The Greatest Hawaiian Thinkers of All Time

I began to compile a list of the greatest Hawaiian thinkers of all time, but began to see my own biases coming through, so decided to put the question to a vote. So based on votes in groups on Facebook (Mooolelo: Hawaiian History being the main one, which has 1500 members), I’ve tallied the votes for the greatest Hawaiian thinkers of all time. A few caveats are necessarily stated here: the differences in votes were small because so many received votes, I didnʻt enforce the strict definition of “thinker” that Will Durant did to narrow down his list, and as one commenter noted, makaʻāinana and kauwa who built the nation remain nameless, but should be recognized. The vote seems to reflect Hawaiians’ emphasis on impact and action rather than abstraction. With those caveats aside, here’s your view of the greatest Hawaiian thinkers:

1. Mary Kawena Pukui

Author or co-author of the Hawaiian-English dictionaryOlelo Noeau, Hawaiian Planters, Nānā i ke Kumu, and other seminal texts, Pukui was researcher at Bishop Museum for 50 years and the foremost authority on Hawaiian culture.

Pukui

1. Joseph Nawahī

One of the most educated Hawaiians of the Kingdom period, Nawahī attended Hilo Boarding School, Lahainaluna and the Royal School (or Royal School of Kanehoa), edited newspapers, ran political parties, ran for office (successfully) and taught himself law. He is remembered as one of, if not the most significant Hawaiian patriot.

Nawahī

3. George Helm

The first martyr of the Hawaiian movement, Helm is known for his revolutionary actions, but he spent a lot of time in the Hawaiian collection studying culture to inform this action.

Hoʻohoʻi Hou – book on George Helm by Rodney Morales

4. Haunani-Kay Trask

Known worldwide among Indigenous activists and leftists, she was also Islander of the Year according to Honolulu Magazine in 1996. Trask’s status as a firebrand for sovereignty obscured the fact that she has been one of the most productive and accomplished of all Hawaiian scholars.

Trask

4. Kaleikoa Kaeo

Contemporary orator extraordinaire, Kaeo has been a force for Hawaiian “conscientization.” He often cites revolutionary leaders such as Steven Biko as a way of decolonizing the Kanaka mind.

Kaeo

4. Umi-a-Liloa

7. Liliʻuokalani

7. Herb Kane

7. David Malo

The author of Mooolelo Hawaii (Hawaiian Antiquities), Malo would have been first on my list, despite criticisms that he had the “zeal of the newly converted” Christian, apt to condemn aspects of Hawaiian culture. Malo was critically positioned: living early enough to be able to interview kupuna from before Cook, and recently enough to preserve pre-Cook Hawaiian cultural ways on paper.

7. Kalākaua

7. Kauikeaouli

7. Malia Craver

13. Joseph Poepoe

13. Mililani Trask

13. Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole

13. John K. Lake

13. Kepelino

13. George Kanahele

13. John Wise

13. Maʻilikūkahi

Others receiving votes:

Kamehameha I, Henry Papa Auwae, Samuel Kamakau, Nona Beamer, Kihei Da Silva, Hoapili, Ismael Stagner, James Kaulia, Moses Nakuina, Mataio Kekuanaoʻa, Iolani Luahine, Manookalanipō, John Dominis Holt, Edith McKenzie, Steven Haleʻole, Stephen Desha, Keanu Sai, Noenoe Silva, Puhipau, Jonathan K. Osorio, Peter Apo

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Filed under academia, Hawaiian history, intellect, Uncategorized

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