About 1600 years ago, some Polynesian explorers came to the empty island of Hawaii. For over a thousand years to come, the islands of Hawaii and the inhabitants within were cut off from most of the outside world. A unique Polynesian culture evolved. It was only in the 1800s that Europeans and outsiders learned that there was a collection of islands plop in the middle of the Pacific.
It is interesting to be on the island with a peaceful and then suddenly rigorous history, a variation of a culture that influenced much of Southeast Asia, and an environment of a relaxing vacation destination. We have experienced each of those things firsthand. The one we have delved the most into is perhaps its history. At Pearl Harbor, we learn a ton about the Pacific showdown that occured between the US and Japan during WWII. Now we are taking a leap back in time, to the now diminished presence of a strong Polynesian culture.
We went to a museum in Honolulu on Polynesian culture. The man conducting the tour delved very deeply into 1 story that caught my attention. It was about a simple statue, found by a simple man on the big island of Hawaii. The ancient Hawaiians had a polytheistic religion based around many gods. Some gods were highly revered, playing crucial roles in the society. But there were some very basic gods. Gods with limited power. One of these deities was a simple fishing god.
One day, on the big island of Hawaii, there was a man plagued with nightmares. Each night a voice would echo throughout his mind, a voice crying “Get me out! Get me out!” The strange voice seemed to be coming from a certain spot underground. So he dug vigorously at that spot. And soon enough he had unearthed a statue, with a body and a plain face. He gladly gave away the statue to a museum in Honolulu. The museum we were in. And so it was put on display. All the god would have been able to do would be to bless people with good luck while fishing. And that was his purpose. In fact, there would have been several of him on the shore near the designated fishing spots. And yet this simple statue is so strong. He is out in the open, so that visitors may touch him, while all the other wooden statues are enclosed in glass cases. And another time when he showed strength was during renovation. The museum was going to empty out the displays for a little while. But when the workers came to the fishing god, they couldn’t move him. No matter how hard they tried, the fishing god would stay put. That is a true story. The resilience shown in a little statue represents the old culture and customs of Hawaii. Hawaii is an altered place, very, very different from how it once was, but distinguishable from the continental United States with its undying fragmented remains of Hawaiian lifestyle.
In the early 21st century, there were less than 8,000 native Hawaiians in Hawaii. Now that number is growing again. Hawaii is still very much itself after all these years. Hawaii abides.
Below: Simple Fishing god and the man who found it
Below: Other Museum Pictures