The following are some Hawaiian proverbs which have been preserved and handed down from generation to generation through Hawaii's oral tradition. The sayings were gathered by Mary Kawena Pukui and can be found in 'Olelo No'eau , Bishop Museum Press.
Explanation: Often we stress out just worrying about doing a difficult job. This proverb advises as an American saying puts it, "Just do it!"
Explanation: Destroy the forest, the rains will cease to fall, and the land will become a desert. If only our scientists knew this when the ancient Hawaiians did.
Explanation: If you have no direction in life, you'll get nowhere or another way to put it is, "If you're going nowhere, you're guarenteed to get there."
Explanation: People respond better to gentle words than to scoldings.
Explanation: By working together we make progress. This saying would be especially applicable to the Hawaiians on their canoes where each paddler would have to pull the paddles together on command in order to make the canoe move forward quickly forward.
Explanation: If everybody works together the work will be done quickly. On interisland trips, the two most important tools besides the sail were the paddles and the bailer. In heavy seas, the water would wash over the boat and so one or more natives would be constant bailing. Others would be paddling together on command to reach their destination in the shortest time.
Explanation: In ancient Hawai'i, a kahuna 'ana'ana could pray someone to death or counter another's death prayer. The saying tells the Hawaiians that words can either be a source for healing or destroying and so we need to be careful with our words.
Explanation: In their travels around the Pacific, the Hawaiians would pass by many coralheads which the the navigators would mark in their memories and pass on their apprentices. Eventually they would notice these small coralheads would grow into a full islands and so comes the advice that we can't expect to be full-blown successes right away, often we start small and over time, like a coralhead, we will mature and be successful.
Explanation: You will reach only as far as you aim and prepare yourself to reach.
Explanation: United we stand, divided we fall.
Explanation: If you want to become really good at anything, you've got to study hard and practice long until it gets deep and becomes a part of you.
Explanation: Strive for the very top of the mountain, strive for excellence. This was the motto of Hawaii's Queen Kapi'olani who did so much for her people.
Explanation: Take your stand and be steadfast in doing what is right no matter what others say. This was the motto of Queen Liliuokalani who was overthrown by the Americans in 1893. Since 1993, the centennial commemoration of that event, Onipa'a has become a rallying cry for Hawaiians seeking redress and Hawaiian sovereignty.
Explanation: Many native Hawaiians live with their extended family and family is the most important part of life for them. This saying teaches why they should put family first...In the Ohana or family, you know others and they know you, you help others and know you will be helped if there is anything you need.
Explanation: The Hawaiian alii (chiefs) wore beautiful capes and headdresses crafted by weaving in thousands of tiny feathers. The Kanaka kahea manu, the bird-catcher, would imitate bird-calls to attract the birds to catch them, pluck out a small number of tiny feathers and let them go. Once he had called the birds, he had to stay alert and be prepared to catch them quickly when they came near. The saying advises one who wishes to succeed to be alert to any opportunity that should arise.