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Hawaiian Culture

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Hawaiian Culture
Audri Rowell
Axia of University of Phoenix

Hawaiian Culture Our Hawaiian culture was originally inhabited by the Polynesians that appeared to have begin in 1758 with the birth of Kamehamcha the Great. Captain James Cook, a British explorer, first arrived at Oahu, one of the principal islands of our Hawaiian group, in January 1788.

In 1790 Kamehameha undertook the difficult task of bringing all of our Hawaiian Islands under one single rule. After 20 years of intermittent warfare the last island, Kauai, came under his dominion. The Kamehameha Dynasty continued until 1872, ending with the death of the fifth ruler by that name. During this period of time more representatives of the European and American countries made their appearance in Hawaii.

Our Hawaii legislature was established in 1845 which was at close of the Kamehameha Dynasty. The U. S. established a temporary territory over our islands during the shift in governments and talks were under way between the two countries contemplating the annexation to the U. S. while an agreement to this effect was completed in Washington, however U.S. President Stephen Cleveland withdrew the agreement prior to approval pending further investigation of conflicting governmental claims in Hawaii.

A five-man commission was then appointed to draw up an Act for the government of the new territory of Hawaii. The act was submitted to Congress and it was passed in April 1900. Under this act, all citizens of Hawaii were made citizens of the U.S. The Constitution and all Federal laws of the U.S. were applied to this territory and the Hawaiian laws not inconsistent thereto remained in force.

We use the term Kanaka Maoli to mean Native Hawaiian(s) and it refers to any person(s) who resided and/or had ancestors residing in the Hawaiian archipelago prior to 1778. The term was first used in 1852 Kingdom of Hawai'i documents to distinguish between Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians at the time.

As our native Hawaiians or Kanaka Maoli people have experienced drastic changes over the last two centuries. Our way of life and the demography of our ancestral homeland have seen many changes. The U.S. occupation of Hawaii and the compulsory acculturation toward the American Way of life, and the migration of other ethnic groups to Hawaii, have adversely impacted the social status of Kanaka Maoli in our own homeland.

Since the arrival of James Cook and his expedition to Hawaii in 1778, our social world of Kanaka Maoli has been forever changed. Change is inevitable for all societies, but the manner in which our change occurred, has affected the outcomes experienced drastically. In their journals, Cook and his crew wrote that the native people were “…above middle size, strong, well made…. a fine handsome set of people” (Kaholokula, Nacapoy, & Dang)

Beginning in 1778, foreign (mostly American) belief, values and customs began to impose on Kanaka Maoli. Perhaps the single greatest change worldview was the introduction of Christianity in 1820 by the strict and moralistic New England Calvinists following the abolishment of our traditional Hawaiian socio-religious system. Many of the traditional practices and beliefs of Kanaka Maoli have been condemned by the American missionaries, including our traditional Hawaiian dance and healing practices. Our traditional communal land use system was abolished and replaced with the Western systems of land privatization, a foreign concept to Kanaka Maoli at the time. This system contrasted sharply with our traditional worldview and relationship to our land.

Overlapping all these drastic social changes in the 1800s was the decimation of the Kanaka Maoli population because of infectious diseases brought to the islands by the European and American foreigners. As our population started to decline from 800,000 in 1778 to barely 40,000 by 1893 so that, by the end of the 1800s the Kanaka Maoli were a minority in their own homeland.

We were coerced into submitting to foreign institutions, laws, and cultures and forced to either give up or be punished for practicing our traditional cultures. We have become trapped in a vicious cycle of poor heath practices, abuse of family members, neglect or prostitution of our traditional Hawaiian culture, and the abandonment of our spirituality.

We have continuously experienced social and political changes that have further erode our social status in our homeland. We were eventually made to abandon our native language to exclusively speak English through the legislative Act 57. Hawaii finally became a territory of the U.S. and was made the 50th state in the union in 1959.

Over the last two decades, our rights and entitlements, social status as native people have been threatened with lawsuits and opposition by non-Kanaka Maoli. The laws and policies of a society reflect the cultural beliefs, practices, preferences and aspirations of our society. The laws and policies of the State of Hawaii and the U.S. do not appreciate or respect our values and the practices of our culture. Essentially, our practices that do not promote tourism or create the façade of happy natives are not encouraged.

It was reported in the early 1800s that these words were prophesied: E iho ana o luna, e pil ana o lalo, e hul ana na moku, e ku ana ka paia. Translated into English reads: “That which is above shall come down, that which is below shall be raised up, the islands shall be united, and the walls shall stand upright” (Kaholokula et al., p. 117) Many interpretations have been offered. The one here was concerned with the changes to Kanaka Maoli society that was brought on by foreign intrusion and diseases and he was predicting a return of better time. Let us accelerate the fulfillment of this prophecy and let us return to the social justice for Kanaka Maoli.
Kaholokula, J. K., Nacapoy, A. H., & Dang, K. (, 2009). SOCIAL JUSTICE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE FOR KĀNAKA MAOLI.. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Scholarship, 5, p116-137, 22p.…...

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