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Music (which includes language) is an integral part of Hawaiian culture. Utmost respect is given to all forms of Hawaiian music. The muscians must pronounce Hawaiian words correctly, and they must know the correct meaning of the songs - without meaning the dancers would find it difficult to perform. There are stages of professionalism that upcoming artists are set to learn by, and only through each step's success will they become masters. Incorrect pronounciation can change the meaning of a word or a phrase to something entirely different-and sometimes rude or nonsensical. So pronounciation, phrasing, the proper breathing and tone are all very important.
The Hula has been in existence since ancient times. Hula includes history, geneaology, tales, and stories. Hula continues to be a revered tradition, with deeply rooted protocols, rules of order and hierarchy. Hula Halau, (hula schools), are close groups under one or two Kumu Hula, ( teachers of Hula). There are several types of Hula, including Kahiko ('old style') and auwana (modern). Keiki (children) start the study of hula at a very young age, as young as 3 or 4. Oli( chants), are also an important part of Hawaiian dance protocol and cultural history. Learning one's geneaological chant is a traditional rite of passage in Native Hawaiian families--and some chants can last for hours.
Traditional Hawaiian Arts are an important part of Hawaiians' lives. It is said 'With the loss of culture is a loss of identity'. All the cultural arts are taught in a very strict and regimented art form. Haumana (students) study for years under a Kumu before being allowed to branch out on their own.There is no such thing as taking a college course, learning by a video, or a book--only with a Kumu's huike (approval and graduation) is there validation in the teaching and the student's mastery of the various aspects of the arts.
The land ('Aina) is sacred to Native Hawaiians, including the forests, the lava, the mountains, and the streams. Native Hawaiian gathering rights range from the mountain to the sea - even on private land, on State properties and ceded land. These rights are part of Hawaii State law. All of the National parks must allow ( not charge) natives when they proclaim they are entering to honor native rights and practise.
The ocean, the sand, the rocks, the reef and every fish are considered important to Native Hawaiians. In ancient times, there was no concept of land ownership; all land was held by the Ali'i (Royalty) and the people were stewards of the lands and oceans. Land was divided into sections called Ahupua'a, which ran from the mountains to the sea. In this manner, each family or group of families could sustain and enjoy the benefits of both the ocean and the land. Tribute was paid to the chief or Ali'i who oversaw the lands.
In 1848, for the first time, Hawaiian Royalty sold land to individuals. This in turn led to the large plantations and major disruptions of the Native Hawaiian way of life-along with disease and many other unforeseen consequences. The last Queen was overthrown in 1893; although there were many calls for the Ali'i to return to power over the next fifty years, times had changed..
In the mid 1970's, Native Hawaiians (and the Hokulea movement) began to awaken the culture and history of Hawaii anew, which led to a period commonly called the "Hawaiian Renaissance". Music, Olelo (Hawaiian language), dance, healing, chants, canoe travel by the stars, fabric making dying of fibers, replanting of valleys that had gone wild, and more traditional facets of Hawaiian culture enjoyed a new audience as the Kupuna (elders) passed their knowledge down. Visitors benefited too, as more areas focused on respecting and acknowledging the true host culture. Today, examples include the Kaanapali Beach Hotel Hawaiian Immersion, Grand Wailea and 4 Seasons allowing artists in the lobby, Ritz Kapalua's "Sense of Place" tours, the ongoing project at Moku'ula in Lahaina, and the restoration of ancient fishponds and the welcoming of non-athletes into the paddling canoes.
The Hawaiian culture should be deeply respected, and is complex in its protocols. Please respect this, and understand that in Hawaiian culture, to presume visitation/entrance is considered very rude. Taking things from the Aina, or land, is also considered very disrespectful. There are many legends, or Mo'olelo, which describe harm and even death to those who disturb standing stones, 'Aumakua (gods or family protectors), and Pele (the goddess of the volcanoes). The Hawaiians believe that everything-land, ocean, rocks, trees, streams, wind, and rain-have a spiritual being. Becoming aware of these beliefs and knowledge of the kumu lipo - will help visitors be welcomed into a much more in-depth and rewarding experience.