Hawaiʻi Labor History Glossary

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University of Hawaiʻi - West Oʻahu, Center for Labor Education and Research

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Hawaiian word for the principal land unit of precontact Hawai'i, usually extended from the top of a mountain to the shore in a triangular shape, with rights in the adjoining sea waters, providing the occupants with the means of supplying all their needs.

Hawaiian word for the highest ranking chief in ancient Hawai'i

[Haw'n: haumana] One bound by legal agreement to work for another for a specific amount of time in return for instruction in a trade, art, or business.

'auhau hana:
[lit. labor tax] Hawaiian term for required service to the chiefs; it was the principal source of income for the ali'i class prior to the arrival of western exchange values.

[lit. BALIK = come back; BAYAN = hometown or homeland] Filipino (Tagalog) term that refers to Philippine nationals who are permanently residing abroad including their spouses and children, regardless of nationality or country of birth. It also refers to those of Filipino Descent who acquired foreign citizenship and permanent status abroad.

[lit. number] A Japanese word for an ID tag made of brass or aluminum and that had a number stamped on one side. It was usually worn on a chain around their neck. Bango came in different shapes. The shape was typically determined by worker's race. Every Hawaiian plantation used the bango system, which was borrowed from the slave tag system used in the South before the American Civil War. . Laborers were required to wear their bango during working hours. Plantation accounts were kept by bango number not employee name. Pay, deductions for infractions, store purchases, laundry services, and so forth were all kept in account books under the bango number system. On pay day, workers presented their bango at the payroll desk. They could not get paid without their bango.

Bayonet Constitution:
The constitution of 1887 imposed at gunpoint on King Kalakaua by the planters and the mostly American business leaders. It stripped the monarchy of of its powers; denied Hawaiian citizenship to Asians; and made most Hawaiians ineligible to vote.

The kidnaping of Pacific Island peoples to work as slave labor in plantations. (Beechert, 77, 81)

A degrading term for an unskilled Asian worker imported to do hard labor.

To procure sailors or laborers by trickery or coercion. (Beechert, 51)

gannenmono   :
[lit. "first year people"] The Japanese term for the first 153 Japanese contact laborers who arrived in the firrst year of the Meiji era on May 17, 1868 aboard The Scioto from Yokohama for, bound for employment on Hawai'i sugar plantations, generally considered to be a mutually unsatisfactory experiment.

ha'a lele hana:
Hawaiian term for desertion from contract labor.

Hawaiian word for work, job, labor. (Pukui & Elbert, 55)

Hawaiian word for white person, caucasian.

hāpai kō:
[lit. carry cane] Hawaiian term for the job assignment on the sugar plantations of loading bundles of cut sugarcane stalks into carts or trains for transportation to the mill.

[lit. to pull along] Japanese term used to describe the youngest, strongest men in a work gang ho were paid about 10 cents a day more and who were selected to set a faster pace.

Hawaiian pidgin term for sugar plantation work using a hoe to weed and/or prepare the cane-field soil for planting.

Hawaiian term for stripping the dried leaves off of sugarcane stalks. It was work commonly performed by women in the days before it was discovered burning the ripe cane fields accomplisged the same aim without damaging the sugar.

hole hole bushi:
The only suriving folk tunes describing life and work among immigrant laborers on Hawai'i's sugar plantations. Bushi is the Japanese word for melody and holehole is the Hawaiian word for the work of stripping the dried sugarcane leaves from the stalks at harvest.

ho'ole hana:
[lit. make no more work] Hawaiiian term for a laborer's refusal to obey orders.

Hui Po'ola:
[lit. sun head] Hawaiian term for an early organization of stevedores . The name was used by a group of longshoremen who, before collective bargaining (1890s), formed a quasi-political organization and mutual benefit society.

Hawaiian name for sandalwood; a tree with distinctive and pleasing natural fragrance

"a form of standing between free labor and unfree labor. It is distinguished from peonage by its definite period of service... It is distinguished from free labor in that neither the employer nor the employee is free to bargain the terms and withdraw their services whenever conditions are unsuitable" (Beechert, 41)

Hawaiian word for those who served as advisors to the ali'i; professional prophet, seer, historian, teacher, priets, astronomer, medical practitioner, sorcerer, and skilled worker in ancient Hawai'i

kālai kō:
Hawaiian phrase for "cutting cane."

kanyaku imin  
[lit. governmnt contract people] Japanese term for the 946 Japanese government contract plantation workers who came to Hawai‘i in 1885 after the Exclusion Act had stopped China as a source of "coolie" labor and upon negotiation of a new treaty with Japan providing Hawaiian government oversight into the treatment of plantation laborers.

[lit. forbidden] Hawaiian word for prohibited acts, places, objects. Violating kapu restrictions was punished by the full measure of the law.

Hawaiian word for slaves, captured in war or marked from birth as outcasts in ancient Hawai'i.

kon pang:
[from the Japanese "konpan" transliteration of the word "company"] Pidgin term for a group of workers who formed a partnership to work a designated area of sugarcane or pineapple land under the direction of a group leader. (Kawakami, 76)

Hawaiian word for right, property, estate or jurisdiction. In precontact Hawai'i it referred to the small pieces of property within an ahupua'a

Hawaiian workd for irrigated terraces (fishponts, animal preserves, etc.)which contained nearly all the natural resources required for survival.

Hawaiian word for a straw-boss or overseer on a plantation or work detail.

Lunakānāwai 'Apana:
See "Magistate" below.

[Haw'n: Lunakānāwai 'Apana] In early Hawai'i, a government officer empowered to issue warrants or orders for the arrest & commitment to prison at hard labor of persons refusing sevice under their contracts until such time as they returned to service. (Beechert, 1985)

ma'i ahulau:
[lit. slaughtering illness] Hawaiian term for the epidemic of 1806 that was alleged to have swept away half the Hawaiian population on O‘ahu and decimated the army Kamehameha had assembled for the invasion of Kaua'i.

Hawaiian term for the class of non-royal commoners making up bulk of the population.

[lit. 2nd generation ] Japanese word for the children of Japanese immigrants, born and raised in the US or Hawai'i

Hawaiian term for the extended family.

Hawaiian term for a strike or work stoppage.

pa'a hui:
The term Pa 'a Hui Unions is one first heard from a Hawaiian unionist in Hilo and veteran of the early days of the labor movement there. He used the term to describe the solidarity among the Hilo unions back in the late 1930s. The Hawaiian word Pa 'a means solid or tight-knit and the word Hui refers to an association, group or union. [Hawaii State AFL-CIO, Pa'a Hui Unions]

[Hawaiian transliteration of the word "frock" after the long-sleeved, loose-fitting work shirts worn by sailors] A heavy cotton fabric with a unique plaid pattern. It was durable and cheap and it bcame popular among plantation workers in the 1920s. (Kawakami, 78)

[lit. loss, damage, out of luck] Hawaiian term for ‘out of luck' pay system whereby workers were sometimes not paid a full wage for a day's work if the overseer decided they were not working hard enough. (Takaki, 71)

[lit., slash cane.] Filipino term (Ilocano) to describe contract laborers who came from the Philippines to work in Hawai'i's sugarcane fields. (Cimatu)

[lit. seedlings]. Hawaiian word used to describe the work of cutting cane seedlings. (Kawakami, 76).

[lit. head]. Hawaiian term for an independent operator (Beechert, 5).

pau hana:
[lit. work done] Hawaiian term for the completion of a job or period of work responsibility.

[probably derived from the Ilocano phrase “sakasakada amin”, meaning, barefoot workers struggling to earn a living.] Filipino term that has come to be applied to workers recruited from the Philippines to work in Hawai‘i's sugar plantations between 1906 and 1946. (Pablo)

[lit. 3rd generation ] Japanese word for the grandchildren of Japanese immigrants, born and raised in the US or Hawai'i

uku pau:
[lit. work finished] Hawaiian term for a labor system that allowed the worker to leave when his/her assigned task was finished.

Vibora Luviminda:
The last nationalistic or ethnic labor organization in Hawai'i formed by Filipino plantation workers under the leadership of Antonio Fagel in the mid 1930s on the island of Maui. The name Vibora Luviminda came from the nickname (Vibora) for the famous Filipino (Ilocano) war hero, General Artemio Ricarte (1866-1945), plus the letters for key areas in the Philippines (LUzon, VIsayas and MINDAnao).

yobiyose jidai:
[lit. summoning by relatives period] Japanese term for the Restricted Immigration Period (1900-1908) during wichc importation of contract labor from Japan to the US and Hawai'i was prohibited, with the exception of immediate relatives. (Kawakami 5).

zōkyū kisei kai   :
[lit. Higher Wage Association] Japanese name for an organization formed in November 1908 by Motoyuki Negoro a young attorney, Yasutaro Soga, newspaper editor; Fred Makino, a druggist and Yokichi Tasaka a news reporter to present demands for better wages and working conditions to the HSPA on half of the Japanese sugar workers on O'ahu.


Beechert, Edward. Working in Hawaii: A Labor History. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1985.

Cimatu, Frank. "Hawaiianos' or 'sacada'?" Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec. 27, 2005): A1.

Kawakami, Brabara F. Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii: 1885-1941. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1993.

Kodama-Nishimoto, Michiko, Warren Nishimoto, and Cynthia A. Oshiro. Hanahana: An Oral History Anthology of Hawaii's Working People. . Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1984.

Pablo, Severino V. "Remembering the "Sakada" Pioneers in Hawaii." Ilocos Times [September 13 - September 19, 2004) [www.ilocostimes.com/sep13-sep19-04/feature.htm].

Pukui, Mary Kawena and Samuel H. Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Revised and Enlarged Edition Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1986.

Takaki, Ronald. Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii, 1835-1920. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1983.