The ancestors of the New Zealand Maoris have a definite ancestral home from which they came to New Zealand. This bears the name Hawaiki which is the same as Hawai'i as also Savai'i in Samoa. Some students try to make Samoa the distributing centre from which the settlers of the various island groups of the Pacific started to find new homes. This theory has scarcely any foundation.
Hawaii in some form of the word is found from Java on the western side of the Pacific to Tahiti on the eastern. Hon. L. Percy Smith of New Zealand says: "The universality of this name points to the fact that it is extremely ancient and that it was under that form the Fatherland was originally known. The way in which the name has been used proves the belief of the Polynesians in a western origin of the race now accepted as from India. Hawa in its many forms refers to rice fields, the great rice fields of Indonesia."
While Hawaii is used so frequently elsewhere, it is seldom named in the Hawaiian Islands as the ancestral home. Fornander, in "The Polynesian Race," quotes from an ancient chant, "Hawaii with the green back and dotted sea," and says this refers to the ancient far-away home of the Hawaiians. This reference stands almost alone, and therefore emphasizes the statement that the word Hawaiian seldom refers to any land outside the group now called the Hawaiian Islands. This has probably come from the inability of the people to distinguish between a foreign Hawaii and a home Hawaii, although for centuries they have said "Hawaii nei," meaning "the Hawaii in this spot," as they say "hale nei, " meaning "this particular house in which we are." Almost certainly this has no reference to an ancestral home.
The Hawaiians, however, had one word for all outside lands. This was Kahiki or Tahiti. If any one sailed to any far-away place, east or west, he went to Kahiki.
The ancient Hawaiian chants also mention places or rather islands in the western and southwestern parts of the Pacific Ocean, as Bolabola, Nuuhiwa, Wawau or Vavau, and Upolu. These places were visited by the Hawaiian sea-rovers several hundred years ago and the names preserved in meles, or
chants. Usually these places are mentioned as located in the great mysterious outside world Kahiki. They are not called the home from which the forefathers came. They are only definite place,; visited by sea-roving Hawaiians in their long journeys to foreign lands.
Besides this, there were some beautiful descriptive terms naming the ancestral islands or lands from which the "ancient ones came to Hawaii."
The most prominent was Kuai-he-lani or Kua-i-he-lani. Kuai-he-lani was defined by one of the best Hawaiian scholars as "the purchased heaven." This, however, is a modern thought, read into it from theology. Another and better rendering is "the rubbing or grinding heaven," as if the land had been stirred up by earthquakes or by strife among the inhabitants. If the name is Kua-i-he-lani, it means "a heaven lifted up in sharp ridges," signifying that the people came from a land of high mountains with sharp peaks, a volcanic country.
Kane-huna-moku (the hidden land of Kane) belonged more to the spirit world than the home of the ancestors. it was like an "ignis fatuus," a thing which appeared and disappeared. It was an enticing island, inviting boatmen to seek its shores and then disappearing as they came near. It was the Hawaiian dreamland. Nevertheless, sometimes it was mentioned as one of the places from which the ancestors came.
Nuu-mea-lani (the raised dais of heaven),, meaning a land with elevated plateaus and possibly rich valleys among high mountains, was a place from which many of the people of the past came to the new volcano land. Sometimes it simply means "cloud land."
Ulu-kaa (moving or floating forest) was like Kane-huna-moku, an ocean island which had no abiding place. Storm-driven voyagers would see it through the mist clouds around them. They would put forth every effort to reach it and never find it, or, if found, its sweet fruits and fragrant flowers were like dust to those who ate or breathed them, ultimately bringing death. Nevertheless, Ulu-kaa was a land from which the ancestors came.
Hapa-kuela is very seldom mentioned in the legends. Its meaning is very obscure. It is possible that it may be Hapaku-wela. Then it might mean the burning or fiery portions or walls between land districts. This was a home of
Pele according to some of the Hawaiian legends, although most of them say that she came from Kuai-he-lani.
Ke-alohi-lani (the shining or glorious heaven) was the where the vivid imagination placed all things beautiful. It was the ancient land to be desired. Another interpretation, however, makes it the land of shining clouds, probably lit by volcanic fires, reflecting the glory of the burning flames.
Moku-mana-mana (the divided island) was some island projecting into thc ocean like branches from a tree, an island with bays and inlets.. This was one of the places to be desired among thc different lands from which the ancestors came. Now it is only known as one of the ancestral places lying toward the sunset.