By Teachers, For Teachers

Hawaiian Creation Stories: Occupation and Resistance

Student Material

Student Material: Close Reading

Source 1: First two verses of Queen Lili‘uokalani’s translation of the Kumulipo to English

Information about the source
The Kumulipo is a living chant that has been passed on through oral and written traditions. The genealogical chant connects back to the origins of everything and describes the interconnectedness of all things. Kumulipo translates loosely to “the source of darkness.” Darkness is understood to be a fertile space, not something scary to be feared. All life arose out of this darkness. During her imprisonment, Queen Lili‘uokalani translated the Kumulipo into English.

At the time that turned the heat of the earth,
At the time when the heavens turned and changed,
At the time when the light of the sun was subdued
To cause light to break forth,
At the time of the night of Makalii (winter)
Then began the slime which established the earth,
The source of deepest darkness.
Of the depth of darkness, of the depth of darkness,
Of the darkness of the sun, in the depth of night,
It is night,
So was night born.

Kumulipo was born in the night, a male.
Poele was born in the night, a female.
A coral insect was born, from which was born perforated coral.
The earth worm was born, which gathered earth into mounds,
From it were born worms full of holes.
The starfish was born, whose children were born starry.
The phosphorous was born, whose children were born phosphorescent.
The Ina was born Ina (sea egg).
The Halula was born Halula (sea urchin).
The Hawae was born, the Wana-ku was its offspring.
The Haukeuke was born, the Uhalula was its offspring.
The Pioe was born, the Pipi was its offspring (clam oyster).
The Papaua was born, the Olepe was its offspring (pearl and oyster).
The Nahawele was born, the Unauna was its offspring (muscle and crab in a shell).
The Makaiaulu was born, the Opihi was its offspring.
The Leho was born, the Puleholeho was its offspring (cowry).
The Naka was born, its offspring was Kupekala (rock oysters).
The Makaloa was born, the Pupuawa was its offspring.
The Ole was born, the Oleole was its offspring (conch).
The Pipipi was born, the Kupee was its offspring (limpets).
Kane was born to Waiololi, a female to Waiolola.
The Wi was born, the Kiki was its offspring.
The Akaha’s home was the sea;
Guarded by the Ekahakaha that grew in the forest.
A night of flight by noises
Through a channel; water is life to trees;
So the gods may enter, but not man.

Accessed June 22, 2021:

Source 2: Excerpt from Legends of Hawaii booklet by Gardner W. Gregg
Information about the source
The Los Angeles Steamship Company offered transportation to Hawai‘i and provided a booklet to the passengers. Published by the steamship company, the booklet included Western interpretations of Hawaiian mythology.

    Printed book text with a black and white illustration

    Gardner W. Gregg, Legends of Hawaii, ca. 1927. Los Angeles Steamship Company, publisher. John Haskell Kemble Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

    Printed book text

    Gardner W. Gregg, Legends of Hawaii, ca. 1927. Los Angeles Steamship Company, publisher. John Haskell Kemble Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

    Printed book text

    Gardner W. Gregg, Legends of Hawaii, ca. 1927. Los Angeles Steamship Company, publisher. John Haskell Kemble Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.

    The Creation
    It is told in Hawaii, that Kane became restless one day in the Seventh Heaven where he dwelt with Ku and Lono, and at length decided to build seven new heavens which would be even more beautiful than the old. Leaving his celestial abode he betook himself to the sea and cast his net into its waters. Upon bringing it forth he dragged up seven islands. And the beginning was made. Descending upon the islands he placed beautiful trees, luscious fruits, delectable berries, and a myriad of vivid flowers thereon. He put gorgeous fishes in the waters and brilliantly hued birds in the jungles. All these things he placed on his islands before he paused to survey his work. And on its completion, he found that something still lacked. And he called to the gods Ku and Lono and bade them speak.

    “Thy work is good, oh, my father,” said Ku, “but there is none here to enjoy the results of thy labors. Wilt thou not, then, make an image like unto thyself from the red clay of the land?”

    And Kane gathered the red clay from all the islands and out of this he moulded a figure akin to his own. Then he again summoned Ku and Lono to regard his work. And they came.

    “Kane,” again said Ku, “thy work is good, but the image lacketh a head.”

    Kane then reached high on the peaks of Mauna Kea, and grasped in his hands some white clay from which he moulded a head like unto his own, and set it upon the neck of the figure. When it was fast to the body he placed his fingers on the front of the head, worked the clay until it became shaped like unto two eyelids which he opened. And the image saw. Then Ku regarded the figure, and he strode forth, and placing his hands on either side of the head, moulded the clay into ears. And the image heard. When this was done Lono surveyed the image for a time. Then changing himself into a worm, he entered the body through the great toe, wriggling up inside the mass until he reached the chest. Whereupon he metamorphosed himself into a gust of wind, pumping back and forth inside the body which began to expand and contract. When the chest was able to move without his aid he passed out of the mouth as the first breath of life. And the image lived. Whereupon the three gods ascended unto the Seventh Heaven, well pleased with their work.

    For some time, it is said in Hawaii, the newly created man lived happily with the birds, flowers, animals, and fish as his companions. And then he grew sad. One day as dusk was falling he espied Kane walking alone by the shores of the sea. And he called to Kane.

    “Kane,” he cried, “I am lonely here in this beautiful place. I tire of speaking with the birds, the flowers, the fishes, and the trees. Wilt thou, then, not make me a companion of mine own kind with whom I may live, and play, and talk. The flowers, the trees, the fishes, the birds, and the beasts are kind, Kane, but they may not think my thoughts, and their tales are ever the same. Give me a companion, Kane!”

    And Kane took compassion on the man he had created and called Ku and Lono into conference. After a space they went unto the man. And Lono entered his mouth as a breath of wind, and at the chest he became a worm in which shape he came forth from the body at the great toe. And the man ceased to breathe. Ku placed his fingers on the man’s ears. And the man heard no more. Then Kane closed the man’s eyelids. And the man saw not. When all was done, the gods took from the body of the man a bone, and from the bone they moulded another figure, that of a woman. And when both figures were complete, they gave the two life.Thus were man and woman created in the Paradise Isles of Hawaii. And they lived happily.

    Questions & Prompts

    1. Who wrote these? What do you know about the authors? How do you know?
    2. How do the authors describe Native Hawaiians? Cite specific evidence from the text.
    3. How do the authors describe the relationship between people and the ʻāina (land)?
    4. Identify three similarities among these two sources’ representations of Hawaiian cosmogony
    5. (understanding the evolution of the universe and the origin of its features).
    6. Identify three differences among these two sources’ representations of Hawaiian cosmogony.
    7. If you could ask Queen Lili‘uokalani one question, what would you ask?
    8. If you could ask Gardner W. Gregg one question, what would you ask?