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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Lost Tribes in Hawaii?!?


That's the only solution I can think of.


We subscribe to A.Word.A.Day, a daily word list. To tell you the truth, I usually ignore it, but the other day I glanced and saw that it was telling about a word I know, "kahuna."
"That's from the Hebrew word, Kohen, priest, I said to myself. Many Kohenim (plural of Kohen) have the family name Kahane, very similar to kahuna."
Then I read the email:

A.Word.A.Day--kahuna

This week's theme: words borrowed from other languages.

kahuna (kuh-HOO-nuh) noun

1. A priest or a medicine man.

2. An important person (usually in the phrase: big kahuna).

[From Hawaiian kahuna. Hawaiian is a Polynesian language spoken in the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. The number of native speakers of the language has decreased to just a few hundred.]

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

"It's tough being yesterday's man. At a briefing introducing investors to the new AMP boss Craig Dunn, outgoing kahuna Andrew Mohl appeared a little left out." Michael Evans; Marginbet Takes Even Bigger Bet; The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); Nov 27, 2007.

Hawaiian? No way!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Way!

There's also a word in Hawaiian, kaona, which means the inner meaning or inner intention of an expression. [E.g., the wording of a poem might be understood as being very religious, or as being very, um, rascally. If you want to know which is the true kaona, you'll have to ask the poet.]
It strikes me that the Hawaiian kaona sounds quite close to the Yemenite pronunciation of the Hebrew kavanah (since in the Yemenite dialect the letter vav there is pronounced similarly to a "w").

Then again, I tend to think that "Auwe!" ["Alas!"] is the Hawaiianized pronunciation of "Oy vey!"

BTW, I'm not sure how many speakers of Hawaiian there are now, but the numbers have, I'm sure, been going up in recent decades (after a considerable history of at least quasi-official efforts at suppression). Starting around the 1970's, there developed a growing movement of younger-generation Hawaiians wanting to understand the language and culture of their grandparents. Now there's a network of schools where all the subjects -- arithmetic, social studies, etc. -- are taught in Hawaiian, from the earliest grades.

-- Margalit (Yerushalayim, by way of Honolulu)

Batya said...

Interesting, but now surprise. There are linguistics who see Hebrew as one of the, or THE original language, source of all.

Anonymous said...

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology as Hawaiian, but Hawaiian religion is has Polynesian origins (I think), and it is not unreasonable for the word to have made it there from biblical Hebrew. Any etymologists around?

Batya said...

Considering that Hebrew, and Kohanim, have been around a lot longer than the Oxford Dictionary, I'd like to know how long the terms have been in Hawaiin.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, the term kahuna is indigenous to the Hawaiian language (i.e., not "imported" into the language by xian missionaries). IIRMHLC [If I recall my history lessons correctly], the Polynesians first reached the Hawaiian Islands about 1500 years ago.

M(YBWOH) [Margalit, Yerushalayim by way of Honolulu]

Batya said...

Margalit, that's very important information, since Hebrew is much, much older!
Thank you

Anonymous said...

With respect to Hawaiiana, read some good factual Hawaiian history and you will see that the "kahunas" did not have a synagogue, neither did they have Sabbath celebrations. In fact, they had more than one god. Although the kahunas were respected because they administered medicinal herbal treatment [prior to discovery, very little disease], the kahunas placed curses, pronounced taboos, etc. Maybe Hawaiian language naturally evolved from the Tower of Babel?? like other languages with similar sounding words??
Only God knows, the one True God of Israel, that is!

Batya said...

There's hardly a language which doesn't have words similar to Hebrew. Makes you wonder, and it also makes you wonder why that word site ignores Hebrew for such obvious words as "kahuna."

Raphael said...

Some Native Hawaiians seriously believe they are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. "Kahuna" is one of the similarities they use as evidence, as are the similarities between the places of refuge, or Pu'uhonua, set up by the Kahunas for lawbreakers or for times of warfare, and the place of refuge set up by Moses in the Torah. Further evidence is seen in the word "aloha", which is used both as a salutation and to mean "love". This is very similar to "shalom", which is used both as a salutation and to mean "peace".

Personally, given the Hawaiians' history of polytheism and human sacrifice, I find their claims of kinship more than a little farfetched. But I welcome any indigenous peoples who court our friendship; I'd sure rather have them on my side than the crazy right-wing Christians who seek to use Israel to further their own millennial aims.

Oh, and Batya: sorry to burst your bubble, sweetie, but no serious linguist believes that Hebrew was the original language of anyone but the Hebrew people. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Asiatic_languages for more information on related languages.

Batya said...

Interesting, but not to burst your bubble, sweetie, just like I don't trust "word of the day," I don't trust wikipedia as the experts.

Anonymous said...

Aloha,not many people know this, but the original voyagers to Hawaii followed a star called Hokulea which means "star of gladness" (which was actually a prophecy). They arrived around 400 a.d. It was known through oral history in many families, that this first group that arrived worshiped just one G_d, known as Io. Places of offerings called "heiau" was where daily offerings and burnt offerings were made to Io on the Big Island of Hawaii. For nearly 700 years they worshiped just one G_d, but as time went on, word reached the rest of the polynesian islands of this secluded paradise across the sea. Around 1200 a.d. Tahitian settler's came and brought the Kapu system (polytheistic religion that deals with human sacrifice) that subjigated the Hawaiians. The name Io was forbidden and carried a death sentence if spoken and the Hawaiians went through dark and bloody times and the "heiau" became defiled with other gods. My family says that the reason why Io allowed this bloody period of human sacrifice and heart break, was because our hearts turned away from Io. Io, being the root word, is derived from Iohova; from the bible term Jehova. I'm not calling myself one of the lost tribes of Israel, but I do know that G_d has left His imprint on my people through their voyages down the centuries and it was through ancient prophecy that Hawaii was found. Aloha

Batya said...

Thank you so much for the added information. It's really so interesting.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I know Hawaii has a few cultural concepts in language as mentioned, I also know they have a strange custom found in ancient Israel that of a city of refuge.

Who knows if they are from the lost tribes or not. Linguistically Polynesian has no relations to Jewish people, but people also adopt other languages, also as mentioned it is right that there were several migrations to Hawaii from other parts of the Pacific. DNA comparison may be interesting.

I myself don't think they have any connection to the lost tribes of Israel. But, I remember a Native Hawaiian that mentioned he believed that Native Hawaiians were biologically from peoples from South India, he mentioned seeing specific canoe mast designs used there.

The Bnei Israel an ancient Jewish community from the Mumbai region, believes that they are from the lost tribes of Israel, and their tradition is their ancestors ended up in that part of India in an ancient shipwreck.

Well, today with so much knowledge and history and science available, anything is possible.

As I recall only a few years ago hearing about the Bnei Menashe, for many years no one took them seriously as being from the real tribe of Menashe. Today one of the Cheif Rabbis of Israel ruled that they are.

I think Kibbutiz Giluyot will bring many suprises.

Batya said...

ONe of the North American Indian tribes has similar customs to Judaism and there are those who think them of the lost tribes, so Hawaii is just as possible.

Anonymous said...

just to throw one more in - the biblical category toeiva and the polonesian tabu.

Micah said...

I live in Israel, but I'm part native-Hawaiian from Hawaii. I don't think that the Hawaiians are specifically from the lost tribes, but perhaps influenced by people from the lost tribes maybe in Asia. The Polynesians realm extended across most of the Pacific from Rapa Nui(Easter Island), New Zealand, and to Asia, perhaps somewhere they picked up something from another group. I know in Jerusalem some rabbis and organizations are looking at the Shinto religion in Japan as being from ancient israel and the lost tribes.

The Kahuna priest system was also not just religious but also of different bodies of knowledge, I think there were like 40 or so categories. Like a Kahuna of the navigational arts or one of the medical arts. But, there are some strange things about Hawaiian culture, besides the Kahuna priest system they also had a city of refuge concept like in ancient Israel. I have not come across other cultures with it. My Hawaiian grandfather told me he believed that genetically the Polyneasians like the Hawaiians, Tahitians, and Maori came from India. Although, linguistically there are other theories.

Unfortunately most of the Kahuna knowledge was lost in the 1800's when the Hawaiian Queen Kahumanu under the influence of the Christian missionaries outlawed the system, thus eradicating many centuries of oral knowledge. My grandfather also told me that the Polynesians did have a written library of their knowledge, it was at Rapa Nui. However, some of the first Europeans there brought termites that ate most of the written works there.

Batya said...

Mica, that's very interesting about the similarities. We don't really know what happened to the missing tribes.

Micah said...

Mentioning names from Cohen like Kahane. Growing up in Hawaii I never realized Kahane was a Jewish priestly family name, as I seen it first used as a Hawaiian family name, before I noticed it used as a Jewish family name.

Batya said...

I wonder if there has been genetic testing on those with the name?

Anonymous said...

Shalom Batya,

I still don't think the Polynesians are from the lost tribes. But, I really do appreciate the Hawaiians for being very inclusive and warm people. Actually in a few days, Hawaii will no longer have the only Jewish governor in the U.S., whose term as governor ends because of the term limit in Hawaii. Many Native Hawaiian's really appreciated having Linda Lingle as governor and that she supported their cause to get indigenous rights, in some of her speeches to Native Hawaiians she mentioned her motive to help Native Hawaiians with their cause were from her own convictions as being Jewish and believing in the zionist cause of Israel. I do think there is an interesting relationship between Native Hawaiians and what they think about the Jewish people.

By the way I read a couple of interesting things. I read about a professor in New Zealand that did some DNA tests of Maori in NZ, and found that they came via India. It is interesting about the Maori as they are both linguistically and genetically closest to the Hawaiians and Tahitians among the Polynesians. Actually, there some Maoris that also claim to be from the lost tribes, and I think they even had a small group converting to Judaism.

I also know that Tudor Parfitt from the University of London SOAS did some DNA tests on another group in the Pacific from an ethnic group in Papua New Guinea that claimed to be from the lost tribes. I don't know what the results were.

Anonymous said...

Shalom Batya,

I still don't think the Polynesians are from the lost tribes. But, I really do appreciate the Hawaiians for being very inclusive and warm people. Actually in a few days, Hawaii will no longer have the only Jewish governor in the U.S., whose term as governor ends because of the term limit in Hawaii. Many Native Hawaiian's really appreciated having Linda Lingle as governor and that she supported their cause to get indigenous rights, in some of her speeches to Native Hawaiians she mentioned her motive to help Native Hawaiians with their cause were from her own convictions as being Jewish and believing in the zionist cause of Israel. I do think there is an interesting relationship between Native Hawaiians and what they think about the Jewish people.

By the way I read a couple of interesting things. I read about a professor in New Zealand that did some DNA tests of Maori in NZ, and found that they came via India. It is interesting about the Maori as they are both linguistically and genetically closest to the Hawaiians and Tahitians among the Polynesians. Actually, there some Maoris that also claim to be from the lost tribes, and I think they even had a small group converting to Judaism.

I also know that Tudor Parfitt from the University of London SOAS did some DNA tests on another group in the Pacific from an ethnic group in Papua New Guinea that claimed to be from the lost tribes. I don't know what the results were.

Batya said...

Thanks, this is all so interesting. I appreciate your comments.

Linda-Liora said...


My name is Linda-Liora ,born and raised French I am also Israeli having lived many years in Israel.I have been for the past 5 month in Hawaii and the first thing that caught my attention was the street names coinciding with the Hebrew meaning like Kahuna=kohen, Malaka=malka(queen),the city of refuge being used by the Hawaiien in a similar way as they did in the bible city of refuge. I have a very strong feeling that one of the lost tribes are here! They must have been here first since the names are still present even though the practices got taken over I guess by other cultures around mingling and forming new concepts. I started paying attention to the names in Hawaiien and the most incredible one is the word Hawaii itself!write it down in Hebrew and it gives you the name of G-D with the exception of the Alef that was included as the letter for the lost tribe of Asher or Efraiim! There are too many words with Hebrew strong meanings to be just a coincidence.I asked a Hawaiien girl if she knew where they came from? Her answer was that she was told she belonged to Efraim,which makes sense when seeing the letter Alef included in the name of G-d for the name Hawaii (in Hebrew version).please comment and if anyone researched the matter. I am fascinated and curious to get more answers.contact me at k_linda770@yahoo.com

Batya said...

Linda, anything's possible,