The Native Hawaiian Creation Story
We were given life from no place else on Earth. We were birthed from our Creator’s heart, set down on these Islands by our Creator’s hand 13,000 years ago. The kanaka maoli – the original people – called our home Lāhui (which meant, “Nation,” “Tribe,” or “Gathering.) We knew ourselves to be brothers and sisters of one another and of all Creation.
By means of our faith came our survival. From our survival was born ritual: the expression of our gratitude.
The Voyagers of Ancient Lāhui
Over thousands of years our ancestors voyaged from this birthing place in remarkably sophisticated canoes to every part of the Pacific Ocean (as far away as modern Australia and New Zealand). As they traveled they mapped their journey by the stars. This celestial navigation, recorded orally in chant, was the map for their return voyage home.
The Cousins Return
The chant – or map – was passed from the destined child to destined child in every generation: half a lifetime spent learning the chants; half a life spent passing it to the next. When the time was right, selected cousins returned from disperse Islands across the Pacific to Lāhui, to the place of their ancestral birth, and re-integrated within our culture. That chant is alive still, as far away as aboriginal New Zealand and Australia. They know that Lāhui is home.
The First Colonizers
In 1320 a violent sect of cousins returned. From Tahiti, an autocrat by the name of Pa‘ao led a flotilla of armed warriors to Lāhui. Pa‘ao’s brand of governance called Kapu brought him grievous enemies – and a death sentence in Tahiti. He was looking for greener pastures.
Greener pastures he found. He followed the well-worn chant charting the distance to Eden, to the birthplace, to a place of compliant people who could imagine no resistance to his ambition. Ours were a people without hierarchy, sexism, or ownership – for whom, even the concept of “charity” was unknown because it implied “I have and you do not.” The open-hand was thus: giving and receiving were singular inseparable motions – neither more holy. Everyone gives; everyone receives.
To an egalitarian people, Pa‘ao brought hierarchy. He established a monarchy, nobility, and a slave class to serve them. To a culture that celebrated the feminine half of Creation – our link to mother and to the Earth – he brought division. The formerly powerful kanaka women were humiliated and demeaned; the matriarchy was destroyed. To Eden, he brought war. Only the latter-day missionaries – adding insult to injury – would call this brutal oppression of our people, “Hawaiian” and write it as the gospel of who we are.
A footnote: Before the Kapu enslavement, Kings or Queens were the most giving, sometimes the last to eat – often not titled until after they passed, in honor of the care they took of our people.
The Second Colonizers
In 1778, English Captain James Cook “discovered” Lāhui and brought an epidemic of unknown European disease to the healthiest people on the planet. Three out of four of our mothers, brothers, daughters; fishermen, farmers, and priests – those links in the chain of our human genealogy and transmitted oral history – were dead within a single human lifetime.
The Calvinist Missionaries
In 1820 – into a divided, frightened, dying Lāhui, with the consequent collapse of the Kapu system after 500 years of cruelty – the first European and American Christian missionaries arrived. These Calvinists brandished an austere, judgmental brand of Christianity – and their corrupted version of Hawaiian history.
The kanaka maoli had absolutely no concept of ownership. There was not even a system of barter. We took what we needed of the fish, timber, and agriculture. We didn’t take more than we needed. We didn’t hoard. As an act of faith, we were assured, we would be provided for – and on our warm, fertile Islands and tropical oceans, we were.
It has been fully 190 years since the missionaries sons discovered wealth in sugar cane and fenced the kanaka off the land that only our Creator could own. That many years since the European-imposed legal system forbade us access to our ancestral burial grounds, to our fishing and hunting grounds, to our kalo fields.
In 1848, all kanaka lands were held in stewardship for the Creator. By 1891, a few dozen European and American sugar cane and pineapple barons owned 66% of Hawai’i.
The new legal system forbade our ancestors to practice Hūnā (our religion and culture); to dance ke kahiko (the hula that was prayer), to name our children a Hawaiian first name (it had to be Christian), and to practice the herbal healing arts. These were the laws of the land – and enforced – until 1972. We were punished and shamed for speaking our ancestral language in school or public.
The Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i
In 1898 the cultural dishonoring was formalized. The American government forcibly turned our independent nation into a U.S. Territory – and turned Queen Lili‘uokalani into a prisoner and a martyr for our people. The last reigning Hawaiian monarch refused to spill her people’s blood defending a land that she knew, only her Creator owned. She lived and died her faith.
The U.S. government acted at the behest of a dozen American pineapple and sugar cane tycoons – for the purpose of padding their bank accounts. American history books uniformly agree on these facts. Hawaiian sovereignty was eradicated at gunpoint. Fully ninety-five percent, of all living kanaka maoli petitioned Washington their opposition in writing. It fell on deaf ears. The petitions remain still in the U.S. National Archives.