Social Structure of Ancient Hawaii

Social Structure of Ancient Hawai‘i

Ancient Hawaiians had a structured social order with kānāwai (strict regulations and a system of laws) that determined if something was kapu (sacred or forbidden). The mō‘ī (king, queen) and his/her ‘aha kuhina (chiefs and advisers) constituted the highest class. Below them were the nobility, known as ali‘i.

Next in rank were the kāhuna, which included priests as well as professionals with specific skills in particular fields. Common people, mostly farmers, were known as maka‘āinana and fell prostrate to the ground in the presence of chiefs, who possessed more mana (divine power). The lowest outcast members of society were known as kauā (or kauwā).