A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island

Overview of Hawaiian History

by Diane Lee Rhodes
(with some additions by Linda Wedel Greene)

     
 

Chapter 1: Before the Written Record

A. Formation and Description of the Hawaiian Archipelago

Hawaii comprises the northern apex of the Polynesian Triangle (Illustration 1), the name given an area in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean stretching from New Zealand on the south to Hawai'i on the north to Easter Island on the east and encompassing several island groups. All of these populations are thought to be descended from a common ancestral society. The Hawaiian chain is among the most isolated areas in the world, lying approximately 2,100 nautical miles southwest of California and more than 4,000 miles from Japan and the Phillipines. As a consequence of their location, these islands were among the last areas in the world to be discovered and populated but also have served as an important link between North America and Asia. The greatest single distance between any two of the larger Hawaiian Islands is the eighty miles from Kaua'i to O'ahu, while the distances between adjacent islands average twenty-five miles or less. Except for certain wide and dangerous channels that limited communication in some directions, the earliest inhabitants were able to voyage among most islands of the group with relative ease by paddling or sailing canoes.

map of Polynesian Triangle
Illustration 1. Polynesian Triangle, with Hawaiian Islands at northern apex. All peoples within this area are thought to have common ancestry. (Figure 13 in Kirch, Feathered Gods and Fishhooks, p. 23.)

The entire Hawaiian archipelago consists of 132 islands, islets, sand cays, and reefs. Most of the total land area, however, is made up of five major islands Hawai'i, Maui, O'ahu, Kaua'i, and Moloka'i and three smaller ones Lana'i, Ni'ihau, and Kahoolawe stretching across the Tropic of Cancer. The island of Hawai'i, commonly known as the "Big Island," contains more than twice as much land as the other seven islands combined. The group lies between latitudes 19 degrees and 29 degrees North and longitudes 154 and 179 degrees West. The northern and central, most westerly, leeward islands are small, almost uninhabited, volcanic rocks and coral atolls. The two exceptions are Nihoa and Necker, which were uninhabited at the time of European discovery but contain archeological evidence of earlier human occupation.

The larger islands of the Hawaiian chain comprise the emerged summits of a 1,600-mile-long northwest-southeast trending range of volcanic mountains resting on the Pacific Plate. These shield-shaped basaltic domes have been built up by successive outpourings of lava from vents along a crack in the earth's crust that cooled to solid rock bodies. These islands vary considerably in configuration, land area, rainfall, and vegetation. The oldest eruptive centers are at the northwest (Kaua'i, O'ahu) end of the chain, while the youngest, still active volcanoes are at the southeast end, including Kilauea and Mauna Loa (the world's largest active volcano) on Hawai'i Island. This youngest island has been the focal point of active vulcanism during the period of human occupation. Volcanic eruptions have been a frequent cause of population dislocation, burying settlements and agricultural land under sweeping lava flows. These flows preserve numerous important archeological sites.

The different geological ages of the islands of the Hawaiian chain mean great differences in topography, bespeaking various stages of formation and erosion. The larger islands, which are all dome volcanoes, exhibit a gentle, gradual slope from summit to ocean. The central, mountainous parts of these islands are generally rugged and cover considerable area. Through the years volcanic flows have been subjected to various weathering processes. First chemical weathering gradually works upon the lava, resulting in formation of soil. That action is followed by rainfall-induced stream erosion associated with north-east trade winds the dominant feature of the Hawaiian climate. Erosion is usually greater on the windward side of the islands where the greatest amounts of rain fall, causing the formation of steep valleys and cliffs, often cut by permanent streams. These predominantly wet, cool areas are forested where not cultivated. It has been estimated that almost fifty percent of the total area of the main islands (6,435 square miles) was forest land in pre-European times. The warmer and drier leeward sides of the islands, more sheltered from the rain, undergo much more gradual erosion and are mostly grassland and scrub, characterized by shallower, trough-like valleys, coastal plains, flat sand or cobble beaches, and occasional coral reefs.

The mild, subtropical climate of Hawai'i has been favorable to the growth of introduced vegetation. Plants and animals native today are descendants of those that arrived over a long period of time by one means or another and spread gradually throughout the islands. Hawai'i's flora and fauna are highly specialized because of their isolation and the great variations in environment on the different islands.

B. Origins of the Hawaiian Population

Probably beginning about 1000 B.C. or earlier, small groups of people from western Melanesia or southeast Asia migrated toward the Pacific into the western part of Polynesia. Their colonization attempts were highly successful for several reasons. A seafaring population, they had developed strong double-hulled outrigger canoes that could carry many people and supplies and travel great distances. They had well developed celestial and other navigational skills that not only allowed far-flung colonization efforts but also enabled round trips between parent and daughter colonies. Finally, they had perfected the horticultural, hunting, and fishing technologies needed to sustain fledgling populations on previously uninhabited islands. These colonists, who became the ancestors of a hybrid people known today as Polynesians, ultimately spread to all other islands of the Triangle.

The Hawaiians are a branch of these peoples inhabiting the eastern tier of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The other principal branches were the Maori of New Zealand and the Samoans, Tongans, Tahitians, Cook Islanders, and Marquesans. According to Anthropologist Patrick Kirch, there is strong evidence from a number of early Hawaiian archeological sites that initial colonization of some of the islands had occurred by at least the fourth or fifth centuries A.D. by people from the Marquesas Islands.

It is thought there were additional waves of immigrants to Hawai'i beginning in the twelfth century from the Society Islands (Tahiti). Evidence exists, and Hawaiian tradition suggests, that the route between Tahiti and Hawai'i was traversed frequently by large double-hulled canoes during this later period, return voyages possibly being made to renew contacts and secure skilled labor and additional plants and animals. The role of external contacts (migrations) in the evolution of Hawaiian culture is still actively debated.

Important new cultural elements forming the framework for the later Hawaiian labor system, social structure, and religious order were introduced during the final migratory period and superimposed upon the aboriginal society of earlier migrations. The leaders of these last arrivals were the ancestors of the ali'i, the chiefly class of Hawaiian society noted by the early discoverers, whose origin and cultural heritage were distinct from those of the older Hawaiian population. After this period of "long voyages" ended, communication ceased between Hawai'i and other areas of Polynesia, and the Hawaiians lived in nearly complete isolation from outside influences until 1778.

C. Origins of Hawaiian Culture

The early migrants from Central Polynesia did not arrive in Hawai'i totally unprepared for life in a new island setting. They brought with them a collective knowledge accumulated over thousands of years of migration from southeast Asia relative to subsistence activities, engineering techniques, adaptation to environmental constraints, and handicrafts that were suited to dealing with the raw materials of a tropical environment. The Polynesian culture of which these settlers were a part emphasized fishing and farming supplemented by dependence on domesticated animals. The development of this culture had also resulted in traditional ways of thinking and patterns of social behavior and formation of specific attitudes towards relationships among individuals and between individuals and nature.

Peter H. Buck, a former director of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu, points out that there was no single Polynesian culture when foreigners first made contact. The only common culture would have existed when people were living in one island group before dispersing elsewhere. From that point on, each island group proceeded to develop its own culture, specializing in different directions while still retaining some fundamental elements of the early common culture. When the term "Polynesian culture" is applied to that functioning at the time of European contact, it is an abstraction referring to common features or general similarities underlying local differences in culture within Polynesia.

The first voyagers to the Hawaiian Islands would have brought with them only some of the cultural variations and subsistence items present in the various Polynesian societies, which would have become the basic agricultural staples of the Hawaiian economy. Not only did these prehistoric peoples make extensive changes in the Hawaiian landscape, modifying and manipulating the habitat to suit their needs, but they also had to live with certain constraints exercised by nature that greatly affected the development of their culture. These factors set certain directions in terms of needed skills and a subsistence base and gradually led to a culture very distinct from the Polynesian homeland. The social and political organization and the religious practices that emerged as part of this new Hawaiian society were related to the peoples' past experiences as well as to their adaptations to the ecosystems of their new home. 

D. Development of Hawaiian Culture

1. Early Environment of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands consisted of high volcanic landforms separated by miles of open water. A great diversity of environmental conditions existed among islands and upon each one. The first Polynesians reaching this new homeland found a virtually unspoiled landscape. Although somewhat barren and dusty in places, there were as well undisturbed reefs and lagoons, sandy beaches, dense inland rain forests, broad alluvial plains, precipitous cliffs, high peaks, and moist valleys and uplands, in addition to a mild, salubrious climate. And until European contact the area remained relatively pest and disease free.

The most serious deterrent to technological advancement was the absence of metals, such as copper and iron, in a usable form, forcing reliance on stone, wood, shell, and bone for tools, weapons, and household implements. Fortunately, one of the assets of their new home was an abundance of volcanic rocks, some of which were hard enough to be used as adzes, cutting implements, and abraders, while others could be broken up into blocks suitable for construction. Other types of stones, such as waterworn pebbles and talus fragments, were also used in building.

The volcanic nature of their new home affected many aspects of the developing Hawaiian culture. The percentage of land available for cultivation was small. The rugged, mountainous interiors were neither conducive to habitation nor good for agriculture due to excessive rain and scarce sunlight. Some areas of the islands had abundant water, while others were very dry. Tidal waves, mud and rock slides, and volcanic eruptions were a constant threat, undoubtedly causing considerable damage and loss of life. Seasonal flooding, droughts, and other environmental conditions seriously affected agricultural as well as maritime pursuits and necessitated careful planning and community cooperation to insure an adequate and constant food supply.  All things considered, however, these pristine tropical islands offered an abundance of raw materials and a favorable environment for the formation of a distinctive socially and politically complex culture.

The archeological profession is still actively debating the nature of pre-Western contact Hawaiian culture. This has resulted in the formation of several models illustrating the evolution of Hawaiian settlement and subsistence patterns, material culture, and socio-political organization. A detailed analysis of each of these models is not presented here, but rather a summary of the probable general development pattern of Hawaiian society prior to the arrival of Europeans.

2. Settlement Patterns and House Styles

Over the last twenty years archeologists have begun intensive investigations into the nature and patterns of aboriginal cultural adaptations to the varied environmental situations found in the Hawaiian Islands. The term "settlement patterns" refers to the nature and distribution of dwellings and other buildings reflecting the natural environment, level of technology, class differences, trade patterns, warfare, political and religious systems, and cultural traditions.

Little is known about the earliest Hawaiian population, but because of their Polynesian background as fishermen and agriculturalists, during this formative time settlement probably began along the coastlines near rich fishing grounds. These scattered, often temporary, coastal homesteads, consisting of a few houses, were probably occupied by extended family groups. Although the character of a shoreline might seem promising for a village site, its selection depended upon shelter from winds and the availability of fresh water. In ancient times, water was available from several different sources. Surface streams in the larger valleys provided water for domestic use and later were used for irrigation purposes. Along the coastal plains, ground water was available in volcanic rock, limestone, and gravel. This lower-level fresh water (basal water) floats on the salt water because of its lesser specific gravity. Where there were no streams, coastal villages depended on basal water obtained from shallow wells dug in the sand a few feet from the shore. In some areas fresh water escaped along the coasts, causing springs under the surface to erupt through the salt water. This water could be captured in gourds for use. Settlement also extended into the lowland zone of alluvial windward valleys where there were fertile agricultural resources.

Initially, some of the settlers living farther away from the coast on the hillsides and in the valleys where there were many rock caves, might have used these for housing. At some point these first arrivals began constructing shelters and arched dwellings of wood and bark on level spots along the curves of the land, along sandy shores and the banks of streams, on ridges and hills, and in gulches and wooded areas wherever suitable material for thatching existed. Some evidence has been found that these early settlement structures contained fire hearths and that cooking was done in traditional Polynesian earth ovens.

In time, the focus of permanent settlement became the fertile, well-watered windward valleys, but with continued exploitation of rich fishing grounds. Activities were not confined to the windward lowlands, and eventually small permanent nucleated settlements became dispersed throughout ecologically favorable locations on all the major islands. The archipelago's population was probably increasing, due in large part to the lack of restrictions on agricultural land and to plentiful natural resources.

Evidence of house structures from this period reveals small, round-ended huts with internal, stone-lined hearths. Other types of houses, including rectangular shelters, might also have been present.

Explosive population growth ultimately necessitated expansion into even the most arid and marginal regions of the archipelago. During that time, the population established numerous new sites and settlements, mostly in previously unoccupied areas. Small clusters of houses continued to appear in the interior portions of windward valleys, away from the coast, and along leeward coastlines. The first settlements in these latter areas were situated at the most favorable spots, near natural fishponds or around sheltered inlets. This period was characterized by the rapid dispersal of population from the fertile windward regions into leeward valleys and along leeward coasts. Throughout this period the continued settlement and development of less favorable areas occurred.

Large numbers of rockshelters now served for both temporary and permanent occupation. Houses with rounded ends persisted in limited numbers, but the dominant permanent house style was rectangular. These structures frequently rested on stone-faced, earth-filled rectangular terraces, and a pattern of separate dwellings and cookhouses was established. The C-shaped shelter also appeared during this time, correlating with the development of leeward agricultural field systems.  Just prior to contact, there were few significant lowland tracts not subject to some level of occupation and exploitation. An apparent decline in growth rates, however, led at this time to a leveling off of the population. The effect of such controls as abortion, infanticide, and warfare on this trend is uncertain. 

3. Material Culture

Little is known about the earliest Hawaiian material culture. Stone adzes of various types were certainly used, and because these people were fishermen, depending initially almost entirely upon the sea and its produce for their subsistence, simple fishhooks were manufactured as well as trolling lures. Other items found from this early period include coral abraders and flake tools. Cultural items most susceptible to change during the settlement period would have been those used in sea exploitation, because of the different raw materials, marine conditions, and types of marine resources in Hawai'i.

Ultimately certain distinctive patterns of Hawaiian material culture did begin to develop. Fishing gear was refined to adjust to local marine environmental conditions and available materials. Elaborate two-piece bone fishhooks appeared and trolling lures became more distinctive. Styles of coral and sea-urchin files, awls, scrapers, and flake tools remained about the same.

Few new portable artifact types developed over the years, and the basic Hawaiian material culture inventory changed little until the arrival of Europeans and the introduction of foreign goods and materials. However, elaboration of elite status goods, such as feather capes and whale ivory pendants, and wood carving increased. Craft specialists standardized and controlled the production of these valued goods as well as of utilitarian items.  At the time of European contact, these status items were much admired for their design and artistry.

4. Subsistence

If the Hawaiian settlers had been totally dependent on the land resources of the islands they were settling, it would have been very difficult to survive. The upland forests, often extending to the foothills, provided some food plants such as pandanus and edible ferns. The forests also were habitat for bats and birds, which could be utilized for food, while the feathers of the latter also became an important aspect of personal ornamentation. In addition, the fertile soil and water resources could be exploited for agricultural purposes. These indigenous island resources were supplemented by a limited number of plants and animals the voyagers brought with them by canoe. These included taro, yams, and breadfruit (not successfully transplanted until the 1200s); fiber plants like the paper mulberry whose bark could be manufactured into clothing and decorative items; medicinal plants of many varieties; and a few domesticated pigs, dogs, and fowl. However, careful tending of these food plants and domesticated animals for several years would have been necessary before they could provide an adequate food supply.

The early settlement period, therefore, was probably characterized by primary dependence on the sea and its products for subsistence. On adjacent land, however, if sufficient rainfall and protection from salt spray allowed, the villagers could raise sweet potatoes or yams. Expert fishermen, the first settlers were adept at exploiting the rich marine resources found in nearby reefs and bays, including fish, shellfish, squid, crustaceans, marine mammals, and seaweed. They not only rapidly became familiar with the various habits and characteristics of the different kinds of fish on the coasts and the best places and times to catch them, but also acquired an intimate knowledge of their breeding places and feeding grounds. This almost total dependence on the sea would last until crops were growing well and domesticated animals were reproducing in sufficient numbers, allowing the Hawaiians to expand into a land-oriented economy.

In time there was extensive development and intensification of all aspects of food production. Fishing and shellfish-gathering continued as a major specialized activity. The Hawaiians not only became adept at spearing and poisoning fish, but also at formulating precise techniques for the manufacture of fishhooks, lures, basket traps, and nets with sinkers. The population also collected salt for treating pork and fish in dry coastal areas by evaporation, frequently in natural or manmade saltpans.

Economic production intensified with the development of large irrigation works, dryland field systems, and methods of aquacultural production. There is direct archeological evidence for taro Irrigation in the form of stone-faced pondfields and irrigation channels constructed in interior valleys. These irrigation systems reflect the intensification of production in areas that had already been occupied for centuries. Leeward areas, however, also underwent rapid agricultural expansion as dryland forests and scrub were cleared and various kinds of field systems were laid out. The first true fishponds and associated aquacultural techniques probably developed during the latter half of this period. The earliest ponds were constructed by the fifteenth century and Increasingly thereafter as chiefs could command the labor necessary to transport the tons of rock and coral used in the enclosing walls. These ponds, which yielded several hundred pounds of fish per acre annually, were not only feats of engineering technology, but reflected chiefly power and were a major symbol of the intensification of agricultural and aquacultural production. Many of the larger pondfield irrigation systems in the valley bottoms appeared in the final centuries prior to European contact. In addition, a large number of fishponds were constructed along the island coasts, under the direct control of the chiefly class.

During the early colonization period in the islands, Hawaiian society probably remained structured along the lines of its ancestral concept of hereditary chieftainship, with settlers organized into corporate descent groups. The rank differential between chiefs and commoners was probably not great for the first few centuries after settlement when bonds of kinship would still have been important in a small population group. The precise nature of the religious beliefs of this early population is unknown, although the pan-Polynesian concepts of mana (spiritual or supernatural power) and kapu (taboo) were probably still a part of their social and ritual lives. Sacred places were probably only designated by small platforms or some type of enclosure.

Eventually a distinctive Hawaiian cultural pattern began to emerge. Although little is known about this stage of socio-political and religious systems, the discovery of some elaborate burials from this period indicates that some sort of status differentiation between chiefs and commoners existed. Probably the ancestral pattern of corporate descent groups had not yet given way to the later rigid class stratification.

In time, the socio-political structure of Hawai'i underwent a radical change, resulting in new forms of religious belief and ritual, in increasing rank differences, and in formation and stabilization of the basic social and political framework found at European contact. The increase in population was a major factor underlying these substantive changes. The spread of settlement into previously unoccupied lands, the establishment of inland field systems, and the dispersed residential pattern provided significant opportunities for agricultural development and intensification, for territorial and political reorganization, and for intergroup competition.

Ultimately, corporate descent groups no longer held land in common. That system was replaced by the ahupua'a pattern characterized by territorial units under the control of subchiefs owing allegiance to a central chief and subject to redistribution in the event of conquest and annexation by a new ruling chief. The establishment of the ahupua'a as the central unit of territorial organization probably dates from this time. As the amount of land available for agriculture diminished, the definition of territorial boundaries increased and local conflicts over arable land brought about intergroup warfare and competition among chiefs. Success in warfare enabled increasingly powerful chiefs to annex conquered lands and place the control of ahupua'a units in the hands of their lesser chiefs. Ultimately, rigid class stratification and territorial rather than kin- based social groupings were established.

Because it was so closely interrelated with these social and political changes, the religious system underwent significant development and elaboration. The Makahiki ceremony, closely tied to the ahupua'a pattern of territorial organization, probably began at this time, developing by the end of this period into a ritualized system of tribute exaction. The rise of intergroup warfare and conflict probably arose with the elaboration of the Ku cult, which was accompanied by an emphasis on increasingly massive temples (heiau).

By the end of this period, Hawaiian culture had been substantially transformed from its ancestral Polynesian predecessor; the basic technological, social, political, and religious patterns witnessed at European contact were now in place.

In 1810 Kamehameha completed the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, basically ending the old political order. This was also the approximate time that foreign goods and ideas began to make serious inroads on the native culture. A wealth of oral traditions handed down by such nineteenth-century scholars as Samuel Kamakau, John Papa I'i, David Malo, and Abraham Fornander provide much information on the political developments of Hawaiian society at this time. (Kmakau, Papa I'i, and Malo were native historians. Fornander is an important source whose writings should be carefully evaluated due to religious influences and some questionable interpretations.)

The political history of all the major islands during the final two centuries prior to European contact comprised constant attempts by ruling chiefs to extend their domains through conquest and annexation of lands, with campaigns often extending beyond the borders of individual islands. The expansion of a chiefdom was generally short-lived due to usurpation by a junior chief enlisting the aid of various malcontents. The later political history of the islands was therefore very cyclical. Another significant aspect of this late-period political organization was the system of marriage alliances between ruling lines of various islands. During this period, high-ranking women were regarded as the main transmitters of rank and mana.

Various cultural elaborations resulted from the intense rivalry and warfare and cyclical conquest characteristic of highly advanced chiefdoms as they attempt to unify and emerge as states. The Ku cult rose in importance, resulting in construction of increasingly massive luakini (temples of human sacrifice). The kapu system, especially the sanctions surrounding the high chiefs, also underwent further elaboration.

E. Major Aspects of Traditional Hawaiian Culture

The previous sections have provided the reader with an overview of the origins of the colonizers of the Hawaiian Islands, the type of environment the original inhabitants encountered, and some idea of the major trends in the development of Hawaiian society during specific cultural sequences. Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Kaloko-Honokohau and Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Parks contain a vast number of resources representing the evolution of Hawaiian settlement patterns and house types; fishing and agricultural activities; social, political, religious, economic, and land use systems; and recreational and artistic pursuits. These resources include habitation, recreational, and religious sites; items of material culture, such as tools, utensils, and artwork; roads and trails; and structures associated with agriculture, husbandry, and fishing, including shrines, windbreaks, fences, and animal pens. In order to better understand the contexts within which these remains attain their significance, it is necessary to describe in more detail some of the developments in Hawaiian culture up to the time of European contact.

1. Social Organization

     a) Stratification

During the period from about A.D. 1400 to European contact, Hawaiian society underwent a systematic transformation from its ancestral Polynesian descent-group system to a state-like society. The stratification that came to characterize Hawaiian society consisting of a highly cultivated upper class with territorial control supported by a substructure of an underprivileged lower class was somewhat reminiscent of ancient Mediterranean and Asian civilizations as well as of medieval Europe, and indeed has been referred to as feudal in nature.

The ali'i attained high social rank in several ways: by heredity, by appointment to political office, by marriage, or by right of conquest. The first was determined at birth, the others by the outcomes of war and political intrigue. At the time of European contact in 1778, Hawaiian society comprised four levels: the ali'i, the ruling class of chiefs and nobles (kings, high chiefs, low chiefs) considered to be of divine origin; the kahuna, the priests and master craftsmen (experts in medicine, religion, technology, natural resource management, and similar areas), who ranked near the top of the social scale; the maka'ainana, those who lived on the land, the commoners primarily laborers, cultivators, fishermen, house and canoe builders, bird catchers who collected feathers for capes, cloaks, and helmets, and the like; and the kauwa, social outcasts! "untouchables" possibly lawbreakers or war captives, who were considered "unclean" or kapu, that is, ritually polluting to aristocrats. Their position was hereditary, and they were attached to "masters" in some sort of servitude status.

     b) Rights and Duties of Each Class

Earlier it was stated that the ali'i are thought to have arrived in the Hawaiian Islands after initial colonization had occurred. According to E.S. Craighill Handy, the origin and cultural heritage of the ali'i, who had earlier invaded and conquered aboriginal populations in central Polynesia, distinguished them from the older Hawaiian population. Historically and socially different, they maintained the purity of their blood and the integrity of their cultural heritage through barriers of kapu that isolated them from the lower echelons. Varying degrees of sanctity existed among the ali'i, the highest kapu belonging to an ali'i born to an ali'i of supreme rank and his full sister. In his/her presence, commoners prostrated themselves. The Hawaiian Islands are the only place in Polynesia where this type of extreme inbreeding was sanctioned, although only among the chiefly class, and the only place where the prostration kapu (kapu moe) was imposed.

Recognized degrees of superior sacredness demanded special deference. All nobles of lesser rank had to observe prescribed forms of obeisance to those of the several sacred ranks and avoid their persons and personal property. Death resulted from failure to observe the proper form of homage. Lesser nobles occupied degrees of rank that were significant in connection with marriage and offspring but not in relation to the entire community. The mass of the people, the maka'ainana, probably descended from the aboriginal Hawaiian population. They performed many duties for their social superiors, producing food, supplying items for clothing and home furnishings, and laboring on community projects such as roads, water courses, taro patches, fortifications, and temples.

A division existed not only between classes but also between the duties of commoner men and women. While men engaged in farming, deep sea fishing, manufacturing tools and weapons, building houses, and conducting religious rituals, women raised the children, helped in some agricultural tasks and in-shore fishing, collected wild foods, and made barkcloth, mats, and baskets.

     c) Role of the Kapu System

The Hawaiian concept of the universe embodied the interrelationship of the gods, man, and nature. The former, although the ultimate controlling influence in this system, granted their direct descendants the nobility secular control over the land, the sea, and their resources:

The aristocracy fiefed these resources to commoners, and commoners allowed the pariah to attach themselves to their households in domestic servitude. In return, pariah served commoner directly with his labor; commoner exploited the resources and delivered tribute to the aristocracy; the aristocracy served the gods with lavish religious observances in their honor; the gods communicated their satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, through the forces of nature and by influencing the outcomes of human affairs.

Power and prestige, and thus class divisions, were defined in terms of mana. Although the gods were the full embodiment of this sacredness, the nobility possessed it to a high degree because of their close genealogical ties to those deities. The priests ratified this relationship by conducting ceremonies of propitiation and dedication on behalf of the chiefs, which also provided ideological security for the commoners who believed the gods were the power behind natural forces. Commoners possessed little mana and were therefore prohibited from entering any of the holy places where nobles and gods communicated, such as the heiau in which the aristocrats honored their gods. Pariah, with no mana, could interact with commoners but not approach aristocrats.

Mana was the central concept underlying the elaborate kapu system of Hawai'i, the major social control perpetuating rigid class distinctions and conserving natural resources. As Handy states:

It is evident that kapu determined and regulated the three castes. For the ali'i, the kapu of sanctity was at once a wall of protection and the source of prestige and authority. The same kapu determined for the commoners their social and economic relationship to, and their reverential attitude towards their overlords. As for the kauwa, their segregation and exclusion from the social organism was due to a kapu of defilement.

2. Settlement Patterns

     a) Location of Houses

Ancient Hawai'i contained no large villages because of the need to reserve as much land as possible for cultivation or as fishing sites and because concentration of the population for governmental and business purposes was not integral to the functioning of society. The terms "village'' and ''town" as used in this report regarding early Hawaiian settlements do not denote a corporate social entity as they do today, but a forced proximity of homes to each other because of the topography or physical character of an area or the concentration of a particular activity, such as fishing, at that location. Most permanent villages initially were near the sea and sheltered beaches, which provided access to good fishing grounds as well as facilitating canoe travel between settlements. The majority of the population maintained these permanent residences along the coast and erected temporary shelters inland for use while exploiting forest products and working in taro and sweet potato fields.

Both windward and leeward coasts of the Hawaiian Islands had their virtues and defects. As habitation sites, windward coasts were well watered but susceptible to choppy seas, a lack of sunshine, and often harbored steep cliffs. Leeward coasts offered safer navigation, were sunny and warm, but sometimes lacked water for agricultural and domestic use. Leeward coasts possessed of abundant water were considered ideal habitation sites. According to Archeologist Ross Cordy, recent study indicates that the first population centers on the larger Hawaiian islands existed on the windward sides, probably primarily in fertile valleys but extending into areas with good fishing. Permanent occupation of leeward areas did not begin until later. By about A.D. 1400 population had begun expanding inland from the coast, increasing throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as scattered homes and small settlements were established near extensive permanent inland irrigation fields and in specialized agricultural areas.

The district chief resided mostly among the largest centers of population, near the most productive resource areas, where there was enough food to feed his immediate family and relatives. His retainers, including lesser chiefs, warriors, and priests, settled nearby, creating a village atmosphere. Tenants of the ahupua'a provided food and goods to the court. District chiefs tended to move about, concentrating on good surfing or fishing areas, and distributing the burden of their support among the people. This constant movement also enabled them to keep a critical eye on their subjects and ferret out any unrest.

     b) Construction Techniques

Houses of many different construction types existed in the Hawaiian Islands. Usually a commoner constructed his house with the help of friends. When a chief needed a house, however, his retainers assembled the materials and erected the structure under the direction of an individual (kahuna) expert in the art of erecting a framework and applying thatch. Every step of the house building process, from the selection of the site to the final dedication, required careful religious supervision. Certain prescribed rules governed not only the house's location, but also the method of construction, the arrangement of the mats for sleeping, and the procedure for moving in. Blessings such as long life were expected to result from proper respect of these rules.

Most houses at the time of Cook's discovery of the Hawaiian Islands consisted of a framework of posts, poles, and slender rods often set on a paving or low platform foundation lashed together with a coarse twine made of beaten and twisted bark, vines, or grassy fibers and covered with ti, pandanus, or sugarcane leaves, or a thatch of pili grass or other appropriate material. When covered with small bundles of grass laid side by side in overlapping tiers, these structures were described as resembling haystacks (Illustrations 2 and 3). One door and frequently an additional small "air hole" provided ventilation and light, while air also passed through the thatching. Grass or palm leaves covered the raised earth floors of these houses.

west coast of Hawaii Island

Illustration 2. Scene on the west coast of Hawai'i Island, no date, near Kealakekua Bay. From Jose de Olivares, Our Islands and Their People as Seen with Camera and Pencil . . . 2 vols. Edited by William S. Bryant. St. Louis: N.D. Thompson, 1899, p. 521.

 

sketch of Hawaiian thatched houses

Illustration 3. Hawaiian thatched houses, ca. 1779. Plate 2 in Apple, Hawaiian Thatched House, p. 18.

     c) Size of Residences

Residences of the Hawaiian people varied in size because of differences in use based on class and social status. A commoner's family probably occupied only one or two structures a sleeping house and perhaps a cooking or utility house, with an associated work plaza for kapa making and other outdoor activities (Illustration 4) Households by the sea kept their canoes in sheds and farmers might have storehouses. Furnishings in the homes of commoners were almost nonexistent, consisting only of some mats used as floor coverings and, when covered with kapa, as beds; a variety of containers; poi boards and calabashes; some simple tools; fish lines and nets; and weapons of war.  Commoner's houses were primarily used only for storage and shelter in inclement weather; most daily household activities, such as cooking, took place outside. These houses also served as places of security or hiding places for commoners and lesser chiefs during kapu periods while high chiefs and high priests conducted important religious activities, such as burials or temple ceremonies, that needed to be free from prying eyes.

Villagers at Kalaupapa

Illustration 4. Villagers at Kalaupapa (pre-leprosy settlement), 1880s. Courtesy Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

The families of chiefs occupied their structures day and night, good weather or bad. The household of a Hawaiian of rank or position, therefore, would need six or more houses. This is because separate structures had to be built for different purposes, the kapu forbidding eating and sleeping under the same roof and prohibiting men and women from eating or working together. The typical household cluster of a chief or other person of rank or position would include one or more of the following: a common sleeping house, a men's house for eating and cooking that was kapu to women, a women's eating house, a women's work house for making mats and beating kapa, a private retreat house for women during their menstrual period, and a heiau or house temple for worship of the family gods. At least one house of each chief's complex served as an office, conference room, and reception area for important visitors. Chiefs tended to stay inside most of the time, shielding their person and their mana from the view of commoners. 

A high chief possessed at least one complex of permanent thatched houses surrounded by a fence, while a ruling chief and other high-ranking individuals maintained several such complexes in different locations or districts. A ruling chief moved his court as desired, travelling along the coasts by canoe with his retinue and setting up temporary establishments at certain sites for purposes of business or pleasure. Numerous individuals, possibly as many as 100 people including family members, relatives, friends, and servants, attended and supported each chief. These retainers, each with specific duties such as preparing food or carrying the chief's spittoon, lived near the chief and moved when he did. Most of the families in this complex organization lived outside the chief's enclosure, but also required thatched houses for storage, shelter, and security during kapu periods. Probably the higher a chief's rank, the larger his stockade and more numerous his houses.

     d) Shelters

Shelters at worksites for farmers, canoe makers, bark scrapers, salt makers, fishermen, and quarrymen; at short-term special-use camps for those working at a distance from their permanent home or involved in resource procurement; or at rest stops along trails when traveling were a necessity (Illustration 5). These temporary abodes took a variety of forms, including caves, stone wall windbreaks, lava tubes, lean-tos, hollow trees, simple A-frame structures, or bark houses. Shelters in the non-irrigated inland agricultural areas and in the forests where people were raising crops, hunting birds, gathering vines, or cutting timber, protected against heat, cold, wind, and rain. Shelters on the coasts, and especially on barren lava flows, provided relief from the sun or inclement weather or were used as windbreaks when sleeping. Chiefs and their retinues lived in temporary shelters when travelling by canoe along the coasts to establish temporary settlements for business or recreational pursuits. Apparently some commoners, regarded somewhat as vagrants by the rest of the population, used caves, lava tubes, or lean-tos as permanent abodes. Sheds thatched only on the roof were erected near the shore to provide shelter for canoes during construction and storage periods and shade for craftsmen working on them.

sketch of Hawaiian temporary shelters

Illustration 5. Hawaiian temporary shelters, ca. 1778-1950. Plate 1 in Apple, Hawaiian Thatched House, p. 14.

3. Subsistence

     a) Marine Activities

          (1) Inshore and Offshore Fishing

               (a) Techniques

Abundant marine resources, including aquatic plants such as seaweed and edible algae and animals such as crustaceans and shellfish, provided the primary protein component of the Hawaiian diet because of the limited supply of other protein foods such as pig, dog, chicken, and wild birds. The ancient Hawaiians quickly became familiar with the various species of fish frequenting the waters adjacent to their shores, closely studying their habits and feeding grounds and adopting gathering methods suited to their particular characteristics. Although a constant,

Fishing took place both inshore and offshore. Many fishing techniques were used, each demanding different equipment and procedures. The principal open sea marine exploitation practices at the time of European contact included hand catching, snaring, spearing, basket trapping, netting, hook and line fishing, and poisoning.

Inshore fishing was probably the most productive and reliable source of seafood for the ancient Hawaiians, yielding fish, echinoderms, crustaceans, molluscs, and edible seaweed. Women and children participated in this type of fishing, although canoe fishing and even several of the reef methods were restricted to men. Several types of fish, including crabs, lobsters, eels, sea urchins, shellfish, octopi, and shrimp, could be caught by hand along the rocky coasts in shallow coral reef areas and shoreline pools or by divers in underwater caves.

Eels and lobsters could be caught by snaring with a noose hung from a pole. When an eel stuck its head outside its hole to get at the bait on the other side of the noose, the noose was drawn tight and the eel ensnared and raised to the surface. Using hardwood spears about six feet long, underwater divers stood on the bottom of the shore and impaled fish as they swam by. Spears were used above water for turtles, octopi, and fish that were mesmerized by torches at night in shallow water.

Women used basket traps to catch shrimp and fish. Woven of vines or branches and filled with bait, these baskets could be lowered to the shallow bottom. Women then dove down and brought the filled traps to the surface. More sophisticated baskets had conical woven entries, making it impossible for the fish to find their way out.

Several types of gill nets were used, according to the type of fish to be caught and the type of habitat. The three techniques of fishing with these involved setting up a stationary net in which fish became entangled as they swam about; driving the fish into a stationary net; or moving the net to encircle the fish. Seine nets were also used in shallow water and trapped fish by impounding them within a complete circle formed by the net or between the net and the shoreline. Bag nets were made into enclosed purses with one open end in which bait attracted fish.

A leguminous plant called 'auhuhu was pounded to make a material called hola; this was applied to holes or tidal pools to stupefy the fish, which floated to the surface where they could be retrieved in scoop nets. Or divers stuffed the pounded fibers into an underwater cave that had been sealed earlier to trap the fish inside. In a few minutes the dead fish were retrieved by hand. Another plant, called akia, found in the forests and foothills also served this purpose.

Professionals did most of the offshore fishing, using canoes to reach the deep sea fishing grounds. Only through long and careful training did men become acknowledged fishermen. The head fisherman of a group, for whom this activity was a profession and sole occupation, was the po'o lawai'a. He could be a chief of lower rank or a commoner and often supervised a company of apprentices. Knowledge of the habitats and movements of different species of fish, of the methods of capturing them, and of the types of fishing apparatus needed and of how to manufacture them (these were usually made for him by craftsmen) had been handed down to him. It was therefore his duty to choose pupils to whom to transmit his expertise so the cycle could continue. His assistants helped in fishing beyond the reef, an activity that needed to be done in concert. Often one member of the party stayed on shore to watch for the schools of fish, whose location he signalled to the fishermen. The po'o lawai'a could be commanded to accompany the high chief for a sporting fishing expedition, he could be ordered to fish for the chief, or he could go whenever he wanted.

Knowledge of the location of good fishing places off shore was a family or community possession. These spots were defined by taking bearings on natural features on shore. Several kinds of line fishing from canoes were practiced. The primary type was trolling for tunas with an unbarbed trolling hook, or lure. At other times a one-piece bone or shell hook was attached to a line, sometimes 600 feet long, weighted at the bottom with a stone sinker. Hooks were fastened to the ends of short sticks standing out at right angles along its length, which caught different kinds of fish frequenting different depths.

The first fish caught were reserved for the gods and offered on altars on shore or given to priests as soon as the canoes landed. The best fish of the catch were then set aside for the chief's personal needs and those of his household. After apportions had been made to the various kahuna and konohiki (resident land manager of the high chief), the common people finally received their share according to their need.

Resources caught along the coasts and on reefs were usually eaten raw. Fish were caught mainly for immediate consumption, but surpluses could be preserved by drying or by salting and drying on racks in the sun along the beach. Salt fish went especially well with poi, the staple Hawaiian plant food. Preserved fish could be stored for later food needs or became an important article in internal and external trade or exchange. Fish could also be wrapped in ti leaves and cooked in an imu (underground oven), laid on coals and cooked, or boiled in a calabash (gourd bowl).

As mentioned earlier, salt was an important adjunct to the fishing industry, with villagers collecting and evaporating sea water in either naturally or artificially pan-shaped rocks along the shore. The extraction of salt from ocean water for domestic use was an ancient art.

               (b) Religious Aspects

As with so many other activities in early Hawaiian life, success in fishing was closely tied to signs, omens, and the will of the gods. At the beginning of the fishing season, many ceremonies took place in which offerings such as pigs, coconuts, and bananas were made. There were also specific ceremonies surrounding the christening of a new canoe, the initial use of a new net or hook, and the catching of the first fish.

Many deities were associated with fishing. Although an ancient noted fisherman Ku'ula-kai, his wife Hina-hele, and their son Aiai, were the chief deities of this activity because they supposedly presided over the sea, each fisherman also had his own god, which might be a stone or image of the family guardian spirit ('aumakua), which would bring good luck in fishing and to which he said prayers and made offerings. 'Aumakua belonged to and protected families, or a group of kinsmen, and passed from generation to generation. They were thought to be ancestors of these kinship groups. Good-luck stones, sometimes carved with human form or in the shape of a fish, were either taken along when fishing or left at home facing the sea. In addition, a variety of shrines and altars were placed along the shore near villages or fishing places. Fishing shrines (ko'a), comprising a pile of stones usually of coral or limestone, were erected on promontories or headlands overlooking the ocean. Ko'a also took the form of small thatched temples built on rock platforms, which were enclosed with wooden fences or rock walls and sheltered by banana trees. All these structures were designed to entice the deities to attract shoals of fish to the area, and offerings of fish and sometimes fishhooks were placed on them prior to setting out to sea. After successful fishing expeditions, fishermen again placed offerings of fish on their altars.

Missionary William Ellis, describing his tour around Hawai'i in 1823, mentions that upon

Leaving the heiau [Kauaikahaloa], we passed by a number of smaller temples, principally on the sea shore, dedicated to Kuura [Ku'ula], a male, and Hina, a female idol, worshipped by fishermen, as they were supposed to preside over the sea, and to conduct or impel to the shores of Hawaii, the various shoals of fish that visit them at different seasons of the year. The first of any kind of fish, taken in the season, was always presented to them. . . . This custom exactly accords with the former practice of the inhabitants of Maui and the adjacent islands, and of the Society islanders.

As mentioned, the protective spirit of an 'aumakua was considered to be related to a specific kinship group. This was because the Hawaiians thought that the spirit of an illustrious deceased relative or young child could be ritually induced to enter some kind of fetish, either an inanimate object, a carved image, or an animal, and thus become a patron. The animal selected as the receptacle of the spirit would be treated as a pet, and a familiar relationship between its species and the family would be established. The early Hawaiians regarded certain sea animals, such as sea turtles, eels, squids, porpoises, and most notably sharks, as the physical embodiments of personal gods ('aumakua).

Ellis conjectured that

In some remote period, perhaps, they had observed the sharks chasing or devouring these fish, as they passed along among their islands, and from this circumstance had been led to deify the monster, supposing themselves indebted to him for the bountiful supplies thus furnished by a gracious Providence.

If a species of shark were 'aumakua, any of its members received offerings for special favors, such as good luck at sea and protection from drowning, prior to embarkation of a fishing expedition. Many fishermen, however, regularly fed a shark at a special spot along the shore or from a canoe and came to recognize them as individuals and even as pets. According to J. S. Emerson,

The shark was perhaps the most universally worshipped of all the 'aumakuas, and, strange to say, was regarded as peculiarly the friend and protector of all his faithful worshippers. . . . Each several locality along the coast of the islands had its special patron shark, whose name, history, place of abode, and appearance, were well known to all frequenters of that coast. Each of the sharks, too, had its kahu (keeper), who was responsible for its care and worship. The relation between a shark-god and its kahu was often times of the most intimate and confidential nature. The shark enjoyed the caresses of its kahu as it came from time to time to receive a pig, a fowl, a piece of 'awa, a malo, or some other substantial token of its kahu's devotion. And in turn it was always ready to assist the kahu, guarding him from any danger that threatened him.

Religious practices related to fishing not only helped ensure successful fishing ventures, but the kapu related to fishing and fishponds also helped conserve the sea's food supply. These kapu were rigidly adhered to, not only through tradition, but because it was the will of the chiefs and of the gods and one could expect severe punishment for ignoring them. Hawaiian exploitation patterns were designed to preserve fishing grounds by tapping specific types of marine biota at certain periods. Kapu, or closed, seasons on certain fish during their spawning time helped in the conservation of that species. Elaborate religious ceremonies accompanied the switches in open fishing seasons. Other kapu involved prohibiting fishing at certain places along the shore when deep sea fishing was open; alternating fishing times at inshore fishing places; and making certain that seaweed remained off limits at certain times of the year to preserve it as fish food and thus ensure good shore fishing. The ancient Hawaiians were not only skilled and knowledgeable fishermen, but they also respected the customs and traditions associated with this activity, which was a mainstay of their life. Fishing kapu were considered especially important because they were the method of preserving the harvest of the sea for coming generations, and they were observed with great care.

          (2) Aquaculture

               (a) Fishponds

                    i) Origin

Anthropologist William Kikuchi has broadly defined Hawaiian aquaculture as "the indigenous, economic, technological and political control of natural pools, ponds, and lakes, and of man-made ponds, enclosures, traps, and dams for the culture and harvest" of various marine resources to ensure year-round food availability. The Hawaiian fishponds comprised an early attempt to prudently manage and control the sea's resources for use by man. Fishponds held and fattened fish captured in the sea and served as a source of fish under kapu during their spawning season. The growing of fish in ponds and their conservation for future needs was an advancement on simply capturing food to fill immediate demands and denotes an increasing awareness of the need to manage food systems as the population expanded. Fish did not spawn in the ponds, however, and the level of stock management in them was very limited. The productivity of these historic Hawaiian fishponds was not great because of limited food availability, inter-species competition, and uncontrollable predation. Fishponds did, however, help provide chiefs and their retinue with much of the large quantity of fish they required.

Nowhere else in Polynesia was true aquaculture developed and nowhere else in the Pacific did fishponds exist in the types and numbers found in prehistoric Hawai'i. Where the concept of aquaculture came from and when it was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands is unknown, but it is thought that the idea of fishtraps, probably coming with migrants from the Society Islands, preceded that of fishponds. Probably the earliest aquacultural system in ancient Hawai'i consisted of simple fishtraps, dams, weirs, and natural pools, which were in the hands of the commoners. The Hawaiians ultimately developed the more dependable and efficient ponds. Prehistoric Hawaiian aquaculture encompassed the seven major islands of the group Ni'ihau, Lana'i, Maui, Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, and Hawai'i but fishponds were particularly extensive on the latter four. Kikuchi states that at least 449 ponds are known to have been constructed prior to A.D. 1830, mostly during prehistoric times in periods of intensification of production to feed large populations. Only on Hawai'i was there an intensive effort to utilize practically every form and body of water for agricultural and aquacultural use.

Ancient Hawai'i's broad aquatic food production system, then, included structures built to catch mature fish as well as structures and practices related to true aquaculture. These latter structures existed throughout the islands and included numerous manmade and natural enclosures of water in which fish and other products were raised. Hawaiian tradition associates a large number of ponds with particular chiefs who directed their construction. Based on genealogies, the first true fishponds may have been built as early as the fourteenth century; there are many definite references to their construction throughout the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. By the end of the eighteenth century, high chiefs are known to have owned more than 300 fishponds. Ownership of one or more fishponds was a symbol of chiefly status and power. According to Apple and Kikuchi, accessibility to some prehistoric fishponds and their products was limited to the elite minority the chiefs and priests. Because these ponds were kapu to the common majority, they yielded them no direct benefit. Indirectly, however, royal fishponds insured less demand on the commoners' food resources.

                    ii) Types and Construction

The extent and distribution of fishponds depended on the local topography. In areas where broad, shallow fringe reefs existed close to shore, numerous ponds could easily be formed by constructing semicircular stone walls arcing from the shoreline. Although Hawai'i Island does not have this type of coastline, it does have many natural ponds in lava basins along the shore; the addition of walls and gates made these operational as fishponds.

Loko is the general Hawaiian term for any type of pond or enclosed body of water. The two major categories of loko were shore ponds and inland ponds. Hawaiians recognized five main types of fishponds and fishtraps: loko kuapa, loko pu'uone, loko wai, loko i'a kalo, and loko 'ume'iki (Illustration 6). Ruling chiefs owned the first three types, and perhaps some of the larger and more productive of the other types, because they produced consistently and in sufficient quantity throughout the year to be highly prized. Common people and the konohiki mostly constructed and utilized the inland types, which primarily comprised natural freshwater holding ponds (loko wai) in which fish were placed and allowed to fatten, smaller fishtraps, and small irrigated taro plot ponds (loko i'a kalo), which provided only small and erratic yields. Other inland ponds were much larger, requiring collective labor forces for construction, and were almost exclusively for use by the chiefs.

sketch of Hawaiian fishponds, fishtraps

Illustration 6. Hawaiian fishponds, fishtraps, and other types of holding devices. From Kikuchi, "Hawaiian Aquacultural System," pp. 227-32. (click on image for an enlargement)

The three royal types of fishponds comprised: loko kuapa, the most important type of shore pond, artificially enclosed by an arc-shaped seawall and containing at least one sluice gate (makaha); loko pu'uone, an isolated shore fishpond containing either brackish or a mixture of brackish and fresh water, formed by development of a barrier beach paralleling the coast, and connected to the ocean by a channel or ditch; and a loko wai, a natural freshwater inland pond. The loko kuapa pond type is unique in Polynesia to the Hawaiian Islands. It was constructed either by building walls in relatively shallow water from two points along the shore into a semi-circular seawall or by constructing a seawall (kuapa) across the opening of a natural embayment. Ponds of this type, built within embayments, occur at several sites along the west coast of the island of Hawai'i. (The loko 'ume'iki [fishtrap] will be discussed later.)

Although many different kinds of fish filled these large ponds, the main inhabitants were mullet ('ama'ama) and milkfish (awa). The algae they fed on grew best when sunlight, salt, and fresh water combined in just the right proportions. Therefore, these walled fishponds needed to be shallow, from two to five feet in depth, so that sunlight could penetrate. Some ponds had fresh water springs in them or were located at the mouths of streams so that fresh water could combine with ocean water within its walls. The larger a pond's acreage, the greater the rate of evaporation, and the greater the need for an adequate supply of fresh water that could be diverted into the pond when necessary. Balancing the salinity, the food supply for the fish, the temperature, and other environmental needs was important to the success of the loko kuapa.

Materials used in the construction of prehistoric fishponds came from local sources and included stone and coral for the walls; lithified sand, alluvium, and vegetable materials for filling, surfacing, and cordage; and timber for sluice grates. The main seawall of one of these ponds comprised coral boulders or rocks or unworked basalt and ranged in width from three to nineteen feet, five feet being average. They were usually three to five feet high and faced on both sides with block construction. They were always massive and well built compared to secondary and tertiary walls within the confines of some ponds, which probably served to segregate fry from predators. The construction of fishponds involved men standing in a line from the source of the building material to the construction site and passing rocks of huge size along the human chain. Some of the fishponds were massive, their assembly being intensive, lengthy, and costly in terms of material, manpower, and the expense of feeding or housing workers.

Grills or grates (makaha) composed of straight sticks tied to one or more crossbeams obstructed the openings through the seawall (Illustration 7). The upright sticks stood close enough together that the sea water and young fry could pass in and out but larger fish could not. The makaha were stationary, with no movable parts, and were sometimes placed across a sluice or ditch, channels formed by two parallel rows of stone walls running into the pond from the grill opening. These sluices carried water into the pond from an agricultural irrigation system or from a river, spring, or the sea, creating a brackish water environment. There are no traditional standard locations for these grates, which were probably placed to provide flow into and out of the pond to reduce silting and inhibit stagnation. This sluice gate, the most distinctive and unique feature of the Hawaiian aquacultural system, was probably the technological innovation that allowed prehistoric Hawaiians to move from high tide-dependent fishtraps and from enclosed ponds with no sea access to artificial estuaries that could be controlled at all times of the tide.

sketch of Hawaiian fishpond features

Illustration 7. Hawaiian fishpond features. From Apple and Kikuchi, Ancient Hawaii Shore Zone Fishponds, p. 21.

The sieve-like nature of the sluice grates and the permeable seawalls allowed a wide range of sealife to enter the fishponds. To insure a supply of preferred fish, fingerlings of the desired kinds were captured and transported over the walls into the ponds. Stocking occurred on a seasonal basis because kapu prohibited the catching of fish during spawning. Mature fish ready for harvesting congregated on the pond side of the grate during incoming tide and on the sea side during outgoing tide. Fishing in the ponds usually involved hand nets, dip nets, seines, or surround nets. The most common method of harvesting fish utilized scoop nets on the pond side of the gate on the incoming tide.

                    iii) Products and Maintenance

As mentioned earlier, the fish most frequently raised in loko kuapa ponds were mullet ('ama'ama) and milkfish (awa). In early times, both species were kapu for all but the chiefs. Both thrive in slightly brackish water and are vegetarians, feeding on algae at the bottom of the ponds and on the roots of plants growing along the water's edge. Often stones with seaweed attached were set in the ponds to increase their food supply. Because neither of these fish reproduced in ponds, fingerlings captured in the ocean were deposited in the pond to augment supplies. In addition, excess ocean catches were allowed to grow in the ponds and then recaptured for consumption.

Each royal fishpond had a resident male keeper (kia'i loko) who stayed in a small guardhouse near the makaha when the tide was high and the fish more accessible to guard against poaching or destruction by pigs and dogs. Balancing all elements of the pond environment to ensure healthy growth was a practiced art in early Hawai'i. Maintenance of fishponds required repairing the seawall, cleaning the pond of silt and overgrowth, repairing the makaha, and eliminating predators such as barracudas and eels. Probably the kia'i loko and his staff handled routine maintenance operations but coordinated with the konohiki, who controlled the laborers, for the large-scale construction, repair, and cleaning of the ponds. The kia'i loko also fertilized the ponds artificially with sweet potatoes, taro, breadfruit, mussels, and seaweed.

                    iv) Religious Aspects

Strict kapu against poaching or pollution helped insure fishpond production. In addition, guardian spirits were believed to inhabit fishponds, and regular offerings to them were made at shrines near the walls. Usually these guardians were 'aumakua mo'o, female marine creatures who appeared as lizards, turtles, or as a woman sitting alongside the pond combing her long black hair. They are considered the feminine equivalents of shark 'aumakua. Mo'o were reportedly seen on rare occasions. A mo'o is associated with the fishpond at Kaloko, in the Kona District of Hawai'i Island. Major shrines for royal fishponds, called 'aoa, often contained two stones representing Ku'ula and his wife Hina.

                    v) Role in Hawaiian Society

Royal courts were very mobile before European contact, none of the chiefs establishing a permanent capital. During the absence of the ali'i, royal fishpond managers administered these food resources. When a mobile court took up temporary residence near a royal fishpond, a fresh supply of fish and other pond products was available whenever needed. Fishponds in conquered chiefdoms became the personal property of the conquering high chief and their harvest helped support him and his court. As the Hawaiian kingdom took form, royal fishponds in different parts of the islands supplied Kamehameha's appointed governors and district chiefs by his order as owner of all fishponds by right of conquest.

The coastal fishponds and their resources were the exclusive property of the district chief and were not a major economic resource to the general population, who were prohibited by kapu from fishing, collecting seaweed, or polluting the pond. Commoners, especially women, were seldom in the vicinity of royal fishponds. There was little advantage for commoners to live near a pond for fear of breaking the kapu. Possibly after abandonment of the kapu system in the early nineteenth century, the population concentrated more around these ponds because the resources became available to them. Coastal fishponds probably played a more important role in early Hawaiian social and political systems than in the economy. Coastal fishponds owned by the district chief increased his wealth, giving him greater political power. They were an important factor in interahupua'a and interdistrict politics and social structure, giving wealth and status to the ali'i while at the same time demanding labor from the commoners to maintain them. [87] Conspicuous ownership of food sources in Hawai'i was the sign of a powerful chief. The value of fishponds as symbols of power continued through the mid-nineteenth century. In the Great Mahele of 1848, which imposed Western-type land registration on the traditional Hawaiian land ownership pattern, fishpond ownership and high status remained linked, and larger fishponds remained with the nobility.

This is not to say that fishponds were not of some economic and social value to the early Hawaiians. During certain periods of the year when particular fish were kapu and could not be harvested in the open ocean, fishponds provided a source for those species. A stocked fishpond could also sustain a population through periods of poor fishing. Robert Renger believes that social restrictions on these pond resources, however, would have been a limiting factor before the abandonment of the kapu system in 1819. The actual yield of prehistoric Hawaiian fishponds is not known, but estimates of from 300 to 500 pounds of fish per acre per year have been made.

After 1800 there was a steady decline of aquaculture throughout the islands due to movement of people from rural to urban areas, decrease in population within the transportation range of fishponds, changes in eating habits, and a more Western orientation in terms of material culture and monetary value. The diversion of streams for agricultural purposes, changing shoreline use, and commercial/resort development along the ocean also impacted aquaculture practices.

The differences between aquacultural sites in the Hawaiian Islands and fish devices elsewhere in the Pacific were many: the emphasis in Hawai'i lay in stocking and raising fish rather than trapping them; Hawai'i had a much more extensive number of aquacultural sites; Hawaiian aquacultural practices were more technically advanced, including sluice grates, channels, and canals; and finally, in Hawai'i fishponds were primarily owned by the ali'i, whereas in other societies, families or villages owned fish trapping and holding facilities.

Only a small number of Hawaiian fishponds remain in existence, and they have undergone vast physical changes since prehistoric times. Factors threatening their existence through the years have included warring chiefs, siltation from upland runoff, overgrowth, introduced marsh plants and grasses, general disrepair, and pollution. Lava flows from Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes on Hawai'i Island in 1801 and 1859 and from Haleakala on Maui in historic times have adversely impacted several known fishponds. Other natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides, faulting, storms, and tsunami (tidal waves), have also affected ponds.

               (b) Fishtraps

Prehistoric fishtraps were not as economically important as fishponds. Because their harvest was dependent on the tides, they were a much less reliable source of food. And because they were accessible to commoners as well as to women, they were also of less religious and political significance. They are, however, representative of overall aquacultural practices of the early Hawaiians.

A loko 'ume'iki, a shore pond with numerous lanes leading in and out, was actually a very large fishtrap, whose walls were submerged at high tide, enabling fish to enter, and slightly above sea level at low tide. Fish were not continually raised or stored inside these structures, but were trapped and used immediately after capture. These ponds were fished by netting during the ebb and flow periods through the entrance lanes.

     b) Agricultural Activities

          (1) Crops

The early Hawaiians were primarily fishermen and cultivators. On their colonizing trips from their homeland they brought in their canoes planting stocks of their primary staple food crops as well as of plants yielding materials for housing, clothing, and utensils and of ornamental and medicinal value. Establishing and nurturing these plants in the fertile and well-watered soil of their new home, they eventually formed the basis of a well-developed agricultural economy. Kirch divides agricultural development in Hawai'i into three major processes. The first is adaptation, adjusting cultivation practices to local conditions. Second is expansion, turning a natural landscape into an agricultural one as populations grew. This involved clearing forests and terracing slopes. The final phase is intensification, with greater labor efforts to achieve greater yield to support a denser population and a complex hierarchy of nobility.

A few edible food plants were indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands. Those used and carefully tended were pandanus and some ferns and probably 'ohelo and 'akala. The main native farming implement consisted of the o'o, a digging stick of hard wood of variable length, from six to nine feet long, with either a flat point or a flat blade. With the additional use of adzes, fire, and cutting implements, the early Hawaiians were able to clear vegetation; control streams by constructing dams, irrigation ditches, canals, and terraces; cultivate the soil of mountain slopes and valley bottoms; and build stone walls to arrest erosion. 

Sometime during the settlement period, probably after crops were growing well and domesticated animals were reproducing, an economic shift from the sea to the land took place. As the population grew, this would have provided a more efficient means of subsistence than total reliance on fishing. Some farming was done in open grassland and forests, where irrigation was not necessary because of sufficient rainfall. Other crops grew in the lowlands or alluvial valley bottoms, where flowing water provided irrigation.

The most widely cultivated food plant of the early Hawaiians was the taro, whose tubers were baked, pounded, and mixed with water to make poi, staff of life of the Hawaiian culture, Wet taro, requiring abundant fresh water, was planted in pond fields near springs and freshwater marshes and on the flood plains of perennial streams, arranged in terraces so that diverted water could flow from the higher to the lower patches. Canals, constructed of earth and stone embankments, channeled water from streams or springs to irrigate these fields. Dry or non-irrigated taro required less water and was cultivated in upland grasslands, rain-soaked forest areas, and under mulch.

Several other dry land crops were also important food items. They were cultivated by means of swiddening clearing vegetation by cutting and burning, followed by alternate periods of planting and leaving the land fallow. Sweet potatoes comprised the main crop where insufficient water occurred to grow taro. Breadfruit trees were planted in groves in sheltered areas with fertile soil and little wind. Numerous varieties of bananas grew in clumps around taro patches and in gulches. Yams were raised to some extent in the early days, but because of their mealy texture were not a favorite food. Later they were grown to sell to sea captains because they spoiled less quickly than taro or sweet potatoes. Other vegetables in the Hawaiian diet included coconuts, sugarcane, arrowroot, and seaweeds. Other plants extensively cultivated were the paper mulberry for manufacturing barkcloth (kapa), the 'awa for use as a narcotic, bottle gourds used for containers and musical instruments, screwpine (pandanus) used in making mats, and a variety of other useful plants.

In summary, the earliest agricultural period in ancient Hawai'i involved both taro cultivation in irrigated pond fields and dryland cultivation of crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. The extent of wet taro pond systems was small at first because of the restricted needs of a small population. As agricultural productivity became a more efficient and reliable means of subsistence, however, a rapid population growth occurred. Settlements probably remained scattered and small as a rule, although in alluvial valleys pond fields had been developed to the extent of supporting larger, more concentrated settlements. Concurrently, changes began to occur in the technology of farming relative to engineering techniques, in plant adaptations, and in environmental factors affecting crop yields. Increasing population pressures encouraged a greater emphasis on more elaborate, high-yield wet taro systems. In addition, changes occurred in gently sloping leeward areas, where vast dry field systems began to be constructed. The intensification of agriculture resulted in even more densely populated settlements whose larger populations could provide the labor needed for vast public works projects such as the creation of more dry land field systems. Aspects of Hawaiian culture related to ensuring maximum productivity of the land probably flowered during this period, including the elaborate land tenure system that will be discussed later.

As with all other aspects of Hawaiian culture, agricultural practices closely interfaced with religion, traditions, and customs. Because this endeavor was so dependent on the powers of nature, every step of the agricultural cycle preparing the land, planting crops, caring for plants, and harvesting was accompanied by appropriate ceremonies.

          (2) Animal Husbandry

As mentioned earlier in this report, the Hawaiian Islands supported some edible land animals, such as birds and bats, when first colonized. The settlers brought with them, however, domesticated land animals pigs, dogs, and chickens that they carefully bred and raised as a supplementary food source. Chickens were the least popular food item. Although the dog was considered superior to the pig in taste, both were favorites of the commoners and the chiefs and both were bred and nurtured in large numbers. More chiefs than commoners consumed pork and dog meat, the right to the fattest and largest number of pigs and dogs being a privilege of rank. Both animals were tendered as tribute and as ritual offerings at ceremonial feasts of the chief on demand. Chickens and dogs lived near dwellings, the latter feeding on poi, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes. Pigs ranged more widely, rooting for food, but also living off sweet potato vine cuttings, taro leaves, sugarcane, and garbage. Captain Cook and other European navigators later introduced goats, cattle, sheep, and horses.

4. Political Organization

     a) High Chiefs and their Advisors

The pre-contact political hierarchy of the Hawaiian Islands was rigidly organized, with a variable number of high chiefs controlling different parts of an island, a whole island, or several islands. Although historically there were several attempts by chiefs to expand their domain over other islands, none was successful until Kamehameha, who, in addition to possessing great intelligence and a strong personality, was aided by the weaponry and military expertise of European advisors. By the time of Captain Cook's arrival, four high chiefs ruled the eight main islands of Hawai'i. One kingdom included Maui, Moloka'i, Lana'i, and Kahoolawe, while a second comprised Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. O'ahu and Hawai'i each had its own chief.

These independent chiefdoms were each ruled by a supreme chief, or ali'i-'ai-moku (chief possessing an island or district); at times he was referred to simply as ke ali'i or ke ali'i-nui (the chief, or the great chief) to distinguish him from lesser chiefs. Ideally the ali'i-'ai-moku was also the person of highest rank among the nobility. Therefore he was sometimes referred to as the king or Moi (mo'i, supreme male ali'i). Although individuals usually attained this position on the basis of genealogical inheritance, a junior collateral relative could also gain it by force or because he had the personal qualifications to make himself leader.

The ali'i-nui had complete control over his lands and its products, over the lives of his subjects, and over their personal property. He derived these rights from his close genealogical ties with the Hawaiian gods and was considered one himself. Generally the will of the ruling chief was the law of the land, but there also existed a large body of traditional or customary law relating to such things as water rights, fishing rights, and land usage.

Two high officers assisted the ali'i-nui with governmental functions. The kahuna-nui (chief priest) conducted important religious ceremonies, observed and interpreted natural phenomena, consulted the auspices for favorable omens, and advised the king on how to remain in favor with the gods. Although the king sometimes consulted his lesser chiefs on important matters, he relied mainly on his kal'ai-moku, a counselor who served as prime minister and chief administrative officer, advising the king on the distribution of lands and positions and on military strategy. This position was highly important because the judicious assignment of lands to chiefs and the maintenance of control over them was the key to successful governing. Larger districts, for example, were never assigned to the higher chiefs, thus preventing them from accruing enough power to rebel. The tie between these two counselors and the high chief was the strongest in the government in pre-European times. (With the collapse of the ancient religion in 1819, however, the power of the priests was broken and the position of kahuna-nui abolished.) The kahuna, occupational specialists, fit into this political structure at points depending on their genealogical ranking and specialty. Each ali'i-nui also maintained a court of advisors, religious specialists, and personal servants, which followed its leader from place to place within the kingdom.

     b) Lower Levels of Government

After the ali'i-nui had gained power, either through orderly succession or victory in battle, he took the lands he wanted and divided the rest among his chiefs, who in turn rewarded their retainers, thus establishing a sort of feudal relationship. No system of permanent land tenure existed under the ancient system, because upon the accession of every new supreme chief, ahupua'a could be reapportioned among the high chiefs and 'ili (smaller land divisions) among lower chiefs and supporters. It was to a new chief's advantage, however, to maintain some stability relative to tenancy among the commoners to ensure a steady supply of food and goods. The chiefs below him to which the ali'i-nui allocated portions of his kingdom did not acquire title to the land but could use it, its products, its people, and their possessions. These chiefs then allocated use rights in their portion of the kingdom to chiefs below them and so on down to the lowest chiefs in the hierarchy. Just below the chiefly ranks were the konohiki, administrative functionaries who controlled a specific parcel of land, such as an ahupua'a, and who assumed responsibility for the smooth running of the sophisticated Hawaiian agricultural and aquacultural systems, the fair allotment of water, and the enforcement of fishing rights, and who collected taxes and supplied armies in case of war and laborers for state enterprises such as heiau and fishpond construction.

     c) Political Unrest

Commoners, the bulk of Hawaiian society, had no voice in political matters. The king held the authority to draft an army, assess taxes, condemn or pardon criminals, or banish subjects, all without appeal. Depending largely upon an ali'i-nui's abilities as a leader, his people suffered or prospered. They did not feel irrevocably bound to their chiefs, however, sometimes dispossessing an unjust ruler, killing him, or moving to another kingdom if the situation became too unbearable. In addition, senior nobles, acting as tenants-in-chief, could transfer their fealty and form coalitions to replace a ruler. At the same time, each paramount chief ideally tried to expand his kingdom by conquering and incorporating rival chiefdoms. Overall, the pre-contact political situation in the islands was variable disputes over succession, land control, and individual ambitions, and quarrels between neighboring districts, were frequent disruptions to a routine way of life.

5. Economic System

     a) Summary of Change in the Economic Structure

Originally Hawaiian land units were semi-independent chiefdoms whose inhabitants were related by bonds of kinship and whose chiefs were senior relatives in a corporate descent group. This ancestral Polynesian social and land-tenure system existed while the population concentrated along the coast but changed radically during the pre-contact years as the population expanded inland. At that time the pattern of economic exploitation changed from the coastal zone to a coastal-inland axis. With the formation of self-sufficient ahupua'a, kinship ties slowly disintegrated and the gap between chief and commoner widened. The highest chiefs, at the tip of a hierarchical pyramid, gained sole stewardship of the land, while the commoners, who had no ownership rights and worked the land, formed the broad supporting base. Competition among chiefs over control of productivity led to formation of socio-political boundaries through force. Power rather than kinship determined control and led to the formation of the Hawai'i emergent state.

     b) Competition for Resources Increases

According to the native Historian Samuel Kamakau, no formal division of land existed in ancient Hawai'i while the population figures remained low. Holdings depended upon possession and use. As the number of inhabitants increased, however, a need arose for apportioning the land equally, and formal land divisions were established. While arable land, water, and other resources were plentiful and kinship groups dominated the social system, land could peacefully be held in common, with possession and use deciding rights. As the population increased, however, and resources became less plentiful, competition for them also increased. Intensification of agricultural activities, with the resultant labor involved in constructing irrigation systems, aquacultural facilities, and dryland field and wet taro systems to support a larger population, increased the value of certain land parcels, making them very appealing to the growing ranks of rival chieftains.

The establishment of a formal and rather elaborate land tenure system, then, based upon an investment of labor implying ownership in land and permanence of settlement and improvements, resulted from the expansion of settlement inland from the coast, an increase in population, the intensification of agricultural activities to ensure maximum productivity, and intergroup competition for resources. Ultimately politics and the extension of chiefly powers through landownership and personal aggrandizement promoted the growth of feudalism. The growing necessity for personal protection caused lesser chiefs and commoners to attach themselves to a high chief who afforded protection in return for service and a portion of the resources of the land. One by one, smaller chiefdoms allied themselves with more powerful chiefs for security against rising warrior chiefs until finally each island came under the control of a high chief, all of whom finally came under the sovereignty of Kamehameha.

     c) Land Divisions

Each of the Hawaiian Islands supported several environmental zones or exploitation areas. Initial occupation during the colonization period was of the deep sea and inshore zone, which provided fish, marine food animals, seaweed, and salt. Food crops grown along the shoreline or coastal flat on which homes were built included coconut palms, sweet potatoes, and sometimes breadfruit trees. Between this shoreline habitation zone and the forest belt lay the kula, or open country slopes. In many leeward areas, the lower portion of the kula consisted of a broad, arid expanse where little cultivation was possible. On the island of Hawai'i, this zone consists of bare lava with scattered soil patches on which small numbers of sweet potatoes and gourds could be grown. Inland from this area lies the upper kula, whose greater rainfall creates well-developed soils that allow cultivation of extensive fields of sweet potatoes, dry taro, paper mulberry, and sugar cane. Crops of the upper kula mostly grew in isolated plots separated by unimproved land or fallow fields. The forest above the upper kula agricultural zone provided timber for making canoes, house frames, weapons and utensils, and craft items. Bananas were grown along the lower forest margins, and sometimes small plots in the middle of the forest were planted in taro. The forest also provided wild plants that supplemented the Hawaiian diet.

Prior to European contact, each of the major islands or independent chiefdoms in the Hawaiian chain comprised a mokupuni. Each island was divided into major districts, or moku, administered by high-ranking chiefs. They were either relatives of the high chief of the island, trusted supporters, or high ranking individuals who pledged their support to the high chief but were allowed to remain relatively independent. In ancient Hawai'i, land division and the resulting economic system reflected both geographic conditions of the environment and characteristics of the social organization of the people. The land pattern established in Hawai'i was based on the wedge-shaped land divisions typical of mountainous islands in Polynesia. These divisions (ahupua'a) radiated from the interior uplands, down through deep valleys, and past the shoreline into the sea. They became the basic unit of the Hawaiian socio-economic organization (Illustration 8). This type of land division allowed exploitation of all the resource zones of the island forests, agricultural land, shoreline, and ocean by a single socio-political group and guaranteed them some degree of self-sufficiency and economic independence. These zones provided fish; taro fields; logs for firewood, ridgepoles, and canoes; bark for kapa cloth; and bird feathers for cloaks and helmets. They represented a continuous range of environmental conditions in terms of rainfall, soils, and species of vegetation, provided diverse natural products, and supported a variety of crops and domestic animals. The boundaries of these land divisions, each of which had a specific name, were determined by topographical features, such as ridges and streambeds, rather than by artificial delineations. Initially, as in other Polynesian systems, kinship-based corporate descent groups occupied these divisions. In Hawai'i, however, this system of land tenure eventually developed into a local variant that was much more politically based. The determination of socio-political boundaries by the exercise of power rather than through kinship ties is a formulative characteristic of emergent states.

sketch map

Illustration 8. The ahupua'a of the ancient Hawaiian land system. Figure 2 in Kirch,Feathered Gods and Fishhooks, p. 4.

All of the resources within this strip were restricted to use by its inhabitants. The name derives from ahu, an altar erected at the intersection of the land division boundary with the main road around the island, and pua'a, a pig, represented by a carved wooden image of a hog's head placed on the altar. Because a pig was an acceptable tribute, it represented any tribute-in-kind. Residents deposited gifts at this site each year during the annual harvest festival (Makahiki). The size of the ahupua'a varied, the larger ones on the island of Hawai'i being located in the interior.

The ahupua'a were often divided into 'ili ('ili'aina), long, narrow strips of land running lengthwise along the ahupua'a that could be discontinuous, or 'ili lele (jump strips), which comprised one segment near the ocean and another in the uplands or on the plains, continuing the ahupua'a rule of equitable land division but on a smaller scale. These were portions of ahupua'a land allotted to the families who lived on them and cultivated them. The right to continue to use and cultivate these stayed with the 'ohana (extended families) living on them regardless of any transfer of title to the ahupua'a. The 'ili was a land division, the ahupua'a a tax unit. Long strips of arable land within an 'ili were called mo'o (strips). There were in addition smaller land divisions comprising special plots of cultivated land.

Rights to irrigation water and fishing areas, considered very valuable economic assets, were strictly controlled within an ahupua'a. Water rights were codified to assure the equitable distribution of free-flowing waters for irrigation. Inshore fishing rights were explicitly stated. Normally only members of an 'ohana had rights to exploit specific water areas of the 'ohana lands. These rights usually included the inshore waters out as far as a man could stand upright with his head above water. A chief or konohiki, however, could place kapu on the use of certain types of fish and other marine resources at certain times or by certain people.

     d) Sharing

The Hawaiian economic system functioned within the context of these land divisions and within the concepts of certain social relationships. Research to date indicates that large-scale trade between districts was not a major aspect of the Hawaiian pre-contact economic system. Because of the diversity of environments and products available within each ahupua'a, they were probably fairly self-sufficient, providing not only necessary resources for its inhabitants, but also enough to contribute to the political hierarchy.

Effective economic distribution of goods and services within an ahupua'a was accomplished by sharing and mutual cooperation. This type of socio-economic system, providing a means for resource distribution between the upland and coastal exploitation zones, was most effectively accomplished within a family organization, where ties of kinship dictated sharing of the resources of the family land (Illustration 9). The fundamental social unit in Hawaiian culture was the dispersed community of 'ohana mentioned above relatives by blood, marriage, or adoption some living inland and some near the sea in a geographical locality to which they were tied by ancestry or sentiment. The functional unit within the 'ohana was the household, including the immediate family as well as unrelated dependents. Between households within the 'ohana constant sharing and exchange of food, articles, and services occurred. Those households living inland raising taro, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas, and kapa, and needing coconuts, salt, and marine foods, would take a gift to a 'ohana household living near the sea and receive in return fish or other needed items. The 'ohana constituted the community within which the economic life of Hawai'i centered. This constant circulation of food products and services within the land area controlled by a family became the basis of the ahupua'a land division economic system.

sketch map

Illustration 9. Traditional Hawaiian land use pattern. From Draft Environmental Statement, Proposed Ka-loko, Hono-ko-hau National Cultural Park, p. 57.

     e) Tribute

The right of the commoners to live on the land and cultivate it, instead of naturally resulting from membership in a corporate descent group as in their ancestral homeland, depended on the regular payment of labor and tribute, or "offerings," to the "god-descended" chiefs at the top of the social scale. In this system, farmers and fishermen, for example, were required to offer a specific share of their labor and their yield to the chiefs, who in return ritually interceded with the appropriate deities to assure peace and plenty.

The economy of ancient Hawai'i was closely interwoven with the political system, creating a vertical economic structure. The ruler of each independent chiefdom controlled the use rights to all lands and products in his kingdom; as a group, therefore, these chiefs controlled the economic organization of the islands at the state level. They supported themselves and their retinue through two annual Makahiki rituals, during which time taxes in the form of produce and personal property were gathered. One collection was made for the political hierarchy, others for the religious specialists and members of the chief's court. The chief could also levy special assessments at any time. In return, the commoners expected intercession with the gods on their behalf and on behalf of their fishing and farming endeavors, prosperity, protection in time of war, and the benefit of major public works such as religious temples, field systems, and fishponds.

The levy of the ali'i during the tribute collection of the Makahiki festival fell on the 'ohana rather than on individuals or single households. The tax levy per family was based on its ability to pay, taking into account the type and extent of holdings and the size of the family. The konohiki, as the absentee chief's resident land manager, collected the taxes. Because Hawaiians were not bound to the land on which they lived, they could move elsewhere if the konohiki became too oppressive. This tended to prevent too frequent levies. Taxes included food items, such as pigs, taro, potatoes, dogs, and vegetables, and personal goods, such as bird feathers, rope, fishing nets, fishhooks, tools, bark cloth, and mats. These latter items were collected only once a year, at Makahiki time, whereas animal and produce items were on call as needed. Actually because the chief upon whose lands they lived owned all the land and resources in an ahupua'a, in a sense the tenants were only giving these resources to the rightful owner, in a useful form and upon demand, on a gift-tax basis. He kept a part and passed the rest on to the chief to whom he owed allegiance and so on up to the ruling chief, who distributed the goods to support himself and all the members of his household, including his retainers, specialists, priests, and political advisers, who in turn supported their families on these bounties.

The annual harvest festival of Makahiki was the most important Hawaiian religious festival, lasting from October until February. During the first part of the celebration, work and war were kapu. At this time activities focused on recognizing and sanctioning the position held by the chiefs and priests within the total Hawaiian social structure. During the course of the year each household had produced the extra items required for presentation to the chief during this festival. At a designated time, the people of each land division carried those offerings to altars established at the point where the main trail around the island crossed the border of their ahupua'a. These were symbolic offerings to Lono, god of peace and agriculture, whose image was transported around the islands by the priests and high chief to acknowledge the offerings. When the circuit was completed, the kapu was lifted and the period of feasts and merrymaking started, marking the completion of the year's agricultural labors. The Makahiki ceremony symbolized an important aspect of the Hawaiian economy the fact that the maka'ainana were both able and required to produce a surplus for the support of an economically non-productive chief and priest class. The ceremony would also have particular significance in relation to the arrival of Captain Cook in Hawai'i.

Because the prestige and mana of the chiefs depended upon their ability to mobilize labor and exact tribute, pressure from the top of the pyramid was constant for more intensive economic development to keep the infrastructure intact. A rapidly increasing population and the resultant growing labor base made this intensification possible. With a wealth of available agricultural lands supporting plentiful natural resources, population growth rates during the period from A.D. 600-1100 continued to be high. Conversely, as the infrastructure developed, these larger populations could be supported. The limits to this growth depended on the changes and alterations made to the island environment. This self-perpetuating cycle could continue only if certain management controls were exerted on the Hawaiian ecosystem.

6. Religion

     a) Gods

Religion was the paramount aspect of Hawaiian life, permeating every daily activity, every aspect of secular affairs, and every significant event, such as birth, marriage, death, house construction, fishing, agriculture, and war. Also important were the regular calendrical celebrations to ensure the peoples' prosperity and well-being. All activities were accompanied by appropriate rites, religious ceremonies, and prayers to establish and maintain proper relations with the spirits. The ancient Hawaiians believed these spirits, who pervaded the world and shaped events, had the power to inflict injury if directed or if angered by the breaking of their kapu, but could be approached and persuaded to act in one's behalf. The Hawaiians worshipped a vast number of deities, of which there were two main categories. Akua represented nature's elements they were the personifications of great natural forces. The 'aumakua mentioned earlier were the familiar ancestral protective gods.

All parts of nature were thought to be manifestations or particular functions of one of these gods. A distinct difference in their "personalities" was reflected in the kind of phenomena and natural processes with which they were associated. A particular manifestation of one of a god's functions was regarded as a separate being. One god, in his different aspects, could be a patron of various crafts and activities and was usually referred to with an epithet attached to the name describing the particular aspect being invoked (e.g., Ku-of-fishing, Ku-of-war). These aspects of the major gods were worshipped as separate entities. The war god Ku-ka'ili-moku, the special god of the kings of Hawai'i Island, became of great importance during the latter era of Hawai'i's ancient history, especially in the reign of Kamehameha. At that time Ku-ka'ili-moku (Ku-the-snatcher-of-islands), Kamehameha's personal god, was established as the principal deity of the realm, a kind of state god. Demigods such as Pele, the volcano goddess, were less powerful than the four major ones and were associated with definite places, forces, or beings, as they are today. Their worship was mainly a private affair, while that to the great deities was publicly carried out in large temples by noble priests and their superiors. The four all-powerful cosmic deities, or akua, in Polynesian mythology were Kane, the primary god, representative of the supreme being, creator of nature and men, concerned with life and procreation; Kanaloa, associated with the sea and death but of little importance in the hierarchy; Ku, who assisted in strenuous activities, generally controlled the fruitfulness of the earth, politics, and, as the power behind war, was a special god of the chiefs; and Lono, god of rain and agriculture and hence of fertility, the most benevolent of the four.

The general welfare of the land, its occupants, and the chiefdoms was considered dependent on the careful and proper observance of the several calendric cycles of temple ritual. The strength and prosperity of a chiefdom, in other words, was directly related to the religious fervor the paramount chief displayed. Although the paramount chief exerted the ultimate political authority of the chiefdom, the resting place of supreme power and authority lay with the gods, or usually one specific god, who provided the paramount chief with the mana to rule. This divine mandate was considered revoked if there were a successful coup d'etat or victorious invasion resulting in a reassignment of political authority. The successful defeat of an invasion, on the other hand, was interpreted as divine confirmation of the status quo.

     b) Priests

The ancient Hawaiians considered themselves always in the midst of gods, spirits, and supernatural beings who frequented the mountains, woods, shores, and the sea, and who entered into objects, stone and wood images, and living things such as birds and sharks as well as people. According to Hawaiian belief, the success of all human activities depended on maintaining the proper relations with these spirits, and the vehicles for accomplishing this included shrines, temples, and images as well as rituals and prayers. The latter work was carried on by kahuna. In family worship, the male head of the family acted as priest, but at the elaborate, prescribed rituals in the temples of the chiefs, professional priests presided. It was they alone who knew the proper rituals for winning the favor of the gods and obtaining the purity necessary to survive the ever-present dangers in life. Closely associated with the ruling chiefs, and next in rank and authority to them, stood the kahuna pule, a distinct group of officiating priests that presided over each facet or cult of the religion. Although the chiefs were more closely descended from the gods, these kahuna were also very powerful because of their direct contact with the gods and could best determine ways to gain or perpetuate power, maintain rapport with the major gods, and intercede with them for a particular purpose.

The worship of the gods named earlier comprised a state religion characterized by large, influential cadres of priests, complex rituals, and specific places where ceremonies took place. Each major god had his own hereditary priesthood, distinct ceremonies, and specific temples (heiau) where the appropriate rituals were performed and offerings made. Each priestly family was, by tradition, devoted to the service of a particular god and could not officiate at the temple of any other deity. Only the king had free access to all sacred enclosures. In addition to their religious duties, the priesthood had charge of the chronologies, historical songs, traditions, and legends of Hawaiian society. On the island of Hawai'i, at least, two hereditary hierarchial orders of priests existed, those of Ku and those of Lono, with the former being of highest rank and therefore most powerful. The high priest (kahuna nui), one of the supreme chief's two senior advisors, headed the cult of the war god Ku. The KG rituals were only held in luakini (a sacrificial heiau) of the independent ruling chiefs, which will be described later, and were held in connection with war and other national emergencies. The Lono rituals were for maintaining peace and the fruitfulness of the land.

     c) kapu

          (1) Purpose of System

The ancient Hawaiian culture's system of law, derived from religious authority, influenced social organization by dictating an individual's appropriate behavior within this highly rigid and ranked society. As Apple and Kikuchi state,

The universe of the native Hawaiian can be viewed as having been a delicately balanced, tri-state system composed of the supernatural, the natural, and the cultural. . . . Hawaiian culture demanded that the balance be maintained in order for the universe to function smoothly, efficiently, and abundantly.

The kapu system was based in part on a dualistic conception of nature that

separated the things which were believed to be inferior (the common and unsacred, the physical, passive, female, darkness, destruction, and death, ignorance, westerly direction, left side) from the things which were believed to have a superior nature (the sacred, the psychic, mana, male, light, life, occult knowledge, easterly direction, right side).

This system, a "sanctioned avoidance" behavior conforming to specific rules and prohibitions (kapu), prescribed the type of daily interactions among and between the classes, between the people and their gods, and between the people and nature. By compelling avoidance between persons of extreme rank difference, it reinforced class divisions by protecting mana (spiritual power) from contamination while at the same time preventing the mana from harming others. Kapu not only separated the nobility from the lower classes, but also prevented contact with such spiritually debasing or defiling things as corpses and evil spirits. The kapu system preserved the Hawaiian culture not only by maintaining social control through the prevention of chaos caused by the confusion of societal roles and by reinforcing political power, but also by providing environmental controls through the conservation of natural resources, which maintained a balance in nature and enabled maintenance of a subsistence

          (2) Origin and Enforcement

The kapu system was practiced throughout Polynesia, indicating that the early Hawaiians brought its basic tenets from their homeland. Certain religious kapu were permanent and unchangeable, relating to customary rites, observances, ceremonies, and methods of worship, and to the maintenance of the gods and their priests. They were familiar and understood by all, having been practiced from childhood. Civil kapu were more capricious, erratic, and often temporary, depending on the whims of the chiefs and priests. The kapu system comprised a vast number of prohibitions with dire penalties for infractions, intentional or not, that included execution by being stoned, clubbed, strangled, drowned, or burned alive. The strict observance of the kapu system and its punishments were necessary to preserve the power and prestige of the priesthood and the rulers. This intricate system that supported Hawai'i's social and political organization directed every activity of Hawaiian life, from birth through death, until its overthrow by King Kamehameha II in 1819.

          (3) Foreign Perceptions

According to Kuykendall, the kapu system was

the feature of the Hawaiian culture which made the deepest impression upon most of the early foreign visitors, who saw only the outer manifestations of the system and who in their descriptions emphasize its bizarre restrictions and cruel sanctions.

One of these early visitors, the Reverend William Ellis, noted that

an institution so universal in its influence, and so inflexible in its demands, contributed very materially to the bondage and oppression of the natives in general. The king, sacred chiefs, and priests appear to have been the only persons to whom its application was easy; the great mass of the people were at no period of their existence exempt from its influence, and no circumstance in life could excuse their obedience to its demands. The females in particular felt all its humiliating and degrading force.

And Professor William Bryan of the College of Hawaii remarked in 1915 that the kapu system

was fastened on every act of the daily life of the people to such an extent that it was ever present, dominating their every thought and deed. It oppressed their lives, curtailed their liberties, and darkened and narrowed their horizon beyond belief.

Whether or not the Hawaiians believed the kapu restrictions to be bizarre, inflexible, humiliating, or oppressive is questionable. Certainly it was a system that impressed all foreign Visitors as being shocking and cruel in the context of their experiences.

          (4) Categories

Many things were kapu under Hawaiian culture. Anything connected with the gods and their worship was considered sacred, such as idols, heiau, and priests. Because chiefs were believed to be descendants of the gods, many kapu related to chiefs and their personal possessions, such as clothes, mats, and houses. Certain objects were also kapu, and to be avoided, either because they were sacred or because they were defiling. Seasons and places could also be declared kapu.

The Hawaiian kapu can be grouped into three categories. The first evolved from the basic precepts of the Hawaiian religion and affected all individuals, but were considered by foreign observers to be especially oppressive and burdensome to women. One of the most important and fundamental of this type of proscription forbade men and women from eating together and also prohibited women from eating most of the foods offered as ritual sacrifices to the gods. For example, it was kapu for women to eat pork, pigs being a frequent sacrificial offering, and they could only eat dog meat or other kapu foods on special occasions. They also could not eat fowl, coconuts, bananas, turtle, shark meat, or certain kinds of fruits or fish that were offered in sacrifice, these being kapu to anyone but the gods and men. In addition, foods for husbands and wives had to be cooked in separate ovens and eaten in separate structures. During the four principal kapu periods of each month, women were forbidden to ride in a canoe or have intimate relations with the other sex. During her pregnancy, a woman had to live apart from her husband.

A second category of kapu were those relating to the inherited rank of the nobility and were binding on all those equal to or below them in status. Regarding kapu relative to the ruling class,

The kapus of prerogative associated with the high chiefs were in effect safeguards to their mana. They took several forms, but all were designed to prevent loss of a chief's mana through contact with "common" things, on the one hand, and to protect ordinary mortals from the dire consequences of exposure to his god-like radiations of mana, on the other. The kapus of prerogative were inherited, and were observed in recognition of the degree of mana inherent in the chiefs who held them.

These kapu posed enormous difficulties for the high ali'i because it restricted their behavior and activities to some degree. As Cox and Davenport state:

An individual of high rank could have considerable mana, but it was extremely dangerous to a commoner or an outcast when, by contagion, he contracted a supercharged amount of mana from an exceptionally high ali'i. For this reason those chiefs who were the direct descendants of the great deities and who were thought to be in some ways the incarnation of these gods, were so charged with mana that in some situations they could not even walk about the land without rendering all they touched, or upon which their shadows fell, prohibited to commoners.

Because these kapu prohibited the highest-ranking chiefs from easily walking around during the day, some of them traveled in disguise to protect the people and themselves from the difficulties presented by this custom.

This category included the deferential behavior patterns that lower-ranking people had to follow in the presence of those of higher rank. Commoners had to prostrate themselves with their faces touching the ground before the most sacred chiefs when they ventured out in public, and neither the king nor priests could touch anything themselves. All personal possessions of a person of the highest chiefly rank (resulting from a brother-sister marriage) were definitely kapu, and contact with them by a commoner meant certain death.

The third category were governmental edicts issued randomly by a paramount chief or his officials that were binding on all subjects and included such acts as the placing of kapu on certain preferred surfing, fishing, or bathing spots for the chief's exclusive use. Any place or object could be declared kapu by the proper person affixing near it or on its perimeters a pole or stakes bearing a bit of white kapa cloth or a bunch of bamboo leaves, signifying that the locality or thing should be avoided. The most important temples and the permanent housing complexes of high chiefs were surrounded by dry-laid masonry walls or wooden palings that created a sacred stockade. However,

not all of the stockades were physical. Some were invisible lines that were as effective as rock walls or picket fences. Walls and fences apparently marked lifetime or permanent taboo areas. Invisible lines marked enclosures guarded by temporary taboos. Real or invisible, they excluded commoners.

In addition, the chiefs proclaimed certain kapu seasons as conservation measures to regulate land use and safeguard resources. These had the same force as other kapu, but pertained to the gathering or catching of scarce foodstuffs, such as particular fruits and species of fish; to water usage; and to farming practices. These kapu were designed to protect resources from overuse. Through the kapu system, Hawaiian chiefs played a major role in controlling the food supply by restricting consumption of certain types of food to certain classes and sexes. The restriction on the types of food women could eat, for example "would have moderated demand for domesticated mammal meat and may have played a major role in preserving herds." At certain times, also, particular fruits, animals, and fish were kapu for several months to both sexes. Other kapu seasons observed were at the approach of a great religious ceremony, before going to war, or when a chief was sick.

          (5) Effects on the Population

High officials declared general kapu and had them publicly announced. On specific nights of every lunar month, rituals and sacrifices took place at the temple of each major deity. During a strict kapu period, when the ruler especially needed the favor of the deities, absolute silence was mandated in order not to break the sacred spell of the rites. All human activity ceased, no fires were built, domestic animals were shut away or muzzled, and everyone except priests remained indoors. Common kapu only required males to stop their work and attend temple ceremonies, while the time it lasted was considered a holiday.

The Hawaiian kapu system not only hindered the freedom of the commoners and women in general, but also restricted the activities of the highest ranking chiefs. It was also open to periodic abuse. The kapu system was, nonetheless, enforced throughout Kamehameha's reign. According to William Ellis, "Tamehameha always supposed his success, in every enterprise, to be owing to the strict attention he paid to the service and requirements of his god." According to Lt. George Peard, crewman on the H.M.S. Blossom, who visited Hawai'i in 1826-27,

Tamaamaah [Kamehameha] himself had even been averse to a change [in religious practices], and refused several applications to allow the Missionaries to settle on his estates, although he was well aware of the absurdity of Paganism. When questioned by [Gov. John] Adams [Kuakini] about it, and more particularly concerning human sacrifices. 'You don't think me such a fool said he as to put any faith in their efficacy. I only suffer them, because I find them useful in keeping my people in subjection.'

          (6) Sanctioned Violations of System

The only time the ancient Hawaiians could violate kapu occurred upon the death of a paramount chief. Mourning customs then allowed the deliberate violation of several kapu accompanied by a variety of excessive behaviors:

In addition to the usual signs of grief, people went naked, women entered temples and ate prohibited foods, property was plundered, and some individuals begged to be buried with their ruler. Although these excesses were rationalized as due to unreason from grief, the license also seems to have symbolized the temporary state of anarchy and suspension of the divine mandate to rule. During these revelries the successor removed himself from the place of death and the scenes of kapu violation to avoid contamination by them. Upon his return from his retreat to be installed in the chieftainship, one of his initial acts of rule was to reinstate the law of the kapu. By this he declared his assumption of the divine mandate.

The Reverend William Ellis, landing on the island of Hawai'i soon after the death of Kamehameha, noted:

When we landed on Owhyhi, signs of desolation met our eyes everywhere and were proof of the excesses that had been committed at the recent death of Tamehameha. During such a crisis, anarchy reigns in all its horror: laws and tabou restrictions are violated with effrontery; forbidden foods are devoured without scruple, especially by women; rights of ownership are disregarded; force becomes the supreme law; the voice of the chiefs is powerless; old offenses are revenged with blood or pillage in a word, unbelievable scenes of disorder, cruelty, and debauchery take place all over, encouraged by lack of punishment. Calm is gradually restored only when the heir has been definitely invested with royal power. Such is the manner in which the common people, momentarily free of all restraint, express the sorrow that one is expected to feel at the death of one's sovereign.

The only individuals who did not take part in this period of licentiousness were the heir to the throne and his family, who immediately removed themselves from the district that had been defiled by death. The heir returned after fifteen days, after the dead ruler's bones had been preserved and a priest had cleansed the area of all pollution.

     d) Heiau

          (1) Types and Construction

Because Hawaiian life focused on propitiating the gods, the various islands contained many kinds of temples invoking peace, war, health, or profitable fishing and farming. Families and individuals conducted daily worship services at home, either in the men's eating house, in a family heiau, or at small improvised altars or shrines. More formalized worship by chiefs and specific occupational groups, such as fishermen, took place in temples, or heiau. These structures ranged in complexity from single houses surrounded by a wooden fence to stone-walled enclosures containing several houses to the massive open-air temples with terraces, extensive stone platforms, and numerous carved idols in which ruling chiefs paid homage to the major Hawaiian gods.

sketch of reconstructed Hale o Lono

Illustration 10. Reconstruction of a Hale o Lono by Paul Rockwood. From I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History, p. 57.

 

There were two major orders of heiau: the agricultural or economy-related ones dedicated to Lono, referred to as mapele (heiau ho'ouluulu), at which offerings of pigs, vegetables, and bark cloth hopefully guaranteed rain and agricultural fertility and plenty (Illustration 10); and the large sacrificial government war temples, luakini (heiau po'okanaka), upon whose altars human lives were taken when assurance of success in combat was requested or when a very grave state emergency, such as pestilence or famine, dictated that the highest religious authority Ku be approached for help. The nobility, land division chiefs, or priests could construct agricultural temples, whose ceremonies were open to all. War temples dedicated to Ku could only be built by the ali'i-'ai-moku, and could only be entered by the king, important chiefs and nobility, and members of the Ku priesthood. Dedication of this type of temple by anyone else was considered treason. In addition, only the high chief could undertake the rituals involving human sacrifice the highest form of offering to propitiate the gods. Because only a high chief could order the construction of a war temple and conduct the rituals necessary for assuring victory, the process clearly designated him as the correct person to wage war and the only one who would have the backing of the gods. These obvious distinctions served also to gain him the full support of his people in this endeavor. Cox and Davenport elaborate on this point:

Erecting temples was the prerogative and responsibility of the ali'i, for only they could command the necessary resources to build them, to maintain the priests, and to secure the sacrifices that were required for the rituals. Though temple worship was primarily an affair of the nobility, the whole land depended upon the effectiveness of these rituals. . . . Actually, the temple worship was a form of ancestor worship, since the gods were looked upon as also being direct ancestors of the ali'i and progenitors of all Hawaiians.

Hawaiian temples and shrines, according to Patrick Kirch,

are part of a wide-spread tradition of temple construction found throughout Eastern Polynesia, with roots that can be traced to Ancestral Polynesian Society. In most of East Polynesia such temples are called marae . . . and all of them, including the Hawaiian heiau, have certain architectural features in common.

Oral traditions trace the origin of Hawaiian luakini temple construction to the high priest Pa'ao, who arrived in the islands in about the thirteenth century. He introduced several changes to Hawaiian religious practices that affected temple construction, priestly ritual, and worship practices. Prior to his coming, the prayers, sacrifices, and other ceremonial activities that the high chief and his officiating priest performed could be observed by the congregation, who periodically responded as part of the ceremony. After Pa'ao's arrival, temple courtyards, which were sometimes built on hillsides to add to their massiveness, were enclosed with high stone walls, preventing the masses from participating as freely in the worship ceremonies. In addition, new gods; stronger kapu; an independent, hereditary priesthood; wooden temple images; and human sacrifices became established parts of the religious structure. Pa'ao erected the first luakini (Wahaula) at Puna, Hawai'i, followed by Mo'okini Heiau at Pu'uepa, Kohala. These structures signalled a new era in Hawaiian religious practices.

          (2) Early Descriptions

At the time of European contact, a multitude of temples still functioned in the islands, and early visitors noted many of these:

They [the Hawaiians] have many temples, which are large enclosures, with piles of stones heaped up in pyramidal forms, like shot in an arsenal, and houses for the priests and others, who remain within them during their taboos. Great numbers of idols, of the most uncouth forms, are placed round within, in all directions: to these they offer sacrifices of hogs, cocoa nuts, bananas, and human victims: the latter are criminals only; formerly, prisoners of war were sometimes sacrificed, but that inhuman practice was abolished by the present sovereign [Kamehameha].

John B. Whitman was also impressed by these structures:

. . . of their morairs [maraes (temples)], or churches, and the terrible rites . . . were I to give but a partial account . . . it would be . . . of such length. . . . Hundreds of these Slaughter houses, are still standing on various parts of the Islands, each distinguished by the Symbols of the high taboo. Several long poles with a round ball of white tarpen [kapa] on the top of them, are placed round the house, and mark the boundaries of the sacred spot, these buildings [structures on the heiau] are mostly of the same materials as the dwelling houses.

Early missionaries noted that

Their morais, or places of worship, consist of one large house or temple, with some smaller ones round it, in which are the images of their inferior gods. The tabooed or consecrated precincts are marked out by four square posts, which stand thirty or forty yards from the building. In the inside of the principal house there is a screen or curtain of white cloth, hung across one end, within which the image of Etooah [principal god] is placed. When sacrifices are offered, the priests and chiefs enter occasionally within this space, going in at one side, and out at the other. On the outside are placed several images made of wood, as ugly as can be well imagined, having their mouths all stuck round with dogs [sic] teeth.

In regard to their sacrificial customs, Jules Remy clarified that

The Hawaiians are not cannibals. They have been upbraided in Europe as eaters of human flesh, but such is not the case. They never killed a man for food. It is true that in sacrifice they eat certain parts of the victim, but there it was a religious rite, not an act of cannibalism. So also when they eat the flesh of their dearest chiefs, it was to do honor to their dearest chiefs, it was to do honor to their memory by a work of love: they never eat the flesh of bad chiefs.

The early Hawaiians did cut up bodies as a part of their mortuary customs of stripping the flesh from bones of their chiefs before they were hidden. According to Ethnologist Peter H. Buck, however, "Cannibalism was never customary among the Hawaiians."

          (3) Luakini

               (a) Origin and Use

The ruins found in Hawai'i illustrate the wide variety of temple types built. Although many of their features have been found at other sites in Polynesia, according to an early study of Hawaiian heiau, "there is nothing to show that the heiau reached Hawaii as a complex of established form and features," and certain features "seem independent and . . . were doubtless evolved locally." According to Historian Samuel Kamakau, heiau in the Hawaiian Islands "varied in shape, being square, oblong, and round in form; of no uniform plan . . . but each according to the design of the kaula, or prophets." The large luakini were the most impressive of the Hawaiian temple structures in terms of size and associated religious activities. Their rituals dramatized the ali'i-'ai-moku's spiritual, economic, political, and social control over his dominion and his authority over the life and death of his people. As Davenport states,

the purpose of that worship was to promote the integrity and continuity of the chiefdom by keeping the covenants between the gods and the ruling chief strong. It can be regarded, in some ways, as a maintenance activity of the government.

Whenever a chief unseated a rival in war, the process of takeover was not complete until all the luakini temples of the defeated chief had been reconsecrated to the victor's gods. Often the defeated paramount chief and his followers were among the first sacrificed to signify his loss of the supernatural mandate to rule. The services that occurred in these state heiau, conducted by priests of the order of Ku were either related to the personal life of the king, such as at the birth and maturity of his sons, or due to emergency needs of the nation to increase the population, to improve the public health, to bring peace, to ask for success in war, or to prepare for defense.

               (b) Design and Construction

These temples could not be constructed randomly, but only on sites formerly used by the "people of old." Kuhikuhi pu'uone (an order of the priesthood) were the only persons with knowledge of the plans and sites of abandoned heiau, and they furnished this information when construction of a new temple was planned.

Luakini stood in or near villages, on prominent hills or ridges, on cliffs with a good view of the sea, or on plateaus between the coast and the mountains. Because of the variety of topography, the form and size of these structures depended on the ground contours (Illustration 11). In some cases the apparent massiveness of the temple foundation was deceiving, because the builders took full advantage of the contours to give the structure height without using much stone. The aim during construction of a luakini class of heiau was to create as imposing a structure as possible, and they often formed a very conspicuous part of the landscape. Luakini varied in form and outline but contained platforms (high or low, simple or tiered), a terrace of one or more tiers, walled enclosures, or any combination of these (Illustration 12). Terraces produced the same effect as a platform of more than twice the size. A structure with all three types of features, such as Pu'ukohola on the island of Hawai'i, was considered the zenith of Hawaiian temple construction. It not only intimidated the people, but was considered extremely potent in securing the favor of the gods. As Kirch states, "such temples reflect the power of the late prehistoric and early historic Hawaiian paramounts, and their ability to command the labor necessary to raise such monuments."

Heiau construction techniques
Illustration 11. Heiau construction techniques for terraces and walls. From Haas, "Hawaiians as Engineers," p. iv.
ground plan drawings
Illustration 12. Ground plan drawings of luakini on Hawai'i Island. Figure 32 in Ladd, Excavations at Site A-27, p. 75.
 

In addition to carefully selecting the correct site for a new heiau, the kuhikuhi pu'uone also took great care in planning its design. These kahuna studied earlier temples and learned every detail of their construction, particularly those features of heiau that they knew had brought luck or victory to their builders. According to J.F.G. Stokes, these seers then incorporated various design elements of those "successful" temples into new heiau, and this explains the variety of forms.

The process involved modeling the design of a new heiau in sand for approval by the king, after which a tax in the form of building the heiau was laid on all commoners, courtiers, and chiefs. The usual plan of the luakini dictated that if the front faced the west or east, the oracle tower stood on the north end of the structure. If the heiau fronted on the north or south, the tower would be on the east side, turned toward the west or south. The audience sat in the southern or western part of the structure.

               (c) Features

The main features of a luakini (Illustration 13), enclosed by walls or wooden fences, included the:

two reconstructions of a luakini
Illustration 13. Two reconstructions of a luakini. Drawing on the left is of Papaenaena heiau on O'ahu. Drawing on the right, by Paul Rockwood, is of Waha'ula Heiau in Puna, Hawai'i. From Davenport, "Hawaiian Feudalism," p. 18, and I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History, p. 34.

lananuumamao, or 'anu'u a wooden framework obelisk that served as an oracle tower. It was usually more than twenty feet tall and contained three platforms. The lowest symbolized the earth, the abode of humans, and was where offerings were placed; the middle was viewed as the space of birds and clouds and was where the high priest and his attendants conducted services; the highest platform symbolized the heavens dwelling place of the gods and could only be ascended by the high priest and the king. This was where the high priest received inspiration and acted as intermediary with the gods. The entire structure was covered with bleached kapa. It was a highly visible component of the temple platform area and contained within a refuse or bone pit where decayed offerings and bones of victims were cast (lua pa'u).

lele an offertorium, the altar on which offerings were left

hale pahu the drum house, enclosed except at the front

hale mana the largest, most sacred house on the heiau platform, used by the king and the officiating priest during kapu periods (Illustration 14)

sketch of interior
Illustration 14. Interior of hale mana in a luakini, Kaua'i. Drawing by John Webber on the James Cook expedition, plate 2, in Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice, from 1784 publication, p. 261.

wai'ea a small house for incantations in which the 'aha ceremony took place. Relaxing of the kapu proclaimed over the new heiau depended on obtaining an aha, a mat braided out of a rare seaweed found only in the deep ocean. Coconut fiber was combined with the seaweed in braiding the 'aha, which was used to decorate the shrine of Ku. If the seaweed was not found immediately, the search continued for months or years

hale umu the oven house for temple fires house at the entrance to the temple

kipapa a pavement of large stones for ceremonial use 'ili'ili a pavement of pebbles used as flooring

Haku ohi'a (Lord of the ohi'a tree) the chief idol. Other temple images, up to twelve feet tall, were arranged in various ways within a heiau some were in a fence configuration and others adorned the walls.

               (d) Placement of Features

Wood for the temple houses was usually ohi'a; their thatching was loulu palm leaves and uki grass. Large pieces of ohi'a wood were used for the lananuunmamao and similar large trees for the carving of idols. These wooden images stood in a semicircular arrangement in front of the lananuumamao; in front of them was the kipapa and the place where the lele stood on which sacrifices were placed (Illustration 15). In front of the lele and below was the 'ili'ili. Also in front of the lele was the hale pahu, with its entrance facing the lele. Back of the drum house stood the long mana, also facing the lele, and another house at the entrance to the heiau. The aha service (in connection with the Makahiki festival) was performed in the wai'ea, located in the narrow passage back of the drum house and at the end of the mana house; at the other end of the mana was the oven house (hale umu) where the temple fire was kindled.

drawing of luakini in the Kona District
Illustration 15. The king's luakini in the Kona District, Hawai'i Island, by Jacques Arago, artist on the de Frycinet expedition, 1817-20. The structure was abandoned at this time. Published in Voyage Autour du Monde. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

Samuel Kamakau provides some additional information on the luakini furnishings. He states that the 'anu'u, or oracle tower, as erected in the larger heiau, was square in shape, four to five fathoms high, and three or four fathoms long and wide. Pieces of kapa hung from purlins attached to the frame. Kamakau described the ritual observances for obtaining the timber for the houses and for the main image within a luakini, involving the consecration of the adz; the formation of a large procession up the mountainside consisting of the ruler and his chiefs, retainers, and priests; prayers; a tree-felling feast; the leaving of the body of a lawbreaker at the stump of the moku 'ohi'a; and then the slow return to the lowlands that had to proceed in absolute silence and that no commoner could witness on pain of death.

The construction, location, and configuration of the houses on the heiau was governed by prescribed rules related to the site, the kind of house, the god being honored, and the ritual ceremonies that would be performed. Of the houses within the heiau, the most sacred was the mana house, which held the mo'i image. The large umu, or oven house, was a shed-like structure within which pigs were baked for offerings. Kamakau mentions a "house to revive life" that stood in front of the 'anu'u tower and was used by the ruler and kahuna nui in the 'aha ritual (same as the wai'ea). The hale pahu housed the large and small drums played to please the gods. To the sound of their constant beat, the "god keepers" chanted formal prayers and entreated the gods. Between the hale mana and the hale pahu was the lele (altar). After the houses were built, all other items required to complete the rituals were added, including kapa garments for the priests, kapa for the houses and the scaffold structures, and kapa for covering each image. The altar was hung with fern leaves and other greenery.

               (e) Rituals

Construction of a luakini was arduous, entailing several days of protracted and elaborate ritual. Consecration for this type of temple required two series of services, one for the king and the congregation lasting ten days and one for the king only, lasting three days. The initial ceremonies occurred during the construction of the temple foundations, the erection of houses, and the preparation of the images. The main consecration ceremonies followed, with offerings to the gods of hogs, coconuts, bananas, and human sacrifices. The women's heiau Hale o Papa, adjacent to the luakini housed the final ceremonies, performed by the women in the ruler's family.

David Malo surmised that "it was a great undertaking for a king to build a heiau of the sort called a luakini, to be accomplished with fatigue and with redness of the eyes from long and wearisome prayers and ceremonies on his part." William Davenport states that

The most exacting and arduous rites were those performed at the temples dedicated to Ku. Hundreds of pigs and great quantities of staples might be consumed and sacrificed to mark each phase of the ritual cycle. . . . Each part of the ritual was conducted by a different priest who was specially practiced at his specific ritual role. But the paramount chief himself was always the pivotal participant, for the propitiation was directed toward his personal aspect of the god from whom he received the supernatural mandate of his office. At the completion of each ritual phase, which had to be executed without flaw lest its efficacy be marred, the environment was scanned for specific omens that indicated whether or not the god accepted the ritual communication. Only when the omen revealed favorable reception was the next ritual phase begun. Thus, the ritual and the reading of answering omens amounted to a dialogue between the paramount chief together with his priests and the godly source of their political authority.

The number and types of structures that crowned the heiau platforms, the constant chanting and beating of drums that emanated from the temple during ceremonies, the smell of burnt and decaying offerings wafting through the air, and the knowledge that direct communication with the gods was taking place, endowed heiau, especially luakini, with a tremendous visual and sensual impact on the people.

The most impressive feature of these huge luakini ruins is the stonework forming the foundation terraces, platforms, and walls. According to Samuel Kamakau:

The hardest work in making the heiaus of the ancient days was in laying the stones. . . . If the heiau were on a cliff or hillside, stones had to be laid and interlocked . . . until they reached the highest level. A heiau on level ground (heiau pu'uhonua) did not need as much stone covering, but many thousands of stones were needed just the same. The first thing in making heiaus was to locate a site, and then to raise up the well-fitted stones. The chiefs and those who lived in their households did the work, but if the task were extremely laborious, then it became "public work" . . . and the people . . . helped.

               (f) Relationship to the People

Everything concerning luakini was hard work for commoners, including the initial conscription of their labor to build the massive stone foundations, the periodic rebuilding of structures, the production of large quantities of produce extended as tribute that was used as sacrificial offerings, and the severe restrictions imposed on the nearby population during the kapu periods when dedication services or other rituals were being conducted. In addition, there was always the possibility that inadvertent breaking of a kapu could result in a commoner ending up as the ritual sacrifice. In general, both commoners and women were excluded from all heiau, although some had structures in close proximity for use by women of royal lineage.

     e) Images

          (1) Function
 

Prior to the high priest Pa'ao's arrival, the Hawaiians worshipped unseen deities. The introduction of wooden temple images as representations of the cosmic gods provided the people with something tangible through which to worship their deities. These images were not worshipped as gods themselves, but it was thought that when invoked through certain rituals, the mana or spirit of a god would occupy the carved statue and could be consulted or supplicated in times of need. Visitors to the islands long after the abolition of the ancient religious system noted that the Hawaiians

deny that they actually worshipped the wood and the stone, and to explain to us their use of images, they refer at once to the practice of the Romanists in regard to pictures and symbols. They can discern but little difference between their ancient worship and the rites and ceremonies of the Romanists. . . .

Hawaiian temple courtyard images were only one means by which priests communicated with the gods. In other instances they received messages while in the oracle tower or while in a trance. It is also thought that in some cases the paramount chief, as a direct descendant of the gods, served as the interlocutor between the deities and their worshippers during the course of a ceremony.

          (2) Appearance

Priest-craftsmen, highly trained and skilled in the intricacies of both the carving of wood and the symbolism of religious ritual, served as the artisans of these powerful images. Standing within the temple courtyards or stationed around the walls of heiau, these sculptures inspired fear among the populace and vividly impressed visiting Europeans (Illustration 16). In 1823 the Reverend William Ellis

took a sketch of one of the idols [on the ruins of the heiau Ahuena at Kailua], which stood sixteen feet above the wall, was upwards of three feet in breadth, and had been carved out of a single tree. The above may be considered as a tolerable specimen of the greater part of Hawaiian idols. The head has generally a most horrid appearance, the mouth being large and usually extended wide, exhibiting a row of large teeth, resembling in no small degree the cogs in the wheel of an engine, and adapted to excite terror rather than inspire confidence in the beholder. Some of their idols were of stone, and many were constructed with a kind of wickerwork covered with red feathers.

Temple of Kamehameha

Illustration 16. Temple of Kamehameha in the Kona District at Kamakahonu, showing courtyard temple images. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

A few visitors managed to catch a glimpse of these various types of images before their swift destruction upon abolition of the kapu system; others relied on secondhand information to convey the frightful aspects of the figures. In addition to fixed temple images, there were mobile ones that could be transported between temples or in ritual processions, such as during the Makahiki festival. The featherwork noted in the 1880s description below of images carried into battle is attributed to the religious tradition instituted by the high priest Pa'ao:

These gods were no light burden, being great blocks of wood several feet high, with heads and necks formed of fine wickerwork, covered with red feathers so curiously wrought as to resemble the skin of a bird. The face was hideous, having a mouth from ear to ear, armed with triple rows of shark's teeth, and eyes of mother-of-pearl. The head was adorned with long tresses of human hair, and crowned with a shapely feather helmet. The priests who carried these repulsive deities uttered terrific yells, and distorted their own countenance, the better to encourage their own warriors, and alarm the foe.

Despite the ethnocentric descriptions of them by early viewers, the few remaining Hawaiian temple images are regarded today as one of the finest artistic accomplishments of the ancient Hawaiians:

It is very probable that these statues were intended to be ugly. They were meant to look ferocious, and to inspire fear in all beholders. . . . There is more to it than that, however. The decorated headdresses of the idols, the staring eyes, the big heads and the scowling mouths, with tongues sticking out, have undoubted symbolic significance. . . . These features are common throughout the Pacific. . .

          (3) Types

Dorota Starzecka divides Hawaiian religious sculpture into three types: temple, stick, and free standing images (Illustrations 17 and 18):

Temple images are monumental in scale and threatening in expression. Among the most distinctive are those in Kona style (from the Kona coast of Hawaii where the style developed), characterized by the elaboration of the hair with its two downward sweeps, a figure-of-eight mouth, extended nostrils, and eyes located off the face and in the hair, following its curve. The central image in the temple was the most elaborately carved and the ceremony of its setting up was marked with a human sacrifice. Stick images are small, portable images with shafts, from 3 to 24 in. in length. . . . These images . . . were also used during ceremonies in the temples. Free-standing images tend to be bigger than the stick images, and show a certain realism. Some of them have pearl-shell eyes, human teeth and human hair pegged in.

temple images
Illustration 17. Stick and temple images. Plates 8 and 9 from Valeri, Kingships and Sacrifice.
temple images
Illustration 18. Temple of Kamehameha I in the Kona District at Kamakahonu. Courtesy, Hawaii State Archives, Honolulu.

          (4) Arrangement in Heiau

Idols were commonly found in association with religious structures in other areas of Polynesia, but Hawai'i was somewhat unique in terms of the arrangement of images within the heiau. Temple images were either erected in holes made in the stone paved platform area of a heiau or were placed on top of the surrounding walls or fences. In the latter case, they were probably decorative features rather than ritual focuses. Some may have designated entrances to the temple and some appear to have marked boundaries of ritual spaces. Images used within the central temple area were manifestations of one of the four major Hawaiian deities (Ku, Kane, Lono, Kanaloa) but were not specifically identifiable to any one of them. The primary luakini temple image was the akua mo'i (lord of the god image), an elaborately carved statue that was the last to be placed in front of the altar.

          (5) Associated Rituals

The same heavy ohi'a wood used for the oracle tower was utilized in carving the luakini images. A complicated ritual observance (haku ohi'a) existed for obtaining the timber for both the heiau houses and the main image of Ku. It involved consecration of the axes used to fell the trees, followed by a journey to the mountains by a delegation of priests and the ruler to obtain the special timber needed. Other ritual observances included prayers, feasting, and an offering of a human sacrifice. After carving the image, the priests carried it back and laid it outside the entrance of the temple. Inside, a row of carved images representing the major gods was placed in front of the oracle tower with a space left in the middle. Toward the end of the luakini ceremonies, the central idol was brought into the courtyard and set up in the hole dug for it in the midst of the other statues. A ceremony including prayers and another sacrificial victim, whose body was thrown into the cavity prepared for the main image, took place and the statue was erected in the hole. Construction of the mana house was then quickly finished and another image placed inside it. Afterwards priests awaited a sign that Ku was present at the ceremonies. The signal was the finding of the seaweed to be placed in the waiea. If it was found, a coconut fiber cord was wrapped around the principal image's belly as an umbilical cord. It was then cut and a feast held to honor the "birth" of this image. A confirmation ceremony followed. Just as a young boy was dressed in a bleached loin cloth at puberty, the new image was wrapped in bleached bark cloth and declared mo'i, lord of all the idols. The lesser images were then also wrapped in kapa. In the evening shadows they would have presented a ghostly, surreal presence.

          (6) Treatment by the Hawaiians

An interesting aspect of the Hawaiian temple images is that they were considered only representations of the gods and not sacred in and of themselves. The sacredness only came after the spirits of the gods had been induced to enter them through specific rituals. As Shimizu states,

Sacredness of the physical elements of a heiau was a temporary condition. After all the labor involved in construction and the intensive ceremonies within the heiau were concluded, the heiau was virtually abandoned until the next major event. Although the central image representing the main deity of the heiau remained sacred, the supplementary images were no longer regarded with value and respect.

The minor images were evidently allowed to deteriorate between important ceremonies. This gave some people, such as Captain Nathaniel Portlock, a mistaken impression about the fervity of Hawaiian religious practices when he visited there in 1786-87:

Another species of ingenuity met with amongst the natives here, is carving: they have a number of wooden images, representing human figures, which they esteem as their gods; but it is a matter of doubt, whether religion is held in any great estimation amongst them, for every god amongst the islands might be purchased for a few towees.

Captain Cook also reported that the people, including the priests, seemed to have little respect for their idols, many of which his sailors carried away in full view of the people. Cox and Davenport surmise that when a temple was rededicated, the central image may have been the only one replaced. That act might have symbolized the renewal of all the others, which could then just be retouched and redressed. Shimizu interprets this attitude toward temple images as reinforcing the theory that "the physical form [of a heiau and its furnishings] is secondary to the ritual process." Handy et al. state that although previously used images might be retained with the thought that they still possessed some elements of sacredness, "that the idols themselves were not gods is evidenced by the common custom of making a new image for every ceremony of importance."

          (7) Destruction at Overthrow of Kapu System

The overthrow of the kapu system on the death of Kamehameha I entailed the destruction of temple images. W. Chapin reports that the destruction of vestiges of the old religion began in the early part of November 1819, and describeds how on "Atooi" (Kaua'i), by the end of that month, "the morais and the consecrated buildings, with the idols, were on fire, the first evening after the order arrived. The same was done in all the islands." The Reverend Hiram Bingham describes how Ka'ahumanu, wife of King Kamehameha I, demonstrating her enthusiasm for the new religion of the missionaries on a tour of the islands in 1822, sought out remaining images for destruction: "On the 26th of the same month [June], one hundred and two idols, collected from different parts of Hawaii, where they had been hidden 'in the holes of the rocks and caves of the earth,' were, by her authority, committed to the flames." Gilbert E. Mathison, who visited the islands during 1821-22, lamented that at the time of his visit, he made

every possible inquiry in vain for one of the ancient idols. The people expressed great astonishment at my desire to possess what they had themselves ceased to value, and seemed even affronted by my supposing that they could have preserved any such antiquated relics of pristine ignorance and superstition.

According to Cox and Davenport, there are only about thirty-five of the large Hawaiian temple images remaining, probably because they were so visible and therefore extremely vulnerable to destruction, while smaller images could be easily hidden away for furtive worship.

     f) Mortuary Practices

          (1) Burial Customs and Places of Interment

Hawaiian death and mortuary practices were as filled with meaning as every other aspect of life. Elaborate rituals revolved around preparation of the body, burial processes, mourning procedures, and purification of the living who had come in contact with the corpse. These deliberate and well-defined behaviors not only allowed full expression of grief, but also reaffirmed the unity of the family group and assured solace and peace for the dead in the hereafter.

Several different burial places and methods of interment were used, depending to a great extent on the deceased's status in society as well as on local geographical conditions. Locations of burials included the earth, sand dunes, under monuments and cairns, beneath houses, in heiau platforms, and in lava tubes, natural caves, rockshelters, and niches in steep cliffs. Burials in these last areas usually are well preserved, as is artifactual material interred with them. Burials marked on the surface by stone monuments were common in the historic period. Many have been found at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and near Kawaihae. Sacrificial victims, priests, and kapu breakers, as well as high chiefs were interred in temple platforms. The most famous sepulchre of high chiefs was the Hale-o-Keawe at Honaunau, the burial place of a long line of deified chiefs. Other well-known burial places on the island of Hawai'i included the Waipio Valley, the cliffs surrounding Kealakekua Bay, and the caves of Kaloko. Cave sites, usually located near a living area, were frequently used in both the prehistoric and historic periods for either the combined dead of a village or as individual family resting places.

          (2) Mourning Rituals and Burial Practices

As mentioned earlier, corpses were considered to be defiling, extremely kapu in ancient Hawaiian culture. All clothing in the vicinity of the dead person, all furnishings items, and all food utensils had to be burned after removal of the body. Those relatives who remained in the vicinity of a dead person for any length of time had to undergo a purification ceremony before they could again interact in society. While prolonged weeping and sorrowful wailing marked the death of a loved one, distress upon the death of a respected leader was demonstrated by knocking out one's teeth, cutting one's flesh, tatooing one's tongue, or cutting a section of one's hair. During the mourning ritual for royalty, chiefs and commoners might also commit suicide in front of the corpse. Bodies of commoners were often preserved and wrapped in layers of kapa cloth before being buried, in a variety of locations and positions, along with their valued personal possessions, food, mats, and other things needed to make them comfortable.

The ancient Hawaiian's overriding concern with mana guided burial customs for the ali'i concerning time of interment and extent of reduction of the body. It was believed that in order to prevent their former enemies from finding their bones and gaining possession of their power, the skeletal material of chiefs, after removal of the flesh, had to be secretly interred. There are, therefore, many secret burial caves on the islands whose entrances are hidden from view. Fornander found that

This extreme solicitude of concealing the bones of defunct high chiefs was very prevalent in the Hawaiian group. . . . The greatest trophy to the victor, the greatest disgrace to the vanquished, was the possession of the bones of an enemy. They were either simply exhibited as trophies, or they were manufactured into fish hooks, or into arrow-points wherewith to shoot mice. Hence various expedients were resorted to to effectively prevent the bones of a high chief ever becoming the prey of any enemies that he may have left alive when he died. One of the most trusted friends of the deceased chief was generally charged with the duty of secreting the bones . . . and the custom prevailed till after the time of Kamehameha l. This custom applied, however, more particularly to prominent warrior chiefs. . . . Generally the custom in chief families was to strip the flesh off the corpse of a deceased chief, burn it, and collect the skull, collar- bones, arm and leg bones in a bundle, wrap them up in a tapa cloth, and deposit them in the family vault. . . .

According to Reverend Ellis, burial practices changed after the abolition of idolatry:

. . . all ceremonies connected therewith have ceased; the other heathenish modes of burying their dead are only observed by those who are uninstructed, and are not professed worshippers of the true God: those who are, inter their dead in a manner more resembling the practice of Christians. The corpse is usually laid in a coffin, which . . . is borne to the place of worship . . . where a short service is performed; it is then carried to the grave. . . .

Current information on ancient burial practices, as on other aspects of early Hawaiian life, derives mainly from descriptions by nineteenth-century Hawaiian historians and from accounts by European visitors. The English surgeon Frederick Bennett notes that a resident of O'ahu, C.B. Rooke, related to him that he had visited several "sepulchral caves" on various of the Hawaiian islands: "The bodies they contained were numerous, mostly in a mummy state, and placed in a sitting posture, with their limbs flexed; they were enveloped in bark-cloth, and some of them had portions of sugar-cane in their hands, and calabashes, which had contained poe [poi], by their sides." An additional important source of data are archeological discoveries found during survey and excavation work.

     g) Places of Refuge

The last aspect of ancient Hawaiian religion important to the scope of this report concerns pu uhonua, or places of refuge. The authority of the high chief and the priests to regulate the patterns of ancient Hawaiian society, especially as they related to social and religious customs, was unquestioned. Those who disregarded the traditional restrictions were susceptible to the most extreme punishment. One avenue of succor was available to them, however, consisting of escape to a place of refuge. These were the only checks to the king's absolute power of life and death over his subjects.

Pu'uhonua were sacred areas, not necessarily enclosed, to which murderers, kapu-breakers, and other transgressors who had incurred the wrath of the ruler could hastily retreat to gain sanctuary from reprisal. Upon reaching the entrances of these compounds, often enclosed by extensive and massive stone walls, the refugee immediately gave thanks to the guardian deity. Theoretically, no one pursuing this person, including a high chief, the king, or enemy warriors, could enter the enclosure without risking death at the hands of the resident priest or his attendants. The one seeking asylum usually remained several days and then returned home, absolved of his misdeeds by the gods. Fugitives from battle also fled to these places; during times of war white flags waved from tall spears placed outside the walls at each end of the enclosure. Because these refuge areas were quite large, during wartime, women, children, and the aged were often left within the walls while the men went off to battle. The person of the mo'i was also pu'uhonua and could provide asylum. Ten pu'uhonua existed on the island of Hawai'i, the one at Honaunau being the largest in the Hawaiian Islands.

7. Recreation and Art

     a) Games and Sports

While the ali'i and priests occupied themselves with political and religious issues, the commoners pursued activities related to the essentials of life food, shelter, and clothing. Although this took up much of their day, they also found time for recreation in the form of games and sports, song and dance, and the execution of fine arts. These activities were undoubtedly a welcome relief from the pressure of daily subsistence activities. Races were a popular pastime, while many leisure hours, from birth to adulthood, were spent in the sea in swimming, canoe racing, and other aquatic sports. Surfboarding was the favorite recreational activity of the early Hawaiians and possibly the one at which they were most proficient. Games of skill and chance were also popular, including puhenehene and no'a, in which players had to guess on which person or under which bundle of kapa a small stone was hidden; konane, a variant of checkers played on a wood board or rock with black and white pebbles; and maika, in which players threw or bowled stone discs between two upright sticks set in the ground. These sources of amusement were almost always accompanied by some form of gambling, which was pursued very seriously.

In addition, the feudalistic nature of Hawaiian politics precipitated frequent wars over territory and succession. Therefore chiefs tended to encourage participation and development of expertise in such aggressive sports as dart- and javelin-throwing, wrestling, boxing, and archery as good training for combat. Sham battles were prevalent, and chiefs also held athletic games, especially during the Makahiki celebration, to entertain their people, to keep their subjects healthy and fit, and to identify those with special fighting skills.

Hawaiian holua

Illustration 19. Hawaiian holua (sled). From McDonald, "Hawaiian Holua," p. 76.

One of the most interesting Hawaiian sports (Illustration 19) was reported on by Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, who noted that

A favourite amusement of the chiefs was sliding down hill on a long narrow sled: this was called holua; it was not unlike our boys' play, when we have snow. The sled was made to slide on one runner, and the chiefs prostrated themselves on it. For this sport they had a trench dug from the top of a steep hill and down its sides, to a great distance over the adjoining plain. This being made quite smooth, and having dry grass laid on it, they were precipitated with great velocity down it, and, it is said, were frequently carried a half, and sometimes a whole mile.

Caspar Whitney, visiting Hawai'i in the late nineteenth century, remarked that he

noted these old courses [of the holua] in my travels over the islands, very plainly marking several precipitous hill-sides, and suggesting a considerable amount of toil in their original making.

Eight of these slides remain on the island of Hawai'i, five of them being found in or near Pu'uhonua o Honaunau.

The missionaries who arrived in the early 1800s worked diligently to end many of these ancient pastimes, both because of their perceived origin in "heathen" beliefs and because of the gambling that accompanied them. In addition, however, their practice waned as European influences extended throughout the islands and the Hawaiian value system and lifestyle changed. Many of these games were then given up in lieu of their foreign counterparts.

     b) Song and Dance

According to the Reverend William Ellis, "The Sandwich Islanders have various types of dances and participate in this amusement with great fervor." Music and chanting, mentioned earlier in relation to religious temple ceremonies, also provided informal entertainment for commoner and ali'i alike. The famous Hawaiian hula linked music, dance, and poetry in a ceremony permeated with strong religious overtones. (The missionaries later preached against this dance as being lewd and immoral.)

     c) Fine Arts

The early Hawaiians created exquisite works of art and items of personal adornment as well as skillfully designed wood and stone weapons and domestic utensils and graphic and striking religious statues and sculptures. The most ornate examples of ancient Hawaiian featherwork comprising the capes, helmets, and cloaks worn by the high chiefs as the visual symbol of their power and items such as the lei palaoa (whale ivory pendant) of the ali'i are considered priceless objects today. The paper-mulberry tree was grown for its bark, which women soaked and pounded into a soft, pliable material (kapa) for clothing. Adorned with a variety of dyed patterns and figures of great intricacy and symmetry, these pieces represent "a major Hawaiian artistic achievement."

G. Hawai'i at the Time of European Contact

By the time of European contact, the early Hawaiian population, in spite of their unique and sometimes difficult island environment, had established a complex civilization that included all the necessities for survival as well as for recreational pursuits and artistic expression. Characterized by a rigid class social structure and a highly organized political system, this culture based social status and prestige on genealogy, whereby governing chiefs attained their power through their perceived direct descendancy from the gods. While these rulers increasingly endeavored, through diplomatic and military means and prescribed religious observances, to maintain their position in the face of the ambitions of rival forces, the commoners struggled, through close cooperation, careful planning, and community organization, to support their leaders on the bounty of the land and sea. At the same time, societal relationships functioned within a "concept of the world as being controlled and watched over by spirit forces which constantly had to be propitiated or manipulated." Transgression of any of the cultural, social, political, or religious restrictions based on the inseparable relationship between the natural and physical worlds and between man and the gods resulted in the direst of punishments for the common people.

The ancient Hawaiians were subject to a wide range of restrictions that governed when and where they performed certain activities, what they could eat, and the manner and times in which they could interact with one another. These restraints, however, did not impede amazing achievements. As Dr. E.S. Craighill Handy states, the ancient Hawaiians created a complex culture characterized by highly developed agricultural and aquacultural systems; advanced engineering technology; an intensive and productive fishing industry; a high degree of technical skill in areas such as celestial navigation and in various crafts such as canoe-making; outstanding artistry in the production of kapa cloth, sculptures and featherwork; and an extremely intricate political, social, and ceremonial system characterized by dancing, poetry, music, and mythology.

The arrival of Captain Cook in 1778 and subsequent visitations by Europeans introduced a myriad of new material goods and concepts, as well as problems. New, unknown diseases and a declining birth rate would decimate a once healthy population. Iron in the form of knives, nails, and other tools would dramatically alter native technology. The introduction of explosives and firearms, along with European military knowledge, would eventually enable an aggressive chief from the island of Hawai'i to unite the islands. The nation's economic base would shift from a subsistence economy to a barter system, and the rising importance placed on the acquisition of Western goods, on private enterprise, and on personal aggrandizement would redefine social interactions and the culture's value system. Land use would change with the introduction of new plant and animal species. Altered lifestyles resulting from the addition of European goods and the new concepts of property rights would result in the modification or rebuilding of native homesteads. Some redistribution of the population would occur, causing disintegration of the native kinship structure. And finally, the overthrow of the kapu system and the destruction of the visible signs of its power would leave the people quite suddenly without a regulatory social or political framework and with drastically restyled social interrelationships. The arrival of missionaries would result in conversion of the islands to Christianity, and their descendants would eventually dominate many of the financial and business aspects of the Hawaiian community. The Hawaiian people in the late eighteenth century were poised on the brink of an almost complete cultural transformation.

 
     
 

Source:  http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/kona/historyt.htm

 
     
 

Chapter 1: Before the Written Record
Chapter 2: Early European Contact with the Hawaiian Islands
Chapter 3: Foreign Population Grows
Chapter 4: Founding of the Hawaiian Kingdom
Chapter 5: Changes after the death of Kamehameha
Chapter 6: Development and Human Activity on the West Coast of the Island of Hawai`i
Chapter 7: Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Chapter 8: Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Chapter 9: Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

 
     
 

Back to History

 

 

                   
   
  `Ōlelo Atlas History Culture Hawaiiana Photos Links Contact