(Royalty, or rulers)
Up until 1893 when Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup d’état, the islands were ruled by various flavors of ali’i. There were nearly a dozen classes of royalty, including the kahuna, but the Big Lebowskis were the ali’i nui. Each island had its own, and they governed with divine power called mana, derived from the spiritual energy of their ancestors. Hence, you could only become an ali’i nui by virtue of birthright.
Nowadays, royalty, at least on the Big Island, is derived from thousands of hours of sweat and truckloads of electrolytes and carbo gels, and the ali’i nui have names like Allen, Newby-Fraser, Scott, Wellington and Badmann. There’s no birthright, either, and coups d’état occur frequently, usually when somebody else sweats more hours and pounds more pavement than you do.
Another difference from old Hawaii is that modern day ali’i tend not to die bloody deaths when deposed. Some come back to try again, and some just come back. Whichever they choose, we get to take pictures. Here are a few:
All photos © 2015 by Lee Gruenfeld