ANT 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Dr. Ronald K. Bolender
October 22, 2009
Ancient Hawaiian genealogy suggests settlement of the islands by Tahitian navigators sometime between A.D. 300 and A.D. 800. (Trask, 1993, p.4) Before the coming of colonizers, the native society was organized as a familial society, consisting of tribes and chiefdoms, which provided the necessities of life- land, water, food, identity and support. The economy was dependant primarily on a balance of the products provided from the land and sea. There was no money, no idea or practice of surplus appropriation, value storing, or credit, because there was no practice of financial profit for exchange. What did exist was a sharing of products between families who lived in the uplands and families who lived by the sea. What did exist was a structured government which made ruled the people and the lands and provided a structure social system so that everyone was taken care of. Cultural materialist, Marvin Harris describes culture as “the total socially acquired life-way of a group of people”. Culture involves shared behaviors and beliefs of a group of people (Miller, 2007, p. 14). Miller’s ideology suggests that without cultural identity, a civilization would cease to exist. Colonialism changed the native people’s way of life. They were kept from practicing their cultural traditions and customs; their political, economic and social systems were stripped away; control of their lands was taken; their identity as indigenous people from the land was soon lost (The United Nations, 2007). Cultural integration is supposed to promote positive changes in a society. However, the introduction of change without considering their effects on the entire group was detrimental to the welfare and survival of a culture (Miller, 2007, p. 19). The invasion of Western settlers, their arrogance, greed and imposition of their beliefs, almost decimated the entire race of the Hawaiian people. The injustice suffered by Hawaiians at the hands of the American government must be made right by acknowledging that the Kingdom of Hawaii was once a self governing political body and that Native Hawaiians have a right to self determination and self governance.
Cultural anthropologists suggest that culture and nature are intertwined and affect the behaviors and lifestyles of the people (Miller, 2007, p. 14). Marion Kelly, Anthropologist and Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa writes, “Under the Hawaiian system of land-use rights, the people living in each ahupua`a (land division) had access to all living necessities of life, thus establishing an independence founded upon the availability of forest land, taro, sweet potato areas, and fishing grounds”. This practice is referred to as “use rights” (Miller, 2007, p. 69). People did not live in villages; their homes were scattered over the area of the ahupua`a. Hawaiians had no money and did not barter. Society was based on generosity and communal concern. Fishermen and farmers gave freely and everyone flourished.
Hawaii had a complex social network, referred to as social stratification (Miller, 2007, p. 244) consisting of ali`i (chiefs), kahuna (priests), konoiki (overseer) and maka`ainana (people). The structure of caste system (Miller, 2007, p. 249) consisted of ali`i (chiefs), kahuna (priests), pu`ali (warriors), mahi`ai (farmers) and maka`ainana (commoners). The ali`i class possessed divine power and created order and prosperity on the land. The kahuna, who also possessed divine power, served as advisors to the ali`i. The koniki assured that a constant flow of products moved through the ahupua`a, meeting the needs of everyone. The maka`ainana (people of the land) lived on the land, fished and farmed, and were cared for by...