Intro Lesson About

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

Lesson 5

Lesson 6

Lesson 7

Lesson 8


Lesson 2: A Native Place


Lesson at a glance

You'll use sources on mythology, oral tradition, cultural sites, and other literature to learn about tradition and special sites related to your area. The uses and structures of particular local features may be examined and compared to similar features in other locations.

Key Concepts “built environment” -- cultural landscape features including religious structures such as temple platforms, shrines, fishponds, meeting houses and birthing stones; the traditional leadership structure of your culture.

Lesson Outcomes You will identify local cultural sites and learn their significance.




  • that there are layers to the landscape?
  • that the very place where you stand now, or where your school is located, reveals layers of history going back to ancient times?
  • that in the last lesson we investigated what can be learned about the most ancient layer?



Now we will take a look at features from your culture about which the histories are still known.

No matter how many modern layers of the built environment exist, underneath it there is still a landscape of indigenous culture, where the ancestors lived, and worked, and prayed, and died. Your culture and its history can be seen on the land.

This lesson looks at the distinct landscape features of your culture that appear in your area.

These are the human-made features that define your area as a “native place,” a place where your culture shows in distinct and visible forms that have histories and meanings. Clearly there must be a lot of leeway in determining what sorts of features are distinctly indigenous. In some places, traditional landscape features are readily apparent. However, in areas where colonization has been severe, one may need to look at indigenous influences on more contemporary structures. Indigenous culture, as we know, does not end with colonization, it merely takes new forms.



The tools you will need for these exercises will vary with each island place. Look for books and other information on

  • traditional architecture
  • traditional social structure
  • traditional political structure
  • traditional religion or philosophy



A good discussion of place names can be found in the Appendix of Pukui, Elbert & Mo‘okini’s Place Names of Hawai‘i (University of Hawai‘i Press).



there may be “storied places” in the landscape that are not human-produced sites. These might include “natural” rock formations about which there is a legend or myth. Such sites are part of a later lesson. Here, our focus is on places created by people of the past.






Exercise 1: Place Names


Place names represent one of the key ways in which a natural landscape becomes “humanized.” They are markers from the past, that tell of events, or observations, or activities, or ways of seeing.

Compile a list of place names for your area. To the extent possible, find the meaning of each place name. Some place names come from so far back in the past that they have no contemporary meaning.

Try to determine how the place names are arranged: are there names for larger regions, and then for sub-regions? How small a place can still have a name?

What are the common words associated with place names, if any? For example, place names often contain words meaning “water, “ “hill”, and so on.

Now try to categorize these names into groups, for example:

  • Names that simply describe, like “Big Hill”
  • Names that are associated with a legend or legendary being or event
  • Names that refer to human activities, such as “Hunting Ground,” or “House of ~”
  • Names that refer to plants or wildlife
  • New names, bearing the marks of other cultures

Exercise 2: Cultural Sites

Have a look at the a few Native Place chapters on the Pacific World websites. Then work out which“native places” of those sorts are found in your area.

Using a blank map or outline of your land division, mark these sites on your map as best you can.

Are there particular traditions or stories associated with these sites?

Use these sites as starting points to discuss the different aspects of your indigenous culture. If some are abandoned sites, you can consider why they are no longer in use.

In some areas, there are sites that today are known for being somehow “special,” whether or not any tradition is known about them. Can you think of any in your land division or nearby?

Exercise 3: Activities

Identify any particular indigenous cultural activities known to have been practiced in your area. Such activities may include particular sports, or dance schools, or ordinary activities for which your area had an extraordinary reputation.

A related question is, what is the traditional reputation of your area, if any?

Exercise 4: Political Structure

Who controls how much territory in your area?How is that power organized?

What was the traditional political structure of your area? Match that political structure to the Geography of your island entity.

Is that political structure still intact today?

What was/is the political structure within your land division?



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