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A Study of the Missionary Effort to Civilize the Hawaiian Commoner

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Title:A Study of the Missionary Effort to Civilize the Hawaiian Commoner
Authors:Johnson, William P.
Keywords:Polynesia - Hawaii
LC Subject Headings:Hawaiians--Social Life and Customs--Hawaii.
Date Issued:1977
Abstract:For one to gain a complete understanding of the history of a nation like Hawaii, one would hope to learn about its people, especially the common people. History has not been kind to the maka'ainana (commoners) of Hawaii. Historical accounts of Hawaii are laden with voluminous accounts of the ali'i (ruling class). As Hawaii transformed from an absolute monarchy of Kamehameha I into a more complex constitutional monarchy, foreigners began to playa major role in the decisions of the fledgling nation. Their chapter in Hawaiian history is also told in depth, complete with the overthrow of the monarchy and the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. From that time on, Hawaii became involved in a unique process of Americanization of a polyglot community. But what happened to the history of the Hawaiian common people? Why is their story so absent in the annals of Hawaii's past? These questions were partially dealt with by some historians. The graduates of Lahainaluna Seminary, a Protestant college that educated the most scholarly of the Hawaiian community in the mid-nineteenth century, undertook a project to record history from oral accounts taken from elderly informants throughout the island chain. Led by David Malo and Samuel Kamakau, these native historians hurried to gather up this information before these elder voices were quieted forever. Later in the century, Judge Abraham Fornander, the Hawaiiana collaborator, laid down an immense history of pre-Captain Cook Hawaii through the enlistment of Hawaiian recorders. Their works are filled with anecdotes on the culture of the common people. Unfortunately, again, the majority of their history is commentary on the ali'i class. In addition, modern anthropologists have ably combined the sketches of ancient historians and the archaeological findings of Hawaii and derived a cultural simulation of the ancient life of the maka'ainana. Unless more documents on ancient Hawaii or archaeological findings are discovered, we may already have exhausted the history of the pre-Captain Cook Hawaiians. Mary Pukui and & Craighill Handy were the next to undertake a comprehensive study of the Hawaiian commoner. Working under the auspices of the Bishop Museum, they traveled to the remote district of Ka'u on the Big Island of Hawaii and interviewed Hawaiian families, particularly elderly people of the area. Their research, which was finally published as The Polynesian Family System in Ka'u Hawaii, is a classic in Hawaiian social studies and lore. No other work depicts the life of the Hawaiian commoner more comprehensively than this study. Unfortunately, their research was not undertaken until 1935. Even their oldest informants could only have lived as early as the 1860's. Therefore, Pukui and Handy's work could only have accurately represented Hawaiian life in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Fornander, Malo, and their contemporaries gave us a glimpse of Hawaii prior to Cook's discovery, but there is no composite material published on the life of the Hawaiian commoner in the interim period from 1778 to approximately 1860. This writer has attempted to research this gap in history and seek some clues to the life of the maka'ainana. From 1778 to the 1830's there were many explorers, traders, and other observers traveling through the islands. Many of them recorded observations of Hawaii and its people. Again, the ali'i received the most attention. But these foreigners did comment on the commoners. Unfortunately, their comments were often detached and unspecific in content, which precluded any in-depth study of the people. This writer has surveyed a sampling of their accounts and will comment on them later in this paper.
Description:Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1977
Pacific Islands Studies
Pages/Duration:i, 54 leaves
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Pacific Islands Studies Plan A Masters Theses
M.A. - Pacific Islands Studies

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