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Blount Report: Affairs in Hawaii

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              774	               HAWAIIAN   ISLANDS.

Leprosy has been something of a scourge. Probably 4,000 lepers have died in these Islands during the past thirty 
years. The number at present suffering from the disease can not be more than 1,500, or 4 per cent of the 
native population. For more than a year, or since the end of 1887, there has been a radical improvement in 
the work of segregating the lepers. There seems reason to believe that soon nearly every leper will have been 
removed to the excellent asylum at Molokai. The loners are nearly all natives. The disease very rarely appears 
among the white or the Mongolian races living here, owing to their carefully avoiding intercourse with 
lepers. Hawaiians, on the contrary, mingle freely with lepers in the most intimate daily intercourse. They 
commonly regard the segregation of their leprous relatives as a cruel and uncalled-for severity. This is only 
one illustration of the habitual indifference of this people to sanitation, whether in physics or in morals.
Indeed, the idea of disease being a product of natural agencies and a thing to be averted by physical 
preventives, seems to be one quite foreign to the Hawaiian's mind and contrary to his mode of thought. In 
common with other uncivilized races the world over they were accustomed to attribute all diseases to the 
immediate agency of some personal demon, who enters the patient and malignantly distresses and destroys 
him. This brings us to another and one of the most destructive of the agencies contributing to the diminution 
of the Hawaiian people.
(5) Kahunas and sorcery.-The kahuna is the medicine man. He is properly a sorcerer or wizard, whose 
chief reliance for the relief of disease is the employment of supernatural agencies although lie will also 
perhaps use drugs and hygienic treatment. From ancient times these men and their arts have been powerful 
agencies of death, although not seldom effecting a species of "faith cure." When a Hawaiian is ill, his 
superstitious relatives and friends immediately seek to persuade him that his sickness is owing to the malign 
presence of some demon, who must cither be propitiated or expelled by force. Some kahuna is called in to 
accomplish this object. He is believed to enjoy special power with some patron demon, who may be the one 
needing to be propitiated, or whose agency may be called in to expel and overcome the perhaps less powerful 
agent of the disease. If one kahuna proves insufficient to the task others must be found who possess the special 
influence needed. The processes employed are always expensive to the patient, and very commonly quite 
There are sacrifices of pigs and fowls; there are complex incantations. There are doubtless various efforts 
allied to mesmeric or hypnotic phenomena. Violent sweatings and purgings are frequently used to promote 
the expulsion of the demon, with great physical severities of different kinds, such as often are of themselves 
fatal to the patient. The tension of anxiety and dread is terrible and very weakening. A great mortality 
results directly from this violent and terrifying treatment. Furthermore, there is a large mortality caused by 
pure mental apprehension where no disease originally existed. The sufferer is told that a sorcerer is at work 
against him; he at once sickens, and is prostrated, and soon dies. Or he is solemnly warned by a learned 
kahuna that he has symptoms of dangerous disease impending. Or he is conscious of having committed 
some act, such as the violation of a vow, which has offended the family deity, or aumakuat and through 
mental apprehension, the same effect of sickening ensues. All these things play into the hands of the medi-
cine man, bring him dupes and victims, increase his revenue, and multiply the mortality of the people. It is 
difficult to determine to what extent these superstitious agencies are still at work. There is a painful reason 
to believe that their activity has been greatly revived of late years. There is much ground for thinking that a 
large proportion of the more intelligent and educated Hawaiians, when they fall ill, are prone to succumb to 
the inherited superstition. It is commonly remarked that the Hawaiian, when sick, shows a strange lack of 
recuperative power. He dies easily. Ho becomes depressed and surrenders where other men would recover. 
Probably in most such cases the cause is his superstitious belief in a demon whom he feels working at his 
vitals and whom it is hopeless to resist.
(6) Idolatry.-This is intimately connected with the above-named agency. Its chief importance, however, in 
this discussion, is in its character as the most efficient of all the agencies that disorder the mental and debase 
the moral action of the people, and which frustrate and neutralize remedial influences. It resembles drunk-
enness in this respect, but I think very far exceeds it in its evil ethical efficiency.
All thinkers, of whatever creed or type of skepticism, consider a people's religion to have an immense 
formative power upon them. The institutions, the customs, and the conduct of a people are certain to be 
shaped and patterned, in a great degree, after whatever embodiments of moral ideals they believe in, such as 
deified heroes, and deities of whatever sort whom they fear and worship. If the gods of any nation, like 
those of early Egypt, are understood to exercise substantial justice, to reward virtue, purity, and temperance, 
and to punish vice, treachery, and cruelty, such a nation will continue to cherish the higher and to despise 
the baser qualities. Righteousness has the sanction of religion, and the nation grows and prospers. The 
Polytheisms of Egypt, of Greece, of Rome, of Chaldea, in their earlier and less cor-

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