ISLAND HISTORY: The ancient rules of hukilau observed on Kaua‘i

In 1882, James H. Hakuole (1872-1937) was sent to Japan by King David Kalakaua to learn the Japanese language, and remained in Japan until he returned to Hawai‘i in 1888.

He later became the official Hawaiian and Japanese interpreter of the Circuit Court of Honolulu and a Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper reporter.

On Dec. 2, 1922, he reported that a hukilau (a method of fishing in which a large number of people drive fish into a net hung with leaves, usually of the ti plant) had occurred at Waimea on Nov. 23, 1922, followed by a second hukilau on the 24th.

His report was as follows:

“In order to make the hukilau a success, two rules must be strictly observed:

“One is: do not whistle during the hukilau operation.

“The other is: do not fold your arms in front or your hands behind your back.”

On Thursday, Nov. 23, 1922, residents of Waimea went to the beach to catch fish at a big hukilau.

Hawaiians, haoles, Japanese, Chinese, Gilbert Islanders, Filipinos and others took hand in the operation.

Japanese women with their babies on their backs, knowing nothing about the traditional rules, folded their arms, and some of the haoles whistled carelessly.

The catch was unusually small and the Hawaiian fishermen declared it was due to failure to observe the ancient and well-recognized rules.

Ka‘ana‘ana, an old Hawaiian fisherman who saw these “foreigners” ignore the rules, chanted the fish song lustily so that the hukilau might be successful.

But it was useless.

“Kahuhu!” interjected Ka‘ana‘ana. “These haoles and Japanese spoiled a good catch.”

Prominent among the spectators were the secretary of Hawai‘i Raymond C. Brown and Thorvald Brandt, manager of The Bank of Bishop &Co.’s Waimea branch.

Former district magistrate Kapuniai of Waimea, mounted on his white horse, acted as sergeant-at-arms.

On Friday the 24th, the rules were observed, and Ka‘ana‘ana sang his song to good effect.

The hukilau was a great success.

Five large baskets full of fish were sold and many more were taken away by the fishermen and their families.”

  1. Rose k santos January 3, 2022 5:11 pm Reply

    I love stories like these. Keep’em coming!

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