This dissertation is a labor history of the Laie sugar plantation between 1865 and 1931. It explores intercultural and race relations that were inherent to colonial and plantation processes in Hawaii. Particular attention is given to the role of religion in advancing the colonial project. In 1865 Mormon missionaries bought approximately 6,000 acres with the hope of creating a gathering place for Hawaiian converts to settle in. The ideal of the gathering was a metaphor the missionaries brought with them from Utah, and it was a metaphor appropriated by Hawaiians and infused with their own cultural meanings, particularly the importance of the land. In order to economically support the gathering place, the missionaries turned to a plantation model. The plantation they developed was unusual in several respects. First, for most of the plantation's history, labor was done predominantly by Hawaiians. On the majority of other plantations, immigrant labor was used. Second, on Laie Plantation the cultivation of kalo was as important as sugar. Both crops were promoted by both Hawaiians and missionaries. Thus kalo production was one of the chief reasons Hawaiians stayed on Laie Plantation. It appears that many of those who gathered to Laie did so because to a large extent they could reconstruct traditional Hawaiian culture and foodways. Finally, the metaphor of the gathering mitigated some of the most onerous aspects of plantation life. The gathering was for Hawaiians and thus for the first thirty years, only Hawaiians were hired to work as laborers. This created a labor shortage that Hawaiians were able to use as they negotiated labor relations and the continuation of their cultural practices. However, in 1897 the metaphor of gathering began to diminish as a guiding ideal in shaping the structure of the plantation. Hawaiians began to be more dissatisfied with plantation work and increasingly had less voice in choices regarding the land. By the early 1900s, Laie began to resemble other Hawaiian plantations in terms of its ethnic makeup, landscape, and emphasis on capital development. After 1920 very few Hawaiians continued to work on Laie plantation.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History



Date Submitted


Document Type





Hawaii, Laie, colonization, labor history, intercultural relations, race relations, ethnicity, religion and culture, plantation, sugar, Mormon history



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History Commons