THE Hawaiians, like the native residents of many other groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean, have not taken kindly to the European names tacked upon their doorposts by the sailors who discovered them. This is very fortunate for those who desire to gather together the facts out of which to weave a connected history of Polynesia.
It is also fortunate that the language spoken in the groups so widely diffused over the Pacific Ocean, has the same common structure, with only such differences as may be resolved into dialects.
The Tahitian, Samoan, New Zealander, and Hawaiian, though thousands of miles apart, are members of one family, and require but a short period to acquire the faculty of a free exchange of ideas.
Students find a slight difficulty in the different spellings which different voyagers have given to the native words according to the way in which they heard the sounds--for instance, "Hawaii" was "Owyhee" in the days of Captain Cook.
This difficulty was not overcome when the Polynesian dialects were reduced to writing by the many missionaries to the different parts of the Pacific Ocean. It was impossible to adopt a uniform method. In some places "h" was used, in others "f" and "1" or "r" or "k," as in the Hawaiian word "aloha"--which in other island groups was "alofa" and "aloofa," "aroha," "kaoha," "akaaroa," all meaning "friendship."
In attempting to trace the place of origin of the Hawaiians and other Polynesians it is absolutely necessary to take into account this phonetic difficulty.
Fornander gives the following list of island groups with the various methods of using the word Hawaii:
Hawaii in some form of the word is the most universally used name among all the Polynesians as the place for their ancestral home.
The name of the Hawaiian Islands is taken from this mythological name. So also is the Savaii of the Samoan Islands. So also the small island
[paragraph continues] Hawaiki in Lake Rotorua of New Zealand, where the New Zealand legends say the ancestors of the Maoris placed the relics which they brought with them from their ancestral Hawaiki when they settled in New Zealand. In far eastern Tahiti is a place on Raiatea, the island now known as Opoa. Its ancient and sacred name was Hawaii.
Some writers have thought that Samoa might be the center of dispersion to the other Pacific islands, but the Samoan dialect is very corrupt, its legends are fragmentary, and its history of sea rovers seems to lack a sufficient similarity of names with the migrators from the original home to allow this supposition to have very great weight.
It is also interesting to note that the Hawaiian Islands do not have a good foundation for any claim to be the original centre of dispersion, although many of the most ancient legends of Hawaii and of New Zealand are the same. There is abundance of proof of a common origin, but not sufficient to found any claim for Hawaiian parent-age.
Ellis, writing in 1830 concerning the Tahitians and inhabitants of neighbouring islands, says:
"A tradition stated that the first inhabitants of these islands originally came from a country in the direction of the setting sun, to which several names were given. Pigs and dogs were brought from the West."
In the Hawaiian Islands the point from which
the ancient voyages sailed away to visit the other groups of islands of the Pacific was off the western coast of the island of Maui and was called Ke-ala-i-kahiki, The Path to Tahiti. They might ultimately sail eastward to Tahiti or to the Marquesas Islands, but they started toward the home of their ancestors, westward. They called their vikings--Ka-poe-holo-kahiki, The People Sailing to Tahiti. Tahiti at last meant any distant or foreign group of islands, although individual names of islands are used in the chants--such as Bolabola and Upolu.
The Hawaiian said that, ke alo, the face or front of an island, was toward the west. The back, ke kua, was toward the east. This, as Fornander says, was "because the ancestors of the islanders came from the west originally."
The students of Polynesian legends are practically united in ascribing the Hawaii of mythology to some place west of all the islands.
Early writers on the origin of the Polynesians took it for granted that these ancestors were Malays. Certain words and names among both Malays and Polynesians were similar, but later study has convinced the vast majority of students that this theory is not true. It is now believed that the Polynesians came to the island groups from the neighbourhood of the straits of Sunda, where they had their home for a long time. The fierce Malay tribes descended upon them and scattered them in all directions over the seas. A trace of
the remnants of this dispersion is found even among the mixed elements of the people of Japan. Another trace is found in Madagascar, while the great body of the storm-tossed people took possession of the middle and southeastern islands of the Pacific.
Hon. Edward Tregear, of New Zealand, writing about the original home of the Polynesians, thinks that their first residence was either India or Central Asia, from whence they passed through India, there making a stay of some time. Then they journeyed to the Malay archipelago, residing there many generations until driven out by the Malays. This is the original Hawa-iki from which Polynesia was first settled, expeditions probably passing out to the far distant island groups. Then lastly came the canoe voyagers--the rovings of the vikings of the Pacific which in New Zealand meant a new peopling of the land of the "long white cloud," and to the Hawaiians and Tahitians and other islands almost two centuries of adventurous sea roving.
The late Hon. S. Percy Smith, Minister of Native Affairs in New Zealand, traces the Polynesians from Aryan connection in Asia Minor and Western Europe to India, Malayasia and thence to the scattered islands of the Pacific.
Max Muller calls attention to the use of the word Av-iki by both Brahmins and Buddhists as the name of their "hades."
Hawa-iki was the name of the place from which
the Polynesians came and about which they talked in their most ancient stories. This other world became mysterious as the ages passed by until at last Hawa-iki meant the place to which the spirits of the dead went, as well as the home from which their ancestors came. A journey to or from any of the Polynesian islands meant passing out of one world into another. The area of vision bounded by the horizon was the world in which the people lived. Passing out of sight over the waters was breaking through the wall dividing one world from another. The idea that Hawa-iki was the home of the ghosts could very easily be derived from the other world beyond the shining wall of the sky into which any one sailing out of sight of land might be forever lost.
The path into this other world--this Hawa-iki of the ancestors--was universally toward the west--the golden path of the setting sun.