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'Iolani School Archives: Hula: Dance, Cultural Expression & Prejudice

The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.


Above steps by the National Archives

Important Questions in the Study of Primary Sources infographic

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Thanks for reviewing a draft of
"Important Questions" go to
Dr. Melissa Perkins,
'Iolani School History Faculty
2021 Hawai'i History Teacher of the Year

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Teaching with Primary Sources

*Also see the Teaching and Primary Sources box in the Links tab of this guide.

                Content disclaimer

Hula: Dance, Cultural Expression & Prejudice

Upper School Faculty!

Cultural and artistic expression are invaluable components of society.
Complications quickly arise during cross-cultural experience and/or exchange.
This lesson examines attitudes that arise from such encounters when considering dance, with an emphasis on Hula. A large focus is placed on giving students the opportunity to reflect personally and critically on the archival and contemporary materials presented. Students will exercise primary source literacy, visual literacy, and critical thinking skills while creating inferences to answer document and audio-visual based questions. Prompts can be accomplished via written assignments, either formal or informal, and/or class discussion.

The following is primarily intended to complement your existing teaching units, and has potential application for courses in the following academics departments: Performing Arts, History, English.


Grade: 9 - 12


Location: Classroom or 'Iolani School Archives. Adaptable for Distance Learning.




Despite Hawai'i's remote location, and in some cases because of it, the islands and nā Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian People) have been subject to various acts of colonialism. Such encounters carry repercussions in all aspects of daily life, including political and religious perspectives.

Cultural and artistic expression of hula was banned under the reign of Queen Ka'ahumanu by reason of her conversion to Christianity.
Although such restrictions were eased after her death, hula was not seen in a large scale public context until the reign of King Kalākaua who placed it prominently in the celebrations of his coronation.



Critical Analysis and Reflection

The Past

-- Read the following press coverage of the celebrations --
Content warning: the article has an overall negative tone toward the monarchy; includes strong, derogatory and racist language toward hula and nā Kānaka Maoli.


"The fact is, unfortunately, plain and undeniable that Kalakaua is looked upon as the patron saint of the hula in a far greater degree than was Kamehameha V, as much as he countenanced it."

---> Critical Thinking Prompts:

  • What were your immediate thoughts and feelings while reading the article? Were you aware of such attitudes toward hula?
  • Describe this article's tone, mood, author attitude, etc.
  • Who is the article's intended audience?



-- Read the following article about 'Iolani's hula hālau --


"The atmosphere at Kualoa Regional Park on May 19th was charged with the electricity of controlled excitement and eager anticipation of hundreds of dancers waiting for the program to begin and their turn to perform."

---> Critical Thinking Prompts:

  • Compare and contrast this article with the article from the Saturday Press.
  • What is the general attitude toward hula in "Hula Kahiko"?
  • Speculate what this could reflect about general societal attitudes toward hula in the 1980s: positive or negative, accepted or suppressed? Use elements of the article to expand your answer.



The Present

-- Group Discussion --
Do you think such prejudice as reflected in the Saturday Press article happens or can happen in current times?



-- Watch the 2020 NFL Halftime Show --



-- Read the following mainstream press coverage of the event --

---> Critical Thinking Prompts:

  • What were your immediate thoughts and feelings upon reading this contemporary article?
  • Describe and characterize the remarks submitted to the FCC as appearing in the CNN article.



-- Read the following Latino community press coverage of the event --

ACTION NEEDED: After going to the above link, click English in the Google Translate dialog box (upper right).

---> Critical Thinking Prompts:

  • Describe the tone of the article. Use elements of the article to support your statements.
  • What does the tone and language of both the CNN and People En Español articles say about contemporary society?



Dance as cultural representation and expression

-- Group discussion --
When it comes to artistic cultural expression, do you think there is a "right" or "wrong"?

Hula Resources - Hawai'i Repositories

Hawaiian Journal of History

Hawai'i State Archives

  • Hawai'i State Archives Online Exhibitions related to hula include:
    - King Kalākaua Photograph Exhibition
    - Hawaiian Music Online Photograph Exhibition
    - Mele from the Paul Markham Kahn Collection
    - Music from Queen Lili'uokalani Manuscript Collections
    - Hawaiian Chants and Mele Manuscript Collection
    - Chant and Genealogy Book

Bishop Museum

See Also

'Iolani Kumu Hula

Past and present 'Iolani Kumu Hula include:

  • Marion Kaipo Kalua
  • Frank Palani Kahala
  • Edward Collier
  • Jade Hind
  • Michael Canopin
  • Carol Lehuanani Carvalho
  • Sean Nakayama c/o 1993
  • J. Kū Koanui-Souza

Books Available in the Tsuzuki Group Library (Upper School) - A Selection

Hula & Kalākawa's coronation, 1883- Chronicling America | Library of Congress

Content warning: the following list includes articles that have an overall negative tone toward the monarchy; includes strong, derogatory and racist language toward hula and nā Kānaka Maoli.


See Also

For additional information about Hula articles in Chronicling America see: