Also known as: Maoli

The Hawaiian Islands represent one of the most remote outposts of Polynesian culture. Pre-contact Hawaiian polities were highly complex, and have been labelled 'archaic states'. The Hawaiians worshipped many supernatural agents, of whom the principal deities were Kanaloa, Kane, Ku, and Lono.

Show Map of Location

Traditional Culture(1777)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Absent (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 3-36, 9-10, 11-12, 31
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 3-36, 9-10, 11-12, 31
Ancestral spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 3-36, 30
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 19-20
Mitchell (1992), pp. 77
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Beckwith (1970), pp. 11-49, 60-81
Valeri (1985), pp. 12-13

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 125, 140-141, 164-165

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 116
Beckwith (1970), pp. 159-161
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 115-117
Beckwith (1970), pp. 154-164
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 4-6
Beckwith (1970), pp. 42-46
Primordial pair Present, and genealogically linked to humans now living (Source)
Beckwith (1970), pp. 5, 11
Valeri (1985), pp. 4-6
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Beckwith (1970), pp. 190-167-192, 201-202, 226-227

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 72-74
Valeri (1985), pp. 15

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 90-95, 148-150
Kamakau (1968), pp. 9
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 150
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 89, 149, 165-166


Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Kamakau (1968), pp. 46
Valeri (1985), pp. 98-99
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Kamakau (1968), pp. 46
Keesing (1984), pp. 146
Valeri (1985), pp. 98-99
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 99-100
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Kirch (2010), pp. 38
Valeri (1985), pp. 99, 147
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 37-339
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 56
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Kamakau (1968), pp. 19-21
Kirch (2010), pp. 31-33
Political and religious differentiation Considerable overlap between religious and political leaders (Source)
Valeri (1985), pp. 140


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Oliver (2002), pp. 64-117
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Allen (2005), pp. 21-24
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Allen (2005), pp. 9, 24
Oliver (2002), pp. 64-117
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Allen (2005), pp. 81-95
Oliver (2002), pp. 64-117
Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Diamond (1990), pp. 430-431
Oliver (2002), pp. 80-81
Social Environment +
Population 350,000 (Source)
Kirch (2010), pp. 32-33
Population of largest political community 100,000 or more (Source)
Kirch (2010), pp. 31-33
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Marital residence Ambilocal - with either wife's or husband's kin (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96


(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Kirch (2010), pp. 69-72
Kirch (1990), pp. 317
Conflict within community Moderate (Source)
Sahlins (1958), pp. 19-20
(No) internal warfare Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Kirch (2010), pp. 69
Oliver (2002), pp. 145
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Kolb (2001), pp. 68
Kirch (1990), pp. 317
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 3654.0 (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 22
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 3675.0 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 1
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 121-122
Kirch & O'Day (2003), pp. 487
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 121
Kolb (2001), pp. 67
Kirch & O'Day (2003), pp. 486-487
Land-based gathering Minor (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 120-121, 128-129
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Mitchell (1992), pp. 121
Kolb (2001), pp. 67
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 2-3
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 2-3
Water-based gathering Major (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 2-3

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Minor (Source)
Kolb (2001), pp. 68
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Kolb (2001), pp. 6

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 24
Island Size (km²) 10458.0 (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 25
Maximum elevation (meters) 4206.0 (Source)
Kirch (1985), pp. 25


Latitude 19.6 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude -155.5 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1777-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Hays (1964), pp. 51-82
Okihiro (2008), pp. 72, 98-104
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Motteler et al. (2020)
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Hays (1964), pp. 57

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Hays (1964), pp. 51-82
Okihiro (2008), pp. 72, 98-104
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Immigration High (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Language shift High (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Hawaiian State Department of Health (2003), pp. 52

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 96
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 4

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Lucas (2004), pp. 24
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Motteler et al. (2020)
Sea port Present (Source)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 176
Motteler et al. (2020)

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Linnekin (1991), pp. 95
Chock (1995)
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Motteler et al. (2020)
External Links
Allen T. (2005). Tattoo Traditions of Hawaii. Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing.

Beckwith M. W. (1970). Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from

Chock, J. M. L. (1995). One Hundred Years of Illegitimacy: International Legal Analysis of the Illegal Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, Hawai'i's Annexation, and Possible Reparations. University of Honolulu Law Review, 17, 463-512. Retrieved from

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, in Cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Hawaii. (2012). Increases in Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy. Honolulu, HI: Office of Planning.

Diamond, M. (1990). Selected Cross-Generational Sexual Behaviour in Traditional Hawai'i: A Sexological Ethnography. In Feierman, J. R. (Ed.), Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions (422-444). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Hawaiian State Department of Health. (2003). Hawai'i Health Survey, 2003. Retrieved from

Hays, H. R. (1964). The Kingdom of Hawaii. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society Publishers, Ltd.

Henige, D. (1982). Truths Yet Unborn? Oral Tradition as a Casualty of Culture Contact. The Journal of African History, 23 (3), 395-412. Retrieved from

Kamakau S. M. (1968). Ka Po'E Kahiko: The People of Old. (Pukui, M. W., Trans.). Honolulu, HI: Bishop Museum Press.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156,

Kirch P. V. (1985) Feathered Gods and Fishhooks: An Introduction to Hawaiian Archaeology and Prehistory. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Kirch P. V. (2010). How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai'i. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Retrieved from:

Kirch, P. V. & O'Day, S. J. (2003). New Archaeological Evidence into Food and Status: A Case Study from Pre-Contact Hawaii. World Archaeology, 34 (3), 484-497. DOI: 10.1080/0043824021000026468

Kirch, P. V. (1990). The Evolution of Sociopolitical Complexity in Prehistoric Hawaii: An Assessment of the Archaeological Evidence. Journal of World Prehistory, 4 (3), 311-345. DOI: 10.1007/BF00974883

Kolb, M. (2001). Hawaiian. In Peregrine, P.N. & Ember, M. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Prehistory Vol. 3: East Asia and Oceania (66-69). New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files Inc.

Linnekin, J. (1991). Hawaiians. In T.E. Hays (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of World Cultures Volume II: Oceania (95-97). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Lucas, K. (2004). Running on Empty: Transport, Social Exclusion and Environmental Justice. Bristol: The Policy Press. Retrieved from

Mitchell D. D. K. (1992). Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture. Honolulu, HI: Kamehameha Schools Press.

Motteler, L. S., Swenson, J. P. M. & Heckathorn, J. Hawaii. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from Hawaii-state

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Okihiro, G. (2008). Island World: A History of Hawaii and the United States. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Oliver, D. (2002). On Becoming Old in Early Tahiti and in Early Hawaii. Papeete, Tahiti: Societe des Etudes Oceaniennes.

Sahlins, M. D. (1958). Social stratification in Polynesia. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press

Schmitt R. C. (1971) New Estimates of the Pre-Censal Population of Hawaii. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 80(2), 237-243. Retrieved from:

Titcomb, M. (1948). Kava in Hawaii. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 57 (2), 105-171. Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau (2012) Christian Church Adherents. Retrieved from

Valeri V. (1985). Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii. (Wissing, P., Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.