Tag Archives: Malo

The Greatest Hawaiian Books of All Time (in English or translation)

I donʻt include many recent books – only two from the 21st century – because their legacy has yet to be determined.

  1. Samuel Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawai’i – The Sheer volume of history in this tome makes most other work pale in comparison. Kamakau also issues stern warnings, even to the King, of excessive Western influence.
  2. S.N. Haleole, Laieikawai – Translator Martha Beckwith (author of the definitive book The Kumulipo) had this to say of Haleʻoleʻs book:


    La‘ieikawai is a Hawaiian romance which recounts the wooing of a native chiefess of high rank and her final deification among the gods. The story was handed down orally from ancient times in the form of a ka‘ao, a narrative rehearsed in prose interspersed with song, in which form old tales are still recited by Hawaiian storytellers. It was put into writing by a native Hawaiian, S.N. Hale‘ole, who hoped thus to awaken in his countrymen an interest in genuine native storytelling based upon the folklore of their race and preserving its ancient customs – already fast disappearing since Cook’s rediscovery of the group in 1778 opened the way to foreign influence – and by this means to inspire in them old ideals of racial glory.Hale‘ole was born about the time of the death of Kamehameha I, a year or two before the arrival of the first American missionaries and the establishment of the Protestant mission in Hawai‘i. In 1834 he entered the mission school at Lahainaluna, Maui, where his interest in the ancient history of his people was stimulated and trained under the teaching of Lorrin Andrews, compiler of the Hawaiian dictionary, published in 1865, and Sheldon Dibble, under whose direction David Malo prepared his collection of “Hawaiian Antiquities,” and whose “History of the Sandwich Islands” (1843) is an authentic source for the early history of the mission. Such early Hawaiian writers as Malo, Kamakau, and John Ii were among Hale‘ole’s fellow students. After leaving school he became first a teacher, then an editor. In the early sixties he brought out La‘ieikawai, first as a serial in the Hawaiian newspaper, the “Kuokoa,” then, in 1863, in book form.

  3. Moses Nakuina, Wind Gourd of La’amamao – UH Mānoa Professor Niklaus Schweitzer says:


    The Wind Gourd of La ‘amaomao enables the reader to understand important values of pre-contact Hawai’i, such as the role played by the ideal attendant of an ali’i, which was characterized by a caring attitude both towards the lord as well as towards the maka’ainana, the common. ers, and which included expertise in a variety of useful skills, such as canoe carving, canoe sailing, fishing, bird catching, and a host of others. Generosity, kindness, loyalty, honesty, justice, filial piety, patience, are values of old Hawai’i emphasized in this saga which was considered sig.nificant enough to be published in several versions in Hawaiian and English, beginning with Samuel M. Kamakau’s serial, Moolelo no Pakaa (1869-1871), in the newspapers Ke Au Okoa and Ka Nupepa Kuokoa. The present version by Moses K. Nakuina is based on Kamakau but draws from a number of other sources as well.


  4. Davida Malo, Hawaiian Antiquities/Mooolelo Hawaii – While some might put this first, as its importance is unquestionable, itʻs more of an anthropology than a history, as Malo seems to dissect and critique Hawaiian culture. He had the “zeal of the newly converted” as Emerson put it, and it shows. Itʻs still crucial for all scholars of Hawaiian studies.

  5. Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s Story – A first-hand account of the most important event in Hawaiian history, from its most aggrieved victim – the Queen shows tact and grace beyond what can be expected.

  6. Noenoe Silva, Aloha Betrayed – the first very theoretical book on Hawaiian history and politics, Silva invokes Spivakʻs question “Can the subaltern [the oppressed underclasses] speak?” and goes beyond it to articulate the ways in which they do.

  7. John Papa I’i, Fragments of Hawaiian History – 


    Iʻi was the patrician who chided the upstart Kamakau, and told us in incredible detail how it really was in the time of Kamehameha II.


  8. Mary Kawena Pukui, Olelo Noeau – Of all Pukui’s work, this is perhaps the most valuable, because the meanings  – the kaona – of Hawaiian proverbs may have been lost without it.

  9. Joseph Poepoe/Steven Desha, Mooolelo no Kamehameha/Kekuhaupio – So apparently Desha plagiarized (if such a concept exists in Hawaiian thought) from Poepoe, whose work is yet to appear in published form. It is still a valuable supplement to Kamakauʻs account of Kamehamehaʻs conquests. The Kamehameha Schools Press English translation is called Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupiʻo.

  10. Haunani-Kay Trask, From a Native Daughter – 


    A masterpiece according to Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, a mere collection of speeches according to others; its impact cannot be denied. It galvanized the Hawaiian movement in a way no other book has.

  11. Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Native Land and Foreign Desires – While my own research opposes some of her conclusions on the Māhele, her work on Hawaiian metaphors will stand as a lasting contribution to Hawaiian perspective.

  12. Keanu Sai, Ua Mau ke Ea: Sovereignty Endures – 


    It’s a bit hard to find, but Sai’s contribution to revising Hawaiian history cannot be denied. This is also a useful primer on occupation and the legal aspects of Hawaiʻi’s history and status today.

  13. Pi’ilani, Kaluaikoolau – The heartrending story of Piʻilani and Koʻolau has been recognized by W.S. Merwin and many others. Gary Kubota’s play is only the most recent tribute to this moving account of a familyʻs resistance to the “Pu Ki” [PG: Provisional Government].

  14. John Dominis Holt, Waimea Summer – Holt seemed often to feel uncomfortable in his own skin, with frequent references (including in The Sharks of Kawela Bay) to his fair skin and blond hair, despite being nearly half Hawaiian. But this may have been what allowed him to write about the hapa-haole and Hawaiian experience with such skill; probably the only book to include pidgin, Hawaiian language and Faust.


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I was a boarder at Lahainaluna from 1986 to 1989. I went there because, living in Tonga and wanting to return to Hawaiʻi, we needed a boarding school. As my grandparents had both gone to the school in the 1920s and 1930s (my mother went to Kamehameha III Elementary in Lahaina, but moved to Honolulu before high school), and we still had relatives there, Lahainluna seemed a good match. As I moved into the field of Hawaiian history, and in particular teaching it at Kamehameha (which, as an institution, certainly revels in its history), I’ve come to feel that Lahainaluna’s history has been sorely neglected. This post is a beginning of an attempt to rectify this neglect.


My grandparents proudly sang the alma mater (the only one in Hawaiian) and my grandfather, who was as far from an intellectual snob as it is possible to be, spoke enthusiastically about the “ipu kukui `a`amau pio `ole i ka makani Kaua`ula” [the light of knowledge undaunted by the Kauaʻula wind]. Even my father (a Yankee from Massachusetts) got Lahainaluna fever, authoring an article in the 1980 Hawaiian Journal of History, “The Image of ʻKou Haoleʻ in the Lahainaluna Mooolelo.” Still, I didnʻt quite know what I was getting into. Iʻve often described it as a four-year military boot camp. We worked 20 hours per week in campus jobs including the school farm as payment for our room and board, and the program had intricacies that have to be saved from another post, but despite its drawbacks, I came to view this kind of labor as part of a complete life.


Lahainaluna Seminary was founded 183 years ago in 1831. Calling it the oldest school West of the Rockies, while accurate, seems to neglect that at the time, this was the Hawaiian Kingdom. The seminary was founded by Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) to train ministers and assistant teachers of religion – a kind of second layer of clergy in the quickly Christianizing Kingdom. An early principal Sheldon Dibble had the foresight to see that in an environment of cultural loss, the Hawaiian scholars of the school should study and preserve their own culture, rather than that of others. I often wonder if someone like Hiram Bingham had been head of the school (which he could have – he was on the board), whether we would even have David Malo to look to today.


Lahainaluna ca. 1831

Lahainaluna went through several phases in its long history:

•Mission Seminary

•Royal Hawaiian Academy

•English Boarding School

•Vocational Trade School

•Technical High School

•Public High School

Today, while Lahainaluna’s athletic reputation has gone up (football, girls basketball, wrestling), its academic reputation is far from where it started. The “college” was more like a research university than the high school it is today. David Malo, for example, was 38 years old when he entered, but he was only a student for a couple of years before becoming a teacher – his intellectual reputation was well-established and the school merely formalized his already considerable knowledge base. The Lahainaluna scholars produced the first Hawaiian history text Ka Mooolelo Hawaii, which stated [excuse my rough translation]:

No ka naaupo loa a me ke wahahee wale o ko onei poe kahiko, olelo lakou, ua hanau maoli mai no keia pae aina, na Wakea laua o Papa, e like me ka hanau keiki ana. E aho kakou I ka naaupo o ka poe kahiko, no ka mea, he wa pouli ko lakou.

In the “very dark ages” and the time of only [snake-mouthed] people of old, they said that the [true creation/birth] of these islands [archipelago] was from Wākea and Papa, like giving birth to children. We [escaped?] the dark ages of the people of old because theirs was a [dark night/period].

Here we see the indoctrination that accompanied the preservation of the culture. As Emerson has noted of Malo in particular, this generation had the “zealousness of the new converted.”

The Lahainaluna scholars were laying the intellectual infrastructure for the new Hawaiian state. Although Hawaiian traditions were being recorded, Hawai‘i is becoming increasingly Westernized. This is especially true of the areas that Western ships frequented.

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Malo is criticzed by some Hawaiians today for what is seen as an overly-westernized view of Hawaiian culture. As Emerson (in Malo, 1951, viii). puts it, Malo’s “affections were so entirely turned against the whole system, not only of idol worship, but of all the entertainments of song, dance and sport as well, that his judgement seems to be warped, causing him to confound the evil and the good, the innocent and the guilty, the harmless and the depraved in one sweeping condemnation, thus constraining him to put under ban of his reprobation things which a more enlightened judgement would have tolerated.”

In other words, one must put Malo in perspective using a historical empathy that considers his unique position amidst the most profound changes in Hawaiian history.

Hale Paʻi, the printing House - site of the first Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Lama

Hale Paʻi, the printing House – site of the first Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Lama

Lahainaluna was also the site of the second printing press (after the MIssion Houses in Honolulu) and first newspaper, Ka Lama, in 1834. While Samuel Kamakau’s Ruling Chiefs of Hawaiʻi may be as much read today, of all the Lahainaluna scholars, David (or Davida) Malo, more than all the others, keeps his hold on the imagination.


More can be said about Malo than there is space for here, just between the introductions to Emerson’s and Chun’s versions of his writings. Arista (1998, 46), describes Malo’s first meeting with Richards:

Malo and Richards met when Keōpūolani took Richards as her teacher. It seemed that both men received the best education that their societies could offer: that was a religious education. Malo would find himself working with Richards when the two turned their knowledge, wisdom and experience to serving the aliʻi and the emerging nation.

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Malo was one of the chiefs (kaukaualiʻi) who studied under Richards. However, while it is often claimed that William Richards was Malo’s teacher, Arista (1998, 47) notes that “Richards refers variously to Malo in his letters of this time, as ʻmy teacher, my interpreter,’ and later ʻmy assistant.’” In an article in The Polynesian, Malo is described as “a talented and excellent Hawaiian, for a long time the able and devoted teacher of the late Mr. Richards.” Thus, there was clearly a reciprocal relationship, a theoretical encounter of sorts between the two men.

This may be seen in Malo’s description of the political structure of traditional Hawaiian society, translated by Emerson as “the civil polity” (Malo, 1958, 187), was originally entitled “No Kalaimoku” (Malo, 2006, 103). Mykännen (2003, 139-144) provides an extended discussion of the interchangeability of the words kalaiʻāina –

Richards’s choice of words for political economy – and kālaimoku. I suspect that the two words are linked – some evidence suggests that the students of Richards were encouraged to prosthelytize, and spread the “gospel” of the new political economy. The timing works, if one is to believe Chun (2006, xviii), that Malo may have “commenced with his monumental work, entitled ʻMoʻolelo Hawaiʻi’ (Hawaiian Traditions or Hawaiian History)” around 1847. Chun disputes notions that Malo wrote what Emerson called Hawaiian Antiquities between 1839 and 1840, noting that his newspaper publications suggest the later date. Forbes (2000, 80) notes that “communications from David Malo appear with some frequency” in Ka Elele.

I’ve been heartened to hear that Lahainaluna has finally established an archive – better late than never – and its foundation (quite well endowed) has been doing great work. I would like to see Lahainaluna reclaim its place as, arguably, Hawaiʻi’s most historic school.


April 10, 2014 · 8:07 pm