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Surveying the Mahele

By Riley M. Moffat

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Book Id: WPLBN0002096993
Format Type: PDF eBook:
File Size: 34.50 MB
Reproduction Date: 8/10/2011

Title: Surveying the Mahele  
Author: Riley M. Moffat
Language: English
Subject: Non Fiction, Geography, Anthropology, Recreation, Hawaiian Geography
Collections: Authors Community, Education
Publication Date:
Publisher: Riley M. Moffat
Member Page: Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center


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M. Moffa, B. R. (1995). Surveying the Mahele. Retrieved from

MANY THEMES of modern Hawaiian history have their antecedents in a single historic episode—the mahele. In the 1840s, Kauikeaouli, or Kamehameha III, abandoned traditional Hawaiian land tenure in favor of the Western concept of private owner-ship of property, an event second only to the arrival of the Europeans in its impact on Hawai‘i. In the matter of a few years, Hawai‘i changed from a society in which the ali‘i ai?moku, or king, served as stew-ard of the land that belonged to the gods, to one in which he, the ali‘i, or nobility, and the maka?ainana, or com-moners, acquired outright ownership of land. Surveying the Mahele is the second volume in the series Palapala‘aina, the first of which, The Early Mapping of Hawai‘i, was recognized as the outstanding book of 1985–1993 by Ka Palapala Po‘okela, the association of Hawaiian publishers, who honored it with the first Samuel Kamakau Award. Surveying the Mahele examines the work of many im-portant figures, including the few professional surveryors, such as William Webster, whose work in Hawai‘i was as fine as any in the world. It describes the efforts of many missionaries, including John Emerson and William Patter-son Alexander, who used their surveying skills to help their parishioners acquire land under the new laws passed as part of the mahele. Surveying the Mahele presents the stories of notable Hawaiians, such as Samuel P. Kalama and John W. Makalena, who learned surveying from missionary teach-ers and applied their art during the mahele, and introduces the children of missionaries, including teenagers Curtis Jere Lyons and Henry Munson Lyman, who were drafted into surveying work and found themselves burdened with de-mands greater than those of most surveyors working in Hawai‘i today. The book is lavishly illustrated with examples of mahele-era land surveys that range in scope from single home sites to a plat of one hundred thousand acres. Surveying the Mahele places the surveying work of the mahele era into historical context with the mapping of the islands that both preceded and followed it. By focusing on this single facet of the mahele, the book reveals how the complex disciplines of mapping and surveying, which reflect values of feudal European society that underlie modern concepts of land ownership, changed the destiny of Hawai‘i.


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