28. After viewing the video tape, The Hawaiians,
part I explain how some of the attitudes of Hawaiians towards plants
and nature stem from the creation myth, Kumulipo,
the myth about the origin of taro, and gods related to plants and agriculture.
FILM: Hawaiians Part I
I. The purpose of viewing this film is two-fold. First is to understand
something of the Hawaiian's sense of creation of life, how it developed,
and their understanding of their place in the natural order. Secondly, it
introduces many terms and concepts of the Hawaiian culture, especially as
it relates to their use of plants.
II. At the beinning, we hear the great KUMULIPO
chant. It is one of several creation chants and has its particular point
of view. It speaks of the time of Po, the time
of darkness. The foundation of the earth was coral and a "life-giving"
slime was the source of plant and animal forms. The time of Au
followed, the time of light and humans.
A. The first interviewee, Johnson, says that this time
of creation is like the Old Testament in that is comes from sources at least
3,000 years old.
B. The Kumulipo shows that the Hawaiians
understood the basic manifestation of biological evolution, and they classified
living organisms from simple to complex, one and a half centuries before
Darwin proposed the same ideas to the Western world. One difference is that
Darwin also proposed a mechanism for the process.
Scientists recognize the Hawaiian Islands to be the site of one of the most
unique and dramatic occurrences of evolution found any where on earth. Not
surprisingly, the Hawaiians, whose existence depended on observation and
understanding of plants and animals, also saw this pattern.
C. The other Hawaiian creation chants and myths have gods creating
humans and living things, or giving birth to them. This is not unlike Roman/Greek
or other eastern religions. Overall, whichever myths the Hawaiians accepted,
the universe was orderly: everything from humans to rocks descended from
the gods or a force.
III. HAWAIIAN CULTURAL ROOTS go back 3,500 or more years, as ancient
as any other culture we know about today. They are from the Polynesian peoples
who underwent the greatest migration known to history.
A. One way the migration can be traced is through place
names: the name Hawai'i is also found on the islands of Tahiti and the Marquesas
(two areas identified as places Hawaiians came from initially) and even
has its root in the word JAVA, or Hava, the possible start of all migrations.
B. The stars were critical in navigating to Hawai'i and made them
easier to find again. The Happy Star, or ARCTURUS, played an important role
because it marked the east-west line where the islands could be found.
C. The first Polynesian peoples were believed to have come from the
Marquesas Islands about 3,000 miles away, one of the closest island chains
to Hawai'i. The chant from Moloka'i describes one such journey, and the
two male dancers are wearing Ti-leaf "raincoats."
IV. THERE WAS NOT ENOUGH PLANT FOOD SOURCES native to the islands
so the plants brought by the early travelers were important. They include
the basic 26 or so species, known as Polynesian introduced plants.
A. The most important is KALO
(Taro), which, according to myth, was the first offspring of the Sky father
whose rain fertilizes mother earth, Papa. A
deformed offspring is buried and sprouts into kalo.
The second offspring of this union is the human. Thus, humans are brother/sister
B. Early populations were believed to be small. They lived mostly
on the windward side of the islands where rainfall was abundant, growing
kalo and other crops. Fish were plentiful,
C. A great horticultural feat was bringing ULU,
or breadfruit, to the islands, which is difficult to transplant from one
yard to another! The engineering skills required to build the terraces for
growing kalo, and maintaining a precise water
flow, is another amazing Hawaiian feat we still do not fully understand.
V. AS THE POPULATION INCREASED however, greater control and structure
was needed. A great chieftain from Tahiti appeared, bringing with him the
classical Polynesian culture and building the great heiaus.
A. Part of this culture was the "historian"
who kept all the history and knowledge in his memory, often chanting without
mistake all day, "word perfect." There is every reason to believe
that the ancient chants are a reliable source of information about the Hawaiian
B. It is believed that the Hawaiians, with their tremendous oral
tradition, could have easily developed the written form. One likely reason
for not doing so was to keep the power of the word to a select few.
C. Part of the new social order had KAPU (taboo)
as an important feature. It means that which is sacred, is set aside or
protected. As applied to harvesting plants, or fishing, it reflected knowledge
of the times critical to reproduction and protection for those times, so
the sources were not depleted. Today, with use of drift nets, limus yanked
from their holdfasts, or over-harvesting of native plants, this perspective
D. Pele, the powerful goddess of the
volcano is seen as destroyer/creator of the islands - much like the scientific
explanation of the "hot-spot" creating the lava islands up through
Click here to leave your comments and suggestions.
[Learning Objectives Numerical Index]