Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Saccharum officinarum or ko in Hawaiian is a tropical perennial grass. It grows between three and four meters tall with each cane measuring a diameter of approximately five centimeters. Like grass each stem produces its own root system making the plant resilient and adaptable, while its leaf structure makes Saccharum officinarum one of the most photosythetically efficient plants. The cane is segmented by nodes, its internodes being filled with a solid juicy pulp.5 It is the pulp that made this grass useful to the Polynesian tribes who brought the plant most likely from New Guinea where the cultivation of sugar cane is believed to have started.6 Sugar cane was highly prized by “ka poʼe kahiko” (the people of old) because of its sustaining and delicious sap. Known also to Hawaiians as “mea kamau ea” or lifesaver, sugar cane was essential to the voyaging tribes who populated Hawaii as it suppressed the appetite during the long canoe voyages that brought them across the pacific
The islands were populated in waves by several central and western
Polynesian tribes, each with their own deities, cultivated crops and animals.
Sugar cane is associated with the most ancient Hawaiian god Kane, which
suggests that it was likely brought in one of the first eras of colonization by a tribe
who worshiped Him. Kane is described in creation lore as The Creator of both
heavens and earth. It is out of the marriage of Papahanaumoku (Earth) and
Wakea (Sky) that the Hawaiian Islands, gods and men are born. The legend
goes that after creating the islands Kane brought sugarcane (ko) to the islands
and the plant itself is a “kinolau” meaning literally “myriad body” or form of Kane.
Traced Material History
-Sugar cane grown on the central isthmus at the foot of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii
-Milled into turbinado sugar by H.C. & S. Co. at Pu’unene, Maui, Hawaii
-Shipped by sea in 1-ton sacks by A & B Shipping Co. to the Port of Oakland, California
-Delivered by truck to C & H Sugar in Crockett, California
-80 % of delivery is processed into granulated white sugar and packed into 4, 5, 10 and 25 lb bags
-20 % is shipped by truck to Cumberland Packing Co. in Brooklyn, New York
-Packed into single serving, 2 and 6 lb boxes under the Sugar in the Raw brand label
-Distributed by truck nationwide by Brooklyn Premium Corporation Distributing
-6 lb box of Sugar in the Raw purchased from Meijer in Champaign, Illinois for $5.99 on March 14, 2010
-25 lb bag of C & H Granulated Sugar purchased from Schnucks in Champaign, Illinois for $20.26 (on sale) March 14, 2010