When the British began to trade with China, they found that the Chinese had little desire for British products. So Queen Victoria’s Britain began to import opium into China. When the Chinese Emperor tried to stop the drug trade, the British declared war and ended up not only imposing the sale of opium on the Chinese but took Hong Kong as “compensation” for the war itself.
When Chinese migration began to come in massive numbers to Hawai’i beginning in the 1850s, British and American merchants began to sale opium. Those selling opium included members of missionary families and many of the members of the “Honolulu Rifles” who in 1887 would impose the Bayonet Constitution. In the Queen’s autobiography, Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, she names three prominent opium dealers: William Fessenden Allen (cousin of Charles Reed Bishop), Henry Waterhouse, and George Parks (p241). In fact, some of the “Big Five” may have used opium money to start their businesses. Charles Reed Bishop through his partnership with William Aldrich, a known opium and “assorted dry goods” merchant, engaged in opium trade as well. However, by the 1860s, it was not merely Chinese who were buying opium, but it was also Native Hawaiians including some prominent ali’i.
The National Legislature of 1873 (which has the distinction of being a legislature that was opened by one king–King Lunalilo–and prorogued by another–King Kalākaua) made the sale of opium illegal except for medicinal purposes (Kuykendall, the Hawaiian Kingdom, Vol.3 p192). The reason for the latter exception on opium for medicinal purposes was that opium, specifically opium mixed with citrus in a pill form, was commonly used for the treatment of insomnia, sexual problems, and for relieving pain during and after surgery. However, it was highly addicting and despite the ban, opium was still sold in pharmacies and smuggled in. Kaho’olawe was a notorious opium smuggling hub for opium and alcohol in the 19th century and certain Christian missions (particularly on the islands of Hawai’i and Maui) accepted donations from known opium smugglers and dealers.
During the short ministry of Cesar Moreno, the opium issue was resurrected. According to Kuykendall’s Hawaiian Kingdom Volume 3:
Another subject in which Moreno was much interested, because of his Chinese connections, wasopium, the liberalization of Hawaii’s strict laws on that subject, and a plan to make Honolulu the opium processing and distribution center for the whole Pacific area. Early in the session a bill was introduced to authorize the importation and sale of opium to Chinese only; two licenses were to be sold at an upset price of $60,000 each. On July 9 this bill was passed on its third reading. In the last week of July, Moreno’s lobbying activities came to a climax. On the twenty-fourth, a bill was introduced to authorize the importation, manufacture, exportation, and sale of opium; there was to be one license, for two years, to Chinese only, at an upset price of $120,000. On the twenty-seventh, a motion was made to insert in the appropriation bill an item of $24,000 for a subsidy to the Chinese steamship company; it was defeated by a vote of 18 to 17. The next day a motion for reconsideration was adopted, and after a brief debate, the subsidy item was approved by a vote of 25 to 14.25 On this item, Minister of Finance Kaai deserted his ministerial colleagues. He had agreed to vote against it, but instead not only voted but spoke for the subsidy. Asked for an explanation, Kaai said he voted as he did at the direct command of the king, and he showed a letter from the king to justify his statement.26 Commenting on the legislature’s reversal of its earlier decision, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser charged that the result was procured “by open and wholesale bribery,” and said, “The indignation of the public at the part played by a certain impecunious adventurer in the case is great. . . . His boasted power to oust the Ministry, and his assumption of prescience in regard to Regal acts may satisfy his egotism, but will never enhance the brilliance of his fame, or add one tittle to his influence. He has been measured by a discriminating community, and their estimate of him is small . . . the public will be heartily glad at the opportunity to bid him an everlasting farewell.”27 On July 30 the opium bill, which had been introduced six days before, came up for third reading and was passed.28 In regard to this action and the passage of the subsidy for the Chinese steamship company, the American minister wrote, “It was at once charged and not disputed that Mr. Moreno had secured these results by the use of money in the lobby,” the money having been provided by certain Chinese merchants of Honolulu.29 To the credit of the king, he vetoed both of the opium bills here mentioned; but he signed a third bill which amended the existing law restricting the importation and sale of opium.30 (p210-211)
What Kuykendall does not discuss is that one of the major reasons why some had actually voted for the opium bill was because by legalizing the trade, it would take away income from certain prominent American and British businessmen similar to how Prohibition in the US made alcohol distributors (“bootleggers”) quite wealthy.
In 1886, the National Legislature passed the “Opium Act of 1886” to legalize the sale, importation, and production of opium providing that it were to be licensed (therefore taxed) and Native Hawaiians and Japanese were forbidden from buying any of it. The King and the Cabinet would be responsible for the public auctioning of two licenses per year starting at a minimal bid of $40,000. A Chinese sugar planter and merchant, T. Aki, offered a “gift” of $75,000 to King Kalākaua in exchange for a successful bidding on one of the licenses. Kalākaua accepted $71,000 with the additional $4,000 to be paid after the license was given. When Kalākaua awarded the bid to someone else, Aki sued Kalākaua and won. When the public found out about this scandal, there was a huge uproar. Even the heir-apparent, Princess Lili’uokalani was shocked with her brother. The bribery case of Kalākaua along with the missteps in Samoa and the other spending projects of the King were the basic excuses that the “Hawaiian League” (which had no Native Hawaiians in it) would use in forming the “Honolulu Rifles” to impose the Bayonet Constitution. In the aftermath, a new “reform” Legislature was elected and the Opium Act of 1886 was scrapped.
However, the topic of opium did not die there. In 1892, Opposition Representatives Kaunamano, Ashford, and White all submitted bills to legalize opium and during the Committee hearings, it came out that members of the police, the Hawaiian League, and others were secretly involved in and profiting from the opium trade (Kuykendall, Volume 3, p545-546). With that revelation, a consolidated opium bill was passed before the closing of the Legislature of 1892 (which ended in 1893). American and British businessmen would accuse the Queen of having lax morals and the passage of the new Opium Act of 1892 would be one of the excuses the Committee of 13 (formerly the Hawaiian League) would use to depose her.
According to the Queen, however, whatever her personal feelings were towards opium, she had no choice in signing the law because she no longer had the veto power due to the Bayonet Constitution. In Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, she explains:
I proposed to issue licenses for the importation and sale of opium. I did think it would be wise to adopt measures for restricting and controlling a trade which it is impossible to suppress. With a Chinese population of over twenty thousand persons, it is absolutely impossible to prevent smuggling, unlawful trade, bribery, corruption, and every abuse. There were more scandals connected with the opium traffic than I have the time to notice here. Some of the most prominent citizens have been connected with these affairs, and frauds have been unearthed even in the custom-house itself. The names of Mr. Parks, of Mr. W. F. Allen, and more recently of Mr. Henry Waterhouse, have been associated with some very questionable dealings in this drug; and it may be doubted whether the practice of hushing up such matters is favorable to good morals in any community. The Provisional Government seems to have had no scruples in the matter; for the sons of the missionaries exported a large quantity of confiscated opium, and sold it for fifty thousand dollars in British Columbia.
The British government has long since adopted license instead of prohibition, and the statute proposed among the final acts of my government was drawn from one in use in the British colonies; yet I have still to learn that there has been any proposition on the part of the pious people of London to dethrone Her Majesty Queen Victoria for issuing such licenses.(241)
The Queen also forgot to mention that her brother-in-law, Archibald Cleghorn, the custom house chief and governor of O’ahu was also implicated in the opium trade but that is another story.
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.
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.
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 andKūlanakauhale (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.
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 joinedthan 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 theʻalaea 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 ʻalaeagained political or economic control over their own ‘ohana and over otherʻalaea, 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.
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 hoʻomaʻaumentality, 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.
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.
Since the beginning of the 1840s, American currency had been the legal tender currency in the Hawaiian Kingdom. During the reign of Kamehameha V, he made the salaries and government payments strictly in dollars. While other currencies could be exchanged, it would be exchanged for dollars. In essence, Hawai’i was a dollar economy. This shows the high level of trade between the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom, not to mention the economic clout Americans in Hawai’i already had.
5 Keneta coin from 1881
In 1880, the then Representative Walter Murray Gibson pushed for a new Currency Law which would create a new Hawaiian currency called the new Hawaiian dollar, the dala. However, to make things confusing, the Hawaiian dollar could be also be called the Hawaiian dollar in English or may be called the kālā (₭). The kālā (₭) was the old monetary system that Kamehameha III tried to implement in the 1830s through the ports and plantations but which did not take off due to the lack of reserves not to mention interest.
An example of a ₭5 bill from 1839
The new 1880 law stated that the new currency would on the same monetary basis as the US dollar and would be in silver and gold, as to not to upset the market which was already beginning to use the gold standard for external trade payments (i.e. debt payments) but silver for basic internal payments (i.e. buying clothes from a store). The law was also supported by the then Wilder Ministry.
Most Native Hawaiians were in favor of it as it would finally be another visible symbol of nationhood. One must also remember that in 1880, there were very few visible symbols of Hawaiian nationhood. The brick and stone ‘Iolani Palace we know today wasn’t built yet. The King at that time was living in one of his private residences as Ho’iho’i ‘Ea Palace (where the monarch lived) was in termite eaten. The Kamehameha Statue was also not built yet either. There was no Hawaiian army or navy.
In addition, King Kalākaua at that time was desperately trying to garner support the legitimacy of his reign as many Native Hawaiians on O’ahu were still pro-Queen Emma and believed Wilder, Greene, and others had bribed the legislature in order to gain Kalākaua’s election as sovereign. On the other islands, King Kalākaua had support because he was known as being a nationalist but also as someone who was overall the type of guy you would want to have an Heineken with. So the new currency idea was also popular with Kalākaua as a symbol of his legitimacy both as a monarch and as a nationalist.
Business people, mainly from the American community, did not see much harm in having a new currency providing that it was on par with the United States dollar. So there was very little opposition.
In 1882, Wilder was replaced by Walter Murray Gibson as Minister of the Interior. Gibson pushed through a Loan Act to help implement the new currency. The Loan Act allowed Gibson to issue one million dollars worth of bonds at 6% percent interest in order to purchase the silver and gold from the San Francisco Mint necessary to create the new currency. Most governments at that time would simply contract the mint itself and offer the bonds directly to that mint. However, Gibson authorized his friend Claus Spreckels to buy the entire bond amount and to personally arrange the payment and production of the new money by the San Francisco Mint as well as the right to re-sell the bonds on the government’s behalf. John Kapena, then Minister of Finance, was told by the United States Treasury department that the whole arrangement was highly unusual and “rather queer” (Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, Vol 3, p89). What Spreckels did next was not highly unusual or queer but had shades of Bernard Madoff.
Despite the fact that Loan Act of 1880 provided that the new currency would be on a bimetallic standard, Spreckels ordered one million Hawaiian dollars in silver coinage. Then for the coinage, he reduced the silver content of the coins to 83% of the silver content of US coins at that time. This had two effects economically and one effect to Spreckels. First, this forced the Hawaiian kingdom to be on a silver standard at a time when the world was transitioning to a gold standard and when loan and economic payments from the Hawaiian Kingdom to the United States was paid in gold. This would meant that with the new Hawaiian dollar, you had to buy gold in order to make a payment abroad in dollars instead of having to simply directly convert the ₭ into US$. This would make all future payments more expensive due to the fluctuating market price of silver to gold. The second effect was that by reducing the silver content to 83%, it reduced the monetary value by 17%. The Hawaiian dollar was then in fact reduced in value by 17%, again adding additional costs and increasing inflation. The end result of all of this for Spreckels was that he gained the 6% interest on the one million dollar loan in addition to an extra $150,000 in profit by his devaluation of the silver as well as ensuring that in the future, the Hawaiian dollar would not be worth as much as the US dollar therefore making business more profitable for importers like himself. The United States officials in San Francisco, businessmen in Honolulu, and even Finance Minister Kapena, warned both Spreckels and Gibson about the consequences of their actions, but were ignored. US officials believed that Gibson was more concerned about pleasing his friend than in sound economics.
In late 1883, the new coins were introduced. This instantly created major issues of inflation as exporters (i.e. the sugar planters) had to buy gold on the open market to make their payments for tariffs and good abroad. William R. Castle, William O. Smith, and Sanford B. Dole sought an injunction at the Supreme Court against the new coins. What is interesting is that people such as the Emmanites (pro-Queen Emma) supported this injunction as they not only feared the economic repercussion but just did not want to have to stare at Kalākaua’s profile everyday. The Emmanite understanding was that the coins would have different profiles such as in the United States there were the profiles of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc. But the new coins had the same profile–that of the king. So they were a bit annoyed. In addition, Hawaiians wondered why were the new coins and money only in English when government issued bonds and coins previously in the 1830s were issued in both Hawaiian and in English.
On January 7, 1884, in order to prevent the injunction, the Privy Council held an emergency meeting and declared that the new coins were of the “same fineness” as US coins. They then decided to authorize to buy (with the silver coins) gold in order to save the country’s exporters further costs. So Spreckels went back to San Francisco to order the printing of gold certificates (i.e. paper bills) which could be exchanged for payment in gold using the silver coins as reserves. Hence the origin of bills such as this:
The Supreme Court rendered the injunction moot as the Privy Council was in the process of correcting the problem. When Spreckels then tried to re-sale the bonds he bought, no one would buy it. To make up for the additional costs, the Hawaiian government had to sell (though this time on its own) an additional US$100,000 worth of bonds. However, due to the high demand of gold payments from the US and being that Hawaiian customs only accepted payments in gold, that amount was not enough.
When the new coins and bills were finally circulated in 1884, the coins were seen as both quite beautiful but were becoming a Weimar Deutchmark as stores and even government officials did not want payments in the new silver as everyone by that time feared the upcoming inflation. The King and Minister Kapena then had to take the unusual move of having to directly negotiate with banks and Chambers of Commerce in Hawai’i, the United States, and London for them to accept gold certificates in the new currency in lieu of actual gold and to allow for the conversion of the silver coins into gold at a fixed rate of 6 to 8% in order to prevent heavy losses from exporters. In addition, they began to force stores and other places to accept the new currency at face value rather than at a discounted 17% which is what was going on. This financial instability plunged Hawai’i into a deep recession as the new costs of importing and exporting were now felt by the consumers.
Gibson accused the missionary families and other haoles of conspiring against him and the King and creating the recession. The business men shot back that Gibson had created the problem by allowing his friend to profit from the deal and by ordering too much of the new currency. To the businessmen, only ₭ or $2 to 400,000 were actually needed. But Gibson by doubling the amount of what was actually needed and doing so only in silver, created inflation and distrust. In the middle of this, there was an election in the National Legislative Assembly. Due to Gibson’s handling of the economy, the missionary families began to unite politically. This would have repercussions in 1887. Dole, Smith, and Castle–the three who filed the injunction–won seats in the Legislative Assembly. Gibson also retained his seat.
Quickly after the opening of the new Legislature, a new Currency Act of 1884 was passed. Dole had submitted the first draft then this went back and forth in committee until a final draft emerged. The government was order to take $550,000 worth of the silver coins and buy and maintain $550,000 in gold reserves plus an additional 16% margin to keep as an additional emergency reserve. The Bishop’s Bank (the future First Hawaiian Bank) then agreed to accept government issued “gold certificates” in lieu of actual gold coinage or bullion payment on a permanent basis providing that the government keep silver reserves at 25% of the number of certificates it issued. The Chamber of Commerce then agreed to help permanently accept gold certificates in silver providing that the government keep 16% of its silver in reserves. So the currency issue seemed to be stable but the mistrust continued.
The real value of the coins, however, would not be realized until 1893. When the new Plutarchy (a government ran by an oligarchy of the wealthy) took over, they immediately began to seize the silver coinage and melted it down. US currency was back as the legal tender. The possession of Hawaiian coinage became an act of rebellion against the Plutarchy (i.e. Provisional Government). So for many nationalists, the real value of the coin became that of an act of asserting Hawaiian nationality itself.
Therefore it was not unusual for Hawaiians to use the coins in the form of hand bands, belt buckles, belts, and baptismal gifts. This was particularly true of royalists who held the coins to one of the most tangible reminders of the Monarchy era.
In 1894, the highly unpopular Republic of Hawai’i issued its own dollar notes.
The Republican money was on par with the US dollar and if one notices, it is also the similar shades of green and black that the US dollar was at the time. Again, it shows how the Republican government tried to show itself as being part of the United States already.
When the United States proclaimed that Hawai’i would be an incorporated territory of the United States in 1898, the Republican money was declared as voided. Unlike the coins of King Kalākaua, they were not missed and many embraced seeing the US dollars over the Republican ones.
As a side note, after 1898, the San Francisco mint could no longer mint all the needed money for the new American colonies of Hawai’i, Guam, American Samoa, and the Philippines. So Bishop’s Bank was subcontracted to mint and produce US coins and dollars for the entire Pacific. The Philippines would eventually get permission to mint its own coins until the end of WWII, Bishop’s Bank printed US dollars.