History

The Sheldon High School Lu'au is a unifying event representing the Pacific Islander culture and creating cultural awareness within the Eugene 4J School district community through the sharing of our Polynesian hospitality, culture, language and traditions. The Pacific Islander population in our Eugene community is grossly under served and we hope through education and advocacy, we can partner with community stakeholders to bring equity to our youth and other marginalized populations.

The lūʻau is a Hawaiian word that in more modern times has come to be synonymous with a large party or feast usually accompanied by Hawaiian entertainment including traditional Hawaiian music and hula (dance). In ancient Hawaiʻi, such a feast was called a pāʻina or ʻahaʻaina. Men and women ate their meals separately; also women and the rest of society were not allowed to eat foods that were not common or foods that were only served during special occasions. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha II removed all the religious laws that were practiced. King Kamehameha II performed a symbolic act by eating with the women, thus ending the Hawaiian religious taboos. This is when the lūʻau parties were first created.

The modern name lūʻau comes from that of a food often served at this gathering; squid, chicken or beef lūʻau are favorite dishes which consist of the protein (octopus, chicken or beef) stewed together with lūʻau (or taro) leaves, and coconut milk. This feast was usually served on the floor; on the mats there were usually large centerpieces. In most cases the centerpieces were made of tī leaves. Utensils were never present during a luau; everything was eaten by hand. Other traditional Hawaiian foods often served at a Lu'au include: Poi (starch staple made from taro root pounded into a thick paste), kalua pork (usually a whole pig roasted in an underground oven), lomi salmon (cold salad mix of salted salmon, tomatoes, round onion and green onions), poke (raw cubed ahi or tuna fish mixed with salt, seaweed and other spices), 'opihi (shelled limpet seasoned with salt and eaten raw), and haupia (coconut cream custard cubes served as dessert), amongst other delicacies.

Hawaiian hospitality is vitally important at a lūʻau. Guests should feel welcomed as soon as they enter the event greeted by a honi (kiss on the cheek) and a lei (wreath of floral or fauna) placed over the head and worn around the neck. The feeling evoked is as if being welcomed into the living room of the host or guest of honor. Kinship is important in the Hawaiian culture and visitors are immediately embraced and made to feel like 'ohana (a part of the family).

Keep in mind that many people and cultures in Polynesia and the Pacific Islands have celebrations similar to the lūʻau however the particular event described here is distinctly Hawaiian.