Indigenous Hawaiian Cartographer: In Search Of Common Ground

  • Renee Pualani Louis


Maps, and the ability to spatially organize the place we live, are basic necessities of human survival and may very well be “one of the oldest forms of human communication”. Whether they are derived from scientific or mythological impetus, maps do the same thing – they tell stories of the relationships between people and their places of importance. Every map is a blending of experience, theoretical concepts, and technical craftsmanship; “constructions of reality”; representations of the environment as seen by the societies that create them. The way people experience their environment and express their relationship with it is directly linked to their epistemology, which in turn indicates how knowledge is processed and used. Indigenous and Western science share many similar characteristics, yet are distinctly different in ways that affect how geographical information is communicated. Hawaiian cartography is an “incorporating culture” that privileges processes such as mo‘olelo (stories), oli (chant), ‘ölelo no‘eau (proverbs), hula (dance), mele (song) and mo‘o kü ‘auhau (genealogy). This article describes and defines Hawaiian cartography, identifies the internal struggles an academic Indigenous Hawaiian cartographer shares with other Indigenous scholars attempting to negotiate different epistemologies, and presents three autoethnographic Hawaiian cartographic projects that are necessary steps in resolving the differences between Western and Indigenous epistemologies.
How to Cite
Louis, R. P. (2004). Indigenous Hawaiian Cartographer: In Search Of Common Ground. Cartographic Perspectives, (48), 7-23.
Featured Articles