Whales and Hawaiian History

Visitors and locals alike wait in anticipation for humpback whale migration every year, traveling hundreds of miles to make Hawaii their home during the winter months.

Our fascination with these gentle giants started long before photographs, videos and whale watching tours and has been a part of the Native Hawaiian culture for centuries.

In the Native Hawaiian creation chant, whales are referenced at the beginning, and are considered a sacred and respected part of the culture. Kohola or whales are believed to be an animal form of the Hawaiian ocean god Kanaloa and also an amakua or guardian of specific families.

Although one of the most prized possessions of chiefs was a necklace with a whale tooth pendant, some theories suggest whales may not have begun migrating to Hawaii until about 200 years ago. Other species of whales like sperm whales were also a part of the whales history in hawaii and their artifacts may have been taken from their carcasses washing up on shore or originally brought from Polynesia.

We can be a part of this sacred relationship with whales by upholding protections and regulations and focusing on creating a healthy ocean environment for whales and other vital marine life, through conservancy and education.

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