Episode 18: The Konohiki with Dr. Kamana Beamer

Feb 5, 2016

As Hawaiian society grew and evolved, so too did complex systems that were designed to achieve maximum harmony and abundance. The land was sorted into divisions that included ahupua‘a and ‘ili ‘āina and the people, too, had their roles to play, whether they were ali‘i or mahi‘ai, chiefs or farmers. One of the most important roles was that of the konohiki, the individuals selected by the ali‘i to manage resources and people. The konohiki were called on to have a wide set of skills, says geographer Dr. Kamana Beamer.

“It would have been someone that not only understands in great detail the natural world and the environment and the spiritual hō‘ailona that go with them but it would have also had to have been someone that really knows how to work with people and understand the complexities of communities and know what issues there may be between people and families and then understand how to organize everyone for the common good and mobilize.”

The konohiki played a pivotal and critical part in making the ahupua‘a system function.

“These were people that really were intermediaries between government and leadership and people out on the ‘āina: farmers, fishermen, featherworkers, kapa makers. Konohiki played a real key role in that mediation and also getting a clear understanding of what resources were available in places and how to best maximize them.”