesia to Tonga–the clan did not simply consist of a father, mother, grandparents, and children. Again this is in opposition to the Western idea of what constitutes a family. In the case of the Balinese, the clan consisted of those who were related by blood (in some cases up to the 10th degree), those who married blood relatives, those adopted into ones clan, as well as those shared the same neighborhood and temple (banua in Balinese).  In some cases, those who lived in the same district treated each other as family, though the bloodlines were not clear, because they shared in communal tasks (banjar) such as farming and fishing.  Those who shared in the same rituals and occupations could also see themselves as a form of an extended family since Bali is divided into a caste system and those of the same caste generally had to marry each other and work together. There is no differentiation between a clan and a family in the Balinese sense. In the Hawaiian sense, this may have also been true of larger settlements particularly after Pa’ao. While Lee and Puku’i do not go deeply into those areas, they both argue that their perspective is largely based on a rural setting where the class or caste-like divisions were not as pronounced as in other areas. In the large villages of Kou (Honolulu) and Kailua (Hawai’i), a clan could easily have consisted of several extended families including those who lived near each other and, eventually after Pa’ao, those performing similar occupations as well as those sharing the same ritual spaces similar to the Balinese example. So the Hawaiian ‘ohana or clan could have at first consisted of family members (perhaps up to the 10th degree consanguinity as the Balinese case),  those hanai‘d into the family, those “married” (I prefer the term ku’i or joined than married since married is a Western concept) into the family, and those who lived in the same village. Eventually, as settlements grew larger and with the imposition of the ali’i institution, those performing the same communal tasks and within the same class, could have easily saw themselves as being “ohana” since they would have seen each other everyday and could have eaten meals together in the same eating houses. Like the Balinese, I doubt that there were any differentiation between a clan and a family as both were called ‘ohana.  Also in the Balinese and Hawaiian cases, these clans or larger families had councils which consisted of experts and from the bases of these councils, leadership were generally held by agreement and by election. The most senior person did not necessarily have the right to lead the entire clan unless he or she had the respect of the entire clan to do so. 

One has to think that voyaging for thirty or more days on a single canoe, you’d probably travel with relatives and those who you can trust as opposed to complete strangers who might just throw you overboard if food becomes scarce.  

Upon arrival to a new land, the clan or ‘ohana would claim certain lands or what some anthropologists call “ritual area” and developed certain narratives to explain how and why it could claim certain lands and thus have access to spiritual economic and political power.  In Peter Bellwood’s The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspective  he notes:

Each clan recounts its separate origin and its particular journey into Tana ’Ai. One clan — in Lewis’ words, “the source clan” —is pre-eminent. This clan possesses the narrative that integrates the other clans to it. As among the Kalauna, this clan’s “history” is especially complex because its own internal division is of great significance. For the source clan of Tana ’Ai, this internal division is an ancestral elder/younger bifurcation represented by critical differences encountered in hunting together. On arriving in Tana ’Ai, the elder of the brothers assigns precedence to the ancestors of the other clans as they, in turn, arrive; the younger brother marries with these ancestors and shares out ceremonial goods and ritual duties. An ambiguous third ancestor who accompanies the two brothers at the outset takes a divergent journey and finally arrives in Tana ’Ai to become the founder of the lowest clans of the domain... 

Among the Ilongot, each household is regarded as “one trunk” (tan tengeng). These “trunks” form local clusters generally denoted by the names of rivers or other prominent features of their environment. The boundaries of these settlements and the affiliation of households within them is flexibly interpreted. But in each settlement, according to Michelle Rosaldo,

there is at least a core group of closely related families who are apt to share a history of common residence, having lived in close proximity over years of intermittent movement in search of fertile lands, abundant forests, or freedom from lowland law. It is this history of coordinated moves, through times of inward-turning “concentration” and then “dispersal” toward the lowland margins of Ilongot lands, that lends a settlement its viability as an ill-defined yet generally recognized and cooperating social group (M. Rosaldo 1980:5)…

Like the Kalauna and Ata Tana ’Ai, Ilongot also possess origin narratives that relate journeys of the past. Although they focus mainly on the recounted memories of their oldest living members, these narratives nevertheless articulate two distinct levels of origin. Again to quote Michelle Rosaldo:

A history of related moves, interpreted in an idiom of bilateral kinship and reinforced by bonds of marriage, permit most members of a settlement to construe themselves as kin, who (as Ilongots express it) share a “body” (betrang) … What continues over time is not a stable group but a tradition of relation (M. Rosaldo 1980:9)…

Here kinship is constituted by a shared journey which includes hunting together. A tradition of such shared relationship points to still earlier origins.

Those people who have shared in hunts, along with kin in other settlements with whom they have been wont to live at times of “concentration”, will tend to see themselves as members of a single bertan… .

Ilongot society is composed of at least thirteen such discrete, named, and loosely localized groups. Seen from a perspective of origin structures, there is little formal difference between the Ilongot, the Kalauna or the Ata Tana ’Ai except in the way in which each of these societies reckons its path of origin through the father in the case of the Kalauna, the mother in the case of Ata Tana ’Ai or through either parent in the case of the Ilongot. In all of these societies, the sharing of a journey is part of the reckoning of social ancestry. This reckoning is enhanced by the recurrent linguistic use of terms for “path” as a common Austronesian metaphor for social relationships.
In comparing these societies, one crucial difference needs to be pointed out in the case of the Ilongot. All the bertan of the Ilongot recount their own separate narrative of origin; no member of a bertan recites a narrative that links the bertan to each other as a group.

From this long description, one can gleam the true context of the Papa-Wākea myths as well as the Kumulipo (which would be developed in the 1750s) and the kapu. Hawaiian society was divided into ‘ohana. Experts became clan leaders (mākua then worked their way to become kūpuna). Exceptional experts within the ʻalaea would then eventually hold chiefly position as explained by Lee and as what currently still takes place among the Dayaks in Borneo. In early times, these positions were probably not hereditary nor automatic (including the title of kupuna and mākua). But as families intermarried or adopted (hānai) each other, larger ‘ohana became ʻalaea or clans.   Following the patterns of Samoa, Eastern Indonesia, Guam and the Philippines, as one  ʻalaea gained political or economic control over their own ‘ohana and over other ʻalaea, it became a “source clan” or a governing class. The source clan (papa noho or lit. “presiding class”) would eventually claim hereditary privileges thus becoming papa noho ali’i and justify this new structure through some kind of quasi-historical narrative or myth. In this context, the mythology of Papa and Wākea, of Hāloa, of Māui all begin to make sense. These were all originally clan “legends” of their clan founders that became the “pre-eminent” myth in an effort by the governing clan to bind all the other clans together (including the ‘ohana from previous migrations) yet at the same time to give precedence to one set of individuals or group within their own ruling clan to have control both ritual domains (i.e. heiau) and political economy (i.e. natural resources of the ‘āina, valued trade items such as feathers, etc) of all clans under their rule. This is why most of these genealogical chants include references to struggles against brothers and why certain incestuous relationships were deemed necessary to preserving the purity of the papa noho ali’i. To help control the various ‘ohana on the psychological level,  new classes of experts (kahuna) became solely religious functionaries (read priests) who then perpetuated the clan myths of the ruling elite. However, Hawaiian sources say that this process of hereditary privileges of the priests and nobility was dramatically quickened or imposed by the arrival of Pa’ao. 

Outside of the “Austronesian world”, another example that might parallel this might be in Japan where the Amaterasu mythology of the Yamato clan became the dominant origin or founder mythology as the clan came to eventually rule over much of Japan and in turn would create Shintoism to re-enforce their new national leadership.The earliest settlers of Japan, the pre-Jomon and the Ainus were eventually pushed back by the waves of migrations until they were subdued by the Yamato clan until the point that today we know very little about these peoples. Their mythologies were replaced by the Yamato clan founder’s genealogical myths and its sanctioned practices through the Shinto priesthood.   The same probably happened in Hawai’i.  

As one migration established a foothold in Hawai’i over another earlier migration, this created a series of competing or counter-myths as well. Lee’s work is an example of such. So are some of the legends Samuel Kamakau writes of. As the saying goes, where there is power, there is resistance. This is where the role of origin meta-myths–myths that link all the Hawaiian people into one unit through a clan founder or place of origin (as in the Hawai’iloa myths)–comes into play. Since even until today the “‘ohana” is still a basic unit of Hawaiian society, meta-myths like Papa-Wākea and the Kumulipo had been created and sanctioned as a way to bind the various ‘aha ‘ohana to the ali’i as well as to project an air of superiority. I call it the kākou-mākou myths meaning there is a layer of inclusiveness (kākou) while it still contains a layer of exclusivity (mākou) from the audience. 

Without these origin meta-myths, the ‘aha ‘ohana would not feel obligated not only to obey the ali’i without the use of force but not to help out non-related persons in their community. Thus the myths of Papa and Wākea, Hāloa, etc, all provided not only a raison d’etre for the ali’i but also performed the role of philosophically justifying their rule over all other ‘ohana or clans–many of which were already there. Once the ali’i had a philosophical reason for all other clans to obey them (i.e. being the ones that defeated Liha’ula, being the older brothers of the Hawaiian people, etc), they then could claim all the islands as their own and begin to develop a semi-feudal aristocratic society. So these myths and genealogies provided a philosophical transition from the ‘ohana type of system (that probably existed prior to their arrival) to the new state society that the ali’i were trying to cultivate, particularly after Pa’ao–a society which was significantly different than the previous social order. 

The kapu then could be understood also provided a socio-religious tool to display its dominance over the other clans as well as re-enforcing the source clan’s mythology, providing a system to control the natural resources, a means to disburse privileges and justice, and simply a way to test the loyalty of other clans. That also would explain the why ali’i had to constantly project themselves as embodying the akua themselves particularly through temple rituals–as a way to re-enforce the sanctioned myths and upon the populace. It also would explain why the ali’i would sought to tie themselves to the main food crop, taro, in an effort perhaps similar to how other nationalities such as the Americans tie certain foods (i.e. apple pie, hot dogs) to being “American”.   It is also a technique that other royal clans had done (i.e. the Yamato clan of Japan, the Chakri of Thailand and other dynasties in Asia sought an affiliation with rice, etc)

As the ali’i institution became more stable over time, aspects of the previous clan social order, as spoken about in Tales of the Night Rainbow and in The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u continued under the new royal divine-sanctioned structure of the hereditary ali’i and in many respects still continues among certain Hawaiian families albeit in a syncretic Christian form. 

But again, this also shows that Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian politics is far from a pond of wai kū (stagnant water) as some would like to have Hawaiians believe. But Hawaiian society and culture historically, is like any other living society, underwent sometimes dramatic internal change.    

Part 1: The Hawaiian Class System

A proper understanding of our history is very important to us because it will serve to demonstrate how the present has been distorted by a faulty knowledge of our past. By unraveling the past we become confronted with the present already as future.” Renato Constantino, Dissent and Counter-Consciousness, p131

The other day I had been re-reading some of the Hawaiian books I have and in particular the book, Tales of the Night Rainbow by Koko Willis and Pali Jae Lee. When I read the book the first time a decade ago I didn’t take much notice in particular a chapter on the ali’i. I think it may have been because I had similar stories before from my grandmother or due to the fact that its only within the last five year thats I had been able to study various Austronesian languages more closely and have had the opportunity to get material on the indigenous peoples from Indonesia, Fiji, Samoa, and the Philippines (not mention a bit of traveling).  

In the next four parts, I will be examining the Hawaiian class system from an historical, anthropological, and from the mythical point of view. 

My grandmother never believed that most of the ali’i were indigenous or were Hawaiian. She believed that many of them came originally from Samoa, Tahiti, Borabora and Ra’iatea because of their kapu which included the kapu puhi kanaka ahi, lumaluma’i and certain types of mōhai. I won’t translate those terms because they are quite horrible and graphic.  But she believed that such kapu were innovation sfrom Tahitians who came with Pa’ao and that originally the Hawaiian religion consisted of simply Kū and Hina.  She also believed that original Hawaiians were also not directly from Polynesia but from Asia (hence the names Hawa, Hiwa, Ulu, and Nana which have cognate names in Indonesia, Borneo, and India) led by Māui and the original people were primarily farmers which is why Kanaloa never had a huge role in the Hawaiian religion unlike the Māori, Tongans, and Samoans.  But later, with Pa’ao, all of this was distorted as the kapu system became rigid and this is why some Hawaiians have a different more hoʻomaʻau mentality, particularly notice-able with some Hawaiian politicians and certain Hawaiian groups. I personally took those stories as a family myths but those stories had always bothered me which is why I began to investigate more on Pacific linguistics and history. 

 In Tales of the Night Rainbow, the author clearly state:

To us, they were invaders.  Pa’ao had gone back to Tahiti and gathered thousands of  people to come to Hawai’i and take over the land. The men were tall  fierce warriors. They did not believe in the force of  light, only in the force of  the  closed fist, in mighty armies tha t  killed, took and plundered. The  people on Lana’ i were the first to see them approaching. They said the red malo of  the invaders could be seen from horizon to horizon making the s e a  itself  take  on a  r ed hue.  Soon the s e a  did turn red with the blood of  our people  as  thousands were  slaughtered  and enslaved.  The native  population that  could, made a run for Kaua’i where they would be safe. You had to be well schooled in  the tides of  Kaua’i to get ashore safely. Many of  the people who could not get to the boats in time hid in mountain caves. The people who were caught were used as fishbait  and  human  sacrifices,  and their  bones  were  used to  decorate  the  tiki statues of  the Tahitian gods.
The  Tahitians who became the rulers of  our  islands called themselves na ali’i  ( the rulers or  chiefs)  and they  called our  people Mana  hune  (small power) because they thought we were ajoke. In fact the people who lived here before the ali’i came were much smaller than these warriors, and had no knowledge of  how to use a spear of  club or  any manner of  war  weapon. The  early people had used their minds to cooperate with the world and had no war leaders or  chiefs to lead  them into battle.  They were fishermen and farmers.  They shared all they grew and caught with the community. To be a warrior you must be trained in the ways of  war. No one in our  Islands had such training at  that time.  Since the Tahitians  did not  consider mind power to be  power at all, the people were as they said -Mana  hune (small power) [hence the origins of the name Menehune] (p21).

 Legends and stories of  the Menehune’s great deeds came about because the ali’i would give orders when they wanted a fishpond built, or  a temple or  a ditch, and allowed a very short time for it to be done.  The al t i  would order the maoli (natives) to do the job and go off laughing. I f  the work was not accomplished in the given time,  all the people of  that  place would be slaughtered  

In The Legends and Myths of Hawai’i by King Kalākaua, he claims that for thirteen or fourteen generations, the first people of Hawai’i lived very simply and not until the tenth century or so, did Nanamoa, Pili, and Pa’ao come from Tahiti and changed the political and social landscape of the islands (p20-21). Kalakaua goes on to say that:

At the close of the second migratory period, which concluded their intercouse with the world beyond them for more than six hundred years, or from AD 1175 AD to 1778, the people of the group had very generally transferred their allegiance to the newly-arrived chiefs…. (p22)

In the context of Tales of the Night Rainbow, the term “transferred” might be a polite way of saying conquered. Furthermore:

The nobility and hereditary priesthood claimed to be of a different stock different from that of the common people, and their superior stature and intelligence seemed to favor the assumption (p23)

So who were the ali’i? Did Hawai’i always have ali’i? One of the things that I love about Hawaiian legends is the bits of information (or “cracks in the parchment” as some historians call it) that can be gleamed. In addition, for every Hawaiian myth, there is a counter-myth. Let’s take a look at our mythology for a second.

In Thrums Hawaiian Folk Tales, we find this legend:

In his time appeared a portent in the heavens in the shape of a head which spoke, commending Kahiko as a just ruler and reproving Waia because he had failed to keep up religious observances, to be courageous, to care for his people’s welfare, but took thought for his own pleasure alone and for the acquiring of possessions. “What king on the earth below lives an honest life?” asks the head, and the people answer “Kahiko!” “What good has Kahiko done?” “Kahiko is well skilled in all the departments of government; he is priest (kahuna) and diviner (kilokilo); he looks after the people in his government; Kahiko is patient and forbearing.” “Then it is Kahiko who is the righteous, the benevolent man,” says the head, and again it asks, “What king on earth lives corruptly?” and the people answer with a shout “Waia!” “What sin has he committed?” “He utters no prayers, he employs no priests, he has no diviner, he knows not how to govern,” answer the people.

Eventually the people decide to overthrow Waia, the brother of Kahiko. This is the first (and not the last) time the maka`āinana or commoners would overthrow a chief and replace him with another and this shows how fluid rank was at the time. It also shows that the commoner class did not simply blindly follow the ali’i. Kahiko is according to some genealogies the father of Wākea, Liha’ula, and Maku’u. With Kahiko as ruler, the priestly class (kahuna) and the ali’i (chiefly) class became united into one. But note, that all of this does not occur in Hawai’i.  Hawaiian legends are nearly universal in saying that Wākea was either a chief or the son of a from Kahiki. In Martha Beckwith’s Hawaiian Mythology in the chapter on “The Chiefs” we find:

Eastern Kahiki, western Kahiki were born, [My note: Most likely the original in Hawaiian said Kahiki ku and Kahiki Moe]
The regions below were born,
The regions above were born,
Hawaii was born,
The firstborn child was the island Hawaii

Of Wakea together with Kane,
And Papa in the person of Walinuʻu as wife.
Papa became pregnant with the island,
Sick with the foetus she bore,
Great Maui was born, an island,…
Papa was in heavy travail with the island Kanaloa (Kahoo-lawe)…
A child born to Papa.
Papa left and returned to Tahiti,
Went back to Tahiti at Kapakapakaua,
Wakea stayed, lived with Kaula as wife,
Lanai-kaula was born,
The firstborn of that wife.
Wakea sought a new wife and found Hina,
Hina lived as wife to Wakea,
Hina became pregnant with the island of Molokai,
The island of Molokai was a child of Hina.
The messenger of Kaula (Laukaula) told
Of Wakea’s living with another woman;
Papa was raging with jealousy,
Papa returned from Tahiti
Bitter against her husband Wakea,
Lived with Lua, a new husband,
Oahu son of Lua was born,
Oahu of Lua, an island child,
A child of Lua’s youth.
She lived again with Wakea,
Conceived by him,
Became pregnant with the island Kauai,
The island Kama-wae-lua-lani was born,
Niʻihau was an afterbirth,
Lehua a boundary,
Kaula the last
Of the low reef islands of Lono.…[emphasis mine]

Those who had been to the Makahiki at Kaho’olawe would be familiar with a shorter version of the chant usually called “the Papa-hānau-moku chant”. In the above much longer version, we find that Wākea and Papa lived in one of the Kahiki’s  and came to Hawai’i the first born with Kāne and Papa. Kāne is always connected with huge landmasses (i.e. the Big Island of Hawai’i) and distant lands beyond Kahiki. In fact, Hawai’i, the island is said to have existed before Papa and Wākea and Papa goes back to Tahiti after giving birth Kaho’olawe. This is of course a different version that what many Hawaiians know of the Papa and Wākea mythology.  The Papa and Wākea myths are important in our understanding how the class system came to be because the legitimacy of those claim to be ali’i even until today claim that all Hawaiians are related through the Papa and Wākea myth and that the ali’i are the eldest brother of the Hawaiian people hence why they deserve respect.   

As I will be getting into Hawaiian Creation mythology in another post, lets take another look at Beckwith’s Mythology and her notes on Papa and Wākea:

Stories and genealogies connect the Wakea-Papa line with the myth already noticed of a marriage between a high chief from a distant land and a native-born chiefess. A struggle is implied between an older line and a new order which imposes the separation of chiefs from commoners and of both from a degraded slave class, and establishes religious tapus, especially as related to women, by which so powerful a weapon is placed in the hands of the new theocracy, chiefs working in harmony with the priesthood, as to control conduct and effectually to subordinate the people to their ruling chiefs…Wakea is called the son of Kahiko-lua-mea (Very ancient and sacred) and his wife Kupulanakehau. To them are born Lihau-ula (Liha-ula, Lehu-ula) from whom are descended the priests (kahuna) and Wakea from whom come the chiefs (aliʻi). From a third son, Makuʻu, some say by another wife, come the commoners (maka-aina)….To the question of the meaning of the Papa and Wakea legend as it took shape in Hawaii no single answer can be given. Back of it is the Polynesian mythical conception of a dark formless spirit world presided over by the female element, and a world of form born out of the spirit world and to which it again returns, made visible and active in this human life through light as the impregnating male element. Back of it is also the actual picture of society in Hawaii, revealing a struggle for ascendancy among incoming settlers both in the Hawaiian group itself and in earlier lands—an ascendancy dominated by the idea of ancestry from a divine parent stock and hence of grades of rank as revealed in family genealogies….[the bold are mine]

In this rendering, Kahiko who had united the priestly and chiefly class in Kahiki and has three sons who represent the origins of the Hawaiian class system. We are often told about Hāloa, the taro, being the ancestors of all the Hawaiian people but we are never told about Maku’u because it would imply that the commoner class existed before Hāloa or that there were people here before Wākea which in turn would then change the perception people may have of the ali’i as being the older brothers as well as the fact that Hawaiians came in waves of migrations and not a single migration. 

We are also never told that Wākea, called an ‘ehu and a haole (meaning foreigner not Caucasian), at times he is the son of a foreign chief but born on O’ahu–the same place as Papa.  For example we find this myth in Hawaiian Mythology from Kamakau:

Wakea is born at Waolani on Oahu and he finds Papa in Ewa district on Oahu, and there on Oahu the daughter Hoʻohoku is born. Kamakau states that ‘the children of Wakea, up to the time of the disappearance of Haumea, lived between Halawa and Waikiki and for the most part in the uplands and valleys.; The land called Lalo-waia (and hence the name of Wakea’s son Waia) was a fertile land. Wakea (or perhaps his descendants) returned and lived there up to the time of Kamehameha. Some of his descendants emigrated to Kahiki and some peopled the other islands of the group. The story then resolves itself into that of a chief of god-like rank, attached to the Kane and Kanaloa family of gods in Waolani, who weds a daughter of a closely related Ewa family living in the land, and unites the priestly office with that of ruling chief. The chief later neglects his wife’s family, who eventually disappear from the land, and unites his interests with some other ruling line. The pattern occurs too commonly in Hawaiianromance to give it special significance in this connection.
Two chants in which the island births of Papa are made the theme for an enumeration of the islands of the group are so similar as to be certainly drawn from a common source. Both date from the time of Kamehameha and are hence not very early. Of the composers, Pakui is called the kahuna of the heiau of Manawai on Molokai. and Kaleikuahulu is described as a native of Kainalu on Molokai, son of the ruling chief Kumukoa and grandson of Keawe, whom Kamehameha appointed to teach to some of the chiefs his knowledge of genealogies….

Other chants and myths subscribe not Wākea, but Maui, as having discovered the Hawaiian Islands hence why in the above mentioned myth, Wākea was born on O’ahu which meant that the island and the Hawaiian people already obviously existed. Other myths exist that claim it was Kahiko himself to first saw the islands which were already inhabited. While others claim it was Ki’i or Hawai’iloa. Some legends claim that both Papa and Wākea were foreigners altogether and that the Papa and Wākea myths pertained to the Tahitian immigrants and not the original Hawaiian people. The point is that Hawaiians themselves existed prior to Wakea but the origins of the class division lies with Wakea’s father, Kahiko. 

After Kahiko’s death, a battle occurs between Wakea and Liha’ula. Wākea attempts to reclaim the priesthood and the governing rights their father, Kahiko, once had. Wākea is victorious and Liha’ula is banished to Kahiki Moe while his children become the kahuna class.   David Malo has this to say:

Kahiko at his death bequeaths the land to his elder son Lihau-ula “leaving Wakea destitute.” Lihau-ula gives battle to Wakea the blond (ehu) against the advice of his counselor, who would not have him fight during the summer lest his men melt away. Lihau-ula is slain and Wakea takes over the rule. He fights with Kane-ia-kumu-honua and is defeated and obliged to take to sea; but as they are swimming about his kahuna bids him form a symbolic heiau and its sacrifice with his hand (described much like our own hand game of the church and the steeple), gather his people together, and offer prayer to his god, which done he renews the battle, is victorious, and wins the government (aupuni). Those who place the fight in Hawaii say that he was driven to the extreme western islet of Kaula and thence oversea; others say that he fought in Kahiki-ku. (Hawaiian Antiquates, p312)

When Wākea won over his priestly brother, he then went on to Papa. After a while, Wākea begins to desire his daughter, Ho’ohokuikalani and issues the first kapu ali’i–the beginning of the kapu system and the institution of the ali’i as a hereditary governing class. Not a very auspicious reason to begin a new religious system. Wākea  begins to resemble Henry VIII.  Wakea then goes after his daughter, Hoʻohokuikalani, while Papa lives with Wākea’s kauwa Haakauilana in Tahiti and a son is born, Kekeu. Kekeu then has a union with Lumilani, probably a Hawaiian, and Noa is born. Noa lives with another person named Papa (sometimes also called Hina) and has Pueo-nui-weluwelu, who then goes off and marries Noni and has two children including Maka-noni. Thus the Kauwa class was born. Meanwhile, the original Papa, goes back with Wākea and has more children. This information is found in David Malo’s work, Hawaiian Antiquites page 91.  Thus Wākea is the father of the ali’i as an institution and as a class. 

The above mentioned myth I am quite familiar with from my grandmother because she would always say the Papa and Wakea epics refer to the coming of the Tahitians and that is why the old ali’i when they would approach a double pulo’ulo’u staff at the entrance of a door or temple, would move their right foot forward first. The double pulo’ulo’u represented Wākea’’s two brothers–Liha’ula and Maku’u–and the forward foot movement imitated Wākea who supposedly made his defeated brothers moe kapu as he kicked dirt across their heads with his right foot in a symbolic gesture. Thus the pulo’ulo’u itself represented the supremacy (some might use the word seizure) of the ali’i of both secular and spiritual power. Hence why the word mana means spiritual inheritance, charisma, spiritual power as well as secular authority. 

Mauna Ala staffs

So in carefully inspecting Hawaiian mythology itself, one can see the institution of the ali’i with the kapu were an innovations imported into Hawai’i and the Papa and Wākea mythology were used as a justification. This is all according to Hawaiian mythology itself. Eventually, the ali’i as a hereditary institution unto itself thought of themselves as an enlightened aristocratic illustrado class “of a different stock than the commoners” (in the words of Kalākaua) who kept “Hawaiian traditions” or more accurately kept the “Hawaiian” traditions they liked for as one can see, there are numerous counter-traditions. This is not to say that all ali’i were bad. Contrary, Hawai’i has had many good ali’i. Queen Lili’uokalani is my favorite ali’i. But the ali’i in general should also be understood in the context of their time, their history, and their class interests. We should not just venerate ali’i because they were ali’i nor should we assume that Hawaiian society never underwent changes and innovations. Only an extinct culture does not undergo changes. Hawaiian culture is far from extinct.   

Furthermore, just looking at the contradictions in the mythology, it should give us some insight into the class and cultural contradictions existing in Hawaiian society before Captain Cook accidentally stumbling in our Islands. Hawaiian society was like any other society with real issues and not some kind of tropical Eden as some try to make it out to be. 

In the next part, I will be exploring what type of Hawaiian society that might have existed prior to Pa’ao as well as possible wave migrations based on archaeological, linguistic, and historical information.