More on Kupopolo Heiau, 1905.


A Committee From the Historical Society Views the Ruins Under the Escort of the Promotion Committee.


Did it ever fall to your lot to go on a personally conducted excursion in quest of an old Hawaiian Heiau, or temple of worship? That has fallen to my lot—and it was a most pleasantly conducted excursion. It was conducted by Mr. E. M. Boyd, Secretary of the Promotion Committee, and Mr. Fred. C. Smith, General Passenger Agent of the Oahu Railway Company, and two more efficient conductors are seldom sent out in charge of one small party. The excursion, which took place yesterday, came  about in this way: A little time ago, Mr. Thomas G. Thrum, antiquarian and historian, came upon the ruins of an old Hawaiian heathen temple at a point about four miles beyond the Haleiwa Hotel, and within plain sight from the railway and the public road. This was, in many ways, a most remarkable find. It is perhaps the closest heiau to Honolulu, since the destruction of the one at Moiliili, and the wonder is that it had been lost to knowledge so long. In fact, it would not, perhaps, save for the fact that it has been taken all these years for a cattle pen. Indeed, from the line of the railway and from the public road, too, it does look precisely like a cattle pen lying back against the steep slope of the hill.


But, when Mr. Thrum made known the facts of his find, of course the interest of all concerned with Hawaiian antiquities was aroused. The Historical Society members talked of the matter, and the Promotion Committee took the thing up. A heathen temple of the old days, a genuine antique, was worth while as a tourist asset. And out of this various interest in the matter grew the personally conducted excursion of yesterday over the Oahu railway.

For if the heiau was to be preserved, it was essential that experts should be consulted upon its preservation. No experts could be so well advised as to the proper steps to take as those of the Historical Society. Nobody had a more legitimate interest in bringing these experts to view the heiau than the Promotion Committee. Therefore, Mr. Fred Smith was called into the consultation, and Mr. Boyd sent out his invitations for the personally conducted excursion.


All those who had been invited could not go, unfortunately, but the gathering was representative. In the party were Dr. Sereno E. Bishop, Dr. N. B. Emerson, Thomas G. Thrum, Prof. William Alason Bryan, assistant curator at Bishop’s Museum, President Griffith of Oahu College, E. S. Dodge of the Bishop Estate and W. W. Hall, Treasurer of the Historical Society. The party gathered at the Oahu Railway Station, and was whirled away down the road, in a private car and a drizzle of rain. The car was most comfortable, having an observation platform and cosy chairs and all the comforts that go with modern railway travel. The drizzle of rain was not at all uncomfortable, serving to cool the air of what might otherwise have been a hot day, but it did not give promise for a successful excursion for purposes of observation. Which only goes to show that the weather is uncertain, even in Hawaii, for while the sun shone at not time during the day, the rain presently went away mauka, and the day became perfect for the purposes of the expedition. If it had been made to order, it could not have been better.


Away and away through the rice fields and the kiawe thickets that lie on this side of Pearl City, the special train sped fast, riding as smoothly as it might hav done on one of the big mainland railroads. You may not have noticed that the Oahu road is perfectly ballasted, and in fine order, and that its trains run with little jar at high speed. But that is the fact. Past the wide cane fields of Ewa and Oahu, and the sisal plantation, the train rushed onward, and around the mountains that come down close to the line at Waianae. They are rugged hills, opening back into a succession of beautiful valleys at the far heads of which tower cliffs serried with waterways dropping straight down, it seems for thousands of feet. And on the other hand, is the blue sea. It was a still sea, yesterday, until Kaena Point was passed. Then the rollers came dashing in upon the rocks.


Still on and on sped the train, and presently the cliffs fell back for the land of Waialua and, with a sugar mill in the background, there appeared the little white targets that mark the holes of the Haleiwa golf course. The train rushed by the depot at Waialua, to the amazed wonder of a lot of little Japs and Chinese and native children, and the evident amusement of a couple of very bright looking small haole boys, who waved their hands and smiled at us, on the observation platform of the special.

“Some of your caddies?” I said to Mr. Boyd.

“Not at all. One of those boys plays a very good game of golf,” replied the Secretary of the Promotion Committee in a tone of grave respect.

I don’t know that anybody has ever said that in the love of a sport the grown up and the little chap meet on a common level, but it is true.


Past the Haleiwa, too, our train rushed, and in a few minutes we saw the Heiau of Kupopolo over against the precipitous hill on the left of the track, looking exactly like a cattle pen in the distance. But we went on past it. Mr. Fred Smith desired to show his guests the beautiful gorge through which Waimea steam breaks to the sea, and the train was run to the middle of the bridge across the river. It is a wonderful gorge, wild and beautiful, and the glimpse of the valley further up is one of the best scenic bits on this island of Oahu. The stream is beautiful, too, and yesterday it was especially fine, a tawny flood pouring into the ocean a mass of water that discolored the sea for several miles. Upon the high bluff, just across this stream, are the ruins of the temple of the priests, with which ruins are associated that old tale of the massacre of the Daedelus men. You will read all about that in the histories.


The train was then run back to the Heiau that we had come to see, or that the antiquarians in the party had come to see that they might discuss its restoration intelligently, and the party left the car and made its way up the slope to the old temple.

It was a walk, perhaps, of a little less than an eighth of a mmile, climbing a gentle slope all the way. Truly those old Hawaiians chose sightly places to worship in. From the temple, the countryside sweeps away to the southward in a long stretch that would joy the soul of a painter. The sea is in front, and to the northward, where the mountain range runs down to the water, there is a variation of the prospect that is pleasing.

The Heiau, so far as any living person knows, is one of which there is no record in Hawaiian tradition. It had a local name, “Kupopolo,” but no special significance attaches to that. It is a large double structure, as shown in the diagram herewith prepared by Mr. Thrum. It lies as nearly as can be ascertained by a pocket compass, north and south in its greatest dimension, the peculiar entrance being on the northwestern corner. The temple faces west. The entrance—there is trace of but one—was a narrow way, apparently, between two walls of stone masonry. Continue reading

“Those in whose memories were stored the mythologies, traditions, genealogies, proverbial wisdom, and poetry,” 1939.

The History Of The Hula Dance

(From Hawaiian Tourfax Annual)

The hula stood for very much to the ancient Hawaiian; it was to him  in place of our concert hall and lecture room our opera and theater, and thus became one of his chief means of social enjoyment. Besides this, it kept the communal imagination in living touch with the nation’s legendary past. The hula had songs proper to itself, but it found a mine of inexhaustible wealth in the epics and wonder myths that celebrated the doings of the volcano goddess Pele and her compeers. Thus in the cantillations of the old time hula we find a ready made anthology that includes every species of composition in the whole range of Hawaiian poetry.

The most telling record of a people’s intimate life is the record which it unconsciously makes in its songs. The record which the Hawaiian people have left of themselves is full and specific. When, therefore, we ask what emotions stirred the old Hawaiians as he approached the great themes of life and death, his attitude toward nature, we shall find our answer in the songs and prayers and recitations of the hula.

The hula, it is true, has been unfortunate in the mode and manner of its introduction to us moderns. An institution of divine, that is, religious, origin, the hula in modern times has wandered so far that foreign and critical esteem has come to associate it with the riotours and passionate ebullitions of Polynesian kings. Whatever indelicacy attaches in modern times to some of the gestures and contortions of the hula dancers, the old time hula songs in large measure were untainted with grossness.

If one comes to the study of the hula and its songs in the spirit of a censorious moralist he will find nothing for him; if as a pure ethnologist, he will take pleasure in pointing out the physical resemblance of the Hawaiian dance to the langourous race of the nautch girls, of the geisha, and other oriental dancers. But if he comes as a student and lover of human nature, back of the sensuous posturings, in the emotional language of the songs he will find himself entering the playground of the human race.

The hula was a religious service, in which poetry, music, pantomine, and the dance lent themselves, under the forms of dramatic art, to the refreshment of men’s minds. Its view of life was idyllic, and it gave itself to the celebration of those mythical times when men and women were as gods. As to subject matter, its warp was spun largely from the bowels of the old time mythology into cords through which the race maintained vital connection with its mysterious past. Interwoven with these, forming the woof, were threads of a thousand hues and of many fabrics, representing the imaginations of the poet, the speculations of the philosopher, the aspirations of many a thirsty soul, as well as the ravings and flame-colored pictures of the sensualist, the mutterings and incantations of the kahuna, the mysteries and paraphernalia of Polynesian mythology, the annals of the nation’s history—the material, in fact, which in another nation and under different circumstances would have gone to the making of its poetry, its drama, its opera, its literature.

The gods, great and small, superior and inferior, whom the devotees and practitioners of the hula worshipped and sought to placate, were many; but the goddess Laka was the one to whom they looked as the patron. She was known as the head teacher of the terpsichorean art and its one of the prayers is besought to take possession of the worshipper, to inspire him in all his parts and faculties—voice, hands, feet, and the whole body. Laka seems to have been a friend, but not a relative of the numerous Pele family.

In ancient times the hula to a large extent was a creature of royal support. The chiefs took the initiative to the promotion of the people’s communistic sports and of the hula. We must not imagine, though, that the hula was a thing only of kings’ courts and chiefish residences. It had another and democratic side. But with the hula all roads led to the king’s court. It was at the king’s court that were gathered the bards and those skilled in songs, those in whose memories were stored the mythologies, traditions, genealogies, proverbial wisdom, and poetry that warmed by emotion, was the stuff from which spun the songs of the hula.

The court of the alii was a vortex that drew not only the bards and men of lore, but the gay and fashionable route of pleasure seekers, the young men and women of shapely form and gracious presence, the flower and pick of Hawaii’s youth. From these were selected the ones to take part in the hula.

The performers of the hula were divided into two classes, the olapa—agile ones, and the hoolapa—steadfast ones. The young men and women were assigned to the part of the olapa, while the older ones took the other part, handling the chants and heavier instruments of rhythm. The dancers were drilled by the kumu (hula master).

The costume of the hula dancer was much the same for both sexes, its chief article a simple short skirt about the waist (the pa-u). Putting on the hula costume was a ceremony accompanied by chants. First came the anklets of whale teeth, bone, shell work, fiber stuffs and what not.

The short skirt, pa-u, was the most important piece of attire worn by the Hawaiian female. As an article of daily wear it represented many stages of evolution beyond the primitive fig leaf, being fabricated from a great variety of materials furnished by the garden of nature. In its simplest terms it was a mere fringe of vegetable fibers. When used as a full dress costume of a dancing girl on ceremonious occasion, it took on more elaborate forms and was frequently of tapa, a fabric the finest of which would not have shamed the wardrobe of an empress.

In the costuming of the hula girl the same variety obtained as in the dress of a woman of rank. Sometimes it would be only a close set fringe of ribbons stripped from the bark of the hau, the ti leaf or banana fiber, or a fine rush, strung upon a thong to encircle the waist. In its most elaborate and formal style the pa-u consisted of a strip of fine tapa several yards long and of width to reach nearly to the knees.

There was a wreath to crown the head and another for the neck and shoulders. It was not the custom in olden times to overwhelm the body with floral decorations, nor was every flower that blows acceptable as an offering. The gods were jealous and nice in their tastes, pleased only with flowers indigenous to the soil—the ilima, the lehua, the maile, etc.

Gesture is a voiceless speech, a shorthand dramatic picture. The Hawaiians were adept in this sort of art. Hand and foot, face and eye, all worked in such harmony that the man spoke, not alone with his vocal organs, but all over from head to foot, every part adding its emphasis to the utterance.

The hands of the hula dancer are ever going out in gesture, her body swaying and pivoting itself in attitudes of expression. Her whole physique is a living and moving picture of feeling, sentiment and passion. The art of gesture was one of the most important branches taught by the hula master. Not only are there mimetic and imitative gestures; but also symbolic gestures that can be catalogued almost definitely into a language of motion.—Nathaniel B. Emerson’s “Unwritten Literature of Hawaii.”

(Hoku o Hawaii, 4/26/1939, p. 3)

The History Of The Hula Dance

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Volume XXXIII, Number 52, Aoao 3. April 26, 1939.

The changing Hawaiian language, 1880.


Before the arrival of the teachers and the educated haole from foreign lands, documents were not written in the Hawaiian language. But not long after the teachers began living here, they sought to write down this language, and in the year 1822, the first book was printed in Hawaiian. From that time until this day, the progress of book printing has been quick.

In the year 1834, the first Hawaiian-language newspaper was published. These days, newspaper publishing has become a big industry, and the nation is enriched by the spreading of knowledge and enlightenment by reading the newspapers.

This blessing described above has been accompanied by a problem, and I would like to express some thoughts on the subject. Therefore, O Readers, please be kind as I explain to you some things on the topic.

If we observe a newborn child, he comes into the world not knowing how to speak; but after a few months, he takes up this new task and attempts speaking a few words.

When a child gets new ideas and learns new things, he searches for new words, and along with the increase in his knowledge and awareness, so too does his number of words he can properly produce; and should he later become enlightened, he will be very well equipped with words for all of his thoughts.

By this, we understand that words are manifestations of thought.

Just as a child searches for new words, so too does a people when they acquire a new idea, or new things; they want to search for new fitting words to represent those new ideas or things. With the spreading of knowledge in this land, Hawaiians have come to know many new things which they did not think of before, like animals, plants, food, clothing, tools, usable electricity, iron, copper, silver, gold, and names for foreign lands, as well as descriptions for many new ideas. If the new vocabulary added to the Hawaiian language by educated foreigners and by Hawaiians searching for knowledge were counted, they probably would total no less than a thousand, or a number of thousands. The majority of these words are valuable words for the people, valuable for those who ponder and search for knowledge; however, a small fraction of these words are useless, and has been included in our language in error; and as a result of this mistaken inclusion, the true nature of the Hawaiian language has nearly been altered, and it has become strange and confusing. When the Bible was translated into Hawaiian, it was not possible without also introducing new words into the Hawaiian language.

Here are some words we gained through this translation: anela [angel], liona [lion], berita [covenant (from Hebrew, b’rith)], kumumanao [subject], and there are many new words of that sort.These words were not introduced into the language without thought, it was done with careful consideration with much thought as to the nature of the word being translated.

But during the years gone by, many words have crawled into the language and are being printed in the newspaper that are very strange, not at all akin to how the old people of Hawaii really spoke.

The majority of these improper new words are spread through the newspapers; they are holes always left wide open where may enter, if not watched over, foreign words not understood in the language of Hawaii nei.

I should perhaps tell you some of these worthless words which I have seen, lest someone asks, “Where are these words which you have decided to criticize? We don’t know them.”

Here are some of those words: duke [duke], visakauna [viscount], baroneti [baroness]. What in the world are these things? Who will answer? These words were seen and continue to be seen in some newspapers printed in Honolulu.

Here is one more: kakela. In my mind, as I understand it, the word kakela is not a Hawaiian word, but a recently acquired word. The haole word that was altered and became that which was written above is castle.

What it is, is a fortified structure solidly built to fend off robbers or enemies [it is interesting that the word “enemi” is used here, because it is also one of those Hawaiianized English words of which he speaks]. Who would understand the meaning of this word if he didn’t speak English? Here is yet another: bateri [battery]. It is a brand new word. Who can say what it means? Only after perhaps agreeing on a loan of a million dollars, with which they would purchase a number of huge cannons, would Hawaiians understand the meaning of bateri.

The word hokele (English, hotel) has perhaps become a Hawaiian word, so I suppose I can’t criticize it. But what is a coroneta [coronet]? Let one who knows answer.

As for the word kanikela [consul], I guess I can’t criticize it much, for it has almost become a fixed word that is understood in Hawaiian.

Here however is a word that has only just entered recently which I thought over with consternation, that is fea (fair in English). Only the kamaaina here in Honolulu will most likely know the meaning of this word, and not the general public.

These are some atrocious words: Regimana (English, regiment), a thousand soldiers; kaina, “all sorts of kaina” (English, kind); this is really bad; materemonio (English, matrimony), marriage; uko ole (English, useless). These words should be discarded for good.

In the consideration of those knowledgeable and skilled in the subject of the appropriateness of words, it is clear that these are words that should be allowed into the Hawaiian language, for if they are allowed to be included, then this language will be a thing that is scorned. There are many other words that I can give, but those were maybe sufficient.

Here is another problem with allowing these words in, because good, clear words from the past will be forced out.

These new words which I criticize resemble shadows, or a gust of wind, because it is just a wind or dust without substance within.

For a word is a manifestation of thought, and void of thought, a word becomes nothing.

This critique does not apply to all words, as was said earlier. Because like a child, when he has a new idea or ideas, he desires new words as representations for his thoughts, and so too must a people that are progressing search for and acquire new vocabulary—good representations for the new ideas that come up and are incorporated. However, before taking up these new representations, it is necessary to consider it carefully, for we may already have in the gracious, native Hawaiian language, a representation very similar to this new word, this malihini that we are about to welcome.

It is a fact that the Hawaiian people have discarded their blunt stone chisels of the olden days, because they are no longer valued now that we have sharp metal chisels; but that is no reason to set aside the stone poi pounder, or even the ulu maika stone—these are still valuable to this day, and if these were abandoned, then the lahui would be made poor. This is can be well applied to the vocabulary of Hawaii nei. For it is true that the Hawaiian language has acquired many words from the outside, and thus the language has benefited and been enriched. But for this reason, if important words from the past were abandoned, and these new words not understood by the many were grabbed haphazardly, the Hawaiian language would become a thing worthless, emaciated and castrated.

Regular old words taken and used regularly by people from the old times to this day, those are the blood, the breath, the prize of the true language of the Hawaiian Archipelago. And the abandoning, the leaving to the side, and the forgetting of these familiar words that were sanctified by Hawaii’s kupuna from ancient times, would be wrong in my mind; and the taking up of brand new inappropriate words as replacement for the old words that were abandoned—the foolishness of this is like abandoning fish and poi and instead filling the stomach with just haole food, snacks that are no good.

“A lahui that takes up another language and forgets their own, that lahui will live conquered and defeated.” That is what was said by an educated man.

This being said, it is not my desire to criticize the educated search in the English language or perhaps other foreign languages; it is a good and much appreciated thing.

I do however want to raise an emphatic voice and to ward off the speedy acceptance without proper consideration of strange new words with no worth, making the Hawaiian language a mixed up and unclear thing.

For this reason, the heads of newspapers; the translators of stories from foreign languages into Hawaiian; and all knowledgeable ones wanting the well being, the steadfastness, and the independence of Hawaii nei; must all be vigilant and guard against the improper inclusion of words that are ill-fitting and ill-suited to the inherent nature of the fine, melodic [palale?] language of the Hawaiian Islands.

N. B. Emerson.

Honolulu, April 26, 1880.

(Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, 7/31/1880, p. 4)


Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, Buke III, Helu 31, Aoao 4. Iulai 31, 1880.