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alexander : hawaiian history, 1891 
W. D. Alexander : A Brief History of the Hawaiian People, 1891.

Extracts from
Alexander, W. D.:
A Brief History of the Hawaiian People.
American Book Co., New York, 1891.


Alexander, W. D. (William De Witt), 1833-1913.



Page 59

On the 23d day of the moon of Welehu, the image of Lono makua, the Makahiki god, was decorated.*

* This idol was like a round pole, twelve feet long and three or four inches in diameter, with a head carved at one end.
A cross-stick was fastened to its neck, at right angles to the pole, and about six feet long, to which were attached feather wreaths, and an imitation of a sea-bird, the kaupu was perched ujwn (?) it.
A long white kapa like a sail was fastened at the top to the cross-piece, and left loose at the bottom.
A short idol was also made, called the aktia paani (god of sport), and nutkawahine because it was set up at the boxing-matches and other games.

Purification. - The next night fires were lighted on the shore all around the island, and the people all went to bathe in the sea, warming themselves at the fires.
This was a rite of purification, after which they all put on new malos and paus.

Tabu Days. - The next morning the festival began, and for four days no work, no fishing, no bathing, no pounding of kapa, no beating of drums or blowing of conchs was permitted.
Land and sky and sea were tabu to Lono, and only feasting and games were allowed.
The high-priest was blindfolded, and remained in seclusion for five days.

Page 60

Games. - As evening came on, the people assembled from the surrounding country to see the boxing-matches, etc., under the immediate patronage of the sport god.
For the next two days, all kinds of games were carried on, such as boxing, wrestling, sliding down hill, throwing the maika, foot-races, etc., attended with general gambling and revelry.
On the fifth day, called Lono, the bandage was taken off the high-priest's eyes, and canoes were
allowed to go a-fishing for that day.
The tabu was then put on again until the long idol returned, i.e., for about twenty days.

Page 61
The next day the long idol was stripped of its ornaments, which were packed up and deposited in the temple for use another year, and a white canoe, called "Lono's canoe to return to Kahiki in," was sent out to sea, after which all restrictions on fishing and farming were taken off, noa Tea makahiki.

Page 63

Canoe-building. - The building of a canoe was a very serious business, almost equal to bringing down an idol for the heiau.
The whole operation had to be superintended by a kahuna kalaiwaa.
The choice of the tree was of the utmost importance.
The kahuna paid great attention to the actions of birds, particularly of the little elepaio and used to pass a night in the heiau, in order to receive directions from his aumakuas through dreams.
Before the tree was cut down, offerings were made of a hog, red fish, cocoanuts, and awa, and prayers were addressed to Ku-pulupulu and other gods.
The gods were again invoked before the canoe was dragged down to the shore.
After it was finished and ready for launching, a final sacrifice was offered, called the lolo and an aha
was recited by the priest, standing with the owner at the bow of the canoe.
In this prayer the names of Tahiti, Vavau, Upolu, and other islands of the South Pacific are mentioned.
If the silence was broken by any noise or by any one's coming, it was a fatal omen, foreboding death
and disaster, but if not, the canoe was safe.

Page 78

Nana-Uli. - The nana-uli or soothsayers predicted not only changes in the weather, but also future events, such as the death of chiefs, wars, etc., from appearances in the sky, tidal waves, the arrival of shoals of certain kinds of fish, etc.

Page 79

The arts and manufactures of the ancient Hawaiians were similar to those of the other Polynesian tribes, and particularly to those of the Society Islands.

Tools. - When we consider that they were destitute of metals and of the cereal grains, as well as of cotton, flax, and wool, we must admit that the Hawaiians made as much progress as could well have been expected of them.
Their cutting tools were made of stone, or sharks' teeth, or bamboo.
Their axes were chiefly made of a hard, compact kind of lava, found on the summits of Mauna Kea and Haleakala.
The art of making them was handed down from father to son.

Page 82

Canoes. - In the mechanical arts the Hawaiians accomplished some creditable work, considering the tools at their command.

Their canoes were not built up of planks, as in Fiji, but each one was hollowed out of a single tree. Strips of hard wood, however, were sewed on the upper edge of the canoe on each side, closing over the top at both stem and stern.
Their model was finer than that of the Tahitian canoes, and they were faster sailers.
As in other Polynesian groups, the canoes were steadied by an outrigger, ama, a slender Iog of light wood parallel to the canoe and fastened to it by curved cross-pieces, iako.
They also had large double canoes, sometimes from fifty to a hundred feet long, with a raised platform or pola in the middle, for passengers of rank.
The ancient sails were made of mats, triangular in shape, and broad at the top.
Their skill in navigation has been referred to in Chapter III.
In the management of canoes in the surf they were unsurpassed.

Page 86

Page 88

Games. - The ancient Hawaiians had a great variety of games, both for children and adults.
The makahiki festival in the latter part of the month of Welehu was devoted to sports and general gambling.
In fact, most of these games were resorted to chiefly for the purpose of betting, to which they were excessively addicted.
Both men and women of all ranks were eager to stake every article they possessed on the success of their favorite players, and the games seldom ended without fierce brawls between the different parties.

Page 89

Holua. - Another popular sport was the holua, which consisted in sliding down hill on a long narrow sledge called a papa holua.
The runners were from twelve to fourteen feet long and three inches deep, made of hard red wood, highly polished, and curving upward at the forward end.
They were set about four inches apart, and fastened together by ten or more cross-pieces, on which
two long, tough sticks were fastened and connected by wicker-work.

Page 90

A smooth track was made down the side of a steep hill, extending to a great distance over the adjoining plain, and covered with dry pili grass.
The player, grasping the sledge about the middle with his right hand, ran a few yards to the starting-place, and then threw himself with all his strength upon it, and shot head-foremost down the hill.
Sometimes they were carried half a mile before stopping.

Surf-Swimming. - The most popular of all their pastimes with all ranks and ages was surf-swimming or hee nalu, still practiced.
In this sport the players use a light board made of the wood of the koa tree or sometimes of the wiliwili (Erythrina), about eight feet long and eighteen inches broad, stained black and highly polished.
With this they swim out to sea, diving under the rollers which they meet, until they reach the outer line of breakers; then, lying flat on their boards, they balance themselves upon the forward slope of the highest breaker, and ride them with the speed of a race-horse toward the shore.

Other ancient sports were the lele kawa, or leaping from a precipice into the deep water below ; lele kowali, or swinging on a long rope suspended from a lofty cocoanut tree ; koheoheo, or the children's game of jumping the rope ; and flying kites, etc.

Page 91

Music - the Ukeke. - The ancient Hawaiian instruments of music were very few and simple.
The ukeke was a strip of flexible wood or bamboo, mounted with two or three strings of olona or of cocoanut fiber, which are said to have been tuned to the intervals of a second or fourth, and may be regarded as a primitive guitar.

Alexander, W. D.:
A Brief History of the Hawaiian People.
American Book Co., New York, 1891.

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Geoff Cater (2010) : W.D. Alexander : A Brief History of the Hawaiian People, 1891.