Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Makahiki Season: Ancient Hawaiian Sports

Shaka Guide

Listen to audio story here:

Did you know Hawaii is the most isolated land mass on the planet? It’s true! The closest land is California, almost 2500 miles away. The Hawaiians were separated from the rest of the world for at least 500 years as their culture developed.

But in 1778, when Captain James Cook arrived, life for the Hawaiians changed forever. Cook sailed under the British flag, and was a famous explorer of his time. Before coming to Hawaii, he explored and mapped vast areas of the earth, including pacific islands like Tahiti, Tonga, Vanuatu, Easter Island and even New Zealand.

Captain Cook had actually come out of retirement to sail this one last voyage, and find the elusive northwest passage that supposedly linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. His ships landed in Kauai on their way to northern waters, and the following year they sailed into Kealakekua bay in Kona on their way back to the south Pacific and home to Great Britain. But, Cook never ended up finding the northwest passage…or returning home.

Cook and his two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, landed in Kealakekua Bay during the three-month Makahiki season. A harvest period when Hawaiians celebrated the harvest, generosity of the gods, and the Ali’i - battles and conflicts were prohibited, and the festivities honored Lono, the god of agriculture, peace, and prosperity.  

Some say the Hawaiians thought Cook was the god Lono. But do you really think the Hawaiians would deem a white man who couldn’t speak their language to be their god? Not very likely. Cook and his men were welcomed, given food and gifts, and treated as honored guests, because that was the culture of the Hawaiians. They also traded well for new things they saw, like glass mirrors and iron nails before Cook sailed away.

But a few weeks later, the white sails of Cook’s ships were on the horizon again. His ships were damaged in a storm and needed repairs. But the Makahiki season was over. And the Hawaiians, well, let’s just say their mood had changed…

Interested? Hear more on our South Island Epic Coastal Journey Tour!

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