[an error occurred while processing this directive]

More to Explore

Did You Know?
Related Links
NGS Resources

On Assignment

On Assignment

The Hawaiians
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

Zoom In

Get the facts behind the frames in our online-exclusive photo gallery. Pick an image and see the photographer's technical notes.

Zoom In Thumbnail 1
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail 2
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail 3
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail 4
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail 5
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail 6
Click to ZOOM IN >>


Isolated Islands

Map Thumbnail
Click to enlarge >>

By Paul Theroux
Photographs by Richard A. Cooke III,  Adriel Heisey, Lynn Johnson

A century after Hawaiians lost their kingdom and much of their culture, a new generation is discovering its roots—and some of them want their islands back.

Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

"My introduction to the culture was through hula," Clifford Nae'ole told me, explaining that hula taught not only the Hawaiian language but also history, genealogy, and spirituality. Most of all, he said, because of the necessity for the dancer to understand the Hawaiian identity, hula taught respect for the culture.

"Hula is life," Leimomi Ho told me the day her halau performed at the 39th Merrie Monarch Festival, an annual week-long celebration of hula held in Hilo on the windward side of the Big Island. Leimomi is a kumu hula, or hula teacher. Her mother had taught her hula before she could walk, and she had taught her daughter. Leimomi's halau was going to perform a hula that night in praise of King Kalakaua, who reigned from 1874 to 1891 and was called the Merrie Monarch for his exuberant lifestyle and his love of champagne and music. "Kalakaua is known for his interest in the hula," Leimomi said.

At the opening of the festival I talked with George Na'ope, a man in his late 70s, splendid in a wide-brimmed red hat and red shirt and the many lei bestowed on him by attendees. Uncle George (kupuna are universally called Uncle or Aunty) had helped launch the festival in the early 1960s, when he was director of parks and recreation, to reintroduce the kahiko, or ancient hula.

"Kahiko tells of the history of Hawai'i—it's unwritten literature," Uncle George said. It survived in spite of the missionaries "because in the rural areas they were doing it. Tradition stayed alive in the rural areas, not downtown." After almost 40 years the Merrie Monarch Festival has not only brought about a revival of old forms of hula but has seen the emergence of new ones. The kahiko is done these days with gusto by groups of 20 or 30 young men or women, and the 'auana, or modern hula, involves more melodic music and more sensual moves.

Get the whole story in the pages of
National Geographic magazine.

E-mail this page to a friend


Sights & Sounds

Hear how a small group of Hawaiians are doing big things to revive their cultural traditions.


Why is it important to embrace one's cultural traditions?

Final Edit
Rescued from the cutting room floor, a photo of the "dance of life" is this month's Final Edit.
More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
On November 23, 1993, a hundred years after the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, President Clinton signed into law what has become known as the Apology Bill (Public Law 103-150). The document offers "an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States" for using U.S. naval forces to invade Hawai'i and depose Queen Lili'uokalani in January 1893.

The law also vindicated President Grover Cleveland's report to Congress on December 18, 1893, in which he described the action as an "act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress." The diplomatic representative was John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister assigned to the Kingdom of Hawai'i, who conspired with a group of American businessmen to overtake Lili'uokalani's government in hopes of profiting from Hawai'i's annexation by the U.S.

The provisional government established by the conspirators and officially recognized by Stevens protested President Cleveland's call for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy, but it was unable to get the necessary support from two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty of annexation. On July 4, 1894, the new Hawaiian government declared itself the Republic of Hawai'i and in January of the following year forced Queen Lili'uokalani, who had been imprisoned in her palace, to officially abdicate her throne.

— Cate Lineberry

Did You Know?

Related Links
Hawaiian Homepage
Learn more about the traditions of the people of Hawai'i at this excellent resource. This site provides one of the most comprehensive listings of Hawaiian cultural and historical links.

Native Tongue
Listen to the language of Hawai'i. This online glossary offers oral translations and definitions for many of the Hawaiian words featured in the story.

Hawaiian Dance
Hula is the traditional dance of Hawai'i and an important expression of its history and culture. Visit this site to view a hula performance and watch as dancers tell stories through body gesture.

Hawaii Center for Volcanology
Discover how the landscape of the Hawaiian archipelago was formed and find out more about Kilauea and Pu'u 'O'o crater featured in the story.


Hartwell, Jay. N. Mamo: Hawaiian People Today. Ai Pohaku Press of Honolulu, 1999.

Holmes, Tommy. The Hawaiian Canoe. Editions Limited, 1981.

Juvik, Sonia P., and James O. Juvik. Atlas of Hawai'i, 3rd ed. University of Hawai'i Press, 1998.

Sahlins, Marshall. Islands of History. University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Wight, Kahikahealani. Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary. Bess Press, Inc., 1999.


NGS Resources
Stone, George F. "America's Best Beaches," National Geographic Traveler (July/August 2002), 46-57.

Vesilind, Priit J. "Oil and Honor at Pearl Harbor," National Geographic (June 2001), 84-99.

O'Neill, Thomas. "ZipUSA: Waimanalo, Hawaii," National Geographic (February 2001), 126-30.

Gonzales, Laurence. "Hawaii's Edgy Eden," National Geographic Adventure (March/April 2000), 104-13.

Ariyoshi, Rita. The National Geographic Traveler: Hawaii. National Geographic Books, 2000.

Miller, Mark. "Cruising Hawaii: The Smart Way to See America's Favorite Isles," National Geographic Traveler (November/December 1999), 84-93.

Nicholas, William H. "American Pathfinders in the Pacific," National Geographic (May 1946), 617-40.


© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe