Na Kuaaina: Living Hawaiian Culture
384pp. April 2007
Na Kuaaina: Living Hawaiian Culture
Author: McGregor, Davianna Pomaika'i;
Winner of the Kenneth W. Baldridge Prize, Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society

The word kua‘âina translates literally as "back land" or "back country." Davianna Pômaika‘i McGregor grew up hearing it as a reference to an awkward or unsophisticated person from the country. However, in the context of the Native Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the late twentieth century, kua‘âina came to refer to those who actively lived Hawaiian culture and kept the spirit of the land alive. The mo‘olelo (oral traditions) recounted in this book reveal how kua‘âina have enabled Native Hawaiians to endure as a unique and dignified people after more than a century of American subjugation and control. The stories are set in rural communities or cultural kîpuka—oases from which traditional Native Hawaiian culture can be regenerated and revitalized.

By focusing in turn on an island (Moloka‘i), moku (the districts of Hana, Maui, and Puna, Hawai‘i), and an ahupua‘a (Waipi‘io, Hawai‘i), McGregor examines kua‘âina life ways within distinct traditional land use regimes. The ‘òlelo no‘eau (descriptive proverbs and poetical sayings) for which each area is famous are interpreted, offering valuable insights into the place and its overall role in the cultural practices of Native Hawaiians. Discussion of the landscape and its settlement, the deities who dwelt there, and its rulers is followed by a review of the effects of westernization on kua‘âina in the nineteenth century. McGregor then provides an overview of social and economic changes through the end of the twentieth century and of the elements of continuity still evident in the lives of kua‘âina. The final chapter on Kaho‘olawe demonstrates how kua‘âina from the cultural kîpuka under study have been instrumental in restoring the natural and cultural resources of the island.

36 illus., 5 maps

"This work . . . is a beautiful and recuperative act of love consummated over the last several decades by [McGregor’s] study of four cultural kipuka. . . . [She] credits generations of kua‘aina with keeping love and respect for the land alive by holding it in their hands, heads, language, and souls. With her extensively documented book, McGregor becomes one of them." —The Contemporary Pacific (21:2, 2009)

"Indispensable." —The Nation (28 April 2008)

"A bold intervention in modern Hawaiian politics, a summoning to the barricades that by its end will have you cheering. Na Kua‘aina is the inspiring story of a culture that refuses to die, of a resurgent nation poised to reclaim its embattled heritage. . . . This is no dry-as-dust tome destined for library basements, but a solidly grounded set of political demands cast in historical mode. It is good research leading to intellectually honest conclusions with real-world applications." —Honolulu Star-Bulletin (4 March 2007)

Author: McGregor, Davianna Pomaika'i;
Davianna Pômaika‘i McGregor is professor of ethnic studies at the Univeristy of Hawai‘i and a historian of Hawai‘i and the Pacific.
Read table of contents and/or Chapter 1 (PDF).