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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Hawaiian Storied Place Names: The Journey from Un-naming to Re-placing

Author(s):
R P Louis
Hawaii Board on Geographic Names, United States

“We live in a time of un-naming, in a time when old names for the land, names given in honor, happiness, and sorrow have been set aside for marketing jingles that commemorate little more than a desire for sales, for ka mea poepoe, the round thing, money.” (DeSilva, 1993) Hawaiians place names are storied symbols reflecting Hawaiian spatial knowledge of the environment. Many Hawaiian place names performed in daily rituals were a conscious act of re-implacing genealogical connections, re-creating cultural landscapes, and re-generating cultural mores. This presentation will explore the nature of Hawaiian place names with an eye/ear/nose/taste/ feeling/sense toward understanding their power, pleasure, and pedigree. It is inspired by a pamphlet by the US Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) entitled, A world of names. It highlights the sensuous nature and romance of Hawaiian place names, examines the processes by which Hawaiian place names are incorporated into the cultural landscape, investigates the cultural conflicts and problems involved with naming places in the post-contact/modern-colonial era including the need to standardize place names, and advances trans-modern solutions that re-place the old names DeSilva refers to without fueling existing cultural conflicts.

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