2. Thou shalt not correct her speech.

A Native Hawaiian is someone who belongs to a specific group of people with shared traditions. And yet, there exists a conflation between Asian culture and Native Hawaiian culture. So how did we come to conflate residency with race? And specifically, how did we come to conflate Asian culture with Native Hawaiian culture? Back in the late 18 th and early 19 th centuries, the United States began trading heavily with China and other parts of Asia.

Traditional Polynesia

Hawaii and other neighboring islands began to function as stopovers for this trading. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean traders eventually settled in Hawaii.

Hawaiian Wedding Customs and Traditions

And then the media swooped in and pretty much established our current ideas about Hawaii. Check out this promotional ad for the film Blue Hawaii. So, yes, I know. So what do we really know about Native Hawaiians? Not a big deal — until you consider this: Native Hawaiians have been fighting homelessness since the s when settlers first occupied Hawaii. Already a dwindled population, Native Hawaiians gradually lost more and more control over their lands to businessmen, missionaries, and the US military, among other stakeholders until when the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown. To live in the Hawaiian homesteads, Native Hawaiians need to apply and prove their Native-Hawaiian-ness.

You lose your right to homestead. This is land that Native Hawaiians are entitled to — it was stolen from them. Instead they are being punished for continuing to live amongst the people who illegally settled their land. Hawaii is a very diverse place. Many also had rectangular pits in the platforms for storing fermenting breadfruit paste an important delicacy as well as small caches in which were interred the carefully cleaned and packaged bones of important family members.

The house itself was built on a dais running across the rear of the platform. Composed of a lashed and fitted wooden framework and covered with a thatched roof, the typical house was open all the way across the front and had square ends. The roof sloped from a high ridgepole directly to the platform floor in the rear.

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Inside, a polished coconut log often ran the length of the house, serving as a community pillow. The floors were covered with mats, shredded leaves, or bark. Belongings were suspended in bundles from the rafters. In Samoa , on the other hand, the settlement pattern shifted from hamlets to fortified villages after about ce.

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These communities , consisting of 30 or more houses connected by a network of paths, were built along the coast. Early houses were built on rectangular platforms much like those of the Marquesas, but, by the time of European contact, Samoan houses were built on oval mounds that were faced with rough stone slabs. The typical house was large and open—oval in floor plan, with a beehive-shaped thatched roof supported by a series of stout wooden pillars. Rather than building substantial walls, people hung rolled mats along the eaves, unrolling them as necessary to protect the inhabitants from sun, rain, or the night air.

Houses were arranged in orderly fashion within the villages, which in turn were surrounded by a fortification wall of stone or by wooden palisades. The Maori of New Zealand constructed particularly large and impressive fortified villages pa s on hilltops, surpassing those of all other Polynesian cultures. Ditches, palisades, trenches, and terraces protected these forts. The interiors were partitioned off by additional defensive works to facilitate battle even after the outer defenses had been penetrated by an enemy assault.

Maori houses were made of timber, rectangular in plan, and generally dug about 1 foot 0. The typical Polynesian family consisted of three or more generations. Polynesian kinship terminology distinguishes between generations, as might be expected in a society so strongly oriented toward tradition and genealogy. Kin groups were also the basis for Polynesian social hierarchies. However, although patrilineality was the most common method for reckoning ancestry, there were many variations from this system. Thus, while descent through the male line was notionally preferred, in practice the descent system was often bilateral—traced through either or both parents.

Children were thus able to move freely among all of these families and households. Lineages were conceptualized and organized in one of two ways. By far the most common, and perhaps the most like the ancestral form of Polynesian social organization, is known among anthropologists as the ramage , or conical clan, type, in which the whole society might be represented in the form of a multibranched tree.

The most senior line of descent was typically passed from firstborn son to firstborn son; branches off this main line were founded by junior sons, and these branches in turn produced further branches.

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The senior line comprised the direct descendants of the gods and therefore carried the maximum traditional prestige. Subsidiary branches were ranked in terms of their proximity to the senior line. When combined with widespread generational and gender ranking, the ramage placed each individual in each branch on a prestige-ranking scale relative to other members of his household, lineage, and community. This form of hierarchical branching-descent-group organization with territorial overtones was found in most Polynesian societies, with appropriate variations for local environmental conditions, cultural history, and, as noted in the previous section, the opportune use of bilateral models of descent.

3. Thou shalt not draw attention to oneself.

The other major system that Polynesians used to organize descent groups is known as the descent line. Descent line organization appears to be the result of a breakdown in genealogical ties between the lower levels of a ramage organization. The descent line in Samoa , for example, consists of a group of people tracing descent in the male line from a common mythical ancestor. This group was known as a sa.

There was no concern for the genealogical relationship of one descent line to another, nor was there any concern for ranking based on distance from, or proximity to, any particular male line of descent. What passed down through the descent line were titles, each of which had rank and prestige attached to it. Each descent line held a number of these titles, which could be held by men or women and which enabled the lineage to participate in certain ways in the village council fono. A number of descent lines were represented in each village council, and members of each descent line were spread through a number of villages in a given area.

Within a given village, the senior title, as determined by mythological connections, gave its holder the position of chief. A characteristic of the descent line system is its flexibility. Because it depended so heavily on ancestry and tradition for validation of status and title, ambitious individuals could advance the prestige of their titles at the expense of others by displays of wealth and power. The traditions governing title seniority could thus be tampered with to produce the realignment that would allow the advance in status to occur.

New descent lines might also be founded through a similar reworking of oral tradition. Social stratification was an inherent feature of Polynesian society, and cultures generally had social classes that were clearly defined in terms of rights, duties, behaviour, and lifestyle. In terms of his clothing and behaviour, little distinguished him from other males. Nevertheless, he was the repository of sacred power for the group, a symbol of its ties with the past, and the vehicle whereby these ties would be perpetuated for coming generations.


However, it was possible for a man to rise in prestige by various achievements—by giving gifts, holding feasts, or displaying military prowess, for example. Many Polynesian societies, such as those on the islands of New Zealand, Hawaii, and Tonga and on the Society Islands, developed complex social hierarchies with ranked lineages and powerful chiefs. Chiefs also differed from others in their ability to lead in battle, their success in accumulating and distributing large amounts of food and other valuables, and their religious skills in communicating with the gods.

Polynesian children were generally born into a large and warm family environment. Even before a child could walk, it was turned over for care to the other children of the household, who generally associated in a kind of amorphous playgroup with children of other families. It was in this context that Polynesian children received a great deal of their socialization. A particularly warm relationship existed between children and their grandparents; these relationships were often characterized by humour, bantering, and teasing, all of which provided vehicles for teaching traditional lore and providing technical training and sexual advice.

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Education in Polynesian society consisted of training in special crafts and skills, such as canoe making or tattooing. Rites of passage varied in type and importance from society to society, but several were common throughout Polynesia. The birth of a child was a matter of great significance, particularly if the child happened to be a firstborn son of a high-status descent group.

Various procedures were called for to announce the birth to the community, to the ancestors, and to the gods and to care for the welfare both physical and supernatural of the infant and mother by application of medical and magical techniques. Among the other milestones marked with ceremonies were the formal presentation of a royal heir, the completion of a tattooing operation or ear piercing in a high-status child, and the formal investiture of a priest or chief.

The observances of these occasions were marked with a variety of rituals that quite often included human sacrifice. Death was universally observed through rituals, which increased in extravagance in direct proportion to the status of the deceased. Feasts and elaborate gift exchanges were also common. The extravagance of funeral rites was surpassed, in some societies, by ceremonies to deify a departed chief or priest. These went on for prolonged periods. The sea provided most of the protein in the traditional Polynesian diet.

Fishing was done by individuals, with spear, line, or net, and also by groups. In the latter case, large numbers of men sometimes spread and hauled in huge nets in bays or lagoons and at other times drove fish toward shore, where they could be captured in nets held in shallow water. In some Polynesian societies the Marquesas and Samoa, for example , specialists directed the mass fishing efforts and the elaborate religious rituals that went along with them.

Sea mammals such as porpoises and whales were also taken. Polynesians did not confine their fishing exploits to coastal waters, for they were equally at home on the high seas and explored for miles in all directions.