By Teachers, For Teachers

Hawaiian Creation Stories: Occupation and Resistance

Lesson Steps


  1. Show students two deliveries of the beginning of the Kumulipo.
  2. Guide students in a discussion or written reflection. Prompts:
    • How are these two deliveries similar? How are they different?
    • What do you think you know about the Kumulipo?
    • What questions do you have about the Kumulipo after watching these deliveries?

Activity 1: Hawai‘i and Hawaiian Stories

  1. Display or distribute copies of Collections in Context: Hawai‘i Histories and Creation Stories.
  2. Optional: Invite students to do their own research using the materials in the References section of the Collections in Context.
  3. Engagement ideas:
    • Invite students to consider the perspectives of the people in the primary sources. Who is sharing this information? Who took these photographs or wrote these words?
    • Invite students to identify what they are learning about Hawaiian history, cosmogony, and the Kumulipo, and what new questions they have.
    • Engage students in a discussion on the following questions: What is the Kumulipo? What can it tell you about Hawaiian creation stories?

Activity 2: Comparative Analysis

  1. Distribute copies of Student Material: Close Reading of Queen Lili‘uokalani’s translation of the Kumulipo and an excerpt from Legends of Hawaii by Gardner W. Gregg.
  2. Engagement ideas:
    • Assign small groups of students one or two paragraphs to analyze using the questions and prompts included in the Close Reading handout.
    • Lead a close reading analysis with the whole class using the questions and prompts included in the Close Reading handout.
    • Have students reference the Collections in Context to help them in their analysis.
  3. Have students write an essay (or other format) that responds to the following questions:
    • What are the similarities and differences in these two versions of the Hawaiian creation story? Why do these differences occur?
    • How does the author perceive Native Hawaiians? What do you read in the text that
      supports your claim?


  1. Students can incorporate an analysis of William Blake’s illustration in their responses.
  2. Questions for the extension:
    • What similarities and differences can be seen in the Legends of Hawaii and Blake’s illustration of creation?
    • What religious influences does Gregg draw on to present the story?
  3. Have each student illustrate a line from the translated Kumulipo. As a class, display the drawings in chronological order.

Conclusion: Asserting Identity

  1. Play this video of Jamaica Osorio performing the Kumulipo at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009.
  2. Questions for reflection and discussion:
    • How does Osorio’s performance convey Hawaiians’ relationships to ʻāina (land)?
    • How has military occupation affected Native Hawaiians’ lives and cultures?
    • How have Native Hawaiians in the past and present asserted their identity and sovereignty through the Kumulipo?

Additional Resources