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The Practice of Hanai

The Practice of Hanai

Hanai (v.)

·         to adopt, to be close; to nourish, to sustain the culture
·         basically a paperless, not legally binding adoption, but a verbal agreement between parties involved.  No written records were necessary.  (In old Hawaii there was no written language.) Adoption promise, “nau ke keiki kukae a na’au”, which literally translates to, “I give you this child, intestines and all.”
·         a kanaka maoli custom whereby a family adopts a child given by someone else and raises that child as a family member
·         a tradition, a part of history
In old Hawaii, life revolved around the extended family and the clan; it was a 'ohana' (family) society (a group of both closely and distantly related people who shared nearly everything: land, food, children, status, and the spirit of aloha.) Hawaiians viewed family as relatives, as well as people who they loved or people who joined them in cooperative actions.  Children were raised not only by their parents, but by grandparents and other relatives.  No stigma was attached to being hānai.

Reasons for the practice of hānai:
·         To ensure that the Hawaiian culture was passed on to the younger generation.
  • Parents would offer their children to their parents as the highest form of respect that they could bestow upon them.
    • If the child were not offered, the grandparents would ask for the hanai privilege; they could not be refused.
o   The claim of the grandparents upon their grandchildren took precedence over the claim of the parents who bore them.
o   The parents could not keep the child without the grandparents' permission.
o   A male child was offered to the parents of the father, and a female child was offered to the mother's parents.
o   This practice extended into the community so that if the biological parents were unable to adequately provide for the needs of the child, someone else would be chosen to be the hanai parents.
o   To those children that no longer had parents
o   Children were also passed on to relatives or friends who had no children. 
o   Hanai was practiced by the alii too
§  Bernice Pauahi was the hānai child to her Aunt Kina’u whom she lived with until the age of seven when Kina’u died.  She then returned to her biological parents, Abner Paki and Laura Konia.
§  Liliuokalani was the hanai child of High Chief Abner Paki and High Chiefess Laura Konia (Pauahi’s biological parents).   Her biological parents were High Chiefess Keohokalole and High Chief Caesar Kapa’akea.  She was the 3rd of ten children (David Kalakaua and Miriam Likelike).
·         In her biography, “Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen Liliu’okalani”
o   she reports that hanai "is not easy to explain... to those alien to our national life, but it seems perfectly natural to us. As intelligible a reason as can be given is that this alliance by adoption cemented the ties of friendship between the chiefs."
o   “I knew no other father or mother, no other sister than Bernice.”

The custom of hanai was strongly condemned by the missionaries. They couldn't understand the looseness of natural family ties.

Hanai still exists today.

Examples of when being of Hawaiian ancestry is required:
·         Kamehameha Admission Policy: Although there is no required blood quantum, Kamehameha Schools only accepts students who can verify some Hawaiian ancestry.  About 15 – 25% of new spaces are reserved for either orphaned (loss of one or both biological parents through death) or indigent (total household income at or below 185% the poverty level in Hawaii) applicants as directed in the will of Princess Pauahi.  They must demonstrate the ability to be academically successful at KS.  Foster children are considered indigent with proper documentation. 
·         Department of Hawaiian Homelands-an applicant be at least one-half Hawaiian. 


·         “The meaning of Hanai Kaaihue Genealogy Project,” last modified June 14, 2009,
·         “Ho’ao Pa’a and the Ohana Marriage and the Family,” Fall/Winter 2003, LBD Coffee LLC dba Coffee Times, Kauai, HI, 96746,
·         Julie Steward Williams, Alii Brochures: Laura Konia & Abner Paki, The Parents of Bernice Pauahi, (Hawaii: Kamehameha Schools, 2006)
·         Julie Steward Williams, Alii Brochures: Queen Liliuokalani, (Hawaii: Kamehameha Schools, 2006)


Liko said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liko said…
Mahalo nui for sharing this Cookie.

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