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Traditional Polynesian dancers performing near Waikiki beach, on Oahu.

The culture of the Native Hawaiians is about 1,500 years old and has its origins in the Polynesians who voyaged to and settled Hawaii. These voyagers developed Hawaiian cuisine, Hawaiian art, and the Native Hawaiian religion.


The original Hula dance originates from Polynesians that voyaged to the Hawaiian Islands. Polynesians landed on the Hawaiian Islands and further developed the native Hula dance. Hula falls into two categories which are Hula Auana and Hula Kahiko. Hula Auana is Hula that was changed by Western influences and performed with musical instruments that don't originate from the Hawaiian Islands. Hula Kahiko is the original Hula dance that was refined before any outside influence.[1] The Merrie Monarch Festival was created to honor King David Kalākaua, who was the last reigning king of Hawaii. He was known for bringing Hula back to the Hawaiian Islands after the United States missionaries arrived.[2] The annual competition held in Hilo brings Hula Halau from all over the world to compete and show their knowledge of Hawaiian culture. The Merrie Monarch festival is nationally televised and teaches people all around the world about Hawaiian culture.

Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe PaddlingEdit

Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Paddling was not only the way that native Hawaiians discovered the Hawaiian Islands, it was a part of their everyday lifestyle.[3] From paddling for leisure to traveling from island to island, it has been a tradition of the Native Hawaiian culture. As of the 21st century, Outrigger canoe paddling has become an international sport and educates people from all over the world about Hawaiian culture.

Native Hawaiian CuisineEdit

When Polynesians first migrated to the Hawaiian Islands, almost no edible plants were available. When more people came to the Hawaiian Islands they brought many different plants, so they’d have food to eat. Polynesians also brought pigs, chickens, and dogs and bred them on the islands. The most important food eaten was taro, which was used to make poi; this was a big part of their everyday diet. Some common Hawaiian dishes include: Kalua pig, Lau-lau, Poke, Squid Luau, and Haupia.[4]

Traditional Hawaiian ReligionEdit

The traditional Hawaiian religion is a polytheistic animistic religion. Hawaiians believe that there are spirits in many objects such as the waves and the sky. The Hawaiian religion believes in four gods; Kū, Kāne, Lono, and Kanaloa. They also believe in forty male gods (ka hā), four hundred gods and goddesses (ke kanahā), the spirits (na ‘unihipili), and the guardians (na ‘aumākua).[5] The Hawaiian religion is protected under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.[6]


Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is a cultural practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, usually combined with prayer. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. It is used in spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical healing practices. Traditional Hawaiian philosophy does not consider the physical and non-physical aspects of the world to be separate, therefore, to heal one aspect, all must be healed. Conversely, healing one will help to heal the rest. For example, if a person has an upset stomach, healing anger toward a sibling may also help to heal the stomach. Modern versions of hoʻoponopono may also contain elements of Christian belief and ritual. A session of hoʻoponopono is generally guided.

Western contact, colonization and immigrationEdit

In the 1830s, interactions between Hawaii and other western cultures such as Mexicans, Portuguese and Spanish began.[7] During the 1850s, Hawaiian culture was progressively influenced by western cultures.[8] Cultural interaction consisted of incorporating useful items into each other’s daily lives. Prior to the arrival of western cultures, Hawaiian music was called Mele, Mele includes poems, songs, or chants that were passed down through generations. When the Portuguese, Mexicans, and Spanish landed on the Hawaiian Islands, they brought musical instruments such as the ukulele and the guitar and taught Hawaiians how to play these instruments.

Hawaiians were in a difficult place due to the fact that they were becoming influenced by different cultures. The end of the 19th century was burdened with internal struggles since Hawaiians wanted to protect their culture and keep power over their land. When missionaries from the United States arrived in Hawaii in 1820, they found it difficult to understand Hawaiian culture and had very negative opinions about their culture.[9] This led to the oppression of Hawaiian culture during the early 20th century. The cultural oppression of Hawaiians was evident from the banning of Hula dancing and other Hawaiian arts such as the language, the use of paddling, and music. Hawaiian children were sent to missionary schools where they were taught the English language. Missionaries institutionalized the English language by teaching it to children and making it the language of doing business and working in the government.[8]

In 1898 United States Congress passed the “Newlands Resolution” it was signed into law by President McKinley on July 7, 1898.[10] Sixty-one years later in 1959, the Hawaiian Islands were recognized as the 50th state of the United States. The Annexation caused many repercussions as their land and culture were effectively dominated by the culture of the United States. Hawaiians had no say in anything political or economic that had to do with their land. At the height of the Hawaiian population there were an estimated 683,000 Native Hawaiians on the island.[11] By the year 1900 the population had dropped to below 100,000.[11] Hawaiians have also been reduced to 20% of resident population.[12] A huge factor of the decline of Native Hawaiians consisted of the spread of diseases by foreigners such as smallpox, cholera, influenza, and gonorrhea.[13]


Hawaiiana is a popular term of academia used in reference to history and various aspects of the culture of Hawaii, currently a region and state of the United States. The term is used especially in reflection of the periods of antiquity and the Kingdom of Hawaii era. Hawaiiana has become increasingly popular among students of history and sociology throughout the world. The principal repository of Hawaiiana is the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The institution is also called the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History and often shares artifacts and information with other institutions globally for research and study.

The term "Hawaiiana" was coined in 1948 by Hawaiian entertainer and cultural expert, Nona Beamer.[14]


Erica Lee and Melissa Gan, writing for The Sheaf, discussed the appropriation of Hawaiian culture by non-Hawaiian students and the stigma that comes from the criticism of appropriation. They criticized the oversimplification of the culture.[15] In 1919 David and Lydia Bray and a group of young girls gathered before a court of Hawaiians who had power behind their names. They performed a traditional Hula dance. The judges deemed the presentation as nothing more than a cultural dance.[16] It wasn’t until the 1930s that Americans came into contact with Hawaiians after annexing their land.[16] Contact between the Hawaiian Islands and the United States began through the use of live performances. Hawaiian women came to America and danced a westernized version of Hula which created an “imagined intimacy[16]” between Americans and Hawaiians. Americans felt a true connection to the Hawaiian culture, however, Hawaiians were upset about their land being annexed by the United States and wanted no part of American culture. Hawaiians didn’t see this representation of their Native Hula dance as true Hula.

America has portrayed a false Hawaiian lifestyle by using outside influences such as Hollywood movies, music, and marketing. Corporate companies have gone through a lot of trouble to make a profit off of Hawaiian culture.[12] For example, the traditional Luau was used to celebrate specific events such as weddings, birthdays, and graduations. Luaus have changed from a traditional party to paying a price to feel like a part of the Hawaiian culture. Traditional Luaus didn’t include alcohol, island buffets, or performances. They also didn’t happen every day of the week.[12] Americans westernized the native Hawaiian Luau to create a profit off of tourists coming to Hawaii for an unfamiliar experience.[12] Many native Hawaiians now make a living off of tourists coming to the islands and pretending that the Luaus done every night are native.

Additional TopicsEdit


  1. ^ LLC, Twirl Advertising and Design. "Hula Hālau | About Hula | KIAKO Foundation | Testimonials | Hawaiian Culture | Hula Dance | Hawaiian Language | Hawaiian History | Lisa Chang |". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  2. ^ "King David Kalākaua". 2010-03-15. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  3. ^ Kapitän, Gerhard (May 1989). "Records of native craft in Sri Lanka-I: The single outrigger fishing canoeoruwa-Part 2.2: Rowed, paddled and poledoru". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 18 (2): 137–149. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1989.tb00185.x. ISSN 1057-2414.
  4. ^ Nenes, Michael F. (2007). Cuisine of Hawaii. American Regional Cuisine. ISBN 978-0-471-68294-3.
  5. ^ Gutmanis, June (1983). Ancient Hawaiian Prayers. pp. 4–14. ISBN 978-0-9607938-6-0.
  6. ^ "42 U.S. Code § 1996 - Protection and preservation of traditional religions of Native Americans". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  7. ^ "Mexican Vaquero". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  8. ^ a b Buck, Elizabeth (1993). Paradise Remade; The Politics and History in Hawai'i. Philadelphia: Temple University Press Philadelphia. pp. 105–123. ISBN 978-0-87722-978-0.
  9. ^ Gavan, Daws (1968). Shoal Of Time; A History Of The Hawaiian Islands. United States Of America: MacMillan Company. pp. 65–73. ISBN 978-0-8248-0324-7.
  10. ^ "The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii". National Archives. 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  11. ^ a b Goo, Sara Kehaulani (6 April 2015). "After 200 years, Native Hawaiians make a comeback". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d Kay-Trask, Haunani (1991). Lovely Hula Lands: Corporate Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian culture. United States of America: Journal Contours. pp. 22–34.
  13. ^ Pirie, Peter (1978). The consequences of Cook's Hawaiian contacts on the local population. Manoa, Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa. pp. 75–85.
  14. ^ "Entertainer, Cultural Authority Nona Beamer Dies". KITV. 2008-04-11. Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
  15. ^ Lee, Erica; Gan, Melissa (January 23, 2014). "More than a night of harmless fun: Hawaiian cultural appropriation". The Sheaf. Retrieved December 19, 2015.
  16. ^ a b c Imada, Adria L. (March 2004). "Hawaiians On Tour: Hula Circuits through the American Empire". American Quarterly. 56 (1): 111–149. doi:10.1353/aq.2004.0009. JSTOR 40068217.