Katharine Luomala 1907-1992

From: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/asao/pacific/honoraryf/luomala.htm

In 1951 Katharine Luomala, a researcher at the Bishop Museum and Folklore professor at University of Hawai’i, published a long article titled: “The Menehune of Polynesia and other Mythical Little People of Oceania”. Published by the Bernice P. Bishop Museum as Bulletin 203, “Menehune of Polynesia”,  Luomala’s stated goal was to answer the question: “were the Menehune… real people; and if they were, were they aborigines of the islands?” She further states in the introduction:

“In this article, material from various parts of the Pacific which may help in understanding the Hawaiian Menehune is summarized, analyzed, and compared. Included are stories, beliefs, and scientific theories concerning three categories of beings: (1) the Hawaiian Menehune and related types in Hawaii; which are dialetical variants of the name Menehune; and (3) dwarfs or pygmies in several Pacific island mythologies who, though not called Menehune, have certain resemblances to them. This survey may give a new perspective on the identity of the Menehune described in the collections of myths by Fornander, Rice, and Thrum; their origin, and, particularly, the reason for the existence of Menehune.”

Although Katharine retired from the University of Hawai’i in 1973, she continued to work and to write. As late as 1983 and 1984 she was honored by the Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council, and the Hawai’i State Legislature for her contributions to our understanding of the Pacific.

Dr. Katharine Luomala was born in Cloquet, Minnesota. She was educated at the University of California at Berkeley, receiving her Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1936. Her fieldwork was done in the Gilbert Islands and in California with the Diegueno Indians. In addition to teaching and doing research at many major universities (Indiana, Minnesota, Berkeley, Chicago, and Hawai’i) Katharine worked at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, the Lowie Museum at Berkeley, and in government service (National Park Service, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior). She received grants from Wenner-Gren, Guggenheim, NSF, Finnish-American-Ford, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Dale Robertson, Brigham Young University–Hawai’i (Spring 1989 Newsletter)

Katharine Luomala, “The Menehune of Polynesia and other Mythical Little People of Oceania”. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 203, (1951). Printed by Honolulu Star Bulletin. 84pp.

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