From the arrival in the Hawaiian Islands of Captain James Cook in 1778, the native society entered into a decline. From Cook’s and his staff journal and log, it is understood that the Hawaiians were experienced, self-dependent individuals. They resided in a very established, innovative culture and society. It was the Kupuna who carried the torch of wisdom. They were fantastic navigators as well as seafarers who traveled the undiscovered seas. These natives were proficient farmers that had created inventive farming methods. They planted plants that grew on the abundant volcanic soil of the islands. They were individuals that created a practical society that blended together the many societies where they had actually come from.

Foreigners arrive
Foreigners arrive

The Rapid Introduction of Foreign Ideas

The rapid destruction of foreign people and their values, culture, religion, idea’s and their diseases rapidly diminished the Hawaiian population. By the very early 1900s, there were just a few Hawaiians left that recognized, the old practices. Hula, the most identified sign of the Hawaiian society, was rarely danced. Other than in hotels for tourists or in a Hollywood motion picture. In private, just a few proceeded to dance the old hula, sing the old chants, or exercise the old arts. Healing, farming, navigating, canoe or kapa fabric production, fishing, or family discipline practiced was almost lost.

Samuel Kamakau, a Hawaiian Scholar from that time wrote: “The people of today are destitute; their clothing and provisions come from foreign lands, and they do not work as their ancestors did…..One cannot find skilled persons who have a deep knowledge of the land; Because of the foreign ways of the race, they have abandoned the works of the ancestors.”

The Hawaiian Renaissance

In the 1970s, carefully paralleling the civil liberties movement, the Hawaiians started a renaissance of their society. Feeling much sorrow for the loss of their culture, land, and also pride, Hawaiians started to reconnect with their past. Taking hula lessons again, they discover the language of their ancestors. They reconnected with their history, and also enjoy the rediscovery of their social heritage.

ca. 1880s-1890s, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA --- Five Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers, wearing traditional dress, hold guitars and ukuleles. --- Image by © Michael Maslan Historic Photographs/CORBIS
ca. 1880s-1890s, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA — Five Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers, wearing traditional dress, hold guitars and ukuleles. — Image by © Michael Maslan Historic Photographs/CORBIS

Today the culture and language are alive and well. The Renaissance created a powerful vehicle for Hawaiians to find their place again in society in their own homeland. Hawaiian immersion preschools were created and started popping up on all islands. Hula schools began to take on more students. Programs were offered to include things like ukulele classes, implement making classes, free hula shows and kalua imu. Hawaiian language, tapa making, lei making and canoe navigation were for anyone who wanted to learn.

Hawaii Nation Lives
Hawaii Nation Lives

The Come Back

Hawaiians are keeping those traditions alive while the kupuna with the knowledge was still here. They started thriving in their culture and are also learning new ways of doing old traditions in modern times. Hawaii will survive and do what the must to support the future generations.


All Hawaii Stand Together by Liko Martin By ProjectKuleana


Written by the Hawaiian poet Liko Martin, this mele is a call for all of us to find our KULEANA, to realize how to interact with it, and ultimately live it… and stand together for the well being of our lahui. Hawaii musicians from all over this pae ‘aina o Hawai’i come together in a show of unity to call us to revitalize our KULEANA.