• Culture of Aotearoa

    1. Overview

      p>Nau mai, haere mai...! Welcome to Aotearoa - New Zealand. The name Aotearoa translates to "Long White Cloud", but is more commonly referred to as, the “Land of the Long White Cloud.” Māori are the indigenous people of the land and maintain strong historical genealogical and traditional ties with their Polynesian cousins in the more tropical islands of the Pacific.

      Outside of Aotearoa, now used as the Māori name for New Zealand, the Polynesian Cultural Center provides a unique place where students are learning the culture and heritage of the Māori while obtaining a university degree.

      A simple Māori greeting is “Kia Ora” or “hello”.

    2. Location
      Aotearoa is located approximately 4,600 miles southwest of Hawai'i. The islands form the southwestern apex of the Polynesian Triangle and is the only part of Polynesia to experience four seasons.
    3. Geography
      Aotearoa consists of an estimated 600 islands. The two larger islands, north and south, are the main population centers. The largest of the smaller islands is located off the very southern boundary of the country (Te Ara-the Encyclopedia of New Zealand). Within one or two days drive one can see glaciers, fiords, snow-capped mountains, vast plains and hills, sub-tropical forests, a volcanic plateau and white-sandy beaches. The spectacular scenery of both major islands has recently been featured in the Hollywood movies Wolverine, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit Trilogy, A Wrinkle in Time and more. The land mass totals approximately 270,000 sq. km. (World Atlas) - about the size of Japan or the United Kingdom.
    4. Population
      Over 4.8 million people live in Aotearoa, about 16.5% (2018 Census) of whom are of Māori heritage - making them the largest group of Polynesians today. Another 8.1% of the population (2018 Census) has immigrated there from various other Pacific Islands, especially Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau Islands. Auckland is generallyconsidered the largest Polynesian city in the world.
    5. History and Discovery

      Māui - There are three original names for the country which were given by the great hero Māui, who, according to legend, ‘fished up’ the islands from the sea. The names are: “Te Ikaa-Māui or the Fish of Māui”, “Te Waka-a-Māui or the Canoe of Māui” and “Te Punga-a-Māui or the Anchor-stone of Māui” (Map, Te Ara-the Encyclopedia of New Zealand).

      Kupe & Ngahue - In the 10th century, the voyagers Kupe and Ngahue, knowing the Māui legends, added the names, “Te Wai Pounamu or The Greenstone Waters”, following the discovery of Pounamu or Nephrite Jade. The name Aotearoa is associated with the voyage of Kupe (Best, The Māori As He Was, p.22). His wife, Hine-te-aparangi, was the first to sight the cloud formations above the land (teara.govt.nz, Aotearoa).

      Dutch & English Seafarers - There were three names associated with the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman: “Staten Landt or Land of Nations”, “Nova Zeelandia” and “Nieuw Zeeland” (Te Ara-the Encyclopedia of New Zealand). The name, New Zealand, was “already well established” by the time of the English Captain James Cook (NZ Geographic-Issue 6, 1990). It wasn’t until 2013 that alternative Māori and English names gained official recognition. Those names are the North Island or “Te Ika-a-Maui” and the South Island or “Te Waipounamu” (Beehive.govt.nz, 11 Oct 2013). A petition to use Aotearoa in the official name for New Zealand was presented to Parliament in 2019 (www.parliament.nz, 11 Apr 2018)

    6. Languages
      New Zealand has three official languages: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (Human Rights Commission). The Māori language is similar to Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian, and other island languages due to the origins of the people and their migrations. In 1982, Māori pre-schools or Kōhanga Reo (language nests) were introduced to reinforce the teaching of the Māori language to children. These unique pre-schools have been a very successful model for Native Hawaiians, various Indigenous Tribes and First Nations People in Canada and the United States. Today, revitalization efforts continue and are focused on promoting, reinforcing and normalizing the use of the Māori language throughout the country.
    7. Village Life
      Marae

      Te Arohanui o Te Iwi Māori Marae - The ‘marae’ is the open area or courtyard in front of the ancestral meeting house Hawaikiroa at the Polynesian Cultural Center and includes the grounds and surrounding buildings. This marae is named after the founding performing arts group Te Arohanui Māori Company. They arrived to Hawai’i in the summer of 1963 to assist in the final preparations for the opening of the Center in October of that year. Te Arohanui o Te Iwi Māori translates as the “Great Love of the Māori People”. The marae is a unique place where many cultural traditions and customs continue to be practiced.

      Hawaikiroa

      This Whare Tūpuna or ancestral meeting house is named after an ancient mariner who arrived to these islands of Hawai’i. According to legend, he named the islands after himself and his family, over 2,000 years ago (Fornander, Vol. VI, 278-281). Hawaikiroa is one of only five such houses located outside of Aotearoa New Zealand. Under the direction of the master carver, Hone Te Kauru Taiapa (MBE), carving began in the early 1960s and was completed in the summer of 1963. The layout of this house is patterned after another meeting house in Nuhaka, Aotearoa.

      Hawaikiroa was shipped piece-by-piece to the Polynesian Cultural in Hawai'i and assembled on site.

      The architecture and design elements of a Māori meeting house are filled with symbolism. The house itself represents the physical anatomy of a human body, the actual ancestor, who the building is named after. The apex of the building has two figures, the lower one, holding a paddle is Hawaikiroa, the upper one, his first-born son. The facing boards on the gable of the house represent his outstretched arms and hands extended and reaching towards the ground. The inside ridgepole of the house represents his spine or backbone and the painted rafters his rib cage

      Kōwhaiwhai Rafter Panels
      The kōwhaiwhai or painted scroll ornamentation on therafters or rara (ribs) symbolize aspects of the natural world (K. Wilson, Graduate Carver, NZMACI) Pataka Poupou
      ‘Poupou’ (carved wall figures) form the framework of the house. They are stylized carved representations of some of the more significant descendants of this common ancestor, Hawaikiroa. Each figure depicts a specific ancestor. The eyes of each carving are ‘pāua’ or abalone shell. The stories, histories and genealogies of these ancestors continues to be preserved in the carvings themselves, the oral histories, the music, both ancient and contemporary and, even in the giving of their names to the present generation. Kupe
      Kupe is the second of the five houses outside of the country. Kupe currently houses the traditional game known as Tītī-tōrea. In pre European times, this was a typical military game used to develop and maintain effective eye-hand coordination skills, essential in handto-hand combat, from a very young age. The game requires an even number of players who simultaneously toss sticks back and forth to each other in various patterns and in rhythm to music or chant. The object of the game is to catch the sticks without dropping any of them. Today it is a fun, but precise, recreational activity. Pātaka (Raised Storage House)
      Māori used a variety of raised structures with differing purposes, such as, the storage of personal belongings, including valuables, as well as, dried and preserved food. The foods, sometimes salted, dried or smoked to preserve them, were usually placed in containers, such as gourds. Chiefs also stored their heirlooms, weapons, adzes for canoe building, etc., in a pātaka. Māra
      Vegetables in the ‘māra’ (gardens) around the marae include, various types of kūmara or sweet potato, taro, and the hue (gourd). The sweet potato was a staple food. A great deal of ritual and ceremony surrounding both the planting and harvesting is still practiced today. There were a variety of tools used to dig, scrape, break up and loosen the soil, shovel, scoop and weed. Waka Taua (War Canoe)

      This waka taua is crafted from two types of native timber, Kauri and Tōtara. The oral and recorded histories provided by members of the Witehira, Wīhongi and Tahere families provide a rich history for this unique canoe. According to family records, the Kauri tree was felled in the Puketi Forest, Northland in 1948. The canoe was originally intended as a gift for King George Vl of England. The tree was ‘roughed out’ in the bush and transported to the Kohewhata Marae, outside of Kaikohe, Northland. The King’s scheduled visit was cancelled and the hull was left there to rest unfinished in the paddock next to Mangakāhia Road. The families agreed that the canoe should be completed and gifted to the building project that was taking place here in Lā’ie, Hawai'i, in time for the Polynesian Cultural Center's opening in 1963.

      The canoe was named Te Ika-roa-a-Māui, or "Māui's Long Fish." The hull of the canoe is close to 60 feet long. It weighs nearly 2.5 tons with the stern and prow pieces, and the top boards attached to the hull. Elsdon Best was an eyewitness observer of these canoes who described them as follows, “A first-class war-canoe, with all its many fittings, its hundred paddles, its handsome elaborately carved stem and stern, and all its many ornaments and decorations of feathers, rouge, and mother-of-pearl, was always the work of many hands throughout many years.”

      “Their largest canoes were rigged with two masts, and carried a large light triangular-shaped sail on each.” (The Waka Taua or War Canoe, Best, 60)

      “The old war-canoe was a very beautiful object: painted red and black, with elegantly carved head and stern pieces, the bows adorned with grace-fully projecting curved rods, ornamented with tufts of white albatross-feathers, and with white feathers every few feet along the battens which covered the joint where the solid hull was built up by the top boards. They were very fast, and could, in favorable weather, travel ten miles an hour under the rhythmical dip of over a hundred paddlers. (Ibid, 62)

      Poi Māori
      Defined as a lightweight ball attached to a plaited cord of various lengths, ‘poi’ are swung or twirled rhythmically and in unison to sung accompaniment. Traditionally the ‘poi’ was made of raupō (bullrush/cat’s tail) leaves attached to a flax rope. It can also be struck with the hand or other body parts to create a percussive rhythm. ‘Poi’ can be used to imitate the sounds, actions and rhythms of nature thus enhancing storytelling. Modern-day ‘poi’ are made from a variety of materials including foam, cotton batting, wool and plastic coverings, with the rope-like handle braided from yarn or cord. Harakeke
      Māori had many uses of harakeke 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 the ‘piupiu’ for performing. Kia Ngāwari (Be Kind or Tolerant)

      Kia Ngāwari houses examples of the arts of Māori weaving and carving. Weaving techniques, include Tāniko (finger-weaving, related to twining), arapaki or tukutuku (ornamental lattice-work), whatu (weft-twining) and raranga (plaiting). Weavers without the use of looms, finger-weave cloth very similar to linen, which could then be used for wrap-around kilts, decorated cloaks of feathers and dog skin, ‘piupiu’ (flax-made kilt), chest and head bands. The threads are dyed from different bark and ‘paru’ (iron-rich mud) and woven into cloth creating different designs and patterns. Today, Kiwi feather cloaks are especially prized because of their rarity.

      The displays in Kia Ngāwari also highlight the mediums used in the carving arts, including wood, bone, stone, shell, shark teeth, and skin (tā-moko or traditional tattooing). Photos on display include Hone Te Kauru Taiapa, MBE; Matthew Cowley, a Polynesian Cultural Center visionary; numerous employees of the marae who are now deceased; and Te Arohanui Māori Company performers.

      Weapons
      Long and short clubs were the main two types of weapons for use in hand-tohand combat. The Taiaha is a long-handled, fire-hardened wooden stave which combines the uses of a broadsword, quarterstaff, spear and club. The taiaha features a long, tapering flattened shaft or blade broadening towards the opposite end with a head, nose, eyes, lips, teeth, mouth and tongue-shaped spearhead. The weapon is often named after an ancestor. The short clubs were crafted from wood, stone (including pounamu) or whalebone. This deadly weapon was used for in fighting, close-quarters combat. The weapon was usually tucked into the warrior's belt and often hidden from sight with a cloak.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Taumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateaturipūkakapikimaungahoronukupōkaiwhenuakit anatahu is the longest place name in the world with 85 letters. It is pronounced as follows: Tow-mah-tah-fah-kah-tah-ngee-hah-ngaah-koh-ah-oo-ah-oo-oh-Tah-mah-tay-ah-tworhee-pooh-kah-kah-pee-kee-mow-ngaah-hor-roh-noo-koo-pōh-kah-e-feh-noo-ah-key-tahnah-tah-who. It is the Māori name for a hill, 305 metres high, overlooking Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. The name translates roughly as “the summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, playing his flute to his loved one” (www.newzealand.com)
  • Culture of Fiji

    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.

      Almost 38% 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 - 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 subcontinental land masses, about 100 of which are populated. Viti Levu is the main island, with the capital located on the eastern end at Suva which is also the site of the international airport an Nadi (sometimes written Nandi) on the western end.

      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 subcontinental, 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 884,887, 56.8% of them indigenous Fijian (I taukei) with their Polynesian admixture and 37.5% of Indian descent. The remaining 5.7% 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, who sailed past "the Feejees" following the famous mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. He 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 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 hoping to ensure traditional leaders would maintain control over a large majority of the land in Fiji. Although the council was legally abolished in 2012, the desired outcome of traditional control still basically exists today which is not always the case in some other traditional Polynesian lands.

      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 60% of the Indian population 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

      Fijians utilize an ancient Austronesian language that is related to their more modern"cousins" of Tonga and Samoa. 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 far 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 more like it is pronounced which is "Thakombau."

    7. Village Life
      Yaqona or Kava

      Yaqona or Kava - A common drink used throughout Fiji that was historically prepared for allspecial ceremonies. The yaqona plant is related to the pepper family, and although it's sometimes described as narcotic or intoxicating, it 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. 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 deadliest Fijian weapons, 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.
  • Culture of Hawaii

    1. Overview
      Quite simply, there are good reasons why Hawai‘i is one of the leading visitor destinations inthe 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 is well deserved.
    2. Location
      Hawai'i is located about 2,300 miles west-southwest of the mainland U.S.A., about a five-hourflight from the California coast. Hawai'i Standard Time (HST) is three hours behind the westcoast (PST) during daylight savings months, and otherwise two hours behind.
    3. Geography

      There are actually 132 islands in Hawai'i, including the leeward northwest part of the islandchain that extends for a thousand miles toward Midway; but most people think of Hawai'i as the 8 major islands: Hawai'i, Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe (uninhabited), Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, and Niʻihau (privately owned island, 20 miles off the west coast of Kauai).

      The Hawaiian archepelago actually extends 1000 miles to the northwest of the major inhabited islands comprising and area of just under 11,000 square miles. Much of the area is actually water, with the land mass comprising approximately 6,400 square miles of it.

      The peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (located on Hawaiʻi island) rise above 13,000 feet above sea level. However the volcanos actually start at the ocean floor and rise above sea level. This makes both volcanos well over 33,000 feet tall, and the tallest mountains in the world, often with snow-capped peaks during the winter. By comparison the peaks of Mount Everest are just over 29,000 feet.

      In contrast to the high mountains of Hawaiʻi island, most of the northwestern islands of the archepelago are coral atolls, which make up Papahānaumokuākea, the Marine National Monument. It encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean (362,073 squarekilometers) - an area larger than all the country's national parks combined. Travel there is restricted to scientific, educational, and cultural practices.

      The capital of Hawaiʻi was Kailua Kona during the time of Kamehameha the Great. It was later moved to Lahaina Maui during the reign of Kamehameha III, who finally moved it to Honolulu.Oahu, the third largest island in land mass, has been the center of government and commerce from that point forward. The majority 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 towards the north shore. Hawai'i is the only archipelago 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 only occasionally drop below 70° (F) at night in the winter. The islands are also graced most days by gentle trade winds.

    4. Population
      About 1.42 million people currently live in Hawai'i, with aproximately 67% of them on theisland of Oahu. About 17% of the overall population is Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian, making Hawaiians a minority in their own land. There are also other Pacific Islanders in Hawai'i as well. 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" and a truly unique and diverse place.
    5. History and Discovery

      It is believed that the Hawaiian Islands were settled in two main waves. Explorers from the Marquesas Islands first arrived in Hawaiʻi in 300 A.D. A second group of Polynesians came from Tahiti in 1200 A.D. There are also oral traditions of 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 1778, 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 for their accomplishment. 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 including Russians for a short period. In addition to appreciating the beauty of the islands, they participated in the sandalwood trade.

      The first Christian missionaries arrived in 1820 and many Hawaiians converted to christianity. 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 Kingdom of Hawaiʻi 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 formed Hawai'i cosmopolitan population of today.

      In 1893 a revolution largely led by influential American businessmen with the help of forces off the USS Boston, overthrew 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. It should be noted that 94% of those who voted, voted for statehood if you only count the “Yes” votes. If you factor in the “No” votes, only 77% of those who voted wanted statehood. It is also interesting to note that 65% of those eligible to vote decided to stay home and “vote with their feet” by not acknowledging the vote at all, and in essence voting “No”. If you factor in the “voting with your feet” votes, only 27% of eligible voters wanted statehood which was well below the 50% needed to carry the vote. 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 languages of the state of Hawaiʻi. 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 and speak the Hawaiian language and other aspects of Hawaiian culture, and there are even K-12 Hawaiian immersion schools within the public statewide Department of Education. Also Bachelors and Masters degrees in Hawaiian Language are available at the university level.

      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 syntax are similar 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.

      However, the Hawaiian alphabet actually has 42 letters, as each vowel has 4 different sounds and meanings (ie; a, ʻa, ā, ʻā), making 20 different letters for vowel sounds alone. Then add all the consonants found in English, and the glottal stop that acts as a consonant, totaling 42 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. The purpose of the consonant is to stop the flow of air and sound as in the English word Uh-oh. The ʻOkina or glottal stop, is the break in the sound of the word and is treated and written as a consonant. Hawaiian words never end in a consonant, so you will never see the ʻokina at the end of the word. Also you will never have two consonants next to each other in a Hawaiian word. Likewise you will never have an ʻokina next to a consonant.

      The kahakō (macron) is another diacretical mark used in modern times to help with those who do not speak Hawaiian to pronounce Hawaiian words correctly. It is placed above a vowel to hold out that sound twice as long as it would normaly be. It doesnʻt stress that vowel or adds emphasis to it. The change in sound also changes the meaning of the word. As an example; Nana means a style of weaving (ulana) mats, Nāna means for him/her or by him/her, or even belonging to him/her, Nanā means to snarl or provoke, as one looking to fight, and Nānā means to look, watch, or observe.

      Even though the missionaries said that the Hawaiians only had 7 consonants, we know from as early as 1822 when the first printed Hawaiian language booklet was printed, that Hawaiians used all the consonsnt sound when speaking. As evident in the printing of more than 100 Hawaiian language newspapers and publications from 1834 (Ka Lama Hawaiʻi, first newspaper west of the Rocky Mountain), till 1948. We have learned through missionary journals and minutes from meetings that some letters were ommited to make it easier for the missionaries to write in Hawaiian, as Hawaiian was an oral language up until that point.

      When Hawaiians learned to read and write their language, the level of literacy in Hawaii rose to more than 90% literacy in a single generation. The highest ever in history, for any civilization. When early Christian missionaries first devised the Hawaiian alphabet, almost everyone spoke the language and so they often did not indicate the ʻokina or the kahakō in writing. Native speakers already understood the difference, say, between nāna and nānā by context. As the years went by the number of Hawaiian language speakers diminished due to government intervention.

      Today, we use the ʻokina and kahakō in writing to help those who can not see the difference in the context of the sentence, and also to help those who are not sure how to pronounce the word correctly. Along with the rest of the Hawaiian renaissance, people and institutions such as media and government are becoming more sensitive to including the ʻokina and kahakō in written Hawaiian; so, don't be surprised to see both Waikiki and Waikīkī or Lanai and Lānaʻi...and try to pronounce them in the proper way.

    7. Village Life
      Ahupua'a

      Ahupuaʻa was a land division in Hawaiʻi that extended from the mountain to about 1 ½ miles into the sea. The borders of the Ahupuaʻa often followed ridge lines and streams. It was more than just a land division. It was a sustainable self-sufficient eco system which allowed everyone who live within those boundaries, to work and share with others in that ahupuaʻa, and access to resources to sustain a community. Salt and ocean resources, fishing and gathering along the coast, taro or sweet potato farmed on fertile mid-lands, Koa and other trees for timber growing in the moutain areas. The coastal boundaries were marked by an Ahu, a stone foundation supporting a carved image of a puaʻa (pig), symbolizing the payments made to the high chief of the island, by lessor chiefs or Konohiki in charge of each Ahupuaʻa.

      There was no private land ownership, however tenure of the land by Makaʻainana (commoners) was stable. Many Ahupuaʻa included a loko iʻa (fish pond) as a source of food. Hawaiians were the only ones in the pacific to have aquaculture in the form of these loko iʻa. They were able to raise as much as 5 times the amount of fish within the loko iʻa than you would find outside of the loko iʻa in the surrounding ocean. Some of these loko iʻa had external walls a mile or two long. Creating large fisheries with multiple Makaha (gate ways) to aid in stocking and harvesting of fish. Some of the loko iʻa today are still in working order, or being repaired and renovated to start producing fish for sale.

      Kauhale

      Kauhale is a family dwelling consisting of multiple houses with individual purposes. A village consisted of multiple Kauhale in an ʻAhupuaʻa land division. Hawaiians did not live in single buildings divided into different rooms. Each house in the kauhale had itʻs own purpose. We had houses to sleep in (Hale Noho/Noa), houses to eat in (Hale Mua, Hale ʻAina), houses to work in (Hale Ulana / Hale Hana), houses to store things in (Hale Papaʻa), houses for our canoes (Hale Waʻa), houses for fishing (Hale Lawaiʻa), and temporary houses for the sick(Hale Peʻa.

      Hale (houses) in a kauhale were made with thached roofs made of Pili grass. The approximately3 foot long grass was bundled and tied to a lattice roof structure in a layered pattern much like roof shingles. There were two main types of houses, one with enclosed thatched walls, and the other with open walls and thatched roof only. Hales that had four walls were believed to be special houses where your ancestors would come back to visit with the family, so special care and respect was given to these houses. Even today, many Hawaiian families will not allow children to run around, play games, and make a lot of noise inside the house. All of that should be done outside the house.

      All hales had a stone platform at least a foot high to keep the house dry from rain water. The top layer of the stone platform consisted of small pebbles (ʻiliʻili) that made it more comfortable to walk and sit on. Woven lauhala (pandanus leaves) mats were placed on the stones, often times with leaves or pili grass beneath to add softness for sitting and sleeping. The inside walls of the house was often lined with lauhala or Tī leaves.

      To provide light inside the hale, Hawaiians used kukui or candlenuts. The beautiful kukui with its light green leaves which 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 Aliʻi

      The Hale Aliʻi (Chiefs House) was a house where the high chief would conduct meetings and councils. It was often placed on a prominant rise in the kauhale to show respect to the rank and staus of the chief. It was not a place for him to live or reside. He had a house to sleep in (Hale Noho/Noa), and a house to eat in (Hale Mua), as well as other houses to use. If there was a Hale Aliʻi in the kauhale, then everyone who lived in that kauhale was related to the Aliʻi (chief).

      Hale Mua
      The Hale Mua (Menʻs Eating House) is an example of the ʻAi Kapu (eating law) practiced by Hawaiians prior to 1820. Men and women were forbiden to eat together. It was believed that certain foods were spiritual gifts from the Gods and reserved for men only. By eating separately, it took away any chance of women mistakingly eating these forbiden foods. Because of this, men had to cook their own special foods. They would actualy cook all the food and feed the women in their eating house (Hale ʻAina), and then the Hale Mua for themselves. During meal time the men would symbolically feed and take care of the family gods. Young boys would eat with their mothers until the age of acountability around 6 to 8 years of age. After initiated into manhood the young boy would then eat in the Hale Mua with the men and learn his responsibility as a man in Hawaiian society.

      Hawaiians excelled at making bowls. Often made from wood, gourds and stone. Larger wooden platers were also made to make poi. Poi is a dish made from a starchy vegetable that is cooked, peeled, and mashed to eat with meat, fish, or chicken. Poi was pounded on large wooden platters called Papa Kuʻi ʻAi. It was often made from Taro (Kalo) but was also made from uala (sweet potato), ulu (bread fruit), and maiʻa (banana). The stone used to mash the poi is called a pōhaku kuʻi ʻai and made from basalt or sometimes from sandstone found in the islands.

      Food was often cooked in an imu (underground oven). There was a lot of work involved in cooking this way. First a pit was dug about 3 feet deep and as wide as was needed to fit all the food to be cooked. Wood was placed in the bottom of the pit, and porous riverbed stones were placed on the wood. A fire was started and the stones heated until they became white hot. After the stones have been heated properly, any remaining wood was removed and the stones leveled. A layer of shredded banana stumps and leaves were placed on the leveled rocks to create a buffer between the hot rocks and the food. The moisture from the banana stumps and leaves on the hot rocks created steam to help cook the food. Food, wrapped in banana and tī leaves were placed on the bed of shredded banana stumps and then more leaves were placed on it to add more protection of the food. Next mats were placed on the leaves (today burlap or canvas tarps often soaked in water) to cover the whole imu. Then dirt was used to cover everything so that no steam escaped. After several hours (depending on what is being cooked), the dirt is carfully removed so to not fall on the food. When the mats (or tarps) were removed, the food was uncovered and placed on patters for eating.

      Generally cooking was traditionally done once a day and the main meal was served around midday. Food was stored for dinner that evening and breakfast the next day. Cooking was started early in the morning so that the food would be ready by lunch time. Hale Wa'a - The Hale Waʻa (Canoe House) was built close to the water for easy access. The Koa (Acacia Koa) canoes at the Polynesian Cultural Center are all over 100 years old. Koa tree logs of sufficient size to carve canoes are increasingly harder to find today in Hawai'i. Waʻa Kaulua ʻO Iosepa - Iosepa is a 57 foot doubled hull voyaging canoe built by the BYUHawaiʻi Hawaiian Studies Department in 2001. It was built using trees from Fiji, because no suitable Koa trees were available in Hawaiʻi at the time of the build. The trees from Fiji are called dakua trees and the wood is very similar to that of the Hawaiian koa that would normally be used. Building of the canoe began in March of that year, under the direction of two master carvers - Tuione Pulotu and Kawika Eskaran.

      Traditionally it would take a whole community to build a canoe like this, and it did for Iosepa as well. It was an open build, meaning anyone who wanted to help could, and did. Eight months from the day the first logs were cut, Iosepa was completed. A feat that surprised many conoe builders, as building voyaging canoes would often take several years to make. On November 3 2001, Iosepa rolled into Lāʻie bay for the first time. Thousands of people were there at itʻs dedication and launching. Many helped push Iosepa into the water as it rolled in on papaya tree trunks for the first time. Iosepa is a classroom for the BYU-Hawaiʻi Hawaiian Studies Department to teach the students how to sail a voyaging canoe and has made several sails within the islands of Hawaiʻi with itʻs crew of students, faculty, and community members. Hale Lawai'a - The Hale Lawaiʻa (Fishing House) was a house to store and make all the tools used for fishing, including ʻupena (nets), aho (fishing line), kao / ʻō (fishing spears), makau (hooks), hā lawaiʻa (sinkers), and kōheoheo (floaters). ʻAha / Aho (cordage) which was utilized to make all of these items, were completed first and took the longest to make. Hooks were made from bone, shell, and sometimes a bone and hard wood composite. Sometimes stone, wood, and bone were used together to create fishing lures like the leho heʻe (octopus lure). Pump drills with shell tips were used to help cut and shape the hooks, then stone and coral were used to fine shape, sand, and finish them. These were valued possessions, as they took a long time to make and were not easily replaced.

      Hale Hālau

      The Hale Hālau (House of Learning) was used to teach various aspects of Hawaiian culture, including the hula (dance), kapa (bark cloth material), lāʻau lapaʻau (herbal medicine), lomi (massage), protocol and ceremony among others.

      Hale Noho Noa
      Sleeping House. The purpose of this house was to provide a place for the family to sleep. In essence, a bedroom. In traditional times, individual families (parents and children) all slept together in the same hale noho/noa. Multiple hale noho/noa were often found in a kauhale as most families were extended families. In the other hale noho would be an uncle and aunty with the cousins, or maybe grandma and grandpa. The number of hale noho/noa in a kauhala depended on how large the family was. Much like today where most homes have multiple bedrooms, kauhale had multiple hale noho/noa. The order in which everyone slept, extending from the entrance door, was very important. Each person would like 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 floors as a cushion. Mats were then placed over the grass to serve as beds. The mats were often left in the 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. Hale Papa'a
      The Hale Papaʻa (Storage house) is a storage house use to store many different things. Sometimes Cheifs would have multiple hale papaʻa to store different things. One might be for all of the cheifly regalia, such as kahili (feathered standard) ʻahuʻula (feather capes) lei hulu (feather lei), lei niho palaoa (whale tooth pendant), and other lei and clothing for the chief. Other Hale Papaʻa might store food, or mats and clothing. Mea Paʻani
      Hawaiian Quilting - Hawaiian women were also fascinated by the New England patchwork quilts that missionary women brought to the islands. After learning quilting techniques, the Hawaiian women began to design and appliqué their own patterns which reflected the natural beauty of the islands. They also added stitching around the appliqué that suggest the wave movements of the ocean. Some of these quilts 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 appliqué and, therefore, are of lesser value – yet they still represent traditional designs. Kapa Kuiki
      Mea Paʻani - Mea Paʻani or games were very important for the development of many different skills from hand and eye coordination, to physical strength, and strategy. Simple games like Hū (tops) taught fine finger dexterity for young children. Palaʻie (ball and loop game) taught hand and eye coordination. Ulumaika (Hawaiian disk rollling) taught one to read the terrain and force of the roll. Kōnane (Hawaiian checkers) taught strategy to the young chiefs. Games were played when time allowed. Makahiki was a time to celebrate the God Lono and the harvest. It was also a time when normal activities gave way to sporting events and competitions. Many different games were played, testing a wide variety of skills used for everyday work as well as combat and war.
    8. Interesting Facts
      Hawaiʻi is more than just a tropical island. It contains 10 of the 14 climate zones in the world. Two of which are only found in Hawaiʻi, making Hawaiʻi one of the most environmentally diverse place to live in.
  • Culture of Rapa Nui

    1. Overview
      Rapa Nui ("Great Rapa") or Te Pito o te Henua ("Navel of the World") was first settled 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 as it is currently called, 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
      The predominant language is Rapa Nui and Spanish, with a limited amount of 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 topknots. 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.
  • Culture of Samoa

    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. Samoa lies south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean
    2. Geography
      Samoa which shares the Samoan archipelago with American Samoa, consists of nine islands west of longitude 171 W – Upolu, Savai’i, Manono, and Apolima, all of which are inhabited, and the uninhabited islands of Fanuatapu, Namu’a, Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, and Nu’usafe’e. Samoa is now officially named the Independent State of Samoa. Up until 4 July 1997, it was known as Western Samoa. The capital city is Apia. American Samoa, a United States of America Territory, 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.
    3. Population
      Samoa: 197,097 (2019); America Samoa: 55.222 (2019). Significant populations of Samoans also live in New Zealand, Australia, Hawai'i, California, Utah and Missouri.
    4. 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 ceded 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 sends a non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress. The people are U.S. Nationals who can freely travel into the United States.
    5. Languages
      Samoan and English are the main languages spoken in Samoa. 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 of interest is the fact that the sounds represented by the letters 'k' and 't' are completely interchangeable in vernacular Samoa without 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.
    6. Village Life
      Samoan Tattoos Tattoos, or pe'a, demonstrates the strong ties many Samoans feel for their culture. Samoans have practiced the art of tattooing for 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 shorthandled 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 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 (meetinghouse) 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 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 guesthouse 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' meetinghouse. 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 a 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. During sunny days the high dome allows the heat to rise and seep through the thatching, cooling the house. 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 meetinghouses 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 highdomed 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 is a man's domain. Preparing and cooking food 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. Once all the food is prepared, some of it may be cooked. 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. 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. 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 a couple 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 securely planted in the ground or otherwise wedged upright. After piercing the husk, they hold 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 shellhard, 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 the coconut milk, 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.
    7. 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 happy and giving spirit of the Samoan people and settled here. He is buried on Mt. Vaea in independent Samoa. Samoa and American Samoa are on different sides of the International Dateline. Samoa sees the beginning of each day and American Samoa sees the last of the same day.
  • Culture of Tahiti

    1. Overview
      The islands of Tahiti are more than a mere tropical paradise, they are home to a culturally rich group of people. Today, this modern Pacific nation is a cosmopolitan blend of Polynesian heritage and French culture. Most of the Tahitians you will meet at the Polynesian Cultural Center have learned English as their third or even fourth language. French is the national language of Tahiti today but many families still speak Tahitian or another island language. Generally, students would learn English as an elective in school. 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. Tahiti is situated about halfway between South America and Australia.
    3. Geography
      There are five archipelago that make up French Polynesia. These are Marquesas (Matuita), Tuamotu, Gambier (Maʻareva), Society (Totaiete), and Austral (Tuhaʻa Pae). Tahiti is the largest island located in the Society Islands and is where Papeete, the capital city of French Polynesia, is located.
    4. Population
      As of 2017, French Polynesia has a population of 280,000 people, 180,000 of which are located on the island of Tahiti.
    5. History and Discovery
      Tahitians had an oral language tradition like all the rest of Polynesia. Their histories are passed down through stories from one generation to the next. It is believed that the first settlers of Tahiti came from the west, from the islands of Samoa. The Tahitians in turn settled all the surrounding islands including Rarotonga or the Cook Islands, Marquesas and eventually even Hawaiʻi. The first known European to make contact with Tahiti was British captain Samuel Wallace in 1767. Next was French navigator Louis Bougainville in 1768 and finally British explorer Captain James Cook in 1769. In 1789 British Captain William Bligh and his first mate Fletcher Christian arrived aboard the HMS Bounty. Throughout 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 in 1842. It was this year that the islands of Marquesas were first annexed to France. In 1847 Queen Pomare of Tahiti 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. One by one each island ceded to France over the course of 60 years and in 1957 these South Pacific islands officially became known as French Polynesia.
    6. Languages
      French is the national language of French Polynesia but each archipelago has their own native language. In the Society Islands you will hear Tahitian or “Reo Tahiti.” Tuamotu’s most common language is called “Reo Paumotu” however, they have 7 different dialects. The islands of Marquesas have two languages: “ʻEo ʻEnana” and “ʻEo ʻEnata.” Maʻareva or Gambier islands are home to the native language “Reo Maʻareva.” Finally, the Austral islands or Tuhaʻa Pae have two languages and five dialects.
    7. Village Life
      The houses in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Tahiti Village represent traditional historical architecture, whereas almost all modern Tahitians invariably live in European style houses.

      Fare Poteʻe - The fare poteʻe means a round house and is called so because its roundended 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 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.

      Fare Heiva - 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 convenience of viewing the cultural presentation. 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. Ori Tahiti or Tahitian dance includes four different styles of dance including Aparima, Hivinau, Paʻoa and ʻOteʻa. The Tahitians at the Polynesian Cultural Center demonstrate their traditional ote'a or drumming dances, which includes the graceful yet energetic hipshaking ori Tahiti which young and old perform throughout its islands. The women demonstrate remarkable dexterity with their hip movements, which are accented by the “more” (pronounced “More–ay”) or fiber skirts. The more skilled female dancers are able to keep their shoulders relatively still throughout the performance. The compelling rhythms of the dance are provided by traditional to'ere or horizontal slitgong 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 and 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. You will note, however, that the islanders have added their own stylings and strumming to these instruments.

      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 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. There would also be 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 would wait for the right time to go fishing, and 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. This is especially true in 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 Tutu - The "outdoor kitchen" is a partially open structure positioned so its smoke would not interfere with the main house. The fare tutu is built so that the prevailing trade winds blow towards the enclosed back, driving the smoke out the open front. In Tahitian culture, 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. This style of oven is 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. To make an ahima'a, several dozen volcanic rocks are first heated over a roaring fire set in a hole about a foot or deeper, 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 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, peeled and placed on the rocks among the other food items. Then 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.

      Marae - A marae is a large open area protected by low stone walls all around. This is a sacred place of ceremony where political decisions are made, dignitaries from other districts are welcomed and sacred chiefly ceremonies such as receiving tattoos, adoptions and marriages would take place.
    8. Interesting Facts
      French Polynesia’s leading economic market is tourism, after which follows pearls and mother of pearls, vanilla and copra production and fishery respectively.
  • Culture of Tonga

    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.
    4. Population
      According to WORLD BANK there were approximately 108,000 Tongans living in the kingdom as of 2017, 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. Additionally, many people in Samoa, Uvea, Futuna, and the Lau Islands of Fiji share Tongan blood.
    5. History and Discovery
      Like all their Polynesian cousins, the Tongans did not have a written language to record their early history; but anthropologists recognize them as being among the most ancient of the Polynesians who probably migrated to their islands about 3,000 years ago. Tonga's first contact with the western world came when Dutchmen Schouten and LeMaire came upon the islands in 1616. The Tongans called them palangi, which describes the white clouds of their sails "bursting from the sky." The Europeans found a socially advanced society which had already extended its influence beyond its own islands. Over a century-and-a-half later, British explorer Captain James Cook was equally impressed in 1773 and again in 1774. When he returned for a final visit in 1777, he left two gifts. To the people of Tonga, their nickname -the Friendly Isles. To the paramount chief, or Tu'i Tonga, a turtle from the Galapagos Islands which roamed the royal palace grounds until it died in 1960. Spaniard Francisco Maurelle sailed into the excellent anchorage at Neiafu on the northern island of Vava'u in 1781, claiming the islands for Spain. The intrepid Capt. Bligh and those cast adrift with him from the Bounty mutiny successfully passed through Tongan waters in 1789, though not without some fatal skirmishes. The Spanish king sent Don Alejandro Malaspina on a follow-up voyage a dozen years after Maurelle, but Spanish influence waned as other European sandalwood traders, whalers and Christian missionaries became more prevalent in the first half of the 19th century. By 1845 the first Taufa'ahau Tupou united all of the Tongan islands under his leadership as the first undisputed Tu'i Tonga ("King of Tonga"). He took the name King George Tupou I. In 1875 King Tupou instituted a constitutional monarchy, which still reigns to this day. In 1901, the kingdom entered into an international protection agreement with Great Britain, which left the Tupou dynasty in power. The agreement was rescinded in 1970, but Tonga remains a member of the British Commonwealth.
    6. Languages
      Like all their Polynesian cousins, the Tongans did not have a written language to record their early history; but anthropologists recognize them as being among the most ancient of the Polynesians who probably migrated to their islands about 3,000 years ago. Tonga's first contact with the western world came when Dutchmen Schouten and LeMaire came upon the islands in 1616. The Tongans called them palangi, which describes the white clouds of their sails "bursting from the sky." The Europeans found a socially advanced society which had already extended its influence beyond its own islands. Over a century-and-a-half later, British explorer Captain James Cook was equally impressed in 1773 and again in 1774. When he returned for a final visit in 1777, he left two gifts. To the people of Tonga, their nickname -the Friendly Isles. To the paramount chief, or Tu'i Tonga, a turtle from the Galapagos Islands which roamed the royal palace grounds until it died in 1960. Spaniard Francisco Maurelle sailed into the excellent anchorage at Neiafu on the northern island of Vava'u in 1781, claiming the islands for Spain. The intrepid Capt. Bligh and those cast adrift with him from the Bounty mutiny successfully passed through Tongan waters in 1789, though not without some fatal skirmishes. The Spanish king sent Don Alejandro Malaspina on a follow-up voyage a dozen years after Maurelle, but Spanish influence waned as other European sandalwood traders, whalers and Christian missionaries became more prevalent in the first half of the 19th century. By 1845 the first Taufa'ahau Tupou united all of the Tongan islands under his leadership as the first undisputed Tu'i Tonga ("King of Tonga"). He took the name King George Tupou I. In 1875 King Tupou instituted a constitutional monarchy, which still reigns to this day. In 1901, the kingdom entered into an international protection agreement with Great Britain, which left the Tupou dynasty in power. The agreement was rescinded in 1970, but Tonga remains a member of the British Commonwealth.
    7. Village Life
      The houses displayed in the Polynesian Cultural Center's Tonga Village represent traditional historical architecture.

      Fale Faka-Tu'i - As with many chiefly Polynesian structures, the Fale Faka-Tu'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 requires that dried coconut leaves be placed on the floors 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 Faka-Tu'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 Faka-Kolo - 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. 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 Faka-Kolo to protect the mats, which are made with a finer weave than everyday household mats.

      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 a common tradition 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. On 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 treat 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 times of contention. In Tongan protocol, a formal kava ceremony can be utilized as an opportunity for Tongans to forgive, save face, and re-establish respect. When kava is first tasted, it is bitter; but soon the effects of the roots 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 Hanga - 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 a 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 which 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.

      Pandanus weaving - Two plants are very important to the craft of weaving in Tonga and the rest of Polynesia: lou'akau or pandanus (Pandanus odoratissimus Linnaeus) and louniu or coconut (Cocos nucifera) leaves. Lou'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. Lou'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 lou'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 everyday 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.
  • Culture of other Islands

    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 (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti and Tonga. In addition, we have a Marquesas tohua (ceremonial structure) currently closed to visitors, and the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) exhibit featuring seven hand-carved moai or stone statues.
    2. Cook Islands
      The Cook Islands, 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 Center. Population 17,379 in 2018. History & Discovery 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. Government 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. Geography There are also seven low-lying, sparsely populated northern islands.
    3. Niue
      Niue is the largest coral island in the world.

      Location - It is situated in the South Pacific Ocean along the westernmost edge of the Cook Islands and is 240 miles east of Tonga. Are this island measures approximately 100 square miles, or about 1.5 times larger than Washington D.C.

      Population - In 2020, Niue recorded a population of 1,626 (2020 Worldmeter) History & Discovery Research shows that Samoans settled the island around AD900. According to tradition, a war party from Tonga arrived in the 16th century. In 1774 Captain James Cook sighted Niue, but was prevented from landing three times by Niuean warriors. Cook made the effort to chart the island, naming it Savage Island in his documentation.

      Government -
      Although geographically part of the Cook Islands, Niue is an admistratively separate, selfgoverning territory in free association with New Zealand.

      Languages - Niuean and English.
    4. Tuvalu


      Location - Tuvalu is situated in the South Pacific Ocean, about half-way between Hawai’i and Australia. Area Tuvalu consists of nine coral atolls totaling less than approximately 10 square miles (26 sq km) or about 1/10th the size of Washington, D.C.

      Population - As of 2020, Worldmeter shows the current population of Tuvalu as 11,759. History & Discovery It has been determined that 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. Is was from this discovery that the name “Tuvalu” or “Cluster of Eight” was established. The Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana 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 for from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands in 1974. One year later, the Ellice Islands became Tuvalu, a separate British Colony. Tuvalu declared democracy.

      Language - Tuvaluan and English.
    5. Wallis & Futuna
      History & DiscoveryScientific evidence indicates Wallis, traditionally called Uvea, and Futuna —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.

      Population - 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.

      Language - French, Wallisian (‘Uvean) and Futunian.
    6. Truant Archipelago


      Location - The Truant Archipelago is located in French Polynesia.

      Population The population is approximately 15,000.

      History & Discovery 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 Pegro Fernandez de Quiros 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)
Polynesian Culture & History | Polynesian Cultural Center