White Bread: Weaving Cultural Past into the Present

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From to , the British government imported indentured Indian laborers to work on sugar cane plantations and in other industries. In , the citizens of Fiji elected to become an independent nation. Fijian is an ancient Austronesian language that is related to its more modern "cousins" such as Tongan and Samoan. Historical linguists often trace a language's roots against such cousins by noting which sounds and features have been kept or dropped, determining that newer languages and dialects tend to have fewer sounds and features.

In this simplistic explanation, therefore, linguists have shown that Fijian is much more ancient than Tongan or Samoan, which are likewise even older than Tahitian and Hawaiian. Today, Fijian in various dialects and English are widely spoken, along with various Indian and other Pacific island languages. The sounds represented by several written Fijian letters are different than their English counterparts. More specifically, the consonant 'b' is pronounced as an 'mb' sound, even at the beginning of a word; and the consonant 'd' is pronounced as an 'nd' sound, also even if it comes at the beginning of a word.

Hence, the written word Nadi where the international airport is located is pronounced as if it were written 'Nandi' non-dee. There are three other differences: 1 The sound represented by the Fijian letter 'g' is an unreleased g-sound, as in the English word "singer," even if it comes at the beginning of a word; 2 the letter 'q' is pronounced in Fijian with a released-g sound, as in the English word "finger," again even if it comes at the first of a word; 3 and the letter 'c' is actually pronounced as an English 'th' as in the word 'that.

Yaqona or Kava A common drink used throughout Fiji that historically was prepared for all special ceremonies. The yaqona plant is related to the pepper family, and although it's sometimes described as narcotic or intoxicating, normally only has a slight numbing effect on the tongue when used in moderation. When needed, yaqona roots are dried and pounded into a fine powder which is then mixed with water and served ceremonially. Fijian Clay Pottery Fijian pottery is derived from Lapita potters who brought the tradition with them to the islands about years ago.

Pottery from clay would be molded and completed by hand, to be set aside for the family's use or exchanged for other needed household objects.

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Today, Fijian women temper clay with sand to strengthen it. They use small wooden paddles to shape the clay into desired objects such as containers and drinking vessels which are then placed in the shade to dry for several days. The object is kept out of the sun to keep it from drying too fast and thus cracking. Once dried, the objects are fired in an open pit, simply by burning a pile of dried coconut fronds over and around them. After the initial firing, the women sometimes apply a glaze of makadre pine tree resin to ornament and waterproof the object prior to a second firing.

I wau — Fijian Clubs or Chiefly Weapons As late as a century ago, Fijians used many types of war clubs, starting with the gadi, a small ornamental club carried by correctly dressed warriors and chiefs at ceremonial occasions during peace times. All clubs were hand carved from the wide array of tropical hardwoods which grow in abundance in Fiji.


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In fact, when Brigham Young University Hawai'i recently built a foot traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, they imported the wood from Fiji. Many of the war clubs also included fine linear carving on the handles, reflecting the personalities of the individual warrior who made and used them. Fijian clubs fall into several categories: Bowai or pole clubs are similar to long baseball bats, but sometimes with wider heads. These were used for breaking bones and general disabling blows. Waka or root clubs had straight handles with a natural knot of roots at the end and were used to crush skulls easily.

Cali were spurred or "gun stock" clubs, so-called because they resembled rifles, although Fijians devised these clubs long before they became aware of rifles. They were designed for cutting and disjointing blows. The i ula were throwing clubs with short handles and bulbous heads.

These were the most deadly Fijian weapon, capable of competing with revolvers in close situations. If the handle struck the victim first it could penetrate flesh, the heavy head then jack-knifing onto the victim even if the handle did not pierce him, thus dealing a crippling, if not a finishing blow.

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And the kiakavo, a Y-shaped club, was utilized mainly as a dance implement so it was constructed of lighter wood and was usually not finely decorated. Fijians do not wear hats because they believe the head is very sacred. Your understanding and respect for their customs and traditions will make you a welcome guest in their villages and homes.

Hawai'i is located about 2, miles west-southwest of the mainland U. There are actually over islands in Hawai'i, including the Leeward archipelago that extends for a thousand miles toward Midway; but most people think of Hawai'i as the six major inhabited islands: Hawai'i, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai plus the privately-owned island of Niihau, 20 miles off the west coast of Kauai, with its small population.

The land mass of approximately 6, square miles rises from sea level to the snow-capped peaks during the winter of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island — both over 13, feet in elevation. By the way, most of the Leeward islands are coral atolls that have been included in a fish and wildlife conservation district: Travel there is restricted.

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Since King Kamehameha moved his capital from Kailua-Kona to Honolulu almost years ago, Oahu — the third largest island in land mass — has been the center of government and commerce. Hawai'i is the only major part of Polynesia that is north of the equator. The islands are also graced most days by gentle trade winds. About 1.

There are also significant numbers of Samoans, Tongans and other Pacific islanders. The remainder of the population — in which no group holds a majority — is divided among Asians, Caucasians and others, making Hawai'i the "melting pot of the Pacific" or as some people say, "a tossed salad" and a truly unique and diverse place. Among the ancient Polynesians, Hawaiians and anthropologists believe the original inhabitants of these islands came from the Marquesas and Tahiti, starting as early as 1, years ago.

There is also oral tradition of early interaction with Samoa, as well as Hawai'i being an origin of some of the early Maori emigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand. British Captain James Cook is credited with being the first European to discover Hawai'i in , although some oral traditions and scholars hold that the Spaniards — who first crossed the Pacific Ocean in , and regularly crossed from Peru to the Philippines by the late s — also made inadvertent landfall in Hawai'i, but never correctly mapped or claimed credit their accomplishment. When Cook arrived, he was well received and some Hawaiians thought he might even be an incarnation of their god Lono, whose sign was white kapa or tapa cloth like the sails of Captain Cook's ship.

Of course, Captain Cook is also well known for having been killed several months later by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay in Kona while trying to retrieve a long boat. After Cook, the stream of Europeans quickly grew, even including Russians for a short period. In addition to appreciating the beauty of the islands, they participated in whaling and the sandalwood trade.

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The first Christian missionaries arrived in and the people quickly converted: The year before, King Kamehameha II and Queen Kaahumanu had abolished the age-old kapu or taboo system based on the ancient Hawaiian religion. In the Sandwich Islands kingdom made it possible for foreigners to own private property in Hawai'i, which along with increasing international trade with America, gave rise to the sugar industry. The rapid depletion of the Hawaiian population due to illnesses eventually led the sugar plantation owners to import contract laborers from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Scandinavia, Portugal and the Azores, Europe and Puerto Rico, among other places: The descendants of those who stayed give Hawai'i its cosmopolitan population today.

In a revolution largely led by influential non-Hawaiian businessmen deposed the last reigning Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani. In the United States of America annexed Hawai'i, reportedly for the purpose of gaining the Pearl Harbor anchorage: We were known as the Territory of Hawai'i until an overwhelming majority of the population voted for statehood in the s: Hawai'i became the 50th state in Today, Hawai'i with its ancient Polynesian heritage and overlays of Asian and other cultures is one of the most unique parts of America.

English and Hawaiian are the official state languages.

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At one time, the number of Hawaiian speakers had greatly diminished, but a tremendous renaissance of Hawaiian culture has taken place over the past generation or two: Today, thousands of people study the Hawaiian language and other aspects of Hawaiian culture, and there is even a K Hawaiian immersion school system within the the public statewide Department of Education. Although it is not necessarily mutually intelligible with these other dialects, many Hawaiian words and grammatical concepts are identical or nearly identical with the other dialects.

Hawaiian is also sometimes recognized around the world as the language with the fewest letters in its alphabet: a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w — 12 in all, although there's actually another consonant sound, the glottal stop [such as in the middle of the English slang term huh-uh, meaning 'no' and sometimes spelled uh-uh], sometimes represented by the 'okina or inverted apostrophe.

These should not be confused with the bar or macron that is used to differentiate an English "long" vowel from a "short" vowel, as in the words "hate" and "hat," respectively. As the years went by and the number of Hawaiian language speakers greatly diminished, however, many people didn't know about the 'okina sound or long vowels.

For example, Kaua'i became Kauai as in 'cow-eye' and O'ahu became Oahu.

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Hale Ali'i or Chief's House To establish his social position, the chief always built his residence on a prominent rise. A raised stone foundation further communicated the chief's high standing as well as kept the house drier. The chief would usually sleep in his house and use it to confer with selected leaders. Women and children were forbidden to enter.

Most houses in Hawai'i were thatched with clumps of pili grass, hence the term "grass hut" was used historically; but you should really think of the grass clumps like roof shingles. Builders often placed a large fish net over the grass to prevent it from curling up or looking untidy and also to keep it in place during windy weather. The hale interior was thatched with lauhala pandanus leaves , and the floor was covered with woven lauhala mats. There was little or no other furniture, so Hawaiians and most other Polynesians usually sat on the floor.

Various kahili or royal feathered standards inside, and sometimes outside as well, symbolized the chief's status. When the chief moved about or traveled, he would often wear a feathered cape, the ahu'ula, as a sign of his rank. Ahu'ula are exceptionally rare artifacts today, because they required the gold and red feathers of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of endemic birds, and are considered the highest form of Hawaiian feather work.

The chief would also sometimes wear the mahi'ole, a helmet fashioned from 'ie'ie vines to which more feathers were attached. Attendants would carry the kahili in front of the chief. Other attendants would carry long kauila spears, blow conch shells, and sometimes carry the pulo'ulo'u, a ball-like standard on a stick which indicated the chief was kapu [taboo] or sacred. Thus the common people were alerted the ali'i was approaching. They would bow or even prostrate themselves in respect.

In ancient times some chiefs were so kapu that to even allow their shadow to fall on a commoner was a capital offense, followed by summary execution. The women of the royal household often wore the lei niho palaoa, a large hook- or curving tongue-shaped necklace made from a whale's tooth and strung on braided human hair.

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Lei hulu, "feather leis", were bound into a circlet for the hair or neck. Royal women also carried finely woven lauhala fans and delicate feather kahili with bone or tortoise shell handles. The processional guards of the ali'i sometimes wore helmets made from the same type of dried gourds used to make containers as well as hula implements.

George Vancouver. The Hawaiian flag today is a redesigned British flag, with eight stripes representing the major islands of Hawai'i. The Hale Pahu, literally the "drum house," was used to store drums and other implements used in sacred hula dances. The Hale Ulana or "weaving house" is where women completed their weaving and other handicrafts, creating baskets, mats, bracelets, fans and other items mainly from dried lauhala or pandanus Hale Mua or Men's Eating House The hale mua is an excellent example of the ancient Hawaiian kapu [taboo] system: Men and women were forbidden to eat together.

The hale mua was also used by the men to store carvings of the family gods or aumakua. Women and children were not allowed to enter this house because of its sacred nature. Women would eat in the hale 'aina or "eating house. Cooking Implements Hawaiians used a dried out squash-like gourd to make ipu or bowls and containers.


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This same kind of gourd was also used to make hula instruments. The smaller, hollowed-out gourd of the non-edible la'amia tree fruit was used to hold liquids, and to make the feathered hula rattle. The la'amia was also used to make utensils, as were other local hardwoods. Perhaps the most important food preparation utensils, however, were the hand-carved wooden poi pounding board and the accompanying stone poi pounder.