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Native Hawaiian Culture


The culture of native Hawaiians is manifested in many facets of daily life. One of the most important for any culture is language. The Commission was fortunate to have an expert on the Hawaiian language write that section for the Commission's Report. The second section of this chapter discusses culture in a different context—historic preservation.

Another important aspect of the lives of ancient and even present-day native Hawaiians is the religion as practiced prior to the coming of the American missionaries. The next chapter contains information on the native Hawaiian religion, also written by a foremost expert in the subject.


Introduction 1/

Anthropologists and cultural experts recognize the crucial role played by language in identifying people. Language demonstrates the uniqueness of a people, carrying with it centuries of shared experience, literature, history, traditions and reinforcing these through daily use.

A unique Polynesian language restricted to the Hawaiian Islands is inextricably tied to the definition and identity of the Hawaiian people. The language is in fact known to the world by the same name as the people themselves—Hawaiian. However, it terms itself 'olelo Hawai'i, or Hawai'i language, thus like the English terra recognizing the indigenous status of the language unique to these islands.

There is no mention of the origin of the Hawaiian language in the oral traditions. The words of the progenitors, Papa and Wakea, are recorded in Hawaiian and it is assumed that the existence of a separate Hawaiian language is as old as the existence of the Hawaiian people. Although composed of many small communities and four primary geographical divisions, the ancient inhabitants were able to make a distinction between their own language and languages existing outside the traditional boundaries of Hawai'i. The sense of ethnicity is recorded in the chant of Kuali'i, in which a pre-European voyager from the island

*/ The following section is a complete reproduction of the paper prepared by Larry L. Kimura, entitled "Language Section of Native Hawaiians Study Commission Report" (February, 1983), written at the direction of and funded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Mr. Kimura is an instructor in Hawaiian Language, Department of Indo-Pacific Languages, at the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus. Minor editorial changes have been made to conform to the Final Report's format, and the footnotes have been renumbered. Except for these changes, (cont'd) Mr. Kimura's paper appears as submitted by OHA and is otherwise unchanged. The spelling of Hawaiian words as they appeared in the original paper has also been retained, even though the spelling of some words differs from that used in the remainder of this Report. The references used by Mr. Kimura appear in the "List of References," marked with a "[2]". OHA subsequently sent supplementary information on the Hawaiian language to the Commission, also from Mr. Kimura, and this material is included in the Appendix of this Report.


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