The Degradation of the Hawaiian Culture during the European Invasion

Our world is spilling over with different religions and cultures though some gain more notoriety than others. Hawaiian culture has been degrading since it was invaded by Europeans beginning in the seventeenth century. (“Hawaii’s History”) Ever since the native population has been rapidly deteriorating mostly due to disease. Not only has the decrease in native Hawaii population lead to the downfall of the Hawaiian culture but so too has cultural repression from the US. government. It used to be common for native children to be rounded up and taught to speak ‘proper’ English in reform schools throughout Hawaii (Flannery).

Even though there have been many forces trying to drown out the Hawaiian culture it still thrives today. The native Hawaiians have a rich cultural history, complete with many folktales and mythologies of their own.

They even have their own pantheon of gods and goddesses. The Hawaiian creation myth is as follows, at first there was chaos and then came then from chaos there was Kane, the god of creation.

It is said he threw a giant calabash into the air and it broke into three parts. One half became the sky, ruled by the god Rangi, the other half became the earth and sea ruled respectively by the goddesses Papa and Koalana, and finally, the little fragments in between became the stars. Kane went on to create other living things and other gods to rule over them as well. Kane also created the first human, who is said to be the son of Rangi and Papa and so all Hawaiian chiefs are descended from gods.

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(Elliot) While there might appear to be many similarities between this origin myth and some others such as in Greek mythology or the bible, these Hawaiian myths and legends predate Christianity.

One major difference between the majority of these myths and legends and the bible is the View of marriage. Much of the time there appears to be no ceremony and no involvement of the gods. Marriage does not appear to be a religious or even a binding ceremony like it appears in the bible and in modern times. One such episode appears in legend of Kapeepeekauila or the Rocks of Kana. The story begins with Kapeepeekauila who one days see the Beautiful Hina, wife to Hakalanileo and decides he want her for his own wife. So he sends his children to ask her for marriage and Hina decides he pleases her and accepts even though she is already married. Now, this makes her former husband very sad and he goes on a quest of sorts, asking others for help and trying to get her back. (“Kapeepeekauila”) The interesting thing here is there is no shame in her taking another husband even if she has children with her first husband already.

No blame gets put on the beautiful Hina at all. In the end of the story after a few battles and sibling rivalry between Hina and Hakalanileo’s children, as they help him regain his wife, he does in fact, receive her again with open arms. (“Kapeepeekauila”) Again this is with no animosity between husband and wife, Hina willingly returns to Hakalanileo without any kind of protest. This is a unique phenomenon that is hardly ever to be seen within any kind of western religion, culture or myth. Much of western culture views brides as young virgins, never having had children and only re-married if they have been widowed. Much of cultural marriage rites also view the bride as property. We still see echoes of this today when the father ‘gives the bride away’ to the groom. But back in the day the bride really did belong to her father or her family until someone they could bargain her away to someone they deemed suitable.

The girl in question almost never had a choice in the matter, the first meeting of bride and groom often being at the altar itself. This kind of thinking does not ring true across all cultures. In Part of “Kalelealuaka”, we have a man, Kaopele born in Waipio, Hawaii, who falls into a kind of sacred slumber every now and then to keep the goddess Poliahu Company. It is during one of these times that his body is moved from his home and taken to a temple as a sacrifice in Wailua, Kauai, which is where he wakes up and meets a kind old man who takes a great liking to him and brings him home with him. While there the old man thinks he would make a great husband for his granddaughter and persuades him to become a suitor, Kaopele leaves to ask her consent. (“Kalelealuaka”) Now this is a very important moment because here we have two men discussing a marriage.

The discussion is based on the family member, the grandfather, praising his granddaughter and wholeheartedly believing they would make a good match and the suitor, Kaopele, who is intrigued and is going to go ask her for consent. In their discussion there is no talk of dowries or money changing hands, no power schemes or alliances, the daughter, Makalani, is not treated as an object to be traded or used to better her family. Though this is not to say that there is no sense of what is ‘appropriate’ in Hawaiian culture. The young woman was awakened from her slumbers in the night to hear the proposition of her grandfather, who painted to her in glowing colors the manly attractions of her suitor.

The suit found favor in the eyes of the girl‘s parents and she herself was nothing loath, but with commendable maidenly propriety she insisted that her suitor should be brought and presented to her, and that she should not first seek him. They found favor in each other’s eyes, and an ardent attachment sprang up on the instant Matters sped apace. A separate house was assigned as the residence of the young couple, and their married life began felicitously.(“Kalelealuaka”) The young woman in question appears to have some sort of say in who she marries. Women in Hawaiian myth are treated equally as men, they hold power and respect. Their concept of marriage is not a violent deflowering that somehow tarnishes them, it is hopefully a happy fluid union and defines neither man nor woman into a life-binding contract.

The Hawaiian‘s produced a number of fierce goddesses such as Pele the goddess of fire, thunder and volcanoes or the beautiful but vengeful Poli’ahu, goddess of snow. With such powerful ruling female deities it is my belief that the Hawaiian people had great respect for their women and these themes reflect themselves into their myth and folklore where the concept of marriage is brought up. And marriage if quite often brought up in the Hawaiian myth but in juxtaposition to western myth, it happens at the beginning of tale. Getting married is often a pre-cursor to adventure not a single line thrown in at the very end ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ Hawaiian myth actually depicts married life.

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The Degradation of the Hawaiian Culture during the European Invasion. (2023, Feb 17). Retrieved from

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