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Ka Mo`omeheu o Hawai`i 
Hawaiian Culture

 

 

Na Paniolo Pipi – The Hawaiian Cowboy

The Ranching heritage of Hawai`i began with a gift from England and the assistance of  Spain. In 1793, British sea captain George Vancouver gifted the Hawaiian King, Pai`ea Kamehameha, with long horned cattle. Kamehameha place a kapu (royal sacred protection) on the cattle, allowing them to roam and breed freely.

Within two decades, the animals had formed huge herds, eating native crops, and stampeding through villages, causing destruction and terror. Similar to the famed Texas Longhorn, the Hawaiian cattle were smart, wily, and very dangerous. The kapu had to be lifted to allow the capture of these animals.

John Parker, a New England sailor who jumped ship in 1809 and remained on Hawai`i, became a friend of Kamehameha. Parker did set sail one more time, but returned to make the islands his home 1812,  and talked the king into granting him the right to hunt the wild cattle. Once the kapu was lifted, other people also began hunting the wild cattle, beginning the Hawaiian ranching industry.

The Hawaiian style of ranching included capturing wild bullocks by driving them into pits dug in the forest floor. Once tamed somewhat by hunger and thirst, they were hauled out up a steep ramp, and tied by their horns to the horns of a tame steer which knew where the paddock with food and water was. Many of the ranch fences and paddocks can still be seen today – and some remain in use – stone walls undulating over the lava fields. Wood was too rare in many areas to use for fencing, so stones provided a sturdy and readily available material.

By the 1830s, ranching was an important part of the Hawaiian economy. Hawaiian hides, tallow, and beef were important in international trade, and even supplied many outfits during the California Gold Rush.

At that time,  King Kamehameha III decided to take a world tour, to meet other heads of state so that Hawai`i could take her place among the nations. On that tour, the King was impressed with the skill of the Mexican-Spanish Vaqueros. He requested the King of Spain send vaqueros to Hawai`i to train the Hawaiian in ranching, to modernize the industry and to make it more productive.

The vaqueros arrived on the Island of Hawai`i in 1832. The era of hunting wild cattle was over.

With their highly trained ponies, intricate high-horned saddles, and lariets, the vaqueros demonstrated handling and horsemanship as an art. They taught the Hawaiians to make saddles, to braid the kaula`ili (lariat), to craft `uepa kani (bullwhips) and the metalwork for bits and kepa pele (spurs). In talking with the Hawaiians, the men introduced themselves as “Español.” The closest the Hawaiian tongue could come to that was “Paniolo.” A man who worked cattle in the Spanish style was now a Paniolo.

Not only Hawaiian saddlery, but Hawaiian formal dress, owes much to the influence of 19th century Spanish fashion. The man’s tight-waisted shirt, full sleeves, and flowing sash, and the puffed sleeves and ruffled train of the woman’s holoku still show their Hispanic heritage. The paniolo’s hat often has the flatter crown and wider brim of its Spanish ancestor, rather than the height of the ten-gallon hat of the Western US.

 

In 1908, three Paniolo, Ikuā Purdy, Archie Ka`aua, and Jack Low traveled to the World Rodeo Championships in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They were considered curiosities, and faced prejudice. Not taken seriously, they had trouble borrowing horses to use. Finally given scrubs, they trained the horses in the Hawaiian style – working them in a river to prevent them from fighting. Low was unable to compete due to his asthma, but Ka`aua took third place, and Purdy won first. He was proclaimed World Champion. Having won them over with his skill, determination, and style, Purdy was given a standing ovation by the crowd. Hawaiian Rough Riders was written in their honor. The name of the writer has been lost, but his or her poetry lives on.

Hawaiian Rough Riders

1) Kilakila na Rough Riders me ka ua kīpu`upu`u,

Me ka nani a`o Pu`uokalani, me ka hae o ka lanakila.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

 

2) `Akahi ho`i au a `ike maka, na Rough Riders helu `ekahi.

Inu ana i ka wai aniani, e ma`ū i ka pu`u ke moni.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

 

3) Hanohano wale na cowboy, he maku`u noho i ka lio.

Hālena pono `oe i kaula `ili, i ka lawe o ka pipi `āhiu.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

 

4) Kaulana Ikuā me Ka`aua, na `eu`eu kīpuka `ili.

Eia mai na paniola pipi, me ka nani o ku`u home.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

Hu`i e, hu`i `eha, hu`i konikoni i ka pu`uwai.

  

        Hawaiian Rough Riders

 1) Magnificent Rough Riders and Wamea’s cold rain,

With the beauty of Pu`uokalani and the flag of victory

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

 2) Never have I seen such champion Rough Riders

Drinking sparkling waters which wet the throat when swallowed

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

 

3) Wonderful cowboys, pommel saddle on the horses

Pulling tight the lasso, bringing in the wild cattle

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

 

4) Famous are Ikuā and Ka`aua, spirited lassoers

Here come the cowboys, the glory of my home

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

Aches, aches and pains, aches throbbing in the heart

 

Today, Hawai`i remains strong in the ranching tradition. Those who look carefully at the older sidewalks in Hilo can still find iron rings set into the concrete. They were used for hitching horses. In Waimea, hitching posts can still be found outside of some businesses and homes. Panaewa, Waimea, Hōnaunau, and other towns maintain rodeo grounds. The ranching tradition lives on in the Hawaiian economy, music, and lifestyle. Visit www.KauKauKitchen.com's Paniolo Country page for recipes and more paniolo links. 

 

Paniolo Art

     Aloha no -     

     I love Mauna Kea, and the Saddle Road that takes me up her slope. Both the mountain and the road figure prominently in much of my art, poetry, and music. One afternoon when I was hiking on Mauna Kea, I came across a desiccated steer carcass. I collected the rib bones, which I could easily carry, and brought them home with me. Later, I painted on them the view of Mauna Kea I remembered from that hike, and the constellations of that evening.

     Those who enjoy Western-style décor and Paniolo heritage may enjoy these as gifts, or for themselves. Each one is a little different, as they are real ribs, and the paintings have variations, as I hand-painted each one. The ribs average about 17" long. I have 10 left. They are $20 each, plus shipping and handling. If you would like to buy all 10, the cost would be $150, plus shipping and handling.

Malama pono,
Leilehua

"Saddle Road" Song   *   Mauna Kea Sketch   *   "E `Ena E Mauna Kea" Prose   *   "Asphalt Song" Poem