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Titles and Status in Hawaiian Society

Hawaiian has a very holistic worldview, particularly on the topic of titles and status. To receive a particular title in Hawaiian means that you are not only receiving that title, but you are also assuming all of the responsibility associated with it. A title does not equal status in Hawaiian society. Assuming a title makes you accountable for your actions, your words, and most importantly your flock or those you are charged with caring for. For example, becoming a makua (parent) makes you responsible for the values that you instill in your keiki (child) and your keiki are reflections on the type of makua you are. Being an aliʻi (chief) does not mean that you have the power or the right to impose your will on your people. It means that you have a responsibility to uphold the relationship that you and your people have with your surrounding environment. Status does not grant superiority to some above others in Hawaiian. Your kūlana (status) is a reminder of your commitment and responsibility to others because without them, you are not able to fulfill your duties. There are ʻōlelo noʻeau (wise sayings) that remind us of those responsibilities. Here are some examples:

"He aliʻi ka ʻāina, he kauā ke kanaka."The land is a chief, the man is a servant.

Without his people, a chief is just a man with a title. In Hawaiian, though, the aliʻi is also the steward of the land. He makes the policies and enforces them to ensure that he and his people have a home where they can all thrive. The land, in Hawaiian culture, is the true aliʻi of all of us because without the land the people are nothing and have nothing.

"He lālā au no kuʻu kumu." I am a branch of my teacher.

Teachers and parents are responsible for preparing the future generation for the time when they are ready to be independent. Children absorb the knowledge and values that their teachers and parents pass on, but children also mimic the actions of their teachers and their parents. What children do is a reflection of their kumu (teacher) and their makua.