Hawaiian Respect & Harmony

Approximately 1,500 years ago, the Hawaiian Islands were discovered by Polynesian colonists who sailed double-hulled canoes on voyages from various parts of the South Pacific. Hawaiian legend says that the demigod Maui pulled the islands up from the ocean depths with his magic hook, and caught the sun with his net from atop Haleakala mountain, in order to slow it down and lengthen the day.

Living in Harmony with the Land & Each Other

Early Hawaiians believed that the earth was a living being with its own consciousness. They never tried to dominate the land, but believed in respecting and living in harmony with it. In Hawaiian language, this is called “pono”, or being in harmony with ones SELF and the ENVIRONMENT, for they are all elements of one energy.

By the time Captain Cook arrived in 1778, several hundred thousand Polynesian people who were skilled farmers, fishermen and craftsmen had established themselves on the islands. In Hawaiian culture, successful cohabitation with the land depended on several principles. These involved cooperation and a sense of community among the people who worked the land. Caring for the land (malama aina) was accomplished through working together (lokahi) and using many hands (laulima).

The Importance of Community

This strong sense of community was reflected in the formation of extended families (family is “ohana”), and the building of gathering places (long house is “halau”). Heiau (temples) were built, and the “spirit realm” was honored and respected during all phases of planting and harvesting, as well as in other aspects of Hawaiian life.

There is an inherent love of and reverence for the land in Hawaii. This is still maintained by many of its inhabitants even in these modern times, including by the haoles (non-native Hawaiians). Being greeted with love (aloha) and invited into a home to eat (Aloha, e ai kakou) is still a very strong tradition and a mark of good manners in the Hawaiian Islands.

Looking to the Future

Is it possible that we might more widely incorporate cooperation and respect for the Earth (and each other) into our modern societies? If so, perhaps our world could become a more expansive and fulfilling place to exist.


Photos courtesy Troy Squillaci and Matthew DeVries, Pexels

Hawaiian Respect & Harmony © 2017, 2020