Many question the History of the Native Hawaiian People known as KANAKA MAOLI…Where did they come from? Who were they? Was there a system, a government? How did they live? When did the Culture of Ancient Hawai’i Die? All great questions and we will do our best to get to the bottom of them here on this podcast about Ancient Hawaii.
If no one knows this, there is a “POLYNESIAN TRIANGLE” which has the 7 MAIN POLYNESIAN CULTURES:
- Māori (Aotearoa / New Zealand)
- Rapa Nui (now known as Easter Island) (Territory of Chile)
- Marquesas (French Polynesia)
- Sāmoa (Independent Protectorate Of The United States)
- American Samoa (Territory of The United States)
- Tahiti (French Polynesia)
- Tonga (Independent / Partially supported by defense cooperation agreements with Australia, United States, China, United Kingdom, India and New Zealand.)
- Cook Islands (Self Government In Free Association With New Zealand)
- FIJI is NOT part of the POLYNESIAN TRIANGLE as many may think as most are Melanesian, not Polynesian.
It is believed that the first people to inhabit HAWAII were Polynesians from the Marqesas Islands…A race small and short in stature as well as peaceful, to them they had been called MAKA ‘AINANA, which is the accepted word today in Hawaii for a commoner, or a “person who tended the land.”…to those outside Hawaii these first HAWAIIANS had been called “MANAHUNE”…Not MENEHUNE…Manahune stood for small in power or spirit…MANA stands for spiritual power or energy. Later it became MENE. The TAHITIANS are the second group of Polynesians to inhabit the Hawaiian Islands…but the Tahitians had been a WARRIOR RACE and at one time just as Tahitians invaded Hawaii and the Manahune race…Tahiti was also invaded, but by RAIATEA…and go figure the Raiateans had called the Tahitians Manahune…but Tahitians had NOT been small in stature which makes you question if MANAHUNE actually means “small in spiritual energy” or as many believe today as meaning “‘low social status”. You see…there is meaning behind everything and the word MANA or MENE-HUNE has been passed down from one Polynesian race to another. It’s not that these people didn’t exist or had been myths…the fact is that they existed, they build Fish Ponds and Heiaus thousands of years ago in Hawaii and once you understand this and the way ancient Hawaii was it all begins to make sense.
Once the Tahitians had been taken over by the Raiateans, them mixed bloodlines…So who are the ones who truly invaded Hawaii? It seems to be Raiatean/Tahitians…So even once the Tahitians came to Hawaii they as well had not been pure…they carried with them Raiatea and Tahiti culture…Both being Warrior Races the “Hawaiians, AKA Maka ‘ainana or MANAHUNE, who had been a peaceful race, didn’t stand a chance and so started to be taken over and enslaved by the Tahitian Warrior Race.
So what did the Tahitian Warrior Caste sytem bring to Hawaii? Lets break it down…
- Aliʻi. This class consisted of the high and lesser chiefs of the realms. They governed with divine power called mana from the Gods.
- Kahuna. Priests conducted religious ceremonies, at the heiau and elsewhere. Professionals included master carpenters and boatbuilders, chanters, dancers, genealogists, physicians and healers.
- Makaʻāinana. Commoners farmed, fished, and exercised the simpler crafts. They labored not only for themselves and their families, but to support the chiefs and kahuna…This is where the Menehune stood until they rebelled, between MAKA ‘AINANA and KAUWA.
- Kauwā. They are believed to have been war captives, or the descendants of war captives. Marriage between higher castes and the kauwa was strictly forbidden. The kauwa worked for the chiefs and were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini heiau. (They were not the only sacrifices; law-breakers of all castes or defeated political opponents were also acceptable as victims.).
THIS CASTE SYSTEM was a STRICK ONE….at the top…THE ALI’I NUI…the closest beings to the GODS…The Cheifs and those of Ali’i Blood had been descendant of the gods and interrelated! Their MANA or SPRITUAL ENERGY controlled EVERYTHING and went hand and hand with the Ali’i Nui’s “KAPU SYSTEM”
The AINA, which means land was a huge part of the “KAPU SYSTEM”…Kapu meaning Taboo…which means you don’t do it…because if you did…Great punishment, even Death would follow one who broke KAPU! In Hawaiian ideology, one does not “own” the land, but merely dwells on it. The Hawaiian mentality is that, the land is immortal (in the sense that it doesn’t go away), and gods are immortal, therefore the land must be godly, and since man isn’t immortal, man isn’t godly, so how can something ungodly control something that is. The Hawaiians thought that all land belonged to the gods (AKUA)
KANE: Kāne is considered the highest of the four major Hawaiian deities, along with Kanaloa, Kū, and Lono. He represented the god of procreation and was worshipped as ancestor of chiefs and commoners. Kāne is the creator and gives life associated with dawn, sun and sky. No human sacrifice or laborious ritual was needed in the worship of Kāne.
KU: Ku was the much-feared and terrible god of war and sorcery. He was also god of the deep forest and mountains as well as fishing. As the much feared god of sorcery whose priests practiced ana’ana, the ritual of praying someone to death. This was the sorcery of vengeance and was used under the most dire circumstances. Only the most rigorous and strict order of Kahuna and Ali’i observed Ku rituals. Those rites demanding human sacrifice to either avert a calamity or impending battle or war in hopes of victory against an enemy.
LONO: Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music and also peace. In one of the many Hawaiian legends of Lono, he is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants.
KANALOA: Kanaloa was the god of the ocean, a healer god, and the springs of fresh water and the close companion of Kane. Kanaloa is also considered to be the god of the Underworld and the teacher of magic.
Within the practices of worshiping these Gods of AKUA there was a single drink that held the HIGHEST of religious significance to the ancient Hawaiians, due to its narcotic properties special cultural emphasis was placed on AWA (Kava) This root-based beverage, a psychoactive and a relaxant, was used to consecrate meals, long work days and commemorate ceremonies by the Ali’i and Kahuna. It is often referred to in Hawaiian chants. Different varieties of the root were used by the Cast System of Ali’i Nui, Ali’i, Kahuna and Makaʻāinana. The brew served as an “introduction to mysticism into the relm of the Gods and Akua”.
The ALI’I NUI or just ALI’I were believed to be “managers” of the land for the Gods or AKUA. That is, the Ali’i controlled those who worked on the land (AINA), which were the makaʻāinana (commoners.) What the ALI’I NUI said was LAW passed down to them from the Gods. All Worshiped AKUA and the FOUR GODS of AKUA including the ALI’I NUI (NUI meaning the HIGHEST ROYALTY and CHIEFS) as there had been lower and higher chiefs…Nui being the HIGHEST OF THEM ALL. These Lands or aina the Ali’i Nui controlled had been called:
AHUPUA’A: An Ahupua’a is an old Hawai’i term for a large traditional socioeconomic/ geologic/ climatic subdivision of land usually within a Valley ruled by a single ALI’I NUI or group of ALI’I. Many times an ALI’I NUI (High Chief) would give an ALI’I (Lower Chief) an Ahupua’a to control as an ALI’I NUI could not control multiple Ahupua’a’s on his own. An Ali’i would then distribute power to a KONOHIKI…A headman or like a KAHU which was the caretaker of smaller areas within the Ahupua’a.
The Hawaiians or Makaʻāinana (Commoners) maintained an agricultural system that contained two major classes; irrigated and rain-fed systems. In the irrigated systems the Hawaiians grew mostly taro (kalo) and in the rain-fed systems they grew mostly uala (sweet potatoes), yams, and dryland taro in addition to other small crops.This dryland cultivation was also known as the mala. It also consisted of (Kalo) Taro, (Niu) coconuts, (ʻulu) breadfruit, (Maiʻa) bananas, and (Ko) sugar cane. The Kukui tree was sometimes used as a shade to protect the mala from the sun. Each crop was carefully placed in an area that was most suitable to its needs. Hawaiians also raised dogs, chickens, and pigs that were domesticated. They also made use of personal gardens at their own houses. Water was a very important part of Hawaiian life…it was not only used for fishing, bathing, drinking, and gardening, but also for aquaculture systems in the rivers and at the shore’s edge. The ahupuaʻa consisted most frequently of a slice of an island that went from the top of the local mountain valley to the shore, often following the boundary of a waterfall and stream drainage system. Each ahupuaʻa included a lowland mala (cultivated area) and upland forested region. An Ahupuaʻa varied in size depending on the economic means of the location and political divisions of the area. “As the native Hawaiians used the resources within their ‘ahupua’a, they practiced aloha (respect), laulima (cooperation), and malama (stewardship) which resulted in a desirable pono (balance)”. The Hawaiians believed that the land, the sea, the clouds and all of nature had a certain interconnectedness which is why they used all of the resources around them to reach the desired balance in life. Sustainability was maintained by the konohiki and kahuna: priests, who restricted the fishing of certain species during specific seasons, whcih was part of a KAPU. They also regulated the gathering of plants under a KAPU. Each Ahupua’a was divided into smaller sections called ‘ili and the ‘ili were divided into kuleana’s, also meaning (responsibility). These were plots of land that were cultivated by the common people. These people paid weekly labor taxes to the land overseer. These taxes went to support the chief by ways of crops. The common people had plenty of leisure time between planting and cultivating for themselves and the Ali’i.
Within each AHUPUA’A was the VILLAGE and each Village consisted of a:
- Heiau, temple to the gods. They were built on high-rising stone terraces and adorned with wood and stone carved idols. A source of great mana or divine power, the heiau was restricted to aliʻi, the king andkahuna, or priests.
- Hale aliʻi, the house of the chief. It was used as a residence for the high chief and meeting house of the lesser chiefs. It was always built on a raised stone foundation to represent high social standing. Kahili, or feather standards, were placed outside to signify royalty. Women and children were banned from entering.
- Hale pahu, the house of the sacred hula instruments. It held the pahu drums. It was treated as a religious space as hula was a religious activity in honor of the goddess Laka.
- Hale papaʻa, the house of royal storage. It was built to store royal implements including fabrics, prized nets and lines, clubs, spears and other weapons.
- Hale ulana, the house of the weaver. It was the house where craftswomen would gather each day to manufacture the village baskets, fans, mats and other implements from dried pandanus leaves called lauhala.
- Hale mua, the men’s eating house. It was considered a sacred place because it was used to carve stone idols of ʻaumakua or ancestral gods. Men and women could not eat with each other for fear that men were vulnerable while eating to have their mana, or divine spirit, stolen by women. Women ate at their own separate eating house called the hale ʻaina. The design was meant for the men to be able to enter and exit quickly.
- Hale waʻa, the house of the canoe. It was built along the beaches as a shelter for their fishing vessels. Hawaiians also stored koa logs used to craft the canoes.
- Hale lawaiʻa, the house of fishing. It was built along the beaches as a shelter for their fishing nets and lines. Nets and lines were made by a tough rope fashioned from woven coconut husks. Fish hooks were made of human, pig or dog bone. Implements found in the hale lawaiʻa were some of the most prized possessions of the entire village.
- Hale noho, the living house. It was built as sleeping and living quarters for the Hawaiian family unit.
- Imu, the communal earth oven. Dug in the ground, it was used to cook the entire village’s food including puaʻa or pork. Only men cooked using the imu.
These Systems of Religion held ancient Hawaiian society together, affecting habits, lifestyles, work methods, social policy and law. The Foundational system of Hawaiian Culture was based on RELIGIOUS KAPU or TABOOS. There was a correct way to live, to worship, and even to eat. Examples of KAPU included the provision that men and women could not eat together. Fishing and planting was limited to specified seasons of the year. The shadow of the ALI’I NUI must not be touched as it would be considered stealing of the Ali’i’s mana, which was their Spiritual Energy and Power. Kapu would be placed on objects, other people, places or things…if a Ali’i Nui placed a KAPU on the HONU (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle) No one could touch or cast a shadow on one and of every caught killing or eating one DEATH would be the only punishment. If A shadow was casted upon an Ali’i Death would also follow. If there was a Kapu on fishing and you went fishing…again you would be killed. Human sacrifice was a part of the kapu system. The ALI’I believed as well as the Kahuna that the Ali’i gained more power from such Kapu’s and Sacrifices…Kapu was derived from traditions and beliefs from Hawaiian worship of gods, demigods and ancestral Mana. The forces of nature were personified through the four main Gods of Akua. The Hawaiian mystical worldview brought to the commen people by the Ali’i Nui, Ali’i and Kahuna allowed for different Gods and spirits to take over all aspect of the natural world which controlled daily life for the Hawaiian people.
This KAUP SYSTEM as well as worshiping Gods lasted for thousands of years, but ended with the DEATH of the First KING of HAWAII…KING KAMEHAMEHA THE GREAT. The Kapu and way of life for the Hawaiians was broken down by his bloodline, the Kamehameha children and the Missionaries that soon followed. With the KINGS death in 1819 the inevitable end of the sovereignty and monarchy of Hawai’i followed in 1893, with THE OVERTHROW of Hawaii’s monarchy which was finalized in 1898 with the ANNEXATION of Hawaii to AMERICA. It took just 79 years to lose HAWAII from the time of Kamehameha the Greats Death.