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Category: Culture

Poaiwa Petroglyphs – Ancient Rock Carvings on the Island of Lanai, Hawaii

Poaiwa Petroglyphs - Lanai, HawaiiJust like other prehistoric cultures of the world, the ancient Hawaiians documented their experiences and important occasions by carving them into rocks. Called petroglyphs, these ancient drawings are discovered in various islands of Hawaii including Lanai.

The Bird Man of Lanai Petroglyphs, located on the northeast coast of the island, is one of the most popular prehistoric sketches in Hawaii. They are officially called the Poaiwa or Puaiwa Petroglyphs, but more popularly referred to as the “Bird Man” because the rock carvings depict 12-inch tall stick figures with bird-like heads. The drawings are also sometimes called the Shipwreck Beach Petroglyphs due to the site’s close proximity to Shipwreck Beach. Read more

Bellstones – Amazing Historical and Cultural Landmarks in Hawaii

Bellstones of Hawaii - KauaiBellstones can be found on almost every Hawaiian Island. They are usually massive boulders placed in strategic locations to serve as a communication tool during ancient times. When struck in a particular spot, bellstones will resonate a sound which could be heard for great distances. Bellstones were used in ancient Hawaii to signal an important event such as a royal birth or to warn against danger.

One of the most popular bellstones in Hawaii is the pillar rock formation located in Kauai County, near the breathtaking ‘Opaeka’a Falls. When rung, the Kauai Bellstone would resonate over a large area of Wailua Valley. This bellstone is located down the hill from two other prominent boulders. These rocks were precisely placed and used to calibrate the Hawaiian calendars to the summer and winter solstices. Read more

Learn basic Hawaiian words and make your visit to the Aloha State more fun!

While English is enough to understand and be understood when in Hawaii, knowing a few words from the Hawaiian language will make your stay more fun and interesting. Here are some of the most commonly used Hawaiian words and phrases that you can add up to your vocabulary and make you feel at home when mingling with the locals:

A Hui Hou – Until we meet again
Aloha – a very versatile word that could mean hello and goodbye, welcome and farewell, and love! Read more

Interesting facts about Hawaii

Hawaii Facts and InformationBecause of its numerous active volcanoes, beautiful beaches, natural wonders and tropical climate, Hawaii remains one of the most visited travel destinations in the world. Aside from being the youngest of the 50 U.S. states, here are other interesting facts and trivia about the Aloha State that makes it a truly unique tourism destination worthy of a visit.

The name Hawaii is derived from the Proto-Polynesian hawaiki, which means “place of the gods” or “homeland.” Read more

Hawaii – The Snake-Free State

Hawaii is snake-freeOphidiophobes, or folks who are suffering from severe fear of snakes, will definitely have a swell time in snake-free Hawaii.  The Aloha state has invested millions of dollars into fighting invasive species, including snakes, which could cause havoc in the islands. So everyone can rest assured that there will be no snakes that will pop out during hiking trips or any other adventures outdoors.

You see, snakes have no natural predators in Hawaii and, thus, pose a serious threat to the state’s environment and people if their population is not controlled. Many snake species prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to endangered native birds while bigger venomous species can be a danger to humans and small pets.

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The Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian LanguageDid you know that Hawaii has the distinction of being the only state in the United States of America to have its own native, official language? It is called the Hawaiian Language which is spoken almost exclusively on the Island of Niihau.  However, a few people are truly fluent in the Hawaiian Language on the other islands.

The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii.

When the islands became a territory of the United States, the native language was banned in schools and the number of native speakers of Hawaiian slowly decreased during the period from the 1830s to the 1950s. In no time, Hawaiian was essentially displaced by English on six of the seven inhabited islands.

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Hawaiian Cuisine – What to eat in Hawaii

Hawaiian cuisineAside from coconut and pineapples, the Aloha state boasts of unique native delicacies prepared using the finest and freshest ingredients from both land and sea. Known locally as Island food, Hawaiian cuisine consist of traditional fares that were passed on from generation to generation as well as fusion dishes influenced but not overpowered by cuisines of other cultures.

Because Hawaii is a group of islands, it is blessed with the magnificent bounty of the sea.  Fish and seafood lovers will have a field day with the wide array of seafood dishes served fresh daily in restaurants and eateries all over the state. Poke, a raw fish dish (usually made with ahi or yellow fin tuna) that dates back to Hawaii’s ancient past is the residents’ favorite fare. It is prepared by simply seasoning the fish with sea salt and crushed kukui nut.

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Hula – Hawaiian history portrayed as the performing arts

HulaThe Hula is Hawaii’s signature dance form accompanied by chant (oli) or song (mele). The dance was developed by the Polynesians who originally settled in the Hawaiian Islands.

According to Hawaiian folklore, the first hula was performed by a god or goddess which makes the dance a sacred ritual.

It used to be danced by men only but now, women can also perform it. The Hawaiian hula is unique and totally different from other Polynesian dances. It started as a form of worship during religious ceremonies and has gradually evolved into a form of entertainment.

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Brief History of Hawaii

Aside from being a world-known tourist destination and the birth place of President Barrack Obama, let us find out how this island paradise came to be and how it ended up as the youngest state of USA.

Little is known about Hawaii’s first settlers, who arrived around AD 500. Tahitians arrived around AD 1000 and for the next 200 years navigated thousands of miles back and forth across the ocean in double-hulled canoes. Ruled by chiefs, ancient Hawaiian society was actually matriarchal, and its religion followed strict laws known as kapu.

HawaiiBy accident, famed British explorer Captain James Cook ‘discovered’ the islands in 1778. The first white Westerner to arrive, Cook was mistaken for the god Lono and treated like a deity. He stayed several weeks and then resumed his journey. When he returned to Hawaii a year later, his less-than-godlike ­behavior led to fighting and he was killed.

Beginning in the 1790s, King Kamehameha, chief of the Big Island, conquered and united all the Hawaiian islands. He is credited with bringing peace and stability to a society that was often in flux due to wars and the power struggles of the ruling class. However, after his death in 1819 his son inherited the throne and, in a stunning repudiation of their religion, deliberately violated the kapu and ­destroyed the temples.

As fate would have it, Christian missionaries arrived not long after, and in the midst of Hawaii’s social and spiritual chaos they found it relatively easy to ‘save souls.’ New England whalers also arrived, seeking different quarry, and by the 1840s Lahaina and Honolulu were the busiest whaling towns in the Pacific. Meanwhile, foreigners made a grab for Hawaii’s fertile land, turning vast tracts into sugarcane plantations. As there weren’t enough Hawaiians to work the fields, immigrants were brought in from China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines, giving rise to Hawaii’s multiethnic culture but also displacing Native Hawaiians, most of whom became landless.

In 1893 a group of American businessmen overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. The US government was initially reluctant to support the coup, but it soon rationalized its colonialism by citing the islands’ strategic importance and annexed Hawaii in 1898. Hawaii played an infamous role in US history when a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor vaulted America into WWII. Hawaii became the 50th US state in 1959.

In February 2009, Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka reintroduced into the US Congress the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act – aka the Akaka Bill. This seeks to establish state-flag-of-hawaiithe legal framework through which a Native Hawaiian government can be formed and thereby gain federal recognition of Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii. This would, in essence, finally put them on the same legal footing as the over 500 federally-recognized Native American tribes.

Federal recognition of Native Hawaiians is widely supported in Hawaii (including by Governor Lingle), but there is lots of controversy and disagreement over what shape ‘Hawaiian sovereignty’ should ultimately take. As a result, the bill’s sponsors emphasize what the legislation does not do: it doesn’t establish a government (it provides the means for doing so); it doesn’t settle any reparation claims; it doesn’t take private land or create a ‘reservation’; it doesn’t authorize gambling; and it doesn’t allow Hawaii to secede from the US. Establishing a Native Hawaiian government, as Senator Akaka has said, ‘is important for all people of Hawaii, so we can finally resolve the longstanding issues relating from the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.’

Another key issue facing locals and politicians alike is that of Hawaii’s fragile island ecology. Like a canary in a coal mine, Hawaii is sounding a warning about the need to adopt a self-sustaining island mentality. For half a millennium Hawaii existed in complete isolation and its people flourished; today the state imports over 85% of its food and fuel, and residents like to ask, ‘Could we survive if the boats stop coming?’ The answer, right now, is ‘no’. But Hawaii sees what it must do to change, and there has been no greater validation of its perspective than the 2008 election of Hawaii-born Barack Obama as the 44th US president.

As First Lady Michelle Obama has said, ‘You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii.’ For Hawaii residents, a lot of what that means is understanding the dynamics of a multicultural household and a multiracial heritage. A large part of the reason Hawaii was the last state to join the Union in 1959 was because of US political reluctance to embrace its ethnically mixed population. Now, 50 years later, President Obama’s calls for consensus-building and respect for diversity, his emphasis on renewable energy, his hopes to build a balanced economy that sustains all peoples and environments – these national aspirations also exemplify, and may in part arise from his upbringing in, Hawaii.

Even before Obama’s election, however, the state had begun developing a comprehensive sustainability plan – called Hawai?i 2050 – that, when passed, will be used to help guide the legislature in its decision making. As much as its specific proposals, the novel, statewide effort to define sustainability – agreeing to a vision of Hawaii’s ideal self and then establishing concrete ways of measuring it – is helping instill that ethic in every community.

In 2008 Governor Lingle signed the Hawai?i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), which sets the goal of having a 70% clean energy economy by 2030. Hawaii is the USA’s most oil-dependent state (spending $7 billion annually on foreign oil), and it has the high utility bills to prove it. With HCEI, it’s now pursuing every renewable and clean energy option available – wind farms on Maui, geothermal and biomass on the Big Island, electric cars on O?ahu, in addition to remaking its electricity grid. If it succeeds, Hawaii would become the first economy based primarily on clean energy.

While locals freely acknowledge all the challenges facing their state, they are also quick to add that they wouldn’t live anywhere else. Hawaii may be endangered, but it possesses a beauty and spirit that can be found nowhere else. Plus, if Hawaii can achieve a sustainable balance, it may do more than save itself. It may become a model for the nation.

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