Many of the ancient games and amusements of the Hawaiians have practically disappeared since the discovery of the islands by Captain Cook in 1778, but the people retain their pleasure-loving characteristics and assemble on their numerous holidays1 to engage in wrestling, cock-fighting, and other sports. Live pigs, bread-fruit, bananas, and cocoanuts are wagered on these occasions. Alexander2 states that the Hawaiians resorted to games chiefly for the purpose of betting, to which they were excessively addicted. Men and women of all ranks were eager to stake every article they possessed on their favorite players, and the games seldom ended without fierce brawls between the different parties. This custom of betting to the utmost extent in all games came in, according to Brigham3 in the half century preceding the reign of Kamehameha I, coincident with a general decline in the strict observance of religious rites. It was not common to all the islands. Ellis4 says that the natives of Tahiti do not appear to have been gamblers, nor to have accompanied any of their sports with betting, but seem to have followed their games simply for amusement.
I have refrained from expressing any conclusions based on the material here presented. In general the games described may be referred to the continent of Asia or to recent European or American influence. There are several, however, which are more directly analogous to games played by the American Indians. The resemblance of mat-ka to the game of chunkee has already been pointed out (Andrew MacFarland Davis, Indian Games, Bulletin of the Essex Institute, Salem, 1885, vol. xvii, p. 126). To this must be added the stone-dice game, or lu-lu, which resembles the game played with bone disks by the Micmac and Cheyenne Indians (see Chess and Playing Cards, Report U. S. National Museum, 1896, figs. 14, 25); also the games of pa-hu and mo-a, which are not unlike games played by the Sioux and other plains tribes. The most striking analogy, however, exists between the guessing game of pu-he-ne-he-ne and certain Indian games in which a stone or other object is hidden in one of four, places. The resemblance here extends even to the use of the stick to strike the supposed place of concealment. A systematic comparison of pu-he-ne-he-ne with the American games will be given in the writer's paper on Indian Guessing Games now in course of preparation.
The writer has included in this survey all amusements except the dance. He will be greatly obliged for additions and corrections.
1. The principal holidays at present, according to my informants, are:
March 17, birthday of Kamehameha II; June 11, birthday of Kamehameha I; November 16, birthday of Kalakaua; and New Year's day.
2. Op. cit., p. 88.
3. Preliminary Catalogue, part II, p. 5.
4. Op. Cit., p. 204.
Last update January 31, 2010