PEOPLE OF OLD
The Polynesians saw their universe as a perfect creation – an organic existence of which each person and thing was an integral part, everything, including the gods, was of nature. Success depended upon living in accord with nature’s equilibrium – preserving the status quo as the spirits had created them. The original creative spirits were naturally their ancestors. Humans and all other forms of life were related by a common ancestry. According to tradition, the people were created by the gods long after the earth was created as a playground for the gods. Many generations passed before the first ruling chiefs emerged and the people separated into orders and degrees of chiefs, kāhuna and commoners. Capt. Cook landed in these Islands in 1778 and set foot ashore at Kealakekua (pathway to god) on the Island of Hawaii. From that day on, the people of all these Islands are called Hawaiians. The natives call themselves kanaka maoli (true people) and include the whole of the population.
Ali’i – Historical time was measured by generations. Genealogies of the ruling class tied them directly to the major spirits, ancestors of the chiefs. The right to rule was based in sort by a concept of divine right. The mo’ī were high chief of the moku (island) with subordinates and retainers of various rank completing the chain of command. Rank was dependent primarily on blood line and then by deed. Great care was taken to preserve the integrity of the line, and interfamily marriages among the ruling classes were not uncommon. The power and authority of the gods and the chief’s is called mana. The ali’i inherent quality of leadership, ability to command, physical & spiritual strength, personal charisma, all emanates from their mana. It was mana, that intangible force that flowed from the gods and imparted to some degree in all living things, which governed the daily ritual of interrelationship between man the gods and nature.
Kahuna – derived from kahu, meaning caretaker, commonly referred to today as priestly, the kahuna represented the professional class. In addition to being the leading practitioner of his profession, the kahuna was primarily responsible for preserving the ritual interface with the patronizing spirits. The kahuna nui were primarily responsible for advising the ali’i on spiritual influence in all matters of state including warfare and conducted rituals to solicit spiritual help. As it was with all the other custodians of knowledge, these professional leaders existed in all manner of economic & social trade, from medicine to the crafts. All were responsible for the maintenance of standards – both professional and spiritual. In all, there were about two dozen classes of kahuna and practitioners were recruited not only from the chiefly class, but also from the commoners.
Maka’āinana – lit. eyes to the land. .The Maka’āinana were the planters, fisherman, hunters, artisans, healers, sailors and warriors when their chiefs called them to war. These commoners provided for their chiefs the goods and services required to deep the royal courts functional. In return the chiefs were obligated to reciprocate with good governance and security. A mutual arrangement between chiefs and commoners pervaded the society, and people were free to move to another district if disagreement arose.
Men did the heavy work and all of the cooking, deep sea fishing, construction, heavy planting and were charged with the keeping of the ’ohana (family) gods. Women did light gardening, inshore and stream fishing, making of cloth materials & mats and the raising of children. Male children remained with the women until five years when they began their training with the men.
Out of respect for their nature gods, the kanaka maoli learned to tune their lives in harmony with the natural forces which their ancestors embodied. Thru ingenious use of natural materials and an extraordinarily intimate and through knowledge of the subtlest variations of the nature in which they lived, the people established an idyllic lifestyle that provided all of the elements for a prosperous existence. Prolific in the art of music, dance, storytelling, sports and other forms of entertainment, the kanaka maoli enjoyed a life of physical and emotional well being.
The common people of Hawaii were a peace loving people. More than any of the other Polynesians, Hawaiian society & culture, work & interests, were centered in the cultivation of the soil. For every fisherman’s house on the coast, there were hundreds in the valleys and plains of kualono (farm lands). The systematic gardening of old Hawaii resulted in the development of an extraordinarily advanced civilization without the use of metal tools or a written language.