UN Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories

From the UN Special Committee on Decolonization: A depiction from 1945 showing areas that needed to be decolonized and be enabled towards self-determination. Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands are both shown along with all of Polynesia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Its a huge mistake to think that non-self-governing territories were simply “colonies”. Territories, nations, national groups, and peoples were added to the list of non-self-governing territories by the General Assembly not the colonial or governing power itself nor by the Security Council . Indonesia was already declared itself independent in 1945 and was recognized as such by Japan but due to Dutch aggression to reclaim Indonesia, the General Assembly of the United Nations added Indonesia to its list. In 1945, the general understanding was that any distinct peoples and countries that was detached from its administrating or “metropolitan” power and was being prevented from exercising full self-determination (including by force as the Dutch were doing in Indonesia) or had questionable relations with a distant foreign power (as in the case of Sarawak, which was a recognized independent kingdom but ruled by a British national under a protectorate type relationship) was a non-self-governing territory. That also included Malaysia, Sarawak, and North Borneo (Sabah) which all still had precolonial political structures intact but they all were likewise included on the list of non-self-governing territories.

The Baltic Republics were not added because the Baltic countries still had recognized governments in exile, foreign embassies and formal diplomatic ties with countries throughout their occupation. When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics annexed the Baltic Republics, most of Europe and Asia–some 70 countries in total–protested annexation and refused to cut political ties–something that did not happen in Hawai’i’s case where all of Hawaiian Kingdom’s treaties with foreign powers were superseded by US treaties in 1900 sadly due to the international recognition of the Republic of Hawai’i that came as a result of two events: the inauguration of a constitution in 1894 and the Republic’s suppression of the 1895 Hawaiian nationalist uprising. It also should be noted that Hawai’i was added as a non-self-governing-territory (NST) not by the US but the United Nations General Aseembly (GA). The GA is the only authority that can add or remove NST and not the United Nations Security Council.  A recent example is the re-enlistment of French Polynesia as a NST by the GA over the objections of France, which has a seat on the Security Council.


This is the entire list in 1945: 

Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories (1945-1999)

The following Territories have been subject to United Nations Trusteeship Agreements or were listed by the General Assembly as Non-Self-Governing. Dates show the year of independence or other change in a Territory’s status, after which information was no longer submitted to the United Nations. 

– Administering States –

Administering Power/ Authority
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Change in Status
Independence as Papua New Guinea
Trust Territory
New Guinea
Trust Territory
Independence as Papua New Guinea
Belgian Congo
Independence as Congo Leopoldville, then Zaire
Now Democratic Republic of the Congo
Trust Territory
Independence as Burundi
Independence as Rwanda
Change in Status
French Equatorial Africa
Independence as Chad
Independence as Gabon
(Middle Congo)
Independence as Congo (Brazzaville)
Now Republic of the Congo
(Ubangi Shari)
Independence as Central African Republic
French Establishments in India
Change in Status
French Establishments in Oceania
Change in Status
French Guiana
Change in Status
French Somaliland
Independence as Djibouti
French West Africa
Independence as Dahomey
Now Benin
(French Guinea)
Independence as Guinea
(French Sudan)
Independence as Mali
Independence as Ivory Coast
Independence as Mauritania
(Niger Colony)
Independence as Niger
Independence as Senegal
Independence as Upper Volta
Now Burkina-Faso
Guadeloupe and Dependencies
Change in Status
Independence as Cambodia
Independence as Laos
Independence as Viet Nam
Madagascar and Dependencies
Independence as Madagascar
Independence as Comoros
Change in Status
New Caledonia 1 and Dependencies
Change in Status
New Hebrides
(Under Anglo-French Condominium)
Independence as Vanuatu
Change in Status
St. Pierre and Miquelon
Change in Status
Trust Territory
Independence as Cameroon
French Togoland
Trust Territory
Independence as Togo
Trust Territory
Independence as Somalia (joined with British Somaliland)
Netherlands Indies
Independence as Indonesia
Netherlands New Guinea
Joined with Indonesia as Irian Jaya
Netherlands Antilles
Change in Status
Change in Status
Independence as Suriname
New Zealand
Cook Islands
Change in Status
Niue Island
Change in Status
Western Samoa
Trust Territory
Independence as Samoa
Angola, including the enclave of Cabinda
Cape Verde Archipelago
Independence as Cape Verde
Goa and Dependencies
Change in Status
Portuguese Guinea
Independence as
Guinea Bissau
Macau and Dependencies
Change in Status
Sao Joمo Batista de Ajuda
Change in Status
Sao Tome and Principe
East Timor 2
Independence as Timor Leste
South Africa
South West Africa
General Assembly terminated South Africa’s mandate
Independence as Namibia
Fernando Póo and Rí Muni
Independence as Equatorial Guinea
Change in Status
United Kingdom
Aden Colony and Protectorate
Independence as South Yemen
Independence as Lesotho
Bechuanaland Protectorate
Independence as Botswana
British Guiana
Independence as Guyana
British Honduras
Independence as Belize
British Somaliland
Independence as Somalia (joined with Italian Somaliland)
Now Brunei Darussalam
Independence as The Gambia
Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony
Independence as Kiribati
Independence as Tuvalu
Gold Coast Colony and Protectorate
Independence as Ghana
Hong Kong
Change in Status
Leeward Islands
Independence as Antigua
and Barbuda
(St. Kitts- Nevis-Anguilla)
Independence as St. Kitts and Nevis (separated from Anguilla)
Malayan Union
Independence as Federation of Malaya
Now Malaysia [3]
North Borneo 3
Change in status
Northern Rhodesia
Independence as Zambia
Independence as Malawi
Sarawak 3
Change in status
Sierra Leone
Singapore 3
Solomon Islands
Southern Rhodesia
Independence as Zimbabwe
Trinidad and Tobago
Windward Islands
Independence as Dominica
Independence as Grenada
(St. Lucia)
Independence as St. Lucia
(St. Vincent)
Independence as St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Independence 4 as United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar
Now Republic of Tanzania
Trust Territory
Northern Cameroons joined with Nigeria
Southern Cameroons joined with Cameroon
Trust Territory
Joined Gold Coast to form Ghana
Trust Territory
Independence 3 as United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar after joining
with Zanzibar
Now Republic of Tanzania
United States
Change in Status
Change in Status
Panama Canal Zone
Change in Status
Change in Status
Pacific Islands
Trust Territory
Change in Status as Federated Sates of Micronesia
Change in Status as Republic of the Marshall Island
Change in Status as Northern Mariana Islands
Change in Status as Palau
1. In 1986 the General Assembly determined that New Caledonia was a Non-Self-Governing Territory.

2. Initially administered by Portugal. Under Indonesian control between 1975 and 1999. East Timor attained independence in May 2002 and joined the United Nations in September 2002 as Timor Leste.

3. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya became Malaysia, following the admission to the new federation of Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak. Singapore became independent 1965.

4. Following the ratification in 1964 of Articles of Union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was formed and later changed its name to the United Republic of Tanzania.

Hawaiian Kahuna

One of the most abused Hawaiian words and concepts is the word kahuna. Nowadays, the word is used in slang to mean an expert surfer, an influential person (“the big kahuna”), a shaman, and a large hamburger. However, none of these definitions are correct. However, The Hawaiian Dictionary as edited by Mary Kawena Pukui and considered the standard dictionary on the Hawaiian language lists the following definitions:

1. Priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession (whether male or female); in the 1845 laws doctors, surgeons, and dentists were called kahuna. See kahu and many examples below; for plural see kāhuna. hoʻo.kahuna To cause to be a kahuna or pretend to be one; to ordain or train as a kahuna. (PPN tufunga, PCP t(a, o)funga.)

Note how surfing, shamans, and hamburgers are not listed. According to the observations of Captain Cook in 1778, he noted that there were several types of kahuna and several kahuna priesthoods each one headed by a kahuna nui. There was one particular type of high ranking kahuna who was considered so sacred that not even Captain Cook could meet with. Captain Cook compared this high official “….like the Delai Lama of Thibet”. French and later English explorers mention the same observations. Captain Vancouver in 1790 goes on to talk about several existing kahuna nui.
In 1819, a power struggle began between the practitioners of the old Hawaiian religion and the new regime of Ka`ahumanu. With the defeat of Kekuaokalani, a kahuna nui of the Kū line of priests and kahu (guardian) the Kūka`ilimoku temples at the Battle of Kuamo`o, the Hawaiian religion was systemically destroyed and many of the kahuna were killed, burned, or forced to give up their religion thus ending a power struggle between the priests and the nobility that began a thousand years earlier. In stories of Moloka`i, over 800 kahuna were burned alive in a single day. Later in 1824 when Ka`ahumanu had adopted Christianity and later imposed it throughout the Hawaiian Kingdom, even claiming to be a kahuna was declared illegal. Under King Kamehameha V, certain kahuna were allowed to be licensed under the Board of Health. With the reign of King Kalākaua, the laws against the kahuna were not heavily enforced and some of the lines were resurrected. After 1893, the kahuna again became illegal and later this began to be repealed in court cases in the 1960s and finally in 1978 with the new state constitution.

The Ancient Hawaiian Religion

According to certain legends, the very ancient ancestors had a very simple devotion. Normally this revolved around female and male elements known as Hina and Kū respectively. Sometimes the Kū element–which should not be confused with the war god of the same name–was also called Kūhiwa or simply Hiwa which means “Shining One” particularly on the island of Moloka`i. Hina could mean fall or to wane and is one of the roots for the word wahine (possibly from wai and Hina or water of Hina) meaning woman. Gradually, other akua or deities began to emerge bsuch as Kane, the sun god and who on some islands was considered an deity of certain lands (particularly of flat lands and paddies) similar to Malagasy mythology, and Kanaloa, the god of the ocean. However, with each god, there was a complimentary opposite and a complete opposite. Kūs female complimentary opposite was Hina and his male opposite was Lono.

Slowly a pantheon of deities emerged called the Nā Kini Akua (the 40,000 deities) coinciding with the increase in the Hawaiian population. What is interesting about that term is that Kini also could mean body or body-form implying that the deities were parts of the same single body, similar to Balinese Hindu concept of the many gods that was one or “one god many faces”. According to the Hawaiian scholar Kepelino, the last god to brought into the Hawaiian Nā Kini Akua was Lono who came via the island of Lana`i and is one of the reasons why Kamehameha I after his conquest of the entire Hawaiian Islands made pilgrimages to Lana`i. In addition to these deities, there were a number of deified persons including Kihāwahine and in some accounts, Wakea.

In the 12th or 13th century, there began religious movements from the South Pacific. On one hand, there was the Ari`oi movement in Tahiti and Borabora which placed an emphasize on the deity Oro or known as Lono in Hawai`i. The ari`oi movement also placed a strong attachment to ritualism, blood offerings, and loyalty to a secret society–similar to the Greek mystery cults–called the ari`oi. The ari`oi were open to individuals regardless of a person’s class provided that they were sponsored into the society. This was revolutionary in the society at that time. The society of Tahiti (and most of Eastern Polynesia) at the time consisted of three tier society consisting of ariki (ali’i or nobility), raatira (free persons, artists, offspring of mixed nobility, etc), and the manahune (farmers, fishermen, etc). The term manahune in Hawaiian became menehune and both terms have the same root words: mana (inheritance or power) and hune (pitiful, little, impoverished or diminished). So for many of the raatira and manahune classes, to be a member of the ari`oi was a way for upward social mobility. Gradually the ari`oi enjoyed immunity from most taboos and became a class unto themselves.

On the Western side of Polynesia in Samoa, a complex political and social class system was put in place. This class system placed a heavy emphasis on blood lines, monument building, veneration of royalty, and spiritual purity. This coincided with the rise of power of the Tu`i Manu`a (“Paramount King/Emperor/High Lord of Manu`a”), which was based in what is now American Samoa. The political influence of the Tu`i Manu`a extended from Samoa to Fiji, Tonga, and Rarotonga. From these two movements within Polynesia came Pa`ao.
Pa’ao was a priest and navigator who according to most sources was Samoan but had studied religion in Ra`iatea (the seat of learning in the South Pacific in that era) or in Tahiti. After a period of traveling around the Pacific, he came to Hawai`i and saw what he believed was the lack of religiosity among Hawaiians. Hawaiian society at that time was far less rigid than Tahiti and Samoa and religion was kept simple. According to the Hawaiian historian David Malogion in Ra`iatea (the seat of learning in the South Pacific in that era) or in Tahiti. After a period of traveling around the Pacific, he came to Hawai`i and saw what he believed was the lack of religiosity among Hawaiians. Hawaiian society at that time was far less rigid than Tahiti and Samoa and religion was kept simple. According to David Malo:

We are informed (by historical tradition) that two men named Paao and Makua-kaumana, with a company of others, voyaged hither, observing the stars as a compass; and that Paao remained in Kohala, while Makua-Kaumana returned to Tahiti. Paao arrived at Hawaii during the reign of Lono-ka-wai, the king of Hawaii. He (Lono-ka-wai) was the sixteenth in that line of kings, succeeding Kapawa. Paao continued to live in Kohala until the kings of Hawaii became degraded and corrupted (hewa); then he sailed away to Tahiti to fetch a king from thence. Pili (Kaaiea) was that king and he became one in Hawaii’s line of kings (papa alii).
Hawaiian Antiquities, p. 6.
At the same time he returned with Pili, he introduced major reforms into the Hawaiian religious system including adopting certain features of the ari’oi, more complicated religious practices (including the use of blood offerings), and monumental temple building. However, in making reforms to the priestly line, Pa`ao subjected the priests to the nobility by bringing an emphasize on the Papa and Wakea mythology. At the time of Pa`ao’s arrival, the priestly lines were for all purposes independent of the chiefs. All lands that had the word “Wai” in their names were previously governed by priests. The priests or kahuna had developed a monastic way of life and in many ways distant from the chiefs and the common people. Pa`ao brought the kahuna out of their lands and incorporated them into the life of the royal court. However, the kahuna were able to regain some independence after Pa`ao including having permanent lands and tributes for their temples and shrines. Overtime, the strict reforms made by Pa`ao was loosened by Hawaiians themselves but the changes made by Pa`ao shows that Polynesian societies, like all societies, change with time and are not stagnant museum pieces.   

Iā ʻOe e ka Lā: Around the World with King Kalākaua Part 1

ʻOe e ka Lā: Around the World with King Kalākaua

[This is Part One of an essay I wrote and which was originally published in the O’iwi Native Hawaiian Literary Journal V. 2. I’m posting this part since this deals with a forgotten part of the history of the Pan-Malayan Movement and therefore is a precursor to this Austronesianist blog. “ʻOe e ka Lā” means “To You the Sun”]

Honolulu 1881. The smoky salons of the city are filled with rumors about King Kalākaua’s next course of action. Over the past couple of months, the King had fought several political battles with the white business community, in particular over his right to appoint a cabinet of his choice. But now that he had survived these attacks, many were wondering what he would do next. It was always rather hard to tell what the King might do. Like his canoe-voyaging Polynesian ancestors before him, he had an adventurous spirit coupled with an idealistic, romantic, inquisitive, nationalistic, and flamboyant mind and soul. Kalākaua never ceased to surprise his political rivals. After months of suspense, the King announced to the legislature: “Now that my troubles are over, I mean to take a trip AROUND THE WORLD (Dougherty 1992:147)”.

Indeed the King had had much to worry about. Since the day of his election in 1874, Honolulu had become a divided community. Divided among race. Divided among class. Divided among religion. But the one unifying symbol was the monarchy, though each section of Honolulu had a different idea of how much of a symbol the monarchy should be. King Kalākaua had gained a throne shaken by the passing of the Kamehameha dynasty, which the native Hawaiian people looked upon with nostalgia and adoration. Kalākaua also became the head of a monarchy that the small but wealthy American community in the islands viewed as headed by someone between the oppressive English King George III of the American Revolution and the savages who had killed Captain James Cook. Furthermore, King Kalākaua’s prestige had been damaged by the outrage many native Hawaiians felt when the National Legislature elected him as sovereign over the popular Queen Emma.

To add to this tapa cloth of troubles, his people, the native Hawaiian people, already decimated by foreign diseases, were continuing to die out as foreigners increased in population and political force throughout the island kingdom. Having lived through the British takeover of the islands in 1843, the King did not want to see a foreign flag fly above his own Hawaiian flag ever again. Kalākaua needed to rehabilitate his people and ensure the independence of his country.

But how?

He decided that he would visit the exotic countries of the East, handpick people he felt were culturally compatible with his native Hawaiian people, and bring them to his realm. In this manner, the King felt that introducing more tolerant peoples to his kingdom would counterbalance the American Calvinist missionaries and their descendants, make Hawaiʻi a multi-ethnic nation, and thereby create a larger population loyal to Hawaiʻi and the Hawaiian people. In a speech to the legislature before departing the King said:

Around this table are gathered people

of many nations. In common with my

predecessors, I desire the best welfare of

all who gather under our flag in my

dominions, and I believe that you who

come from other lands, bringing with

you the wealth, enterprise and intelli-

gence of those lands, sympathize with

me in my desire to protect my native

Hawaiian people, and strengthen my


To do this we must work in harmony

under the Constitution and Laws, and

recognize cheerfully the fact that

Hawaii as one of the family of nations

must be governed in accordance with

the ideas which control Constitutional


We have many difficult questions to

settle out of our peculiar situation, they

demand the best statesmanship and

patient investigation. I am in hopes,

while absent, to gather some ideas

which shall aid in their solution.

If there have been mistakes in the past,

let us profit by the lessons of experience,

and with honesty of purpose let us press

on to a future which I trust may be

bright with prosperity and hopefulness.

(Kuykendall 1967:228)

“Home” for many of the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region had become colonies of some faraway Western nation or, as in Japan and China, were facing tremendous cultural revolutions. Even European countries were facing internal problems, where commoners had few civil rights. What if the King could make these peoples see Hawaiʻi as a refuge and, furthermore, the Hawaiian monarch as more benevolent and democratic than their own rulers? That could give the Crown more political leverage and popularity. Still one further advantage: If native Hawaiians married these Asiatic peoples, might not their offspring inherit an immunity to the diseases that were killing off their full-blood Hawaiian relatives? The intermixing could create a new Hawaiian race that would be strong enough to maintain Hawaiʻi’s nationhood in the face of foreign invasion. The

King bluntly remarked to Colonel ʻIaukea, then acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs, that one ofthe goals of his trip was, in ʻIaukea’s words, “…to introduce British subjects and other nationalities to balance the predominant influence of the Americans, who by reason of the preponderance of United States interests in business were secretly working for the overthrow of the Monarchy (Iaukea 1988:43)”, though this was not known beyond court circles.

The largely European and American plantation owners, on the other hand, saw an advantage to themselves: since native Hawaiians were dying off, more workers were needed to tend the canefields. More labor meant more capital, more capital meant more production, which in turn meant that they could afford their homes in Mānoa and Nuʻuanu Valleys and their children’s tuition to Punahou School and Oʻahu College, and to universities in the United States. After all, the King was already noted for his regal ease with dignitaries. Why not send him to dazzle them, thereby hopefully securing a favorable treaty that would bring in more laborers? This would also give the plantation owners a chance to get rid of the King for a couple of months and to try to favorably influence the next in line for the throne, Kalākaua’s sister Princess Liliʻuokalani. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

Some of the more stingy Calvinist government officials (descendants of the first American missionaries to Hawaiʻi) saw the trip as expensive and extravagant, two words that would be used critically against Kalākaua throughout his reign. To appease these factions, the King selected two men closely tied to the missionary community to accompany him on his trip, Attorney General William Nevins Armstrong (who would proclaim himself “Minister of State” for this occasion) and Chamberlain Charles H. Judd.

The famed prophet and high chiefess Nāhinu of Kauaʻ,iwho was the cousin of Kalākaua’s Queen, Kapiʻolani, wrote a new chant to wish Kalākaua success and happiness in his journey and performed it for him. It was called Iā ʻOe E Ka Lā E ʻAlohi Nei:

ʻoe e ka lā e ʻalohi nei

Ma nā welelau o ka honua.

ʻike aʻe ʻoe i kou nani,

I ka mālamalama ʻoi kelakela.

Nāu i noiʻi nowelo aku

Pau nā pali paʻa i ka ʻike ʻia.

ʻIke ʻoe i ka nani o Himela

Ka hene waiʻolu lawe mālie

Mauna i lohia me ke onaona,

Kaulana ē ka nani me ke kiʻekiʻe.

Kiʻekiʻe ʻo Kalani noho mai i luna.

Nāu i ʻaʻe nā kapu o Kahiki.

Hehihehi kū ana i ka huku ʻale

I ke kai hālaʻi lana mālie.

Kiʻina ʻia aku nā pae moku,

I hoa kuilima nou e Kalani.

Ma ia mau alanui malihini

Āu i ʻōlali hoʻokahi ai.

ʻO ka lama o ke ao kou kōkua,

Hōkūloa nō kou alakaʻi.

Lilo i mea ʻole nā ʻenemi,

Lehelehe ʻeuʻeu hana loko ʻino.

He ola ʻo Kalani a mau aku,

A kau i ke ao mālamalama.

Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana

No Kalākaua nō he inoa.

To you, O sun shining down

Throughout the ends of the world.

Show forth your beauty,

The greatest of all lights.

It is you who delve and seek

Till the solid cliffs yield their secrets.

You’ll see the beauty of the Himalayas,

The gentle slopes as you pass by,

A mountain rich with fragrance,

Famed for its beauty and height.

High above sits my royal chief,

You who tread the sacred places of


Treading on the rising billows

And over the calm, tranquil sea.

Reach out to the other lands,

For companions to go hand in hand

with you,

Over those unfamiliar trails

That you undertake to walk alone.

The light of the day shall be your help,

The morning star your guide,

That your enemies be turned to naught,

The heartless ones with jabbering


Long may you live, O heavenly one,

Till you reach the world of light.

This is the end of my chant

In honor of Kalākaua.

(Pukui 1995:128ā“131)

On the 20th of January 1881, Kalākaua embarked on his journey, beginning with a ten-day state visit to the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco in California. In Sacramento, he met most of the country’s prominent political leaders. General Upton, a Civil War soldier, remarked that the King’s knowledge of military matters no doubt exceeded that of most American militia officers (Armstrong 1977:15). Not to be outdone, several senators in the California State Assembly predicted a Pacific united under the rule of King Kalākaua, the Colossus of the Pacific (15). In San Francisco, a banquet was given at the Hang Fen Lou restaurant by the Consul-General of the Empire of China. The event was the costliest dinner ever given in the 19th century by Chinese in the United States (16). The Consul-General praised Kalākaua for the fair treatment of Chinese subjects in Hawaiʻi, compared to the attitude in California, where the State Legislature had just passed the first Chinese Exclusion Act. Minister Armstrong then turned to Kalākaua and whispered, “You may be a pagan king, and I the Minister of a pagan king; but our first important experience in a foreign land is the gratitude, expressed in this grand banquet, to your government for its justice; and it is done on the soil of a nation that deliberately does injustice to the Chinese (17)”. After many honors and dinners, the King and his suite embarked for Japan.

It was at first decided that he would travel incognito, simply as Aliʻi [Chief] Kalākaua, but the Japanese were informed by diplomatic agents in California of the King’s intended visit (Kuykendall 1967:228). Much to the King’s surprise, as his steamer, the Oceanic, entered Yedo (Tokyo) harbor, it received a 21-gun salute from all vessels at dock, the Hawaiian flag was hoisted next to the red-and-white Japanese standard, and “Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī ” [the Hawaiian National Anthem] was enthusiastically played onshore. This was a king and he would be received as such. Kalākaua was the first foreign sovereign of any country to visit Japanese soil.

While in Yedo, the King met with Emperor Meiji and suggested several matters: marriage between the King’s niece (Princess Kaʻiulani) and Prince Higashifushimi no Miya Yorihito (Komatsu); an Asian Federation of States which the Emperor would head; elimination of the unequal treaty provision granting extraterritoriality to foreigners in Japan; and emigration of Japanese to Hawaiʻi.

To the marriage proposal, the King would later receive a letter written by the Prince himself stating:

Through the Reception Committee, I

was informed of your generous kind-

ness, in asking me, if it would be my

happiness to be united to your Royal

niece in marriage, I am at a loss to

express fully my appreciation of this

honour as I am still under age [Princess

Kaʻiulani was five-and-a-half and the

Prince 15], I have consulted my father,

and I am very reluctantly compelled to

decline your distinguished proposal for

the reason that I am already betrothed

to my future companion in life; so I

sincerely trust that your Majesty will not

be disappointed at what duty compels

me to do. (230)

A follow-up letter was then given by the Japanese Foreign Minister to King Kalākaua on behalf of Emperor Meiji that the emperor “has been led to say that your sincere desire to bring the relations of the Imperial and Royal Courts to one of a close friendship has deeply moved his heart. In thus being compelled to decline your proposition my Sovereign has experienced a very great pain (230)”.

To the second matter of an Asian Federation, the Emperor personally wrote:

I highly agree with Your Majesty’s

profound and far-seeing views. Your

Majesty was also good enough to state

that I might be the promoter and chief

of this Federation. I cannot but be

grateful for such expression of your love

and confidence in me.

The Oriental nations including my

country have long been in a state of

decline and decay; and we cannot hope

to be strong and powerful unless by

gathering inches and treasuring foots

gradually restore to us all attributes of a

nation. To do this our Eastern Nations

ought to fortify themselves within the

walls of such Union and Federation, and

by uniting their power to endeavor to

maintain their footing against those

powerful nations of Europe and

America, and to establish their indepen-

dence and integrity in future. To do this

is a pressing necessity for the Eastern

Nations, and in so doing depend their


But this is a mighty work and not easily

to be accomplished, and I am unable to

foretell the date when we shall have

seen it realized.

In the face of the internal administra-

tion of my government being of such a

pressing nature I have not a heart to

turn my face from it, and leaving my

country, to devote myself mainly to the

work which more directly concerns

other nations. In this is found the

difficulty of my initiating at present

the work of the Federation of Asian


In each laying out the course of the

future policy to the other by interchang-

ing our views, if it happily at a future

time happen to help us, it cannot only

be the fortune of Japan and Hawaii but

also of whole Asia. (Kuykendall 229 to 230)

While Emperor Meiji wholeheartedly agreed with the idea of an Asian Federation, he realized the realities of the world around him. There was much work that needed to be done within the empire. He himself was Japan’s first constitutional monarch, and his constitution was barely 14 years old. At the same time, his country was busy Westernizing and militarizing in the hopes of avoiding colonization like her Asian neighbors, who were slowly being plucked by European hands. Japan needed foreign investment and materials. Japan was not prepared for an embargo or war with the U.S. if they allied with Hawaiʻi, who was under the U.S. sphere of influence.

Although the majority of Kalākaua’s proposals were declined, one important proposal was ratified–immigration. The Emperor had been wary that his subjects not toil in the same kind of conditions that the Chinese coolies in the United States were enduring. The King convinced the Emperor that should he ratify a treaty of emigration, Japanese subjects would be treated as if they were Hawaiian subjects, and they would be allowed to naturalize if they so desired. The Emperor consented and the treaty was ratified.

After meeting the Emperor and other important dignitaries, the King also toured Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagasaki. Throughout his visit to Japan, he was fêted as if he were the ruler of the greatest kingdom on earth (Kuykendall 228). Standing alongside the Emperor, he witnessed a 10,000-troop military review.

The Emperor conferred upon Kalākaua the Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum along with several hundreds of dollars’ worth of gifts such as vases, kimonos, and other Japanese items much coveted in the West.

The front pages of the Japanese newspapers were covered with articles about Hawaiʻi and its monarchy throughout the duration of Kalākaua’s visit. Nightly fireworks displays were given in his honor. A steamer provided by the well-known Mishi-Bishi Company (Mitsubishi in modern spelling) took him from Tokyo to Nagasaki and Kobe (Armstrong 1977:79).

Kalākaua met most of the prominent political and religious leaders of the empire. He visited the Shinto temples of Shiba and learned how the Emperor was a descendent of the Gods (the Sun Goddess to be specific), much like Hawaiian rulers (Armstrong 85). He visited Buddhist temples and inquired about bringing priests to introduce Buddhism to Hawaiʻi (Armstrong 84). Didn’t the Japanese themselves merge their old religion with Buddhism without conflict? In fact, it helped preserve their culture and provided a balance of ideas. The King also visited the Protestant Church of Yokohama, one of the first legalized Christian churches in Japan, received a copy of the New Testament in Japanese, and was reminded that the church was partially built by Hawaiian Christians (Armstrong 63).

After a month in Japan, Kalākaua was ready to depart. As he stepped onto his ship, a huge decoration with the word ALOHA spelled out in flowers was unveiled onshore and Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī was played.

From Japan the King went to China (where he met with Viceroy Li Hung Chang and learned about Confucianism), British Hong Kong, then Siam (arriving in late March 1881). As the King’s ship approached Bangkok, his retinue shouted, “This is Hawaii! (Armstrong 119)”. Of all of the places the King was to see, Siam would be the most familiar to him, with its expansive coconut tree groves, lush green mountains, and sandy beaches.

King Chulalongkorn Rama V of Siam (Thailand)

Kalākaua’s remarked to the Siamese King that “Polynesians had Malay blood”, King Chulalongkorn replied, “The Siamese are partly Malay; we are related (Armstrong 126)”. While there a young Thai foreign affairs officer asked Armstrong, “Is it true that the civilisation of Europe is due to Christianity?” To the reply that such was the belief of church leaders, the Siamese officer said, “Then if Christianity is the cause of European progress, is it also the cause of the fleets and armies with which they are ready to destroy one another? (134-135)”. Another embarrassing question which had been posed while the royal suite was in Japan resurfaced when a Siamese Prince asked Minister Armstrong, “Is your King in the hands of foreigners? Why does he not bring his own people with him instead of white men [referring to Armstrong and Judd]? Does he do what you tell him to do? (132)”. As in Japan, the King and his suite avoided the question.

From Siam, the King continued to Singapore, Johore, Malaya, and the British Indian Empire (including Pakistan and Burma). The Maharajah of Johore [Sultan Abu Bakar] and the King compared common legends and common words (such as api in Malaysian and ahi in Hawaiian for fire; alima in Malaysian and lima in Hawaiian for five), concluding that Malays and Polynesians were long-lost Malay brothers (Armstrong 144). This expression would later be part of the Pan-Malaysian movement led by such imminent scholars as Dr. José Rizal, Philippine Representative Wenceslao Vinzons, and President Diosdado Macapagal (father of the current president of the Philippines). The idea of “long lost brothers” of a great Pan-Pacific Malay maritime civilization stretching from Malaysia to Hawaiʻi would become a major theme in the national liberation struggles of Southeast Asia until today.

The King was also introduced to Islam from the Maharajah of Johor who also gave him a green and gold copy of the Qu’ran (Armstrong 145). In letters from Malaysia, the King remarked to his sister how Malays looked very similar to native Hawaiians and that the Maharaja looked exactly like Prince Leiohoku, the late husband of Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani. The King described the Maharajah as:

…The Maharaja is a splendid man. He is liked and beloved by all nationalities here in Singapore espeically the ladies. He is a fine looking man and resembnles the first Leleiokhoku very much. If he could have spoken our language I would take him to be one of our people the resemblance being so strong…. (letter of King Kalakaua to Princess Lili’uokalani, May 12th, 1881)

The Maharaja/Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar

Prince William Pitt Kina`u, son of Prince Leleiohoku I

Prince David La`amea Kawananakoa (nephew of the King) and Sultan Ibrahim (son of Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor)

In British India and Burma, Kalākaua met many members of the British administration of those two colonies. In Calcutta, Minister Armstrong asked a colonial secretary of Bengal Province how 50,000 British soldiers kept 250 million Indians under British rule. The secretary replied, “They cannot agree among themselves; if they did, our rule would end instantly (Armstrong 159)”. Kalākaua was also given the rare honor of being brought into the caste system and made a Brahmin [through a temporary adoption supposedly through the help of a lawyer who may have been Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal Nehru] so that he might view more thoroughly the sacred Hindu shrines. Before leaving, the King, expressing a desire to secure a souvenir of India, selected a picture of Buddha and told his suite that this would remind him and his people that other great civilizations also worshipped “idols” like Hawaiians once did (Armstrong 169).

As the King made his way to Egypt, he passed though the Holy Land of Palestine and viewed Mt. Sinai. Kalākaua asked, if the mountain was sacred to Christianity, why was it in the hands of the Muslim Ottoman Turks (who controlled much of the Middle East)? A British officer replied that Ottoman rule was not challenged because trade with Turkey was more important than religious sentiment. The King then remarked that it seemed Christians did not show respect for sacred places as he had been told (Armstrong 175). As a guest of the Ottoman Empire, Kalākaua was entertained by the Khedive (Viceroy), who showed the King the Pyramids, along with other ancient sites, including places that Egyptian Pharaohs, as well as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, and Julius Caesar, had once lived in or visited. At several lodges in Cairo, Kalākaua gave impressive speeches reciting the history of Masonic fraternities. In a discussion with the King, the Khedive remarked:

Europe will make drunkards of the Mussulmans [Muslims] within a century. There is much good in Christianity, but if it prevailed in Asia, it would free the people from direct responsibility to God. Do the Christians of Europe obey the teachings of Christ? I have lived in England and I have not seen obedience. There is more wickedness in London than in all of Asia Minor or Arabia and Egypt. Christianity suits them, but Islamism is best for our people. If Christianity is better for us, God will send it here; he knows best what we need, and he gives us what is best for us. (179-80)

While on the Khedive’s steamer riding up the Suez, a funny incident occurred. As they approached the Canal station, the Khedive ordered a telegraph to be sent stating, Prepare lunch for the King of the Sandwich Islands [the European name for the islands of Hawaiʻi]. The station’s kitchen received the telegraph as Prepare Lunch for the King. Sandwiches (177). Needless to say, when they arrived the Khedive was very upset. Nonetheless, he continued to show Kalākaua the wonders of Egypt, including a tranquil ride up the Nile on a barge perhaps very similar to one used by Cleopatra herself.

From Egypt the King went to Rome, another city of antiquity. He was entertained in Italy and the Vatican, and was toasted by King Humberto, who pledged Italy’s friendship and assistance to Hawaiʻi should it ever be required (Iaukea 1988:100). Queen Margherita of Italy had then turned to the King and asked how Italians and Catholics were treated in Hawaiʻi. The King responded that Italians were treated fairly and that a good many Hawaiians were devout Catholics, which pleased the Queen (Armstrong 1977:202).

Throughout his Italian tour, Kalākaua witnessed military reviews and was courted by many Italians wanting a souvenir from the King. He also called upon the Vatican for an interview with Pope Leo XIII in the richly painted chambers of the Holy See. The Pope asked the King about the presence of Judd and Armstrong, to which the King replied that they were white Protestant Hawaiian subjects. One of the Cardinals in the room chuckled and replied, “Then they are in the opposition”. Leaning towards the King, the Pope then asked, “Do my [Catholic] people in your kingdom behave well?” Kalākaua replied, “Yes, they are good subjects.” The Pope then inquired, “If they do not behave, I must look after them. Why do you have a white Minister in your government?” The King, surprised at the question from the Pope, deferred it to Minister Armstrong, who replied that Hawaiian kings appointed men based on merit rather than race. The Cardinal then asked, “Are there any Catholics in your government?” Armstrong simply answered, “No, the American Protestants entered the country before the Catholics did, and have kept control of public affairs; but no efficient Catholic is excluded from high office by reason of his faith (208-209)”. After 20 minutes, the King kissed the Pope’s ring [of St. Peter] and the audience was over. The King continued making diplomatic calls.


Armstrong, William N. 1977 [1903]. Around the World with a King. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle.

Dougherty, Michael. 1992. To Steal a Kingdom. Waimanalo, HI: Island Style Press.

Iaukea, Curtis Piʻehu and Lorna Kahilipuaokalani Iaukea Watson. 1988. By Royal Command. Ed. Niklaus R. Schweizer. Honolulu: Hui Hanai.

Kalakaua [King]. 1881. Letter to his sister Liliuokalani. 12 May. Hawaiʻi State Archives. honolulu

Kalakaua [King]. 1881. Letter to his sister Liliuokalani. 10 Aug. Hawaiʻi State Archives. Honolulu.

Kuykendall, Ralph S. 1967. The Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume III, 1874ā“1893: The Kalakaua Dynasty. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.

Pukui, Mary Kawena, trans. 1995. Nā Mele Welo: Songs of Our Heritage. Ed. Pat Namaka Bacon and Nathan Napoka. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Pukui, Mary K. and Alfons L. Korn, trans. and eds. 1973. The Echo of Our Song: Chants & Poems of the Hawaiians. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.

Seiden, Allan. 1992. Hawaiʻi: The Royal Legacy. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing.

Balinese and Hawaiian Social Systems

For most of the twentieth century, people had assumed that the “caste system” in Bali was a direct result of Indian influence that came with the Hindu religion. However, anthropologists now wonder if the caste system in Bali was always there but with different names. The reason for this is that anthropologists have now began to look at other Austronesians–mainly Samoan and Hawaiian societies–and saw remarkable similarities with Bali. In many ways, Balinese and Hawaiian societies mirrored each other very closely.
We know that in the case of Samoan and Hawaiian societies there was a strong class division that developed without any influence from other foreign civilizations. In the case of Hawai`i in particular, by the time of Captain Cook’s voyage in 1778, the Hawaiian class system resembled Balinese caste system. In Bali, while it is called a caste system, the classes do intermingle and there is some upward social mobility under certain circumstances. However, there is still difference to rank and this rank caste comes from a genealogical relationship with a god. This is not the case in India where it is a true “caste” system meaning that there is no upward social mobility. A person of the Dalit or Untouchable caste can be a billionaire but he or she will never be able to marry someone of the Brahman caste or to be anything except a Dalit. In the case of Bali, there is some ways to improve your caste standing, mainly through intermarriage.
This was also the case of Hawai`i. While the ali`i or nobility was the top class, they could intermarry with someone of a lower class. There is the famous story of `Umi-a-Liloa who was the son of an ali`i and commoner but was able to become king due to his personal charisma and due corruption (both politically and spiritually) of the king, his half-brother, at the time. In other words, in Austronesian class systems, there is some flexibility. On the other hand, Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer wonders if perhaps it was Austronesians who influenced early Indian society and brought with them to India their notions of class divisions.
In Bali, there are four main castes or varna: Sudras (peasants); Wesias or Vaishyas (merchants); Satrias or Kshatriyas (warriors and nobility); and Brahman (priests). According to Balinese themselves, the varnas simply modified the existing social order. Each caste has a particular dialect though this is disappearing in public as more people have adopted Bahasa Indonesia as means to speak to people of various classes without offending them. Among the Brahman, the language used is called “High Balinese” which is old Javanese mixed (Kawi) with Sanskrit–somewhat similar to the language used in the “Laguna Copperplate” found in the Philippines. This language is also used as the language of temple ceremonies. There is also a “Middle Balinese” which is a language that can be used between the different classes but this sometimes troublesome as some terms may have a different meaning between people of the same class and therefore may lead to some offense. Thus, Bahasa Indonesia has become a neutral language of communication.
In certain parts of Bali, mainly in the Aga (non-Hindu Balinese, literally meaning “original”) villages of Tenganen and Trunyan, there is also another social system. This social system is divided into three main class: peasants, nobility, and priests. The Aga system is very similar to the Hawaiian system. The Hawaiian social system also hadthe same three classes–nobility or ali`i, kahuna or priestly, and the maka`ainana or commoners–though periodically there was another extremely small social sub-class known as the kauwa. The kauwa was akin to the alipin of the Philippines meaning while both terms are translated as “slave”, they had rights and were regarded as extensions of a nobleman’s household. However, in Hawai`i this class of people was extremely small–small enough that no European explorer noticed them, Hawaiian mythology does not mention them, and they were eventually abolished in 1810. Normally in Hawai`i, a person would become a kauwa if they were in debt or had lost a war which means that the kauwa were actually drawn from the nobility itself since in Hawai`i–like in Bali–only nobles were allowed to carry weapons and to fight in wars. This could explain why there was no explanation in Hawaiian mythology.

In both Bali and in Hawai`i, the class systems have today largely become simply symbols of the past. In the case of Hawai`i, it was due to the Hawaiian religion being abolished under Premier Ka`ahumanu in 1819 and later with the American take-over in 1893. With Bali, the Dutch colonial experience largely enforced the class system as the Dutch found it easier to control thesudra–though many Balinese refused to submit and to collaborate with the Dutch and there were several mass suicides as late as 1908. Later on, with the democratization of Balinese society after Indonesian independence, the rise of Dadias, and Christian missionaries trying to convert the Balinese, the class system became less enforced. Nowadays, the Brahman are only ones who still retain some of their traditional role. Some Balinese, however, worry about the Brahmans becoming too influenced by India and there are movements to try to retain the distinctive Austronesian-ness of the Balinese Hinduism.
Another aspect of the social system is kinship. In Bali, there are two types of kinship: public kinship; and private kinship. The private kinship is sometimes called the “Hawaiian kinship” or the “Generational kinship” by anthropologists. In old Hawai`i, family relations depended on what generation you were born into. For example, uncles, aunts, and parents in old Hawai`i were all called makua (parent) because they were of the same generation. Likewise, your first cousins may refer to you as their brother or sister because you were both born in the same generation of the family line. Your second cousins (even if they are older than you), however, may refer to you as a makua since you are above them genealogy-wise. Of course with the adoption of Western family ties, this was replaced with the European model.

In the public kinship system, all Balinese belong to various Dadia. A dadia is a kinship relation where several families (sometimes consisting of several thousand people) are bound together in a clan or block because of a common ancestor. Traditionally, the dadia was important because of marital relationships. It was preferred that people marry within the same dadia and during times of trouble, an entire dadia was bound to help each family member out including in warfare. Likewise, under this system, there are no orphans as every member of a dadia would be obligated to help that child and adoptions within a dadia used to be common–like with the Hawaiian system of hanai. The dadia members also normally lived close to each other, share the same family shrines (gede), share in planting and harvesting of crops, participate in the same ceremonies and attended the same temples. Today, dadia are important politically because they are voting blocks and some say a source of corruption. A Balinese politician would try to court dadia family heads in order for ensure that the entire dadia would vote for him or her. Likewise, when a Balinese politician is elected, one of his or her first acts would be to ensure spoils to the dadia that voted for him.

With Hawaiians, there was a concept similar to the dadia called `alaea which for the most part was a clan composed of the commoner class. However, there has not been too much research on this aspect of Hawaiian society since anthropological research tends to be centered around the ali`i since there’s more resources. In addition, one can argue that organizations (particularly the so-called “ali`i societies”) like Ka Mamakaua or the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors (photo below of a Ka Mamakaua ceremony from the 1930s) and the Order of Kamehameha are forms of dadia.

In regards to the Balinese dadia–though in Mindanao, you will find something similar among T’boli, the Tausugs, and especially the Maranao (which they sometimes call agakhan). One can also wonder if the barangay (town or canoe) system with the Tagalogs also had originally operated like the dadia. In addition, the dadia seems to also have striking similarities with the iwi (normally translated as tribe) of the Maori of Aotearoa-New Zealand and the way certain Samoan fale (houses) operate. This seems to suggest that the dadia is something indigenous to various Austronesian societies.

Earth Mothers and Sky Fathers of Austronesia

In many of the mythology throughout Austronesia, there exists a (sometimes several) primordial “Earth Mother” and “Sky Father”. Often in Austronesian art, this is depicted in a motif with two overlapping circles–one circle presumably representing the Sky Father in the form of a Sun and the other the Earth Mother. this motif is found as the state symbol of Mahapajit Empire of Indonesia (which is used in the banner head of this blog above the word “Mata”), in petroglyphs in the Philippines and Hawai`i, and in tapa in the Marquesas and Rapa Nui. Often the Sky Father is represented with the color of white (i.e. reproductive fluids, clouds, light, etc) and the Earth Mother with red (i.e. the volcanic dirt as well as blood, birth, and menstruation). This is one of the reasons why the colors red and white appears in many of the flags throughout Austronesia–from Tahiti to Indonesia to Madagascar. White and Red would also later on symbolize the duality of nature.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Shaman, Saiva, and Sufi: The Evolution of Malay Magic by R. O. Winstedt and published in 1925:

In the Moluccas the earth is a female deity, who in the west monsoon is impregnated by Lord Sun-Heaven. The Torajas in Celebes believed in two supreme powers, the Man and the Maiden, that is, the sun and the earth. The Dayaks of Borneo hold that the sun and the earth created the world. The terms, “Father Sky and Mother Earth,” occur in the Malay ritual of the rice-year, at the opening of mines and of theatrical shows and in the invocations of the Kelantan shaman. A Kelantan account relates that sun and earth once had human form, sun the form of a man and earth the form of a woman, whose milk may be traced in the tin-ore of Malaya [my note: the Sultanate of Perak, “perak” literally means silver] and whose blood is now gold. Actors in the north of the Malay Peninsula say that “the earth spirit, whom actors fear, is the daughter of Seretang Bogoh, who sits in the sun and guides the winds, and of Sang Siuh, the mother of the earth, who sits at the navel of the world.”

In Māori mythology, the Sky Father is Rangi (literally Lani in Hawaiian, Langit in Filipino and Malay) and the Earth Mother is known as Papa. Rangi and Papa are also associated with the Whare-wananga (House of Knowledge) and all ariki (ali`i in Hawaiian and Samoan, ari`i in Tahitian, and similar to hari in Tagalog) trace both their knowledge and their family line to them.

For Hawaiians, the Sky Father is known as Wakea and the Earth Mother is generally known as Papa (in other legends, she has the name Hina or Haumea depending on which aspect you are referring to, but it is generally understood that all three names are synonymous with the Earth Mother). According Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith (published in 1940):

In the South Seas, Wakea or his equivalent is god of light and of the heavens who “opens the door of the sun”; Papa is a goddess of earth and the underworld and mother of gods. The name of Wakea appears in the Hawaiian word for midday, “awakea.” “Papa” in Hawaii is “a word applied to any flat surface,” especially to those foundation layers underseas from which new lands are said to rise–perhaps related in a figure to the successive generations of mankind born out of the vast waters of the spirit world and identified through their family leaders with the lands which they inhabit.

For ancient Hawaiians, Papa and Wakea are the parents of the lines of chiefs, commoners and the taro plant as well as most of the Hawaiian islands themselves. Since Papa in the Hawaiian mythology is also represents what can not be seen or what is submerged (i.e. hidden knowledge), its understandable why the color red which is normally with Austronesian Earth Mothers is also associated with feather icons of deities as well as the cloaks of high priests or kahuna nui. It should also be noted though that Papa and Wakea for Hawaiians (unlike for the Maori) were not deities per se but more like revered ancestors and guardians.

In Tahiti, we have a similar recitation:

(K)o Atea te i runga, Atea is above,
(K)o Fakahotu te i raro, Fakahotu is below,
Ka pu te tama. The children emerge.
Ka hanau e kovai? Who are born?
Te marama o Atea, The moon of Atea,
Te ata o Atea, The clouds of Atea,

Atea (Wakea) is the Sky-God and Fakahotu becomes the Earth Mother, though not of the same importance as their ancestor, Ta’aroa, the ocean and creator deity.

In Tonga, one has Eitumatupua (the Sky Father) and Ilaheva (the Earth Mother) begot Ahoeitu
who in turn became the first king of Tongatapu, Tonga.

Mythologies are the metaphors and great poetry of a society. What the Earth Mother and sky Father mythologies in many of these Austronesian societies points to is the way Austronesians once viewed women–strong, powerful, in some cases the real head of the family, and the necessary balance in the universe. Indeed, outside of Earth Goddess figures, there are also a number of other powerful deities found throughout Austronesia which points to the same ideas of the power of women.

Flood Stories: A Key to Understanding Austronesian Migrations

Flooding during Typhoon Ondoy, Manila, 2009

One of the most controversial topics about Austronesians (besides race, which I will get into some other time) is about origins. Most people are already aware of the standard theory of Austronesian migration–the Out of Taiwan theory. But many are not away of another theory that has slowly gained followers–the Sundaland Theory.

Map of Sundaland and possible migration routes

The Sundaland Theory first gained the attention of Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer when he lived in Southeast Asia. Nearly every indigenous group in South East Asia has has myths involving floods. The same for Samoans, Hawaiians, Tahitians, etc. For Hawaiians, I know of three just off the top of my head.

We know that the Biblical account of the flood story is not technically Jewish or Christian. We have almost the same myth in the Sumerian Eridu Genesis and Babylonian The Epic of Gilgamish written thousands of years before the Book of Genesis and may have been the original inspiration. We also know that the Sumerian myths influenced the myths of the Persians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks. Sumerians also claim that they heard of an ancient civilization in the Far East, which may have been the origins for the Great Flood. Flood legends, however, largely do not figure in Japanese, Chinese, or Egyptian mythology. Its only within speakers of Austronesian languages that we have volumes of flood legends. Oppenheimer hints that an Austronesian flood myth may have been the original source for the Sumerians.

For example here is a portion of the “Solo Ole Va”, the Samoan Creation Myth:

Rollers flooding, rollers dashing,
Rollers fighting, rollers clashing; –
The sweep of waters and the extension of waves,
Surging high, but breaking not; –
Waves reclining; waves dispersing;
Waves agreeable; waves that cross not;
Waves frightsome; waves leaping over;
Waves breaking; waves warring;
Waves roaring; waves upheaving;
The peopled waves; waves from east to west.
Whose companion is the wandering current.
Rollers flooding, rollers dashing,
Rollers fighting, rollers clashing; –
The sweep of waters and the extension of waves,
Surging high, but breaking not; –
Waves reclining; waves dispersing;
Waves agreeable; waves that cross not;
Waves frightsome; waves leaping over;
Waves breaking; waves warring;
Waves roaring; waves upheaving;
The peopled waves; waves from east to west.
Whose companion is the wandering current.

‘O Tagaloa, who sittest at the helm (of affairs),
Tagaloa’s (bird, the Tuli) desires to rest;
Tuli from the ocean must rest in the heavens;
These waves below affright my breast.
Where is the land which first upsprang?
Great Manu’a first uprose.
Beats on (Manu’a) rock his well-loved waves;

Here is a portion from a Tagalog creation myth (according to Dr. Emmanuel Pimmantuan):

The world had only the sea and the sky, and between the sea and the sky, flew a beautiful kite. Unfortunately, this lovely bird had no home, and in frustration, began to stir up the sea. The sea angrily crashed against the sky, and the sky threw pieces of land to quell the sea’s anger. Then, the sky ordered the kite to live on an island.
During this exact time, the sea breeze and land breeze were married. Together they had a child, named bamboo. One day, Bamboo was gently floating against the sea, and accidentally struck the feet of the kite. The bird, furious at the Bamboo, pecked the innocent stick into two pieces: one piece became a man, the other piece, a woman.

The stirring up the sea may allude to a flood. But notice how the world is covered in water.
In Northern Philippines, the Igorots (who live no where near the ocean) also recounts flood stories. According to Philippine Folklore Stories by Mabel Cook Cole and published in 1916:

Once upon a time, when the world was flat and there were no mountains, there lived two brothers, sons of Lumawig, the Great Spirit. The brothers were fond of hunting, and since no mountains had formed there was no good place to catch wild pig and deer, and the older brother said:

“Let us cause water to flow over all the world and cover it, and then mountains will rise up.”

Cole also records a Bila’an–another people who generally are not seafaring–myth from Mindanao, southern Philippines:

In the very beginning there lived a being so large that he can not be compared with any known thing. His name was Melu, and when he sat on the clouds, which were his home, he occupied all the space above. His teeth were pure gold, and because he was very cleanly and continually rubbed himself with his hands, his skin became pure white. The dead skin which he rubbed off his body was placed on one side in a pile, and by and by this pile became so large that he was annoyed and set himself to consider what he could do with it.

Finally Melu decided to make the earth; so he worked very hard in putting the dead skin into shape, and when it was finished he was so pleased with it that he determined to make two beings like himself, though smaller, to live on it.

Taking the remnants of the material left after making the earth he fashioned two men but just as they were all finished except their noses, Tau Tana from below the earth appeared and wanted to help him.

Melu did not wish any assistance, and a great argument ensued. Tau Tana finally won his point and made the noses which he placed on the people upside down. When all was finished, Melu and Tau Tana whipped the forms until they moved. Then Melu went to his home above the clouds, and Tau Tana returned to his place below the earth.

In Hawai`i, there are a number of flood legends. But interestingly there are also a number of missing lands. According the Thomas Thrum’s Hawaiian Folklores published in 1907:

Of the primeval home, the original ancestral seat of mankind, Hawaiian traditions speak in highest praise. “It had a number of names of various meanings, though the most generally occurring, and said to be the oldest, was Kalana-i-hau-ola (Kalana with the life-giving dew). It was situated in a large country, or continent, variously called in the legends Kahiki-honua-kele, Kahiki-ku, Kapa-kapa-ua-a-Kane, Molo-lani. Among other names for the primary homestead, or paradise, are Pali-uli (the blue mountain), Aina-i-ka-kaupo-o-Kane (the land in the heart of Kane), Aina-wai-akua-a-Kane (the land of the divine water of Kane). The tradition says of Pali-uli, that it was a sacred, tabooed land; that a man must be righteous to attain it; if faulty or sinful he will not get there; if he looks behind he will not get there; if he prefers his family he will not enter Pali-uli.” “Among other adornments of the Polynesian Paradise, the Kalana-i-hau-ola, there grew the Ulu kapu a Kane, the breadfruit tabooed for Kane, and the ohia hemolele, the sacred apple-tree. The priests of the olden time are said to have held that the tabooed fruits of these trees were in some manner connected with the trouble and death of Kumuhonua and Lalahonua, the first man and the first woman. Hence in the ancient chants he is called Kane-laa-uli, Kumu-uli, Kulu-ipo, the fallen chief, he who fell on account of the tree, or names of similar import.”

What happened to these ancestral lands? Thrum later on explains that:

One legend relates that in the time of Nuu, or Nana-nuu (also pronounced lana, that is, floating), the flood, Kaiakahinalii [my note: actually this literally means tsunami in Hawaiian], came upon the earth, and destroyed all living beings; that Nuu, by command of his god, built a large vessel with a house on top of it, which was called and is referred to in chants as ‘He waa halau Alii o ka Moku,’ the royal vessel, in which he and his family, consisting of his wife, Lilinoe, his three sons and their wives, were saved. When the flood subsided, Kane, Ku, and Lono entered the waa halau of Nuu, and told him to go out. He did so, and found himself on the top of Mauna Kea (the highest mountain on the island of Hawaii). He called a cave there after the name of his wife, and the cave remains there to this day—as the legend says in testimony of the fact. Other versions of the legend say that Nuu landed and dwelt in Kahiki-honua-kele, a large and extensive country.” … “Nuu left the vessel in the evening of the day and took with him a pig, cocoanuts, and awa as an offering to the god Kane. As he looked up he saw the moon in the sky. He thought it was the god, saying to himself, ‘You are Kane, no doubt, though you have transformed yourself to my sight.’ So he worshipped the moon, and offered his offerings.

Thrum’s translations are a bit off since in the Hawaiian language a flood is different from a tsunami but here again we have a picture of old homelands being drowned by a massive wave.

In Rarotonga, Volume 28, No. 110 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, an article called “History and Traditions of Rarotonga” by Te Ariki-tara-are states the following:

In the times of Tamarua-metua of Avaiki all Avaiki was broken up and scattered in small parties; everyone had become possessed of canoes. One canoe was that of Ui-te-rangiora, and it was this one that enabled all Avaiki to scatter to different islands. In that same division (scattering) three of them joined, Tamarua, Te Aia, and Tai-vananga, and this was their (final) separation from (living in) a single land, Avaiki (or Atia-te-varinga), and they spread to every land from there.

Avaiki is identified with the Hawaiki of the Māori. It may be also possible that Avaiki was Sundaland or another distant huge land with varinga which means “ancient”, “the beginning” and also “rice”. Rice, by the way, is not indigenous to that part of the world but it is found in Southeast Asia. S. Percy-Smith adds:

Sixteen generations (or 400 years or 750 years from Tu-te-rangi-marama) after Kura-a-moo, we come to Tamarua-metua of Avaiki. (Java or Sumatra), and the statement is made that in his time “all Avaiki was broken up and scattered in small parties.” This is a most important statement, for it seems to indicate—without stating the cause—the date at which this particular migration (the Tongafiti) became scattered and left Indonesia for the Pacific Islands, or perhaps moved on to some other parts of Indonesia, such as the Celebes, etc., and then commenced the exploration of the Pacific, whether at once, or after a more or less prolonged further stay in Indonesia, we have no means at present of determining.

Could all of these flood legends be a way of explaining to us their origins and a reminder of our delicate natural environment? Before the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, a famous priest named Kaopulupulu from the island of O`ahu expressed to his son Kahulupue to always remember that “This land is the Sea’s–and it can be reclaimed at any time.”