Hawaiian themed spirit day demonstrates cultural appropriation


Lei is the Hawaiian word for garland or wreath. Leis are usually made from Plumeria blossoms, Pikake blossoms, Orchid blossoms or Maile leaves.

Some people see Hawaiian Day as a harmless spirit week theme; I see it for what it truly is, cultural appropriation. 

Defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture”, culture appropriation is remarkably similar to a common Augusta spirit week theme; Hawaiian Day. By including this spirit day, we are taking elements from a culture that is not ours and changing it to fit commercial America and then wearing or displaying it like it is a Halloween costume. It’s disrespectful. Hawaiian Day should not be a spirit week theme.  

 Hula is a complex art form performed for religious or entertainment purposes and to preserve historical events, genealogy or mythology through movements and chants. It is a sacred, serious pursuit involving rigorous training and technical skill, and academic knowledge taught by respected Kumu (teachers) who carry on and advance wisdom from a long lineage of masters. Dressing up as these dancers when you are not part of or are not knowledgeable about and respect their culture is not only being extremely disrespectful, it is cultural appropriation. 

To many Americans, Hawaii is an escape from the fast-paced American lifestyle, this is problematic because it portrays native culture as a Hawaiian “brand” that is consumed by individuals and corporations for social and economic benefit. It places mainland Americans in a position in which it is acceptable to view Hawaii as simply a vacation destination rather than the home of a beautiful and sacred culture and group of people; this leads to the belief that it is okay to use aspects of their culture as a costume. 

Leis are a beautiful symbol of an ancient culture, now commonly mass-produced, adorned and discarded by mainlanders without thought to the culture behind them. These wreaths are braided or woven with great amounts of caution and time out of a variety of natural materials. There are specific ways a lei is supposed to be given and worn. . When we wear and trash these plastic replicas of a traditional form of art, we show we have no true respect or knowledge pertaining to Hawaiian culture. 

Mimicking this culture, whether it´s wearing a plastic lei or mimicking their sacred dances, is entirely wrong. Allowing Hawaiian Day to continue as a spirit week theme is not only disrespectful to Hawaiian culture, it reflects poorly on Augusta High School as a whole.