Polynesian Cultures

  • Culture of Aotearoa
  • Culture of Fiji
  • Culture of Hawaii
  • Culture of Rapa Nui
  • Culture of Samoa
  • Culture of Tahiti
  • Culture of Tonga
  • Culture of Other Islands
    1. Overview
      Kia Ora...and welcome to — the Polynesian Cultural Center's islands of Aotearoa, or the "Land of the Long White Cloud" as the New Zealand Maori call their homeland of the past 1,000 years. Aotearoa forms the southwestern apex of the Polynesian Triangle and is the only part of Polynesia to experience four seasons. Consequently, you'll notice the Maori — whose name means the "true people" — created significantly different housing and lifestyles than their Polynesian cousins in the tropical islands. Oh, and yes, the appropriate response to a Maori greeting, which means "good health," is also Kia Ora.
    2. Location
      New Zealand is located approximately 4,000 miles southwest of Hawai'i.
    3. Geography
      New Zealand consists of two main islands - North Island, with its capital at Wellington, and Auckland as major urban centers; and South Island, as well as several other smaller island groups, such as the Chathams and Kermadecs. The spectacular scenery of both major islands has recently been featured in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy The land mass totals approximately 270,000 sq. km. - about the size of Japan or the state of Colorado.
    4. Population
      Approximately 4 million people live in New Zealand,about 10-10%of whom are of Maori heritage - making them one of the largest groups of Polynesians today. Another 4% of the population has immigrated there from various other Pacific Islands, especially Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau Islands. Auckland is generally considered the largest Polynesian city in the world.
    5. History and Discovery
      Dutch explorer Abel Tasman saw and sailed near New Zealand in 1642, but significant European contact probably started with Captain Cook's three voyages to the country from 1769-79. With the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand became a British colony in 1840. Even though New Zealand became an independent member of the British Commonwealth almost a century ago, all government functions reflect the strong British influence, and many people say "Kiwis," as New Zealanders are nicknamed, speak with a British accent. They, of course, insist that it's a New Zealand accent.
    6. Languages
      English and Maori are the official languages. Maori is a major Polynesian language, and as such, is similar to Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, and other island languages, with which it shares many words that are identical or similar in sound and meanings. The Maori have made a conscientious effort over the past several decades to reinforce teaching their language to children - a preschool model of which has also been instituted in Hawai'i.
    7. Village Life
      Over the centuries, Maori intertribal warfare became relatively common, so their pa or villages were traditionally fortified with wooden stake fences completely surrounding the perimeter for security. Many villages actually had three such fences arranged concentrically, with deep ditches dug in between them. Gateways into the pa in those times, unlike modern ones such as at the Polynesian Cultural Center, were usually narrow and short, allowing at most two people to squeeze through at one time. Watchtowers or pharaoh were built at intervals to protect the village. They were manned 24-hours per day. A pa was usually situated on top of a hill so the extra height of a tower could allow a sentry to see for miles around the village on all sides. If strangers were seen approaching, the man in the watch tower would blow a large wooden trumpet to warn the people in the village. Then a scout, sometimes two or three, would be sent to the gate to ascertain if the strangers came in peace or war. To determine the intent, the scout would go through a wero or challenge. After grimacing fiercely and performing menacing postures, the scout would place a small ceremonial token such as a carved stick or leaves on the ground before the visitor. If the visitor accepted and held the token in his hand or aloft, it signified he came in peace. In such cases, the scout would signify the visitor could enter by slapping his thigh. Strict Maori protocol followed, consisting of speeches, singing, feasting and entertainment. If the token was refused, it meant a declaration of war. Whare Runanga or Meeting House, or House of Learning The whare runanga or Maori meeting houses is the focal point of all Maori cultural and tribal activities to this very day. It is the place where tribes and subtribes observe traditional customs, ceremonies and events. All Maori whare runanga are considered sacred, and as such, have names that are historically significant. People traditionally remove their shoes before entering. For events that last longer than a day, tribe members and guests will stay overnight in the meeting house; but according to ancient traditions, food must be eaten in the whare kai (eating house): All modern whare runanga in New Zealand have a separate kitchen and dining facility. When the decision was made to build the Polynesian Cultural Center in the early 1960s, Maori tribal elders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which established the Center in 1963, agreed to pattern the meeting house in Laie after its namesake in Nuhaka, New Zealand. Master carvers, artisans and their apprentices fabricated all the significant elements in New Zealand, then shipped them to Hawai'i where the Polynesian Cultural Center's meeting house was constructed piece by piece. At the time, it was the only Maori meeting house to be built outside of New Zealand; and it is still the site where Maori at the Polynesian Cultural Center greet dignitaries and traveling parties from New Zealand. The architecture and design elements of a meeting house are filled with symbolism: The house itself represents the body of a man, his head directly underneath the tekoteko. The first rafter represents his extended arms with his fingers spread out at the ends. The rafters inside the building are his rib cage. Thus, the very common Maori custom of speaking to a building as a person and giving it a personal name makes sense. All traditional Maori buildings were made from the natural materials of the land, including walls and roofs covered with bark and the split trunks of the punga fern — which may grow up to 30 feet high in New Zealand. Although the Polynesian Cultural Center's meeting house is large, still larger ones exist in New Zealand: Their size is usually determined by the population and prosperity of the village or tribe and the amount of carving and panels to display The large red carved poupou panels on the walls represent the history of the tribe. Each figure symbolically depicts a specific ancestor and the carving would indicate information about him and his accomplishments. Because a person's status in the community was determined by his bloodline, it was important for the Maori to memorize and recite their genealogy; consequently, viewing carved figures as these would always be a dignified experience. The eyes of poupou carvings are made of paua shells, which are similar to abalone shells. However, paua shells in New Zealand are a blue color, which gets deeper and darker the further south the shell is found. The characters in poupou panels often depict the ancestral figures with facial tattooing, rolling eyes and protruding tongues, and the legs are in a flexed dancing or fighting position — all still characteristics of modern Maori traditions and dances. Kowhaiwhai Rafter Panels The kowhaiwhai or painted rafter panels are symbolic of nature. Some designs represent foods and plants such as the sweet potato, peas berries and the curling fern. Some are phallic symbols representing the male seed which allows one generation to become fathers of another generation. The union of male and female was considered sacred and beautiful in Maori tradition. Whare Whakairo, the Family Dwelling As with most Maori houses, this dwelling, too, has its own name and was used as a sleeping place for the chief and his family. The chief would sleep at the rear and mats were spread around the perimeter for the family. A large pit with stones was placed in the center of the whare and rocks would be heated during the day so when night fell, the room would be warm. The chief also used this whare to entertain and discuss official matters. Whare Puni or Family Dwelling House The kowhaiwhai or painted rafter panels are symbolic of nature. Some designs represent foods and plants such as the sweet potato, peas berries and the curling fern. Some are phallic symbols representing the male seed which allows one generation to become fathers of another generation. The union of male and female was considered sacred and beautiful in Maori tradition. Pataka (Food Storage Hut) Maori used a small raised structure called a pataka to store dried and preserved food. The foods, sometimes salted, dried or smoked to preserve them, were usually placed in gourds. Chiefs also stored their heirlooms such as jade (pounamu) pendants, weapons, adzes for canoe building, etc., in a pataka. The pataka at the Polynesian Cultural Center is heavily carved with the theme of "food in abundance." The carvings include the head and eye of a whale. The decorations on the carved figure are called tara-tara-akai. Tara-tara means "notches" and akai means "food," signifying the pataka is a place where food is kept. Pataka were placed high on stilts to keep animals away from the vegetables, including sweet potato, taro, tapioca and the "Maori potato" known for its distinctive purple flesh. Maoris ate "bread" harvested from the core of the tree fern; and before the arrival of Europeans, they also ate a certain type of dog and the giant moa bird, which is now extinct. Other foods included fish, shellfish, chicken and birds. Waka Taua (War Canoe) The waka taua at the Polynesian Cultural Center is one of the finest examples of Maori war canoes in the world. It was hand-carved to accommodate 40 paddlers and is named Te Ika Roa a Maui, or "Maui's Long Fish." The name recalls the legend of Polynesia's mythical demigod, Maui - who plays a significant role in the cosmology of most of Polynesia - who used a magical fishhook to fish up the islands of New Zealand in the long ago. The Center's war canoe is 60 feet long and weighs 2.5 tons. Carved from a single native kauri tree in the Northland of North Island, it was originally intended as a gift for King George Vl of England. However, when the king died before the canoe was finished, work ceased and it was abandoned in a field until 1962, at which time tribal elders agreed it should be completed and sent to Laie, Hawai'i, in time for the Polynesian Cultural Center's opening in 1963. A war canoe of this type was traditionally used as a coastal raiding vessel. Fully manned, it could reach a speed of up to 15 miles per hour for short distances. When on a raid, lengths of black hawk feathers were hung on the stern to give the canoe a more fearsome appearance. The rowing warriors sat on short platforms while the head warrior stood in the stern beating and chanting out the timing. As with many Maori objects, the canoe is intricately carved: The head on the prow looks forward, while three heads look back, watching for evil spirits in the wake of the canoe. The long line of figures carved down the sides represent a human chain of people holding hands. At the stern, the main figure represents the god of the sea while the lesser figures represent various demigods. The stern post is covered with many figures separated into the upper heavenly gods and the lower land gods. The spiral designed on the stern represent a man and woman interlocked in marriage, representing the continuation of life. Moari Poi Balls Maori poi balls are both percussion and dance instruments. It is said Maori women use the poi to imitate the sounds, actions and rhythms of nature in their dances and songs and to enhance storytelling. Poi dances utilize either single or double short poi balls with cords about 8-10 inches long, or single or double long poi with cords about 25-35 inches long. Originally, poi balls were made of dried moss wrapped with raupo (flax) which produced deep and distinctive tones as they hit the person's wrists or arms. Today, poi balls are made with tissue paper wrapped in plastic, while the cords are braided from yard, and they are used primarily for dancing. A sample of old-fashioned poi balls are displayed in the Polynesian Cultural Center's Whare Runanga. Tititorea - The Stick Game Tititorea requires an even number of players who simultaneously toss specially carved sticks back and forth to each other in various patterns and in rhythm to music. The object of the game is not to drop any of the sticks. The stick game is used to develop quickness of the eye and hand. Anciently, tititorea was a competitive physical activity partially used to train warriors for battle. Today it is a fun and precise recreational activity. More skilled players form groups of four and have evolved complex patterns of play. Uses of the Flax Plant Maori made many uses of raupo or the flax plant. After harvesting the abundant plant, women would scrape the leaves with a sharp stone or shell to expose the inner fibers. These fibers would then be cleaned, prepared and woven, dyed and braided into many items such as mats, baskets, rope, fishing nets and piupiu skirts for dancing. Maori Finger Weaving Maori, who did not use looms to weave, could still finger-weave cloth very similar to linen, which could then be used for wrap-around skirts, cloaks of feathers and dog skins, piupiu skirts, and chest bands and head bands for men. The threads are dyed and woven into cloth of different patterns using the traditional colors of red, white, yellow and black with each pattern corresponding to a different family. Maori also made feather cloaks or korowhai from native bird feathers. These were beautifully patterned in purple, green, blue, white, black and brown. Today, kiwi feather cloaks are especially prized together because of their rarity. Weapons The taiaha or fighting lance, similar to a Chinese bo stick, is probably the most beautiful and effective weapon of wood used in close combat ever invented by a warrior race. The taiaha features a long, tapering flattened shaft or blade broadening towards the opposite end with a tongue-shaped spearhead. Its combined uses include that of a broad sword, quarterstaff, club and spear. Many of these ancient weapons are exhibited in museums throughout the world. Maori chiefs highly favored taiaha at ceremonial gatherings because they could be wielded for effect, grace and dignity. Maori orators also employed the taiaha to add emphasis their words with movements called taki as well as facial and body gestures. The mere or short club is another effective Maori weapon that was usually tucked into the waistband of the warrior's skirt and hidden from sight with a cloak. Mere could be made of wood, stone, bone and jade.
    8. Interesting Facts
      The Maori people, the Polynesian natives of New Zealand, are known as great navigators. Kupe, one of the first to discover New Zealand, named it Aotearoa, or "land of the long white cloud." The Maoris were not only fierce warriors (using pukana, or the protruding tongue, as a form of intimidation and a distraction to their enemies), but they are also skilled craftsmen, creating beautiful carvings and painted wooden rafters in their buildings to tell stories and record their genealogies.
    1. Overview
      The Republic of the Fiji Islands is an independent nation, the majority of which is located just over the western side of the International Date Line, near the equator. Most indigenous Fijians are actually Melanesians, but for several thousand years Fijians have been sailing to, interacting and intermarrying with Polynesians, especially the people of Samoa and Tonga and other smaller island groups near there. Like the Polynesian people of Samoa and Tonga, modern Fijians have held on to many aspects of their traditional culture: For example, most still speak Fijian, as well as English, and many Fijians still live in the types of houses seen at the Polynesian Cultural Center. They also prefer to wear the traditional wrap-around sulu or sarong, especially on formal occasions. Just under half of the population of Fiji are the descendants of contract laborers imported from India by the British government over 100 years ago. Fiji today still maintains some aspects of its historical British association, including a parliamentary style of government - which is advised by the Great Council of Chiefs, driving on the left-hand side of the road, and a deep love of rugby and soccer [football].
    2. Location
      Fiji is located west-southwest of Hawai'i about two-thirds of the way to New Zealand. It straddles the 180° meridian line, from which the new day is calculated. For convenience, and to allow all of Fiji to be in one time zone, the International Date Line detours to the East around Fiji.
    3. Geography
      Fiji consists of approximately 300 islands ranging from coral atolls to high-rise sub-continental land masses, about 100 of which are populated. Viti Levu, with the capital located on the eastern end at Suva, is the main island and also the site of the international airport on the western end at Nadi [sometimes written Nandi]. Vanua Levu is the second largest island, but beyond the urban centers on Viti Levu, it and most other islands in the country are relatively undeveloped. Fiji has a land mass of 18,270 sq. km. It is slightly smaller than New Jersey. Its two main islands are categorized as sub-continental, and have vast tropical forests and even a gold mine, contrasting with other Polynesian islands which typically have few natural resources beyond tropical forests and the sea.
    4. Population
      Fiji has a population of approximately 870,000, 51% of them indigenous Fijians with their Polynesian admixture and 44% of Indian descent. The remaining percentage is a comprised of Europeans, other Pacific islanders, Chinese and others.
    5. History and Discovery
      Archeologists know the predecessors of the Fijians first came to these islands over 3,000 years ago, and their ancestors eventually moved on to Tonga and Samoa. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman accidentally discovered Fiji in 1643. British Captain James Cook also sailed through the islands in 1774, but credit for the first significant European exploration usually goes to Captain William Bligh: He sailed past "the Feejees" following the famous mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 and returned several years later in his quest to punish the mutineers. Shipwrecked sailors, sandalwood traders and Christian missionaries followed. When paramount chief, Ratu Seru Cakobau, converted to Christianity in 1854, intertribal warfare and cannibalism soon ceased. As hereditary Fijian tribal chiefs watched the encroachment of European colonialism among the Pacific islands in the the 18th and 19th centuries, they collectively elected to associate with Great Britain in 1874. The first British Governor-General of Fiji, Sir Arthur Gordon, formalized the Great Council of Chiefs and ensured these traditional leaders would maintain control over almost all the land in Fiji, a situation which still basically exists today (contrasted with some other traditional Polynesian lands which eventually could be bought and sold by anyone). From 1879 to 1916, the British government imported indentured Indian laborers to work on sugar cane plantations and in other industries. After the indenture system was abolished there, about 60% of the Indians chose to remain in Fiji, where their descendants live today as small farmers and business owners. In 1970, the citizens of Fiji elected to become an independent nation.
    6. Languages
      Fijian is an ancient Austronesian language that is related to its more modern "cousins" such as Tongan and Samoan. Historical linguists often trace a language's roots against such cousins by noting which sounds and features have been kept or dropped, determining that newer languages and dialects tend to have fewer sounds and features. In this simplistic explanation, therefore, linguists have shown that Fijian is much more ancient than Tongan or Samoan, which are likewise even older than Tahitian and Hawaiian. Today, Fijian (in various dialects) and English are widely spoken, along with various Indian and other Pacific island languages. The sounds represented by several written Fijian letters are different than their English counterparts. More specifically, the consonant 'b' is pronounced as an 'mb' sound, even at the beginning of a word; and the consonant 'd' is pronounced as an 'nd' sound, also even if it comes at the beginning of a word. Hence, the written word Nadi (where the international airport is located) is pronounced as if it were written 'Nandi' (non-dee). There are three other differences: 1) The sound represented by the Fijian letter 'g' is an unreleased g-sound, as in the English word "singer," even if it comes at the beginning of a word; 2) the letter 'q' is pronounced in Fijian with a released-g sound, as in the English word "finger," again even if it comes at the first of a word; 3) and the letter 'c' is actually pronounced as an English 'th' as in the word 'that.' Consequently the name Cakobau, one of Fiji's great traditional chiefs, is sometimes written and is more correctly pronounced "Thakombau."
    7. Village Life
      Yaqona or Kava A common drink used throughout Fiji that historically was prepared for all special ceremonies. The yaqona plant is related to the pepper family, and although it's sometimes described as narcotic or intoxicating, normally only has a slight numbing effect on the tongue when used in moderation. When needed, yaqona roots are dried and pounded into a fine powder which is then mixed with water and served ceremonially. Fijian Clay Pottery Fijian pottery is derived from Lapita potters who brought the tradition with them to the islands about 3500 years ago. Pottery from clay would be molded and completed by hand, to be set aside for the family's use or exchanged for other needed household objects. Today, Fijian women temper clay with sand to strengthen it. They use small wooden paddles to shape the clay into desired objects such as containers and drinking vessels which are then placed in the shade to dry for several days. The object is kept out of the sun to keep it from drying too fast and thus cracking. Once dried, the objects are fired in an open pit, simply by burning a pile of dried coconut fronds over and around them. After the initial firing, the women sometimes apply a glaze of makadre pine tree resin to ornament and waterproof the object prior to a second firing. I wau — Fijian Clubs or Chiefly Weapons As late as a century ago, Fijians used many types of war clubs, starting with the gadi, a small ornamental club carried by correctly dressed warriors and chiefs at ceremonial occasions during peace times. All clubs were hand carved from the wide array of tropical hardwoods which grow in abundance in Fiji. In fact, when Brigham Young University Hawai'i recently built a 57-foot traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, they imported the wood from Fiji. Many of the war clubs also included fine linear carving on the handles, reflecting the personalities of the individual warrior who made and used them. Fijian clubs fall into several categories: Bowai or pole clubs are similar to long baseball bats, but sometimes with wider heads. These were used for breaking bones and general disabling blows. Waka or root clubs had straight handles with a natural knot of roots at the end and were used to crush skulls easily. Cali were spurred or "gun stock" clubs, so-called because they resembled rifles, although Fijians devised these clubs long before they became aware of rifles. They were designed for cutting and disjointing blows. The i ula were throwing clubs with short handles and bulbous heads. These were the most deadly Fijian weapon, capable of competing with revolvers in close situations. If the handle struck the victim first it could penetrate flesh, the heavy head then jack-knifing onto the victim even if the handle did not pierce him, thus dealing a crippling, if not a finishing blow. And the kiakavo, a Y-shaped club, was utilized mainly as a dance implement so it was constructed of lighter wood and was usually not finely decorated.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Fijians do not wear hats because they believe the head is very sacred. Your understanding and respect for their customs and traditions will make you a welcome guest in their villages and homes.
    1. Overview
      Quite simply, there are good reasons why Hawai‘i is one of the leading visitor destinations in the world: The natural beauty of the islands is superlative; the tropical climate is ideal; the visitor infrastructure accommodates all levels of travelers in comfort and budget; and the reputation of the Hawaiian aloha spirit — indeed, the same spirit found throughout the islands of Polynesia — is well deserved.
    2. Location
      Hawai'i is located about 2,500 miles west-southwest of the mainland U.S.A., about a five-hour flight from the California coast. Hawai'i Standard Time (HST) is three hours behind the west coast (PST) during daylight savings months, and otherwise two hours behind.
    3. Geography
      There are actually over 100 islands in Hawai'i, including the Leeward archipelago that extends for a thousand miles toward Midway; but most people think of Hawai'i as the six major inhabited islands: Hawai'i, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai (plus the privately-owned island of Niihau, 20 miles off the west coast of Kauai, with its small population). The land mass of approximately 6,400 square miles rises from sea level to the snow-capped peaks (during the winter) of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island — both over 13,000 feet in elevation. By the way, most of the Leeward islands are coral atolls that have been included in a fish and wildlife conservation district: Travel there is restricted. Since King Kamehameha moved his capital from Kailua-Kona to Honolulu almost 200 years ago, Oahu — the third largest island in land mass — has been the center of government and commerce. Over 80% of the Aloha State's population lives on Oahu, and the Polynesian Cultural Center is located about an hour's drive from the famous Waikiki Beach. Hawai'i is the only major part of Polynesia that is north of the equator. Our tropical climate means temperatures at sea level rarely rise above 90° (F) in the summer and seldom drop below 70° (F) at night, even in the winter. The islands are also graced most days by gentle trade winds.
    4. Population
      About 1.3 million people currently live in Hawai'i, with over 80% of them on the island of Oahu. About 20% of the overall population is Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian. There are also significant numbers of Samoans, Tongans and other Pacific islanders. The remainder of the population — in which no group holds a majority — is divided among Asians, Caucasians and others, making Hawai'i the "melting pot of the Pacific" (or as some people say, "a tossed salad") and a truly unique and diverse place.
    5. History and Discovery
      Among the ancient Polynesians, Hawaiians and anthropologists believe the original inhabitants of these islands came from the Marquesas and Tahiti, starting as early as 1,500 years ago. There is also oral tradition of early interaction with Samoa, as well as Hawai'i being an origin of some of the early Maori emigrants to Aotearoa (New Zealand). British Captain James Cook is credited with being the first European to discover Hawai'i in 1787, although some oral traditions and scholars hold that the Spaniards — who first crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1522, and regularly crossed from Peru to the Philippines by the late 1500s — also made inadvertent landfall in Hawai'i, but never correctly mapped or claimed credit their accomplishment. When Cook arrived, he was well received and some Hawaiians thought he might even be an incarnation of their god Lono, whose sign was white kapa or tapa cloth like the sails of Captain Cook's ship. Of course, Captain Cook is also well known for having been killed several months later by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay in Kona while trying to retrieve a long boat. After Cook, the stream of Europeans quickly grew, even including Russians for a short period. In addition to appreciating the beauty of the islands, they participated in whaling and the sandalwood trade. The first Christian missionaries arrived in 1820 and the people quickly converted: The year before, King Kamehameha II and Queen Kaahumanu had abolished the age-old kapu or taboo system based on the ancient Hawaiian religion. In 1850 the Sandwich Islands kingdom made it possible for foreigners to own private property in Hawai'i, which along with increasing international trade with America, gave rise to the sugar industry. The rapid depletion of the Hawaiian population due to illnesses eventually led the sugar plantation owners to import contract laborers from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Scandinavia, Portugal and the Azores, Europe and Puerto Rico, among other places: The descendants of those who stayed give Hawai'i its cosmopolitan population today. In 1893 a revolution largely led by influential non-Hawaiian businessmen deposed the last reigning Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani. In 1900 the United States of America annexed Hawai'i, reportedly for the purpose of gaining the Pearl Harbor anchorage: We were known as the Territory of Hawai'i until an overwhelming majority of the population voted for statehood in the 1950s: Hawai'i became the 50th state in 1959. Today, Hawai'i with its ancient Polynesian heritage and overlays of Asian and other cultures is one of the most unique parts of America.
    6. Languages
      English and Hawaiian are the official state languages. At one time, the number of Hawaiian speakers had greatly diminished, but a tremendous renaissance of Hawaiian culture has taken place over the past generation or two: Today, thousands of people study the Hawaiian language and other aspects of Hawaiian culture, and there is even a K-12 Hawaiian immersion school system within the the public statewide Department of Education. Hawaiian is closely related to the other major Polynesian dialects: Tahitian, Maori, Marquesan, Rarotongan, Samoan and Tongan. Although it is not necessarily mutually intelligible with these other dialects, many Hawaiian words and grammatical concepts are identical or nearly identical with the other dialects. Hawaiian is also sometimes recognized around the world as the language with the fewest letters in its alphabet: a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w — 12 in all, although there's actually another consonant sound, the glottal stop [such as in the middle of the English slang term huh-uh, meaning 'no' and sometimes spelled uh-uh], sometimes represented by the 'okina or inverted apostrophe. Most Polynesian languages, including Hawaiian, also have longer sounding vowels, sometimes marked with a bar or macron above the letter [here with a European-style umlaut, since most computers do not normally include macron options] or what the Hawaiians call a kahakö. These should not be confused with the bar or macron that is used to differentiate an English "long" vowel from a "short" vowel, as in the words "hate" and "hat," respectively. Hawaiian words with lengthened vowels have different meanings than their counterparts with regular vowels: For example, kala is a type of fish, kalä means 'the sun,' while kälä means 'dollar' or 'money.' English vowels can also be lengthened in pronunciation, but that just changes the emphasis and not the meaning of the word. A pronunciation problem has arisen over the years because when early Christian missionaries first devised the Hawaiian alphabet, almost everyone spoke the language and so they often did not indicate the inverted apostrophe for the 'okina or the macron bar of the kahakö in writing: Native speakers already understood the difference, say, between kala and kälä by context. As the years went by and the number of Hawaiian language speakers greatly diminished, however, many people didn't know about the 'okina sound or long vowels. For example, Kaua'i became Kauai (as in 'cow-eye') and O'ahu became Oahu. Along with the rest of the Hawaiian renaissance, people and institutions such as media and government are becoming more sensitive to including the 'okina and kahakö in written Hawaiian; so don't be surprised to see both Waikiki and Waikïkï or Lanai and Läna'i...and try to pronounce them in the old Hawaiian way.
    7. Village Life
      Hale Ali'i or Chief's House To establish his social position, the chief always built his residence on a prominent rise. A raised stone foundation further communicated the chief's high standing as well as kept the house drier. The chief would usually sleep in his house and use it to confer with selected leaders. Women and children were forbidden to enter. Most houses in Hawai'i were thatched with clumps of pili grass, hence the term "grass hut" was used historically; but you should really think of the grass clumps like roof shingles. Builders often placed a large fish net over the grass to prevent it from curling up or looking untidy and also to keep it in place during windy weather. The hale interior was thatched with lauhala (pandanus leaves), and the floor was covered with woven lauhala mats. There was little or no other furniture, so Hawaiians and most other Polynesians usually sat on the floor. Various kahili or royal feathered standards inside, and sometimes outside as well, symbolized the chief's status. When the chief moved about or traveled, he would often wear a feathered cape, the ahu'ula, as a sign of his rank. Ahu'ula are exceptionally rare artifacts today, because they required the gold and red feathers of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of endemic birds, and are considered the highest form of Hawaiian feather work. The chief would also sometimes wear the mahi'ole, a helmet fashioned from 'ie'ie vines to which more feathers were attached. Attendants would carry the kahili in front of the chief. Other attendants would carry long kauila spears, blow conch shells, and sometimes carry the pulo'ulo'u, a ball-like standard on a stick which indicated the chief was kapu [taboo] or sacred. Thus the common people were alerted the ali'i was approaching. They would bow or even prostrate themselves in respect. In ancient times some chiefs were so kapu that to even allow their shadow to fall on a commoner was a capital offense, followed by summary execution. The women of the royal household often wore the lei niho palaoa, a large hook- or curving tongue-shaped necklace made from a whale's tooth and strung on braided human hair. Lei hulu, "feather leis", were bound into a circlet for the hair or neck. Royal women also carried finely woven lauhala fans and delicate feather kahili with bone or tortoise shell handles. The processional guards of the ali'i sometimes wore helmets made from the same type of dried gourds used to make containers as well as hula implements. The flag posted at the back of the Polynesian Cultural Center's Hale Ali'i represents that presented to King Kamehameha l by the British explorer Capt. George Vancouver. The Hawaiian flag today is a redesigned British flag, with eight stripes representing the major islands of Hawai'i. The Hale Pahu, literally the "drum house," was used to store drums and other implements used in sacred hula dances. The Hale Ulana or "weaving house" is where women completed their weaving and other handicrafts, creating baskets, mats, bracelets, fans and other items mainly from dried lauhala or pandanus Hale Mua or Men's Eating House The hale mua is an excellent example of the ancient Hawaiian kapu [taboo] system: Men and women were forbidden to eat together. The hale mua was also used by the men to store carvings of the family gods or aumakua. Women and children were not allowed to enter this house because of its sacred nature. Women would eat in the hale 'aina or "eating house." Male children would eat with their mothers until the age of six; then, after a special ceremony, they would eat in the hale mua with the other men of the village. Cooking Implements Hawaiians used a dried out squash-like gourd to make ipu or bowls and containers. This same kind of gourd was also used to make hula instruments. The smaller, hollowed-out gourd of the non-edible la'amia tree fruit was used to hold liquids, and to make the feathered hula rattle. The la'amia was also used to make utensils, as were other local hardwoods. Perhaps the most important food preparation utensils, however, were the hand-carved wooden poi pounding board and the accompanying stone poi pounder. Every family had at least one papaku'i i ka 'ai board, which could also double as a platter when the men cooked a pig or pua'a in the imu [earth oven]. Other necessities in the kitchen included ti leaves which were used to wrap food before cooking and line the baskets that would be used to carry the food from the imu to the men and women's eating houses. The responsibility for preparing and cooking food throughout Polynesia fell to the men. Because this was usually only done once a day, enough food was always prepared to feed the family for the needed meals. Uneaten food was stored in the eating houses until consumed. Hale Wa'a The canoe shelter was built close to the water for easy access. The koa or tropical mahogany canoes at the Polynesian Cultural Center are over 100 years old. Koa tree logs of sufficient size to carve canoes are increasingly harder to find today in Hawai'i. For example, when the BYU-Hawai'i Hawaiian Studies program commissioned a 57-foot traditional twin-hulled sailing canoe several years ago, they had to import the tropical hardwood from Fiji. After a straight and well-rounded tree was selected, craftsman cut it, trimmed the branches, and then spread red-hot rocks along the tree trunk to slowly burn the area and prepare it for the hollowing out process. Builders would then chip away at the trunk with sharpened rock chisels and adzes. After the hollowing out process, the trunk was then dragged to the village for smoothing with pumice stones and leaves that provided special oils. When fully completed, kukui or candle nut oil was rubbed over the entire canoe to waterproof it. The hale wa'a at the Polynesian Cultural Center is also used to demonstrate how the Hawaiian staple food, poi, is made: Poi starts as the root of the kalo or taro plant, which comes in two basic varieties: wetland and dryland taro. The PCC grows its wetland kalo in a flooded patch next to the hale wa'a. When harvested, the root is cleaned and set aside to make poi. Young kalo leaves are boiled and used like spinach. The plant stems are replanted, and take from six-to-12 months to grow a new corm, so it was common in old Hawai'i to rotate the planting of different patches to insure a continuing supply of poi. The harvested kalo must be thoroughly cleaned, peeled or scraped and cooked for several hours to eliminate the oxylate crystals in the outer layers. If not property prepared, these crystals will irritate and prickle the throat. The kalo is then placed on the poi pounding board and mashed and kneaded with the stone poi pounder, while slowly mixing it with water until the required consistency is achieved. As it was typically eaten with fingers, Hawaiians traditionally classified poi according to how many fingers were required to lift a dab out of the calabash: One-finger poi being the thickest, and 3- or 4-finger poi rather thin and runny in consistency. Hawaiians also sometimes made poi out of breadfruit. By the way, poi is usually not eaten alone but as a staple food to be flavored with meat or fish. Because dryland taro is relatively sweet and delicious, it is sometimes baked in an imu and eaten whole; but is usually made into poi, which is still very popular in Hawai'i and can be purchased pre-mixed in plastic bags in most local grocery stores. Hale Lawai'a A "fishing house" was always located close to the seashore, where Hawaiian fishermen could mend their nets and prepare fishing gear. Such nets and lines were valued possessions. Along with a farmer, a fisherman was deemed a man of great wealth. He provided the main source of protein for his family, using fish-hooks made out of human bones, tortoise and oyster shells, and pig or dog bones. He used certain hardwoods and rough lava rock to shape the fish hooks. He usually fashioned his poles from bamboo, and wove his nets with cordage made from olona vine or coconut husk fibers. Halau The "house of instruction" was used to teach various aspects of Hawaiian culture, including the hula, as well as to store canoes, which were considered very valuable possessions. Hale Noho Hawaiians used their "living house" so extended family members could sleep under one roof. The order in which everyone slept, extending from the entrance door, was very important: Each person would lie down in the middle of the building with legs stretched out towards the wall for safety reasons, and children slept on the outer ends of the hale. Traditional beds were very simple: Pili grass and dried leaves were spread on the pebbled or sandy floors as a cushion. Mats were then placed over the grass to serve as beds. The mats were often left in sun to cleanse and refresh them during the daytime. After the missionaries brought framed beds to the islands, Hawaiians copied them by weaving lauhala frames which they filled with leaves and other natural materials. Again, they were covered with simple mats for comfort. Hawaiian Quilting Hawaiian women were also fascinated by the New England patchwork quilts that missionary women brought to the islands. Of course after learning quilting techniques, the Hawaiian women began to design and appliqué their own patterns that reflected the natural beauty of the islands. They also added stitching around the appliqués that suggest the wave movements of the ocean. Some of these quilt or kapa patterns have become family treasures and are passed from generation to generation. Some designs were considered royal and were, of course, forbidden to any but kings. Hawaiian quilting, which is demonstrated in the 1850s Hawaiian Mission Settlement, was originally an individual art done on a quilting frame. Older quilts such as those on display at the Polynesian Cultural Center and other places throughout Hawai'i, are highly prized heirlooms. Today, however, many Hawaiian quilts are machine appliquéd and, therefore, are of lesser value but still represent traditional designs. To provide light inside the hale noho and other houses, Hawaiians used kukui or candlenuts. The beautiful kukui with its light green leaves that can be seen growing down the mountains in cascades, is the Hawai'i state tree. The kernel in the nut produces a natural oil that burns like kerosene. In old Hawai'i, kukui oil was placed in hollowed-out rocks with a kapa or bark-cloth wick. Sometimes, several kukui nuts were also strung on a coconut leaf midrib and each was lighted in turn. Kukui nuts are widely used today to make lei. Hale Papa'a The chief's "storage house" for his valuables is nearby. It's contents include fine kapa or bark cloth, gourds, nets, spears, carvings and other possessions. Pastime Games To keep themselves occupied when not farming or fishing, Hawaiians participated in many activities and games. To develop physical coordination, they played pala'ie which consists of a coconut midrib handle with a small hoop on one end and a cloth covered ball tied to the other. Holding the handle in one hand, the object was to swing the ball into the hoop. Points were scored for the consistent length of time the game's object was successfully accomplished. Other Hawaiian games at the Polynesian Cultural Center include ula maika, a form of bowling, and konane, a type of checkers board game. Better konane boards were fashioned out of stone.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Hawai'i is known for originating the aloha spirit, creating a warm environment for the international melting pot that exists in these islands. It's also famous as the home of hula, a dance of graceful hand movements and gestures—not to be mistaken for the fast hip-shaking dance of Tahiti.
    1. Overview
      Also called Rapa Nui ("Great Rapa") or Te Pito o te Henua ("Navel of the World") by the islanders. About 1,500 years ago the adventurous chief, Hotu Matu'a, led his people to the isolated island of Rapa Nui where they lived in isolation from the rest of Polynesia for many generations. They called their home Te pito o te henua — "the navel [or center] of the world," as the phrase is often translated; however, it can also mean "the end of the land" — which aptly describes the distant map-dot. About a century ago a visiting Tahitian thought the shape of the island reminded him of one of his home islands, Rapa Iti [Small Rapa], and he gave the island its widely known Polynesian name, Rapa Nui [Big Rapa]. Today, while the people there are citizens of Chile, they still share a common Polynesian heritage with their "cousins" throughout the rest of Polynesia.
    2. Location
      Rapa Nui is located about 4,300 miles southeast of Hawai'i (it's actually closer to Antarctica). It is approximately 2,000 miles to the East of Tahiti and approximately 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, making it one of the most isolated islands in the world. Its nearest neighbor, tiny Pitcairn Island where the mutineers from HMS Bounty and their Polynesian family and friends settled in 1790, is over 1,200 miles away.
    3. Geography
      Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, is a small volcanic island that encompasses about 67 square miles of land mass, and at its highest point rises to about 1,700 feet. According to research and oral traditions, it was once covered with trees, which have since all been cut down, possibly to aid in the construction and transportation of the almost 900 moai or stone monuments. The main community is located at Hanga Roa ('Great Bay'). Thanks to the U.S. space program, NASA extended an existing runway into a full-length airstrip capable of handling an emergency landing of the space shuttle. Today, Lan Chile, the official carrier of Chile, provides regularly scheduled commercial air service to Rapa Nui.
    4. Population
      Just under 3,000 people live on Rapa Nui today, most of them Polynesians. Like many of the other Pacific islands during the 18th through early 20th centuries, European diseases and indentured labor practices decimated the population. For example, as many as 5,000 islanders were carried away to work in Peru, and only a few ever returned. About 1875, 500 more were taken to work the sugar plantations in Tahiti, where a small number of Easter Islanders remain to this day. At one point in the early 1900s there were only 111 Rapa Nui people left on the island; and while the slowly growing population has managed to hang on to much of their Polynesian culture, a great deal was also lost forever. For example, the people of Rapa Nui may have been the only Polynesians to have something akin to a writing system in the form of their rongorongo tablets, a few samples of which have survived to present times in widespread museums. The ability to translate them, however, seems to have been lost forever.
    5. History and Discovery
      As with all other Polynesian people, the islanders of Rapa Nui left no written history, but anthropologists believe they came from the area now called French Polynesia about 1,600 years ago. There is no indication of other subsequent contact with Polynesia; but some anthropologists believe there was also contact with or from South America because of the stone moai — which they believe could reflect Incan or Meso-American influence, as well as sweet potatoes — which botanists have proved came from the Americas. Oral tradition says the years between Hotu Matu'a and first contact with the western world were filled with growth to a population as large as 10,000, as well as the creation of the moai, but also with civil warfare, cannibalism and the complete deforestation of the land. Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen came upon Rapa Nui on Easter Sunday, 1722, hence the English name Easter Island. Rapa Nui is also known by its Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, which is the transliteration of the English name. Rampant inter-clan warfare began within a few decades of this contact, and resulted in all of the moai being toppled by 1864. British explorer Capt. James Cook came in 1774. Other explorers followed — all of whom marveled at the stone moai. In 1888 Chile annexed the island, which remains a territory of that nation to this day. In the 1950s the famous anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, whose successful rafting voyage from Peru to Tahiti a few years earlier suggested a connection between South America and Polynesia, came to Rapa Nui to study and excavate the moai. His visit probably spurred subsequent efforts to restore some of the ahu platforms and the moai to their upright positions. The work continues to this day, with a number of Rapa people involved. For example, Sergio Rapu, a former governor of the island who previously worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center, has done extensive archeological and anthropological research on his homeland.
    6. Languages
      Rapa Nui and Spanish (and limited English). The Rapa Nui language is very similar to other Polynesian languages, particularly Tahitian. The Rapa greeting word, Iorana, for example, is nearly identical to Tahiti's greeting. You'll also notice that the Rapa word for house, hare, is similar to the Tahitian fare [pronounce both syllables].
    7. Rapa Nui Moai
      Since they came to the attention of the outside world, the moai have captured the fascination of everyone who sees them. These stone statues range from just a few feet high to almost 80 feet high, and are made from scoria — or hardened volcanic ash. Unfortunately, scoria is not very durable, and ongoing conservation of the existing moai is a major concern. In all, the islanders created almost 900 statues, although the majority of those were never transported or erected on ahu platforms, or even finished. Many theories have been put forth about why they were carved and how people without sophisticated machinery could move the heavy megaliths. One island tradition says those moai that were eventually set up on ahu platforms facing the ocean "walked" there. Those with more of an engineering orientation say this is feasible, suggesting the people may have used a series of long ropes and log rollers to tip a moai a little toward one side and then pivot it forward on the resting point, much as one person can move a heavy object by rocking it forward without having to pick it up. This and similar theories also suggest that all of the trees on the island were eventually cut down to provide the log rollers. Another widely publicized author at one time suggested extraterrestrial beings were somehow involved in the process. But most of the islanders, including the four carvers who came to the Polynesian Cultural Center to create the ones here, today believe the moai represent their ancestors. They point to the fact that no two moai were or are carved the same. The carvers also believe the capstones, usually made from reddish scoria rock, represent their ancestors' hair or top-knots. Asked why one of the moai at the Cultural Center's Ahu Tu'u Koihu doesn't have "hair," the lead carver responded (through a translator), "He was bald." The carvers told how they each dived and brought pieces of white coral and dark scoria with them to Hawai'i to make the "eyes" for the moai; and after they placed these eyes into the sockets they had carved, then the moai were no longer "blind," but now "could see. The eyes give life to the moai and, therefore, to the people who were [traditionally] buried under the ahu." The carvers also explained that moai were erected on an ahu platform, which is where their ancient ancestors buried their ariki or high chiefs. "Today, we interpret these moai as sculptures of particular ariki who were buried in this ahu. In the Rapa Nui culture when a high chief passed away, the family or perhaps the wife, would make a moai representing the person buried in the ahu." Finally, the four carvers said, "Although this ahu is a partial replica of Ahu Nau Nau in Rapa Nui, we have chosen to give it the name Ahu Tu'u Koihu. Tu'u Koihu was an ancient ariki [high chief] from Rapa Nui who initiated the art of carving moai.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Since it was not practical to import scoria from Rapa Nui, or prudent because that volcanic slag is not very durable, the Rapa Nui carvers who came to the Polynesian Cultural Center worked with local engineers and a cement factory to create a cement-like compound they felt was similar to the stones they were used to carving. The carvers then used traditional toki or adzes as well as modern steel chisels, hammers, and even jackhammers to shape the ma'ea or stone into moai.
    1. Overview
      Modern Samoa is geopolitically divided into two parts: the much larger, independent nation of Samoa — formerly known as Western Samoa; and the relatively small American Samoa, the only U.S. territory south of the equator. Even with different systems of government, the Polynesian people of both Samoas share a common language and culture, and the traditional hereditary chiefs still exert significant influence in the daily lives of the people.
    2. Location
      Samoa is situated about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawai'i and about 1,800 miles northeast of New Zealand.
    3. Geography
      Samoa consists of four main islands: Upolu, with the capital at Apia; the largest island of Savaii; and two small islands between them: Manono and Apolima. American Samoa lies 40 miles east of Upolu. Tutuila, with its deep harbor at Pago Pago, is the main island and administrative center. The smaller islands of the Manu'a group — Ta'u, Ofu and Olosega — are located about 70 miles to the east. Independent Samoa has 2,860 sq. km. of land, mostly divided between the two major islands of Upolu and Savaii. It is slightly smaller than Rhode Island. America Samoa has 199 sq. km. of land, most of it on the main island of Tutuila. It is slightly larger than Washington, D.C.
    4. Population
      Samoa: 179,000 (2009 est.); America Samoa: 67,000 (2009 est.). Significant populations of Samoans also live in New Zealand, Australia, Hawai'i, California, Utah and Missouri.
    5. History and Discovery
      Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen happened upon the islands in 1722. In 1768, French Admiral Louis de Bougainville visited the islands. He was so impressed with the Samoan's numerous canoes and their great skill in handling them that he gave Samoa its original European name, "The Navigator Islands." Germany took possession of the western portion of the Samoan archipelago from 1899-1914. At the outbreak of World War I, New Zealand troops took possession of the island country. Following WWI the newly formed League of Nations gave New Zealand its Mandate to administer the islands, which resulted in close ties between the two countries that still exist to this day. The newly formed United Nations extended New Zealand's mandate until January 1, 1962, when Western Samoa, or Samoa i Sisifo as the Samoans called it, became the first independent Polynesian nation. In 1997 the island nation officially shortened its name to Samoa. Today, Samoa has a parliamentary style of government and an education system reflecting its former ties with New Zealand. In light of 19th century European involvement in the Pacific, the traditional chiefs of eastern Samoa sold their islands to the United States in 1900. The U.S. Navy administered the islands until after World War II, at which time the Department of the Interior took over. Today, American Samoans have a U.S. style of government and education, and send a non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress. The people are U.S. Nationals who can freely travel into the United States.
    6. Languages
      Samoan and English. Samoan is a major Polynesian dialect, and as such, is similar to Hawaiian, Tongan, Tahitian, Maori and other island languages. It is not necessarily mutually intelligible with the other dialects, although many words are identical or nearly identical, with identical or similar meanings. Reduplicated words — such as Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa — are common in Polynesian languages; but many people do not realize that the letter 'g' in Samoan represents the unreleased 'ng' sound as in the English word 'singer' — not the released-G sound as in the word 'finger.' Also interesting, the sounds represented by the letters 'k' and 't' are completely interchangeable in vernacular Samoa with changing the meaning of the words. For example, there's no meaningful difference between talofa and kalofa, which both mean 'hello.' Most Polynesian languages also use regular and longer-sounding vowels, with the latter sometimes marked with a macron over the letter. Polynesian long vowels are not to be confused with English long and short vowels, as in the words "hate" and "hat," respectively. While English vowels can actually be lengthened in pronunciation, that doesn't change the meaning of the word; whereas in Samoan the use of a long vowel vs. the same vowel in its regular form changes the meaning of the word. For example, mama means 'ring,' mamä means 'clean' and mämä means 'lightweight' (please note we're using a European-style umlaut over the long vowels since most computers do not have fonts with macron capability). So, if you want to impress a Samoan, lengthen the first vowel in the word Sämoa.
    7. Village Life
      Samoan Tattoos Tattoos, or pe'a, demonstrate the strong ties many Samoans feel for their culture. Samoans have practiced the art of tattooing both men and women for over 2,000 years. To this day, a man's tattoo extensively covers from mid-back, down the sides and flanks, to the knees. A woman's tattoo is not quite as extensive or heavy. The geometric patterns are based on ancient designs, and often denote rank and status. The va'a or canoe, for example, stretches across a man's mid-back. Samoan oral tradition generally recognizes that two Fijian women, Taema and Tilafaiga, introduced the practice of tattooing. Before the arrival of Christian missionaries, starting in 1830, all Samoan males got a traditional tattoo. Though the early missionaries did not succeed in outlawing the practice, which they considered as defacement of the human body and heathenish, they eventually succeeded in refocusing the custom on the sons of chiefs. In Samoa's cultural past most males were tattooed between the ages of 14-18, when it was determined they had stopped growing, so the designs would not stretch and suffer in beauty. Today, there has been a strong revival of traditional tattooing in the past generation, not only in Samoa but throughout Polynesia, often as a symbol of cultural identity. The Samoan word for tattoo is tatau which means "correct or workmanlike." It also signifies the correct quadrangular figures in reference to the fact that Samoan tattoo designs do not include circular lines, although other Polynesian tattoo motifs do. Early Englishmen mispronounced the word tatau and borrowed it into popular usage as tattoo. Traditional tattooing is a painful process. The Samoan tattoo master dips his cutting tools into black ink made from the soot of burnt candlenut shells, and then punctures designs into the skin. The cutting tool, or "needle," consists of a short piece of bamboo or light wood with a piece of tortoiseshell bound at right angles at one end. A little bone comb is bound to the lower broad end of the tortoiseshell. The larger the comb, the greater the area on the skin is covered with fewer strokes. The master uses a small mallet to repeatedly tap a short handled instrument. The process takes days, and is sometimes partially accomplished over longer periods, with recuperation in between. Tattoo designs have changed to include freehand symbols such as the kava bowl representing hospitality; the characterization of the Samoan house or fale signifying kinship; emblems of nature — shells, fish, birds, waves, centipedes; and the traditional geometric lines and angles of different lengths and sizes. Samoan Houses Of course, in modern Samoa many homes are now constructed using western materials and designs; but still, each village, indeed usually each extended family in Samoa, traditionally has a fale talimalo (guest house) and/or a fale fono (meeting house) where the chiefs convene. Sometimes they are one and the same. The exact size and lavishness is determined by the power and position of the families and village. Samoan custom traditionally requires families and villages to offer passing visitors hospitality, extending to overnight accommodations. Such visitors may enter the guest house at any time for a short rest. The immediate family will respond with time-honored traditions and quickly prepare food and water for the visitors. After the guests are fed and rested, the chief will politely inquire about the purpose of the unexpected visit and the intended length of stay. Should the guests choose to extend their visit for a day or two, they are treated with kindness and consideration and provided bedding. The chief offers any further help if needed. When pre-arranged guests arrive, the immediate or extended family, or or even the whole village will make sure the proper protocol is carefully and accurately conducted. They will prepare leis (which the Samoans call ula), food and special decorations. Included will be a welcome ceremony, the elaborateness of it depending on rank and importance, especially of the chiefly guests. The floor of a guest house is typically covered with flat, smooth round-shaped river stones which have been found ideal for balancing the temperature of the building. On hot, humid days, the stones cool the building; on cooler days they retain the sun's heat to keep the building warm and comfortable. For comfort, mats are placed over the rocks, starting first with thicker coconut leaf pola, topped with finer-woven laufala made from dried pandanus leaves. The many posts which encircle the interior of this building have much greater significance than holding up the roof. Whenever any meetings are held in the building, certain participants always sit with their backs to a post, the exact one being rigidly determined by the persons' rank, family, and home village. Other minor participants sit on mats spread around the outside rim. The post 90 degrees to the left side of the entrance is for the highest-ranking person in the visiting party, usually the chief. The post opposite that person is for the highest-ranking person of the home village, again usually the chief. The posts immediately next to the entrance way are for the chiefs' representatives or spokesmen, known as their talking chiefs. The first two posts on the left side are for the other local talking chiefs. An equally significant post is the fourth post on the left side, or the stranger's post. A stranger coming unannounced to a meeting can summarily walk up to that particular post and rightfully demand that it be surrendered to him. The three large posts in the middle are also important, for from there any food to be served during the meeting is dispensed. This building is also referred to as the fale fono, or chiefs 'meeting house. In the Samoan tradition of diplomacy, the fale fono is always round. Discussions include monitoring the performance of individual families who are expected to abide by the rules and laws approved and passed by the council of chiefs. In addition, every family is required to participate as a village unit and cooperate in such things as securing public safety; beautifying yards and homes, keeping prayer curfew each morning and evening and observing the Sabbath; planting taro patches to encourage self-reliance, growing food crops including breadfruit, bananas, yam, and sugarcane; and raising pigs and chickens. The rock foundations of guest houses are usually elevated, sometimes as high as 5-8 feet: In general, the higher the foundation, the more important the chiefly title and rank of the family and/or village. The height of foundations symbolize the dignity and respect accorded a high chief. It will usually take a master builder or tufuga and his crew a month to complete such buildings. The tufuga supervises the construction including the correct measurements of all poles, beams, choice of thatching leaves, amount of sennit rope and performance of the workers. The roof is traditionally thatched with sugarcane leaves and when properly prepared and attached the first time, will last 10-15 years. The cone-shaped roof allows rain to easily fall to the ground without the moisture permeating the leaves and causing leaks inside. Of course, during sunny days the high dome allows the heat to rise and seep through the thatching, cooling the house. Of course, the open walls of the house allow breezes to flow freely. During rainy or windy weather, or when privacy is required, coconut leaf blinds can be lowered. Even though such buildings are reserved for important purposes, they remain open and empty most of the time. Samoans accept this fact and acknowledge that their guest and meeting houses stand ready as places of refuge for anyone in need of help. In the highest sense, these buildings represent the power, prestige, generosity and hospitality of the families who build them and their affiliated villages. Traditionally, the maota tofa or high chief's house is the largest and most elevated house in a village, signifying the chief's prestigious position. As with other Samoan buildings, the high-domed roof helps cool the house. A high chief's house was usually simply furnished. In ancient Samoa only a chief of the highest rank would sleep on a bed in one end of this building. The bed consisted of mats piled up to a desired height of comfort. Because finely-woven mats are exchanged as items of wealth in Samoa, the more mats a chief possessed and displayed, the richer he was. Such mats are still important as a method of paying tribute at weddings, funerals, and other public events. The chief's pillow was traditionally made of bamboo or other wood. Samoan legend has it that sleeping on hard surfaces gave Samoans their erect, strong and straight stature. The tunoa or Samoan kitchen was a man's domain. Preparing and cooking of food in the Samoan way is considered physically demanding, including the daily preparation of coconut meat and milk, which is essential in many Samoan dishes. A fa'atoaga or Samoan garden is usually planted close to the tunoa, providing the family with staple foods such as sugar cane, bananas, taro, tapioca, sweet potato, and breadfruit. Cocoa is also grown in Samoa, prepared locally and drunk full-strength. Pork, chicken, fish and shellfish of all kinds are the most common meats. For faster preparation, Samoans often boil green bananas, taro, breadfruit and other produce. Otherwise, they will bake their food in an umu or covered steam oven. [Note, Hawaiians traditionally cook their food in an imu, which uses the same principle as a Samoan umu, but the imu is done in a hole in the ground while an umu rests on top of the ground. Once all the food is prepared, it must be cooked. A Samoan umu typically has four logs arranged in a square. Kindling and firewood go inside the square "box," with the rocks piled on top. When the fire has heated the rocks until they're white with ash, any remaining charcoal debris is pushed aside and the food is carefully placed on the rocks. Fire resistant leaves are used to sheath the food to protect them. The whole oven is then covered over with banana leaves and other insulating materials. The food takes several hours to cook. Samoans traditionally eat two hot meals a day: In the morning they boil food over a fire and in the afternoon the men prepare an umu. Coconut Cracking Samoans traditionally husk a coconut by firmly thrusting it onto the sharpened end of a stout stick, which is firmly planted in the ground or otherwise wedged upright. After piercing the husk, they holding the coconut against the stick with one hand, and press down with the other, separating off sections of husk. This motion is repeated until the entire husk is stripped off the coconut. All coconuts have a face with one of three seams running between the two "eyes." The point of the seams form a "nose," and the "mouth" is below the nose. While the "eyes" are shell-hard, the mouth is always the softest part of a coconut, even a dried one, and can easily be punctured by something sharp and thin. To crack the coconut open, Samoans use a rock, stick, or back of a heavy knife. Simply locate the seam that runs between the "eyes," turn the coconut sideways, and strike that seam along the coconut's "equator." One good whack should do it. Of course, some or most of the relatively clear "juice" is going to spill out. Samoan men also scrape the mature coconut flesh before squeezing out its oil, which is creamy and milky white in appearance, hence the term coconut "milk." They usually give the left-over shreds to the chickens or pigs. Normally, Samoans only drink the juice of young, sweet coconuts, which can sometimes develop a natural effervescence. To do this, they simply cut off the top of young green coconuts, without husking it. Other times, they may husk the young coconuts, puncture the "mouth" or crack off a small portion of the top, and enjoy one of nature's finest natural fruit juices.
    8. Interesting Facts
      The Samoans are known throughout Polynesia as the "happy" people because of their enjoyment of life and their good-spirited nature. Famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, known in Samoa as Tusitala or "story-teller," fell in love with the happiness and giving spirit of the Samoan people and settled here. He is buried on Mt. Vaea in independent Samoa.
    1. Overview
      Tahiti . . . the very name evokes images of exotic tropical islands. They are images well deserved, for the beauty of the islands is matched by the spirit of the Polynesian people and the richness of their cultural traditions. Tahiti today is a modern Pacific nation whose population is a cosmopolitan blend of ancient Polynesian heritage and French élan. Most of the Tahitians you will meet at the Polynesian Cultural Center have learned English as their third or even fourth language. For example, most of them grew up speaking Tahitian or another island dialect such as Tuamotu, then learned French in school and English as an elective. While the overlay of French culture and influence is undeniable, the Tahitians still take great pride in their ancient Polynesian heritage.
    2. Location
      Tahiti is located about 2,400 southeast of Hawai'i. It takes about five hours by commercial jetliner to get there from Honolulu, or about eight hours from Los Angeles. French Polynesia is situated about halfway between South America and Australia.
    3. Geography
      French Polynesia, with its capital at Papeete on the island of Tahiti, is comprised of five archipelagos, including the Society Islands (where Tahiti is located), the Austral Islands, the Tuamotu atolls, the Gambier Islands, and the Marquesas. The Society group is further divided into the Windward Islands, or Îles du Vent: Tahiti, Moorea, Maiao, Tetiaroa, and Mehetia), and the Leeward Islands, or Îles Sous-le-Vent: Ra'iatea, Huahine, Taha'a, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Tupai, Maupiha'a/Mopelia, Manuae or Scilly, and Motu One or Bellingshausen. All of the groups are mostly volcanic high-rise islands, except the Tuamotu chain, which is comprised of low-lying coral atolls. French Polynesia covers a vast area of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, but its total landmass covers only 3,543 sq. km.
    4. Population
      There are approximately 262,000 residents of Tahiti, about 78% of them from the various French Polynesian islands, another 12% of Chinese descent, and the remainder are various Europeans (primarily French).
    5. History and Discovery
      Like all Polynesians, the Tahitians did not have a writing system that recorded their ancient sojourns; but anthropologists believe they migrated to their islands over 2,000 years ago from central Polynesia, probably from Samoa. The early Tahitians also spread throughout the area to other island groups, including Rarotonga (the Cook Islands), the Tuamotu islands, the Marquesas, and eventually even Hawai'i. British Captain Samuel Wallis is the first known European to make contact with Tahiti in 1767, followed by French navigator Count Louis de Bougainville in 1768, British explorer Captain James Cook in 1769 and, of course, British Captain William Bligh and his first mate, Fletcher Christian, in 1789 aboard HMS Bounty. For the next 50 years the British and French engaged in political negotiations for control of the islands in the area, with France emerging as the colonial power by 1842. In 1847 Queen Pomare accepted the protection of France; however, it wasn't until the hereditary leader, Pomare V, abdicated his throne in 1880 that France came to full power in the region. Over the ensuing years, various artists have helped spread the appeal of Tahiti to the rest of the world, including Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1890s, French artist Paul Gauguin who came in 1901 and died in the Marquesas in 1903. World War I veterans Charles Nordhoff and James Hall moved there in 1920 and made the mutiny on the Bounty famous with their trilogy that has been made into a series of movies. American author James Michener was stationed on the fabled island of Bora Bora during World War II and, of course, went on to write his first well-known book, Tales of the South Pacific, partially based on that and other island experiences. The people became French citizens in 1946, and although the islands are still an overseas territory of France, they gained self-governing status in 1977.
    6. Languages
      French, Tahitian, other French Polynesian dialects, and some English. Tahitian and the other distinct French Polynesian dialects, such as those spoken in the Tuamotu islands, are closely related to all other dialects throughout the Polynesian Triangle. For example, a Tahitian chief is an ari'i, while a Samoan or a Hawaiian chief is an ali'i. A Tahitian house is a fare [pronounce both syllables] while a New Zealand Maori house is a whare (which is pronounced the same as its Tahitian counterpart). Like many Polynesian dialects, reduplicated words - such as Bora Bora - are common; and often have the effect of intensifying the meaning of a single occurrence: For example, nui may mean 'big' while nuinui means 'very big.' While Tahitian is still widely spoken throughout French Polynesia, many young people today communicate almost exclusively in French.
    7. Village Life
      The houses in the Polynesian Cultural Center's Tahitian "village" represent traditional historical architecture, whereas almost all modern Tahitians invariably live in European style houses. Fare Ari'i The fare ari'i or "chief's dwelling" is also called a fare pote'e because its round-ended style of architecture was usually reserved for chiefs and nobles. The larger this type of house is, the higher the rank of the owner. The chief's more important furnishings included many large finely woven mats, the nohora'a or four-legged wooden seats for high ranking individuals, the turu'a or wooden headrest, and an elevated bed. Traditionally, everyone slept on the floor, which was cushioned with aretu grass and covered with mats. The elevated bed, a concept introduced by Europeans, consisted of three parts: first, a layer of dried banana leaves; second, a layer of mats piled on top of one another for softness; and third, a coverlet or blanket which originally was made of woven lauhala (pandanus) leaves. In more modern times thin tifaifai quilts became favored for their bright colors. They are also easy to wash and much more practical. As in Hawai'i, the wives of early Christian missionaries taught Tahitian women the art of quilting, which they call tifaifai. Tahitian quilting (and the nearly identical Rarotongan tivaevae) differs from the Hawaiian style, however, in that they do not pad tifaifai with batting, nor do they sew the three layers together. Their quilts have only an appliquéd or pieced-together front which is backed with a complementary colored cloth. The design of Tahitian tifaifai also differs from Hawaiian quilts (or kapa) in that they favor either large boldly-colored overall designs which are appliquéd, or they piece together intricate patchwork designs using tiny cutouts of colored cloth. On very special occasions or celebrations, Tahitian women bring out their treasured tifaifai, which have been carefully stored, and display them for all to enjoy. Other personal effects in the fare ari'i include costumes, small boxes of highly valued red feathers, drums, flowers, and tiki carvings. Tiki were designed and placed to ward off evil spirits. The largest tiki were usually located on the marae or temple enclosures. Te Tahua Orira'a The Tahitian "dance platform" originally occupied an important location in the village and was sometimes elevated for better viewing. Ancient Hawaiians had a similar practice of building what are now called "hula mounds," some of which have survived to this day. The Tahitian dance platform at the Polynesian Cultural Center is part of the fare heiva for the comfort of the guests. The tradition of entertainment in Tahiti once centered on a special guild of traveling performers called the arioi who sailed on great double-hulled canoes from bay to bay and island to island, performing dance, pantomime dramas and chants. They usually performed in honor of Oro, their deity of peace, agriculture and fertility. The Tahitians at the Polynesian Cultural Center demonstrate their traditional ote'a or drumming dances, including the graceful yet energetic hip-shaking ori Tahiti or tamure which young and old perform throughout its islands. While the women demonstrate remarkable dexterity with their hip movements, that are accented by the more [pronounce both syllables] or fiber skirts, the best female dancers are expected to keep their shoulders relatively still throughout the performance. The compelling rhythms of the dance are provided by traditional to'ere or horizontal slit-gong wooden drums, and fa'atete or upright wooden drum. As you listen to the drums, notice the intricate rhythms and how they all blend to guide and inspire the dancers. The pahu or tari parau were the most important of Tahitian percussive instruments: They were covered with sharkskin played with drumsticks. The ancient pahu rima, which was beaten with the hands, has become a common drum in modern Tahiti. Accompanied by the vivo or bamboo nose flutes, these instruments were originally used during sacred ceremonies or to entertain royalty. More modern Tahitian dances feature the guitar and ukulele which have become important since their introduction by European settlers; but as in Hawai'i, the islanders have added their own stylings and strummings to these instruments. The Tahitians also sometimes use bamboo nose flutes about one foot long with three holes — one for blowing and two for stops. These are nearly identical to the nose flutes of the Hawaiians and Tongans. Fare Ravera'a Ohipa Tahitian women created shell lei, woven mats, baskets and other household furnishings, while the men carved tiki statues and wooden drums, or to'ere, in the "house to do work." Though traditionally a separate house, the fare ravera'a ohipa has been combined into the fare more [pronounce both syllables] at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Before turning them into beautiful jewelry creations, the women gather the shells from both land and sea sources and clean out the animals living inside by leaving them in the direct sunlight or burying them in the sand. The shells that are to be strung must first be individually punched with a single hole using a nail or an awl. Anciently a shark's tooth was used as a hole punch, and then the shells were strung together using coconut husk fiber sennit (although today nylon is used for its strength and durability). In ancient Tahiti lengths of purau or wild hibiscus fiber were also used as cording or string. Tahitian women mainly use pandanus and coconut leaves to weave baskets, mats, fans, hats and other household items. Pandanus leaves are dried, cleaned, and stripped to make them more pliable and attractive for weaving. Coconut leaves are used fresh and are kept as long as they are usable. Skilled men of Tahiti carve native woods into the traditional to'ere, a small drum in which a narrow section has been dug out so when the sides of the wood are hit with a hard drumstick, the to'ere produces a clear, clean, ringing sound. Tahitian drummers are particularly noted for their syncopated rhythms. Fare More In the "dancing skirt workshop" you'll learn that Tahitian and other Polynesian dancing skirts are not made out of grass. They are, in fact, made from the inner bark of the purau or wild hibiscus tree. The workers strip off the bark layers from the main stem of the branches, then soak them in water until the layers can be easily separated. The outer layers are stripped and discarded. The silky light-colored inner layers are rinsed clean and left to dry in the sun. After the inner layers are dried, they are shredded into narrow strips. These are artfully looped individually around a rope made from the same fibers. When the rope is completely covered with strands to the required waist size, a cloth waistband is attached to it. A skirt will require approximately 500 strands. Tassels, flower designs, shells, and other items are also used to enhance the more skirt, which accentuates the movement of the hips. When a woman's more is completed, it can weigh as much as seven or eight pounds. Dancers find that the heavier the skirts, the better the swaying motion as they move their hips. Another advantage of heavier skirts is they tend not to slip off during the dance. Women's skirts are usually ankle length, while the men's go to a little below the knees. For special festivities, dancers try to wear the most elaborately-decorated costumes, including exotic headdresses and headbands. Fare Tautai A Tahitian family who lived near the sea would most probably have a "fishing hut" made out of bamboo and a roof covered with bundled coconut leaves or sugar cane leaves. The fishing hut would contain minimal furnishings, although sometimes it may have a bed; and certainly fish traps hanging from special hooks, a bench or other types of seating, fishing poles, gourds used as containers, nets, ropes and other equipment needed to catch fish efficiently. Tahitian fish traps were not actually used to trap fish but to store them alive until they were to be eaten. The fish were caught first, whether by line or net, and then placed inside the bamboo trap. The door was then closed and the whole trap placed in the water and kept halfway afloat using floats carved out of purau (balsa or wild hibiscus wood). Each night a fisherman would bring the nets, ropes, traps, and other equipment inside the shed for repair and safekeeping. The next morning he was ready to start a new day of fishing. From small sheds such as this, fishermen wait for the right time to go fishing, while away the hours chatting with a friend, or watching over their pearl oyster crop. Fishing for pearls and pearl farming — especially Tahitian black pearl farming — has become a very successful enterprise in Tahiti, especially the warm water lagoons of the Tuamotu archipelago where traditional pearl beds have been revitalized by modern technology and consultation with experts in the overseas pearl business such as Japan. Pearl shells for buttons also constitutes an important export product for French Polynesia. Fare Ututu The "outdoor kitchen" is a partially open structure positioned so its smoke would not interfere with the main house. The fare ututu is built so the prevailing trade winds blow toward the enclosed back, driving the smoke out the open front. In Tahiti, both men and women shared in the cooking chores. Food preparation took place on the table platform in the back area. A man would typically gather the vegetables, hunt pigs and birds, fish in the deeper waters, and perform the more strenuous cooking chores. Women would help prepare the food and assist the men in making the Ahima'a or Earth Oven: The "earth oven," common throughout Polynesia, is called an ahima'a in Tahiti. Tahitians traditionally used an ahima'a once a day to prepare a mid-morning meal. Very similar to a Hawaiian imu, to make an ahima'a several dozen volcanic rocks are first heated over a roaring fire set in a hole about a foot or more deep, depending on the amount of food to cook. When the rocks are glowing red, any remaining firewood is removed and the rocks are spread out. A layer of banana stump fibers, which contain a lot of moisture and have been pounded into a stringy mass, is placed immediately on the hot rocks. Next, food to feed the family for a day is wrapped in a variety of leaves and placed on the banana fibers. Vegetables like breadfruit, taro, umara (sweet potato), ufi (yam) and green bananas are scraped and peeled and placed on the rocks among the other food items. Then broad leaves, specially-woven mats made from the leaves of the wild hibiscus tree, or old mats are used to seal in the heat, essentially creating a steam cooker. Very often earth or sand is spaded on top of everything to ensure the best results.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Tahiti is a French territory and is included with five groups of islands called French Polynesia. Tahiti is home to the fast hip-shaking dance called the tamure, which is sometimes mistaken for the Hawaiian hula.
    1. Overview
      Tongans have a way of doing things whole heartedly, whether its talking among themselves or entertaining guests. For example, tables (or, traditionally, mats) at a Tongan feast are heaped high with food, and the enthusiasm with which the men and women perform their lakalaka, mauluulu and other dances is infectious with energy. As you'll quickly learn, it's easy to see that these culturally rich people come from the "Friendly Islands."
    2. Location
      Tonga is located about two-thirds of the way between Hawai'i and New Zealand, southwest of Samoa and east of Fiji.
    3. Geography
      The approximately 170 islands in the Kingdom of Tonga are divided among three groups: Tongatapu, which derives its name from the main island where the capital of Nukualofa is located; Ha'apai, a series of smaller islands to the north of Tongatapu; and Vava'u, the northernmost islands. Unlike the homes of their Polynesian cousins, most Tongan islands are relatively low-lying but very fertile. In fact, one definition of the word Tonga is 'garden.'
    4. Population
      There are approximately 108,000 Tongans living in the kingdom, almost all of them Polynesians. Roughly 60% of the population lives on the main island of Tongatapu, which means "sacred Tonga." In addition, there are significant communities of Tongans living in American Samoa, Hawai'i, California and Utah; and also in New Zealand and Australia. Over the past centuries, Tongans spread widely over the western part of Polynesia, and many people in Samoa, Uvea, Futuna, and the Lau Islands of Fiji share Tongan blood.
    5. History and Discovery
      Like all Polynesians, the Tahitians did not have a writing system that recorded their ancient sojourns; but anthropologists believe they migrated to their islands over 2,000 years ago from central Polynesia, probably from Samoa. The early Tahitians also spread throughout the area to other island groups, including Rarotonga (the Cook Islands), the Tuamotu islands, the Marquesas, and eventually even Hawai'i. British Captain Samuel Wallis is the first known European to make contact with Tahiti in 1767, followed by French navigator Count Louis de Bougainville in 1768, British explorer Captain James Cook in 1769 and, of course, British Captain William Bligh and his first mate, Fletcher Christian, in 1789 aboard HMS Bounty. For the next 50 years the British and French engaged in political negotiations for control of the islands in the area, with France emerging as the colonial power by 1842. In 1847 Queen Pomare accepted the protection of France; however, it wasn't until the hereditary leader, Pomare V, abdicated his throne in 1880 that France came to full power in the region. Over the ensuing years, various artists have helped spread the appeal of Tahiti to the rest of the world, including Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1890s, French artist Paul Gauguin who came in 1901 and died in the Marquesas in 1903. World War I veterans Charles Nordhoff and James Hall moved there in 1920 and made the mutiny on the Bounty famous with their trilogy that has been made into a series of movies. American author James Michener was stationed on the fabled island of Bora Bora during World War II and, of course, went on to write his first well-known book, Tales of the South Pacific, partially based on that and other island experiences. The people became French citizens in 1946, and although the islands are still an overseas territory of France, they gained self-governing status in 1977.
    6. Languages
      Tongan and English. Tongan is a major western Polynesian dialect that is closely related to Samoan and several other smaller groups of Polynesians in the area, including Niue, Tokelau, Uvea and Futuna. Historical and comparative linguists have basically determined related languages descended from the same "family" tend to get simpler as time goes by; or for example, younger languages in the same family might have fewer sounds. In this respect, modern Tongan has more phonological sounds than Samoan, but not as many as Fijian, prompting such linguists to theorize that Tongan is probably older than Samoan but not as old as Fijian. Of course, this is a simplification of a complex issue. A hint to help you pronounce Tongan words more correctly: The sound represented by the letters 'ng' are pronounced as in the English word 'singer' [that is, an unreleased 'g'], and never as in 'finger' [or a released 'g']. Unlike English, however, the Tongan 'ng' sound can come at the beginning of a word, but it's still pronounced the same way. Also, think of the single vowels as if they were Spanish. So, please try again if you're saying "tong-guh."
    7. Village Life
      The houses in the Polynesian Cultural Center's Tongan "village" represent traditional historical architecture. Fale Fakatu'i As with many chiefly Polynesian structures, the fale fakatu'i is built on a raised rock platform, but in typical Tongan architectural style, it is supported inside by four large ironwood posts. Similar to Fijian culture, cowry shells hanging throughout the interior mark the royal nature of the palace. The roof is thatched with sugar cane leaves. Both the interior and exterior of the building are decorated with braided coconut fiber — kafa or sennit lashings, fine reed walls, Tongan ngatu or bark cloth, and intricately woven mats. Cultural tradition also required dried coconut leaves be placed on the floors initially and then covered with finely woven mats which add extra softness and comfort. Pictures of past and present Tongan royalty adorn the walls inside the fale fakatu'i: One shows King George Tupou I, who unified his people and established a constitutional monarchy based upon Christian principles, primarily the Ten Commandments. Another features King George Tupou ll who followed in his father's footsteps, as did his daughter, Queen Salote Tupou lll, who ascended to the throne in 1919 at age 18. She gained international recognition for her gracious role at Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth ll coronation parade in 1953 when she ignored the rain while riding in her open carriage and continued greeting the cheering crowds. Of course, there's also a picture of the present king, who has visited Laie on several occasions. Fale Fakataha Every Tongan village has a “meeting house” where all meetings and formal kava ceremonies take place. Ranking chiefs sit on the elevated platform while the lower section is for commoners. Kava Which is called ‘ava in Samoa, Tahiti and Hawai'i (where it's spelled ‘awa), and yaqona in Fiji — is widely drunk throughout most of Polynesia. For centuries it has been and is still often used today as a ceremonial drink before the start of important meetings and functions. Kava is made from the dried root of the piper methysticum plant, which is a member of the pepper family. Reports that it is mildly narcotic or intoxicating are not correct in reference to traditional, plain kava; although the beverage has a slight numbing effect, which is why it has been used in Europe and other places in pill form as a stress-reducing agent. A recent scare that such kava pills could cause liver damage resulted from pharmaceutical companies including other parts of the plant in the mix, whereas Polynesians have only used the roots for centuries. Polynesian men would pull the root and branches from the ground and wash the dirt off, scrape off the outer skin and allow the plant to thoroughly dry out. In some of the islands, kava is so important ceremonially that certain dried roots were even given names, and/or they became the subject of significant oratory. In most cases a portion of the root would be ground up with the appropriate stone pounders until it is roughly in powder form. Special carved wooden bowls, such as the ones displayed at the Polynesian Cultural Center, would be used to mix the kava with water. To obtain the clearest liquid possible, a strainer made from the tangled fibers of wild hibiscus bark is used to filter the particles. The strainer is squeezed dry and shaken outside to remove any unwanted particles. The process is repeated until the kava is ready to be served in a half-coconut shell cup. Medicinally, Tongans would use kava as a headache remedy, to alleviate pulmonary pains, to help cure diseases such as gonorrhea, blackwater fever, tuberculosis, leprosy, cancer, asthma, stomach upsets and insomnia. Kava also helps fight contagions to minimize the risks of infections. Due to the ceremonial importance of kava, there are several important myths related to it, one of which goes like this: One day the king of Tonga went fishing with his men. They did not catch anything and were hungry. They stopped at an island where a couple and their daughter named Kava lived. The girl had leprosy. Because there was a famine in the land and there was nothing for the king and his men to eat, Kava suggested to her parents that they kill and bake her for the king and his party. After feasting and then discovering this sacrifice, the king was deeply moved. He instructed the parents to bury their daughter's remains properly. They did so and two plants grew on the grave: a kava plant grew from the head and sugar cane grew from the feet. One day a Tongan hero by the name of Loau came to the island and the couple told him all that had happened. Loau told them to take the two plants to the king, who would instruct them what to do with the kava...which is how the kava ceremony came to Tonga. Keeping the myth in mind, we can now understand that kava symbolizes sacrifice, diplomacy, and renewal to the Tongans. Kava was willing to die to save her parents from the needs and demands of the king. Her body represents its use as a medium for making peace. It is interesting to note that in Tonga today, the kava ceremony represents the best way to bring together families and groups in contention. In formal kava settings and protocol, Tongans forgive, save face, and re-establish respect. Also, when kava is first tasted, it is bitter; but then the effects bring calmness, which also represents renewal. Tongans recognize the importance of kava: It is a tradition which the Tongans, from royalty to commoners, appreciate and practice knowledgeably and respectfully. Fale Ngaue The Tongans always assign a special “work house” for the women to weave and make bark cloth, which they call ngatu. Each of the Polynesian islands makes bark cloth with their respective traditions: For example, some Polynesians make it out of breadfruit tree bark or banyan tree bark. In Tonga ngatu is almost always made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree. While making ngatu is the traditional work of women, Tongan men have the responsibility to grow the plants. During the growing period they will carefully prune excess leaves and branches in order to eliminate notches which may mar the overall quality of the tapa. It takes approximately two years for the trees to reach the best height and width for ngatu making. Once the branches are cut, they are left in a shady place for up to a week. Then the bark is carefully nicked and slowly stripped from the branch. The outer bark is peeled away leaving the creamy-colored inner bark, which is soaked in water for up to day according to the desire of the crafter. After a bark strip has been stretched to its maximum width, it is laid aside and pounding begins on another two-inch-wide length of bark. In order to have a bed-sized piece of ngatu, quite a few strips must be glued together. A small tapioca root is used to make the glue: Tongans harvest the right-sized roots, boil them until they are half-cooked and let them cool. The women lay all the pieces of the first layer in the same direction, then they gently rub the tapioca over the layer. When it is completely covered, a second layer is placed over the first, but with the new strips running cross-wise. This strengthens the ngatu by giving it a warp and woof. This process is continued until the desired size is reached. Sometimes there are holes in the ngatu where knots occurred in the tree branch. The women eliminate these by cutting little patches and gluing them over the defects. Once the ngatu is glued together and patched, the women prepare it for imprinting traditional Tongan designs using a clever die, or a design mat called the kupesi. The women make the stiff base of the kupesi from a fiber-like part of coconut blossoms to which they have sewn coconut leaf midribs in the desired pattern. Because they use kupesi over and over again the edges are nicely finished. To imprint the design, they place the kupesi underneath the blank bark cloth. Then the women dip a specially folded wad of ngatu into a container of natural dye, and lightly paint the surface of the new ngatu, which the coconut rib pattern of the kupesi presses upward so it catches the dye first. Tongan dyes are made according to old traditions: Brown dye is obtained from either the bark of the mangrove tree or the kukui nut tree, and black dye by boiling brown dye with red hibiscus flowers. The women continue imprinting the design until all of the large ngatu is covered with the basic design. To complete the process, the women outline larger design elements in black, using a paintbrush made from a dried segment of pandanus fruit. It's not unusual for Tongan women to make a ngatu 50 yards long, which is called a launima and usually takes a whole day to imprint. Of course, a 100-yard-long ngatu, or a lautefuhi, takes twice as long. Before European fabrics were introduced, Tongans used ngatu for clothing, blankets, wedding costumes, dancing costumes, gift exchanges, and interior house decorations. There are specific ngatu for special occasions: Black ngatu uli, for example, is used for funerals, while ngatu with certain designs reflect high rank. Fale Va'inga Tongans play a type of shuffleboard called lafo in the “game house.” Originally played only by royal family members, the object is for competitors sitting at each end of a long, narrowly fold mat to slide lafo seeds along the length of the mat so that they come as close as possible to the end without falling off. The seed closest to the edge receives 6 points while the other seeds receive one. A player receives a total of 5 seeds, and the strategy is to knock the opponent's seeds off the mat. The game is played in the fale va'inga to protect the mats, which are made with a finer weave than everyday household mats. Pandanus weaving Two plants are very important to the craft of weaving in Tonga and the rest of Polynesia: lau'akau or pandanus (Pandanus odoratissimus Linnaeus) and coconut (Cocos nucifera) leaves. Lau'akau leaves are favored for weaving fine household items such floor mats, bedding mats, storage baskets, table mats, and fans. They are also used for special needs such as canoe sails; and for personal items such as fine mats for clothing and waist skirts (ta'ovala), hats, bracelets, and slippers. Lau'akau leaves are cut when they are still green. They are then laid out to dry in direct sunlight, except when it begins to rain at which time they are quickly brought inside for protection. There is a particular kind of pandanus which is edged with short prickly thorns. These are trimmed off before the drying process. When whiter colored leaves are desired, the freshly-picked leaves must first be parboiled in a large pot before they are laid out to dry. Some Polynesians also bleach them in sea water. When the leaves are dry approximately two weeks later, women smooth them, and roll them into larger “wheels” about one foot in diameter. They are then secured, stacked and stored for future use. When a weaver starts a project, she unrolls the leaves carefully, and using a smooth shell such as a pipi, she rubs the leaves until they're flat and pliable. Using a different shell (perhaps a clam shell), she then strips the leaves according to the widths required for the completion of the desired project. The thinner the strips, the more important and valuable the project, because weaving thinner strips takes longer and more skill. Tongan women basically use an interlocking weaving method, or they use a binding technique using strips which are wound around and around coconut midribs. Tongans treat items made from lau'akau respectfully. For example, they take their shoes off before walking on most mats. This custom also has a modern form throughout Polynesia today, where many people observe the custom of taking their shoes off before entering a house, even if there are no pandanus mats in the house. Coconut Leaf Weaving The easy availability of fresh coconut leaves makes them the most important weaving material in Polynesia, especially for every day use. The leaves are chopped off the trees and particularly used for outside needs. They also have the advantage of being disposable. Once a green coconut frond is cut, it's relatively easy for a person to split off one side along with a thin piece of the mid-stem. The piece of mid-stem, which is more woody, can be easily made into a circle, secured at the ends, and formed into the rim of a basket. Weaving the individual leaves now hanging below the rim follows the usual alternating over-and-under pattern. When the basket is sufficiently deep, or the leaves almost all plaited, the ends are clumped into three strands and braided into a long line across the bottom. Finally, the three strands are tied into a knot, sealing the basket. Tongans and almost all Polynesians frequently make such baskets and use them to carry coconuts from the plantation, carry food, hold materials for crafts and many other uses. Coconuts leaves can also be woven into interesting toys for children, such as a windmill, ball, fish, grasshopper, bird, pineapple, or musical instrument, or a three-leaf piece from one side of the frond can be quickly braided into a cool coconut headband. Polynesians will also use coconut leaves to quickly finish off a house: For example, they can be layered to make a roof, woven to decorate walls, used to screen out the wind and rain, or made into mats to line floors over which finer mats would be placed. The traditional craft of weaving is also enjoyed for the companionship it promotes among women, as well as the creative pleasure it gives, and the comfort and utility woven goods provide. Finally, in the islands weaving materials are a free part of nature's bounties.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Named the "friendly" people of Polynesia by Captain James Cook, who was impressed by the warmth and kindliness of the islanders.
    1. Overview
      There are approximately three dozen distinct groups of Polynesian people. The Polynesian Cultural Center showcases the people and island nations of Hawai'i, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, the Marquesas, Tahiti and Tonga. In addition, we also have a new Rapa Nui (Easter Island) exhibit featuring seven hand-carved moai or stone statues.
    2. Cook Islands
      The Cook Islands, with its population of about 19,000, is the largest group of Polynesian people who have yet to be represented at the Polynesian Cultural Center, although a number of Cook Islanders attend Brigham Young University Hawai'i and work at the PCC. The traditions of the Cook Island Maori, as they call themselves, trace their ancestry on the southern islands back to Tahiti and the Marquesas over 1,000 years ago, with Samoan and Tongan migrations settling in the northern islands. Cook Island tradition also says some of the New Zealand Maori migrations originated in their islands. The Spaniard Mendaña spotted the northern Cook Island of Pukapuka in 1595, during his same journey from South America to the Philippines that he also discovered the Marquesas and Tuvalu. The Cook Islands are obviously named after British explorer Capt. James Cook, who sighted them in 1770, although the islands didn't become a British protectorate until 1888. By 1900, Great Britain transferred administrative control over the islands to New Zealand. In 1965 the people chose a self-government status in free association with New Zealand. Consequently, a relatively large number of Rarotongans or Cook Islanders live in New Zealand. The majority of the population lives among the eight elevated southern islands, with its capital on Rarotonga. There are also seven low-lying, sparsely populated northern islands.
    3. Niue
      The largest coral island in the world. Location The westernmost of the Cook Islands, 240 miles east of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean. Area 100 square miles, or about 1.5 times larger than Washington, D.C. Population Less than 2,000 Discovered Samoans settled the island around AD 900. According to tradition, a war party from Tonga arrived in the 16th century. In 1774, Captain James Cook sighted Niue but was refused landing three times by Niuean warriors. Cook charted Niue and named it Savage Island. Government Although geographically part of the Cook Islands, Niue is an administratively separate, self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. Languages Niuean, English
    4. Tuvalu
      Location In the South Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawai'i and Australia. Area Tuvalu consists of nine coral atolls totaling less than 10 square miles (26 sq km), or about 1/10th the size of Washington, D.C. Population 10,838 (July 2000 est.) Discovered Samoans arrived sometime during the 14th century. Immigrants from Tonga, the northern Cook Islands, Rotuma, and the Gilbert Islands soon followed. The smallest and southernmost island remained uninhabited until European contact. The other eight islands were settled by the 18th century (hence the name Tuvalu, or "Cluster of Eight"). Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira was the first European to discover the islands in the late 16th century. Government Under ethnic strain, the Polynesians of Ellice Islands voted for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands in 1974. A year later, the Ellice Islands became Tuvalu, a separate British colony. Tuvalu declared independence in 1978. It is currently a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Languages Tuvaluan, English
    5. Wallis & Futuna
      Scientific evidence indicates Wallis, which is traditionally called Uvea, and Futuna — which are located between Samoa and Fiji — were historically settled over 2,000 years ago. About 500 years ago, marauding Tongans captured the islands and intermarried with the Polynesian people there. British navigator Samuel Wallis discovered Uvea in 1767, but the islands have been under French administration since 1842. Today, about 9,500 Polynesians live on Wallis and about 5,000 on Futuna. A relatively large number of Wallisians also live in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, which was previously a French territory.
    6. Truant Archipelago
      Location French Polynesia Area 75 atolls, one raised coral atoll (Makatea), and innumerable coral reefs. Population About 15,000 Discovered Ferdinand Magellan sighted Pukapuka atoll as he crossed the Pacific in 1521. Iron cannons recovered on Amanu suggest that the Spanish caravel, San Lesmes, shipwrecked there in 1526. The Tuamotus were also visited by Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernández de Quirós in 1606. In 1844 the islands came under French protection and were annexed in 1880 as a Tahitian dependency. Government The island is now part of the iles du Vent circonscription ("circumscription") within the self-governing overseas territory of French Polynesia. It has been under French rule since 1842. Languages French (official), Tahitian (official) and Tuamotu
    7. Tokelau
      Location Half way between Hawai'i and New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. Area Three islands totaling 3.9 square miles (10.1 kilometers). Population 1,458 (July 2000 est.) Discovered Linguistic analysis indicates that Tokelau was settled from Samoa. British commodore John Byron was the first European visitor, and gave the smallest island, Atafu, the name Duke of York Island. Captain Edwards of HMS Pandora sighted the largest island, Nukunono, while searching for HMS Bounty mutineers in 1791. He subsequently named it Duke of Clarence Island. Government The Tokelau Islands became a British protectorate in 1889 and were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Languages Tokelauan, English and Samoan
    8. Pitcairn
      Location About halfway between Peru and New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. Area 47 square kilometers, or about 1/3 the size of Washington, D.C. The main island, Pitcairn, is a rugged half crater of about 2 square miles girded by precipitous coastal cliffs rising 1,100 feet from the ocean. Population Less than 50. Of four relatively close islands — Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Island — only Pitcairn is inhabited. Emigration to New Zealand has reduced the population from its peak of 233 in 1937. In 1831 the islanders were briefly sent to Tahiti, but soon returned. A number of them were also sent to Norfolk Island, where some remain. Others have migrated to New Zealand. Discovered British naval officer Philip Carteret discovered Pitcairn Island in 1767, naming it after the sailor who first sighted the island. In 1790, Fletcher Christian led the mutineers of the British ship HMS Bounty to the island. They and their Tahitian companions settled there. Their descendants now populate the island. Fletcher Christian and eight other HMS Bounty mutineers — along with six Polynesian men, 12 women and a baby from Tahiti — made Pitcairn island famous in 1789 as their final home. In 1793 five of the mutineers, including Christian, and all the Polynesian men were killed in a revolt. Only John Adams survived past 1800. Outside contact was re-established with the arrival of an American ship in 1808. A small number of descendants remain on the island today. Government Overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Pitcairn was the first South Pacific island to come under British colonial power, and the last to remain so. Languages English (official) and Pitcairnese (a mixture of 18th century English and Tahitian)