The word 'OHANA is a modern invention (according to an article in Honolulu Magazine)

SUMMARY: According to an article by Scott Whitney in "Honolulu Magazine" published September, 2001 the word "'ohana" (as used today) is only about 50 years old. The cultural concept it names has been cobbled together from ancient customs that varied widely from place to place. Today's concept was invented for political purposes. "'Ohana" is a buzzword, neither historically authentic nor descriptive of current practices. The article by Mr. Whitney, and this webpage making the article easily available, have become controversial. Therefore an important commentary has been added above the article for scholars who might wish to explore the issue further, and for political activists who seek to capture or re-define words for use as weapons.


COMMENT by Ken Conklin added March 2006:

Some helpful e-mails have been received from friends (as well as a few nasty ones from opponents) pointing out that the word "'ohana" can be found in Hawaiian-language newspaper articles from before 1900, and also in a very old edition of the Andrews dictionary. I have now looked at some of the old newspaper articles from the 1800s that use the word "'ohana" and have found that some of those articles do indeed use the word in ways that seem similar to today's usage (family).

However, some of today's usages, especially metaphorical ones, appear to have no similar usages in the old newspapers. It appears there are some significant differences between old vs. modern usage regarding whether the word refers to nuclear family, extended family, children who are informally adopted without paperwork (hanai), children who are formally adopted with ceremonies or legal registration, people of different races who are welcomed into a family and live there permanently (note the controversy over Brayden Mohica-Cummings at Kamehameha School), neighbors, workplace colleagues, political fellow-travelers on a specific issue who may be opponents on other issues, etc. The word "'ohana" definitely is a weapon in the political arsenal of today's Hawaiian sovereignty activists who want to elicit public sympathy for views they favor but who do not want to allow the word to be used in ways they oppose.

It is open to question which of Mr. Whitney's assertions in this article are correct. Mr. Whitney wrote his article before the old Hawaiian-language newspapers were easily available, and he probably did not do exhaustive research as would be expected of a scholar. There is no doubt the word "'ohana" appeared in print on some occasions as long ago as the 1830s, and was probably used orally long before that. On the other hand it should be noted that Whitney quotes a revered professor of Hawaiian language as follows: "Auntie Rubellite Johnson, a cultural expert and former Hawaiian language professor at UH Manoa, says she can't think of any mentions of 'ohana in the ancient chants. "There's not a single use of the word in any of the chants I know," she says. The original, proto-Polynesian word closest to "family" is kaafnga, which developed over many centuries into the current word 'aina, meaning (we think) "land.""

Whitney provides specific citations, easily verifiable, of places where any commonly-used word should have been listed but where "'ohana" was in fact missing. So it seems Whitney was correct at least to the extent that the word today has different meanings and far more frequent usage than before 1950. Although Mr. Whitney may not be a scholar, and may not have done the thorough research he should have done, it is clear the word "'ohana" was not used with today's frequency for a period of at least several decades, and has been revived (and changed) for political purposes. "Honolulu Magazine" is widely accepted as a source of popular information about the society and culture of Hawai'i. The magazine has generally been very friendly to the political viewpoint of Hawaiian activism -- they even featured Haunani-Kay Trask as their cover-girl "person of the year." So it is not likely that the magazine would have published the article if they regarded Mr. Whitney as untrustworthy, and if they did not do at least a moderate level of fact-checking.

It is also interesting as a measure of cultural importance that the word "'ohana" has only 4 lines devoted to it on page 274 of the 572-page Pukui/Elbert dictionary of 1986, while on that same page the word "'ohe" (bamboo) has 29 lines.


An article published in Honolulu Magazine in 2001 says that a very important word in modern Hawaiian language did not exist until 1950 at the earliest, and became popular only in the 1970s. The word "'ohana" is today regarded as a core concept in Hawaiian culture. But according to the magazine article, it is actually an example of cultural invention, or revisionism, associated with the political movement that seeks to construct a Hawaiian identity essentially from scratch, and quite different from ancient practices.

Some additional webpages on this broader topic of politically inspired historical/cultural revisionism are linked at the end of this article.

Care has been taken to copy this article accurately, including page-breaks. However, the article as originally published included the long macron kahako diacritical mark over appropriate vowels, and this copy of it does not include that mark. (But then, diacritical marks in Hawaiian language are also an example of cultural revisionism. The 'okina and kahako were made available when American missionaries created a written Hawaiian language. But those marks were hardly ever used until today's professors of Hawaiian language began requiring university students to use them as aids to pronouncing a language which formerly was only spoken but which today is being revived by people who rarely hear the language as spoken by very elderly native speakers known as "manaleo.") The original article also included artwork not reproduced here, and it was formatted into two columns per page.

The article is reproduced here under the fair-use doctrine; it is intended for viewing free of charge by individuals for academic, scholarly, and political purposes and may not be sold or mass-produced without permission from author Scott Whitney or Honolulu Magazine.


Scott Whitney, "Inventing 'Ohana," Honolulu Magazine, September, 2001, pp. 42-45.

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Inventing "'Ohana"

by Scott Whitney

[Summary Highlight Box] Everyone thinks the word "'Ohana" expresses an ancient Hawaiian value. Not so. It turns out we made it up. [End Summary Box]

If you think the word 'ohana comes from Old Hawai'i, try this experiment. Go to the University of Hawai'i's Hawai'i Pacific Journals Database, and look for uses of the word between the years 1889 and 1949. You will not find a single entry. If you search for the same word again, with the date parameter reset at 1950 to 2001, you will get 10 pages of citations.

Try something else. Look In one of the original Hawaiian language dictionaries. Lorin Andrews' 1865 tome with the snappy title: A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language to WhIch Is Appended an English-Hawaiian Vocabulary and a Chronological Table of Remarkable Events. You will not find a listing for the word 'ohana.

So how is it that the word Is everywhere today? You can get 'Ohana zoning for your property or book a room at an 'Ohana Hotel or see a physician in the 'Ohana Medical Group or join an antidevelopment group on the Big Island called Protect Keopuka 'Ohana. The lead state agency for Hawaiian Issues, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, insists, fancifully, that Its acryonym OHA Is half of the word 'ohana and, thus, OHA is part of every Hawaiian family. The agency's newspaper, Ka Wal Ola 0 OHA, has an 'ohana sectlon -- as does the mainstream Honolulu Advertiser.

How could this word have become everything to everyone? How could it serve the needs of tourism marketers. hoteliers, doctors and Hawaiian activists equally well?

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We all think we know what 'ohana means. Most of us will say it means something like "extended family," and that it is based on ancient Hawaiian principles. For instance, in the 1970s, Honolulu Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss wrote a book called The Island Way. In it, he gave his explanation of 'ohana, which is typical of many definitions, both then and now. "Each 'ohana," he wrote, "lived as an independent economic unit, sharing the Island's resources with other family groups rather than competing for them:" This is the orthodox and idyllic portrait of 'ohana in ancient times -- 'ohana, the extended family living in harmonious bliss.

But the word may rarely have been used in those ancient times. Like many similar pious cultural explanations, Krauss and others since have bought the myth and ignored certain things that were a part of Hawaiian famiIy experience, like frequent warfare and chiefly confiscation of their crops, ali'i incest and institutionalized slavery. No Department of Education student in seventh grade Hawaiian studies will learn that the religion of the people in the Puna district of the Big Island required the killing of the first-born daughter. This is not exactly the 'ohana spirit as we teach it today.

Our public version of Hawaiian culture is a shared fiction, and an arbitrary story that depends on who the narrator is. Without the dissemination of good scholarship, we are left with Hawaiiana Lite, a watered down rendition of how things were -- or are.

It was between 1950 and 1955 that a series of articles appeared in the Journal of the Polynesian Society. They were written by E.S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukui, based on their interviews with Hawaiian elders in the 1930s in the Ka'u district of the Big Island. In 1972, these articles were combined and published in hardcover by Tuttle as The Polynesian Family System in Ka'u Hawai'i. It has been reprinted several times since. This book became one of the founding texts of Hawaiian studies.

Yet everyone seemed to forget the word Ka'u in its title, taking what a small group of Big Island kupuna related to Pukui in the 1930s as gospel for all of Hawaiian culture. This is just one example of a Big Island bias to Hawaiian scholarship about which Hawaiians from other islands frequently complain.

Auntie Rubellite Johnson, a cultural expert and former Hawaiian language professor at UH Manoa, says she can't think of any mentions of 'ohana in the ancient chants. "There's not a single use of the word in any of the chants I know," she says. The original, proto-Polynesian word closest to "family" is kaafnga, which developed over many centuries into the current word 'aina, meaning (we think) "land."

In other parts of Polynesia, like Samoa, the word aiga still exists, with its original connotations. Johnson says this is an important concept that has been lost in Hawai'i. "Ever since the Mahele in 1848 we started using 'aina to mean just land. But throughout Polynesia it has always had the meaning of land-plus-people equals family. It was because of the 19th-century land loss of most Hawaiians that the people+land=family equation no longer balanced, and 'alna was left meaning only the physical earth.

'Ohana as a word did not exist in Tahiti or the Marquesas, where the first Hawaiians began their voyages. It has no proto-Polynesian linguistic roots. It was invented in Hawai'i, probably by taro growers on the west side of the Big Island. According to Johnson, the 'oha was a corm that grew off the taro stalk. The suffix ana was equivalent to the English suffix "ing." Thus, something growing off the haloa, the long stalk of the taro plant -- a corm off rhe old stock, in other words, "offspring."

The scholarship and the whole discussion [of 'aina-'ohana] has been mangled over the years," Johnson complains. "We've been sort of brainwashed into this 'extended family' definition."

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What may have started as a slang or metaphorical word for offspring came to mean, at least in Ka'u, blood relatives living within a specific ahupua'a.

After the Mahele. the word 'aina no longer referred to people, so a new word had to be found for family. And, at the same lime that Western land law was being imposed In the Islands, there was pressure from the missionary community for Hawaiians to accept the New England view of family, which consisted of the nuclear mother-father-chlldren triangle. The missionarIes made clear In their diaries that they could not stand the chaos of HawaIIan multigenerational families -- with all sorts of hanai children and ad hoc uncles and aunts coming and going at will. They wanted parents and children in one house -- a house that had separate rooms -- and they wanted everyone with their clothes on and with their hands off each other.

Even recently, 'ohana was not a major cultural touchstone. It was In the 1970s, especially after the publication of John Dominls Holt's On Being Hawaiian, that the Hawaiian Renaissance began. Holt's 1964 book has been reprinted many times over the years, and is widely acknowledged as the first salvo of the Renaissance -- yet not once did Holt use the word 'ohana.

Carol Sliva. a state archivist and Hawaiian language teacher, says that an important influence on the evolution of 'ohana was the 1972 book, Nana I Ke Kumu (Look to the Source). Partly based on Polynesian family System as well as direct consultation with Pukul, it tried to explain an array of Hawaiian cultural concepts, Including 'ohana. The book was written by a committee from the Queen LllI'uokalanl Children's Centers (QLCC). It looked especially at cultural concepts that would be therapeutic and helpful in the trust's mission -- social work, child welfare and family counseling with Hawaiian families. The Nana I Ke Kumu authors used the term 'ohana, but did not use it in Its modern sense, of family plus unrelated persons.

"If we want to stay within the bounds of traditional definition," they wrote. "it's stretching the 'ohana concept pretty far. From the standpoint o{ human behavior, trying to superimpose the 'ohana concept on a group that is not 'ohana has quite a few strikes against It" The QLCC authors explain very carefully, citing Mrs. PukuI, that there must be a blood relationship {or there to be 'ohana. Merely living In proxImity was not enough. They even hint that the so-called "'ohana spirit" is, In their own institutional experience, bunk. "The 'ohana spirit' is not keeping Hawaiian families friction-free today," they argued.

In old Ka'u, 'ohana meant blood relations, only. But outside of that Big Island district, it came later to mean something else entirely. Silva remembers her own childhood in rural Windward O'ahu. "Anyone who lived close by was almost automatically Incorporated into family. Neighbors were auntie or uncle or cousin, even when there was no blood relation. It seemed like the mere fact of proximity was enough to create family."

The word 'ohana was thrust into the public sphere as late as 1976 by the original organizers of the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana, who Included Walter Ritte, George Helm and Emmett Aluli. One member who was in on the discussion about naming the group says they almost called themselves "Friends of Kaho'olawe."

Why? The first generation of HawaIIan activists had to learn how to be Hawaiian. Most of the original PKO organizers had been educated on the Mainland and none of the original leaders spoke Hawaiian, nor were they literate in traditional lore. They had to read their Hawaiian culture, so both Nana I Ke Kumu and The Polynesian Family System in Ka'u became the primers for this renaissance generation of Native Hawaiian activists.

Lillkala Kame'eleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Manoa, says there are reasons for this need to gather Hawaiian culture from books. "You've got to remember that in the time I was growing up, in the1950s and 196Os, even other Hawaiians often looked down on any of us who showed an Interest in hula. language or chant. They were afraid we were doing 'ana'ana [sorcery]." Kame'eleihiwa also recalls that after the 1950s the word 'ohana was often used to mean prayer, short for pule 'ohana.

Contrary to Pukui's definition of blood relationship, the Hawaiian Renaissance generation took 'ohana to mean -- as many people do now -- "extended family." Politically they meant it to signify a group of people united around a common goal. Since they wanted to emphasize the Hawaiianness of what they were doing, the English phrase "Friends of" was discarded. Later political organizations followed this tradition, as in the Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, which Is currently active on the Big Island opposing developments along the Kona Coast.

The myth of 'ohana continued to grow and Its meanIng stretched out like an accordion.

It was not long before the 'ohana definition got stretched even further. George Kanahele delivered the 'ohana Idea, fully packaged, to the visitor industry. In his book, Ku Kanaka Stand Tall, he describes an 'ohana management style within the 'ili'ohana, which he defines as a group of about seven households living In one ahupua'a, all related by blood or hanai arrangements. Kanahele saw this management style as one in which resources were allocated and exchanged based on the Idea of reciprocity. Kanahele portrayed the haku, the head of this extended family, as a CEO-llke figure who served as "a model of personal commitment and achievement"

This revision of 'ohana theory probably fit Kanahele's own self-image, since he was himself "a model of personal commitment and achievement." He became a popular management consultant to local corporations, especially those in the visitor industry.

Perhaps the symbolic culmination of this MBA versIon of 'ohana came on Dec. 18, 1999, when the Outrigger Hotels took 15 of its low-end Walkiki properties and rebranded them as the 'Ohana Hotels. Like wineries that call their second-tier labels "Select," many thought that 'ohana here was best translated as "cheap," a collection of hotel rooms targeted at young families and frugal package-tour hordes. The Outrigger's Web site says of its 'Ohana collection of hotels: "Formerly Outrigger's

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moderately priced hotels, 'Ohana offers a new concept in Island-style 1odging, comfortable accommodations at money-savlng rates."

But Outriggers' public relations director, Nancy Daniels, says the word 'ohana was not meant as a euphemism for cheap. Actually. she says, it was chosen to refer to the fact that the properties are all owned by the Richard R. KeIley family and have been In that particular 'ohana for three generations.

And the visitor version of 'ohana continues. In a Kapi'olani Community College curriculum called "Professional Training In Hawaiian Hospitality," which is used to train hotel workers, 'ohana is said to be "the basis for our humanity. 'Ohana," it continues. "is not just at home, you have 'ohana at work, too."

The basis for our humanity?

As we have seen, the word 'ohana has strayed far from its original, limited meaning. That's not wrong in itself. Any editor will tell you, the published definition of an English word is always based on how people are using it now, not on some original Old English or Saxon root meaning. And, similarly, Hawaiian is (against all odds) a living language with words that evolve to fit our changing needs.

Still, we don't want to fool ourselves into thinking that a modern value is really an ancient one. It keeps us from understanding the past and understanding ourselves. If we are looking for what 'ohana meant traditionalIy, we would end up with certain principles, like loyalty to blood. Even if your relative is a jerk, according to Pukui, "no one could be cast out"

While all'l families were obsessed by rank and blood descent, the maka'ainana, the commoners, lived a much more Informal life. In fact, with the exception of Pukui's Ka'u work, we know very little for sure about commoner family life.

But traditional HawaIIan family life was almost certainly much different than our contemporary 'ohana.

Kame'eleihiwa says that things were much more fluid In traditional Hawaiian families, much more flexible and informal than the mIssionaries thought was healthy. She says the New Englanders viewed children as property to be protected and kept under one roof. "But the Hawaiians," she said, "viewed children as a gift to the parents and the kids had the freedom to decide where they would live. They always had the choice of several households to live with. There was always the practice of ho'okama -- making someone a member of the family."

The Hawaiian family was organized horizontally by generations, that is, grandparents, parents and children. Your mother's sister was not your aunt, she was your mother too. There was no word for uncle. Men of your father's generation were father to you. Your cousins were your brothers and sisters. Thls horizontal organization was split by a vertical line that divided the sexes. This was accomplIshed linguistically by having one set of words for siblings of the same sex and another for siblings of the opposite sex.

There are still important differences between a Malnland definition of family and a local one. Sliva actually sees 'ohana being used as a "local" term, rather than a Hawaiian one, For Instance, if you go to a park on a Sunday In Concord, Calli., or Portland, Ore., you will see many young parents spending the day with their children. But if you come to HawaI'l, you will immediately notice a difference. Here, most of the Sunday groups In the parks include three or four generations, not just the Oedipal triangle of father-mother-children.

Hawaiians traditionally, and perhaps wisely, never felt that people in their teens or early 20s had the skills to be good parents. Thus, even to this day, grandparents play a primary role in chiIdrearing -- and many Hawaiians recall their grandparents with much more loyalty and fondness than they do their parents. But these days, this grandparent Importance in Hawal'i is not limited by ethnlcity. The economics of childcare has kept the grandparent contribution crucial for most families here.

Someone moving here from the Mainland might also notice that local neighbor children soon begin to refer to adult neighbors as aunty or uncle. Proximity, as Silva says, often equals relationship. Thus, again, the broad and ad hoc nature of this use of 'ohana.

This redefining of a cultural concept is always meant to fit the needs of the time. An inventory of Hawaiian cultural concepts emphasized these days would include Ideas such as aloha, 'ohana, ha'aheo (pride), lokahi (unity, harmony), laulima (working together) and pono (just or equitable). For a colonized people trying to get back a sense of human dignity, or for a group organizing against powerful foes, this is the perfect list. (Emphasizing aloha as a cultural value also serves local visitor interests, which have turned the term into something that Is best defined as "Don't be surly to the tourists.")

But a precontact list of Hawaiian values would have looked much different. It would have Included bravery and fierceness, fecundity and physical beauty, eloquence and good memory. Hawaiian culture also placed great emphasis on the value of practical skills, so that men or women who were good weavers or navigators or farmers were highly prized In each community.

The description of Hawaiian culture these days has turned Into New Age mush. It skips over violence, politIcal cunning and some practIces such as Incest and infanticide, that no longer are part of our value structure. That Is natural. Although the Irish like to brag about the saints and poets of their early culture. they sometimes forget to mention Celtic savagery in war. The Spanish and the Portuguese like to edit out the atrocitles of their colonization of the New World and Americans would rather avoid the topic of slavery or the killing off of Native Americans.

But we have to realize that our version of the past is sanitized.

'Ohana, whatever its roots, whatever it meant to farmers In precontact Ka'u, has become a flag of convenience to carry the meanings we need now. It is a perfectly useful word that describes our present-day experience. We just need to remember that, for the most part, we made it up.


** Some "footnotes" by website editor Ken Conklin providing links to related articles **

Words like "Hawaiian culture", "Native Hawaiian", and "oral history" are very hard to pin down. Even prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778, there were vast differences in "Hawaiian culture" from one island to the next, and even in different ahupuaĠa on the same island. The language had significantly different dialects. The well-known two-volume book about Hawaiian culture "Nana I Ke Kumu" by Mary Kawena Pukui includes disclaimers that her description of "Hawaiian culture" is based on what she remembers from growing up in KaĠu, a remote district of the "big Island of HawaiĠi" where the lifestyle was probably quite different from other areas. David Malo, a native historian whose parents grew up before Captain Cook arrived, wrote that the oral transmission of songs, chants, and genealogies resulted in great distortions and variations, some of which were probably done intentionally for political purposes. Increasingly today, terms like "Hawaiian culture," "Native Hawaiian," and "oral history" are being tossed around by people who do not define them or use them in any consistent way, and who intentionally capitalize on their vagueness to carry meanings from one context into other contexts where those meanings may be inappropriate. As an example, see an analysis by Honolulu attorney Paul Sullivan showing how the poor definition and possibly intentional misuse of these three concepts has affected a particularly important issue (a draft environmental impact statement for a NASA telescope project on Mauna Kea):

Just as the word "'ohana" did not exist until recent times, and the concept it denotes has grown and changed to conform to political needs for building an ethnic identity, so also the concept of "Polynesian voyaging" is a recent invention. Certainly ancient Polynesians engaged in long-distance navigation by using the stars. So did other ancient peoples throughout the world. However, nobody today knows what ancient Polynesian voyaging techniques were -- they were totally lost and had to be re-invented by using a modern planetarium and by following the teachings of a Micronesian (not Polynesian) elder who trained Hawaiians based on his Micronesian heritage. The only way to rescue the notion that today's Hawaiians are actually engaged in the same voyaging techniques and protocols as their ancestors is to believe in a dubious theory of "deep culture" and "racial memory." Are the Polynesian voyaging canoes, and their journeys, truly Polynesian? Is there such a thing as "deep culture" or genetically transmitted "racial memory" which allows long forgotten skills and ceremonies to be revived with authenticity? Is the Polynesian Voyaging Society primarily a cultural organization focused on reviving an ancient skill, or is it primarily a political organization focused on ethnic pride, ethnic nation-building, and related public relations campaigns to solicit popular support for Hawaiian sovereignty? How important is it for PVS and the voyages it sponsors to be dominated by ethnic Hawaiians? What struggles were there over the role of people with no Hawaiian native ancestry in the founding of PVS and the voyaging trips of its canoes? See the webpage: "Polynesian" Voyaging -- Political Agenda, Ethnic Dominance, Cultural Authenticity, and Blood Nationalism. An extended book review of Ben Finney, "Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors: Reviving Polynesian Voyaging"

Today's Hawaiian sovereignty activists are in the process of reinventing the historical holidays of the Hawaiian Kingdom. But their political agenda is to build a sense of racial pride and to assert a right to racial dominance in a restored independent nation of Hawai'i. Therefore, the activists are systematically ignoring white heroes of the Hawaiian Kingdom who had no native blood. By removing non-natives from the pantheon of Hawaiian national historical heroes, todayĠs Hawaiian activists show their intentions for the future. They say their movement is about a nation, not a race. They say people of all races will be welcome as citizens in the newly re-established nation. But their clear intention is to make second-class citizens of everyone lacking native blood, giving them only voting rights restricted to certain topics and property rights restricted to certain areas. This webpage explores several Hawaiian holidays (both historical and modern) to show how their ethnic cleansing is being implemented. Holidays include Ka La HoĠihoĠi Ea (Sovereignty Restoration Day), Ka La KuĠokoĠa (Independence Day), Martin Luther KingĠs birthday, the 4th of July, and a newly created Hawaiian memorial day to supplant Christmas (even thought Christmas was an official Kingdom holiday).

The ancient Hawaiian religion, and ancient hula, are allegedly being revived by today's "traditional practitioners." However, some ancient practices, most notably human sacrifice, polygamous marriage, and brother-sister incest; are being ignored because they are no longer acceptable either in today's "Hawaiian culture" or in the larger society. Most ethnic Hawaiians today are Christians. While some Hawaiians are drawn to ancient religious practices, prayers, and chants, they also feel great tension and conflict within themselves because of fundamental incompatibilities between the ancient religion and Christianity. Hula is a point of conflict between "traditional practitionare" and Christians (including non-ethnic Hawaiians), because they both want to use hula in religious observances but cannot tolerate each others' interpretations or ways of performing. The Catholic Church is very uneasy about allowing hula in the context of a worship service; and some "traditional practitioners" such as Vicky Takamine have severely criticized the use of hula in Christian contexts as being blasphemous or a desecration of the ancient religion. See a subpage on political conflict between Christian religious institutions and "traditional practitioners" with special focus on hula, at:

Hawaiian cultural revisionism has gotten a big boost from a new theory of Hawaiian epistemology, which purports to explain why people with Hawaiian native ancestry are fundamentally different from everyone else and how it is possible for them to invent new cultural artifacts or ceremonies with the assurance that they are authentic recreations of ancient knowledge. This theory of Hawaiian epistemology was invented through a survey of Hawaiian culture-based ways of getting knowledge as told to a researcher by ethnic Hawaiian elders. The theory includes a classification of different kinds of knowledge and the different methods whereby such knowledge is obtained and validated. Although Hawaiian epistemology is a theory derived from a study of Hawaiian culture, it is also claimed to be more generally descriptive of all indigenous cultures. ThatĠs because all indigenous cultures share a closeness of relationship to their ancestral land and a belief in ancestral spirits and gods who are constantly present throughout all aspects of nature. The gods, the ancestral spirits, and the land itself speak to all living ethnic Hawaiians through racial memories encoded and passed down through genetic inheritance, and also through dreams and prayers. Thus, "ordinary" activities of daily life, as well as subject-matter knowledge and skill learned in school, are filtered through the lens of Hawaiian-ness and take on special meanings not available to those who lack a drop of native blood. For more about Hawaiian epistemology, see: