The informant is an 18-year-old college student attending university in Hawaii. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California, but has a great deal of family living in Hawaii who she visited frequently when growing up. While I was on a hike with the informant in San Ramon, California over spring break, I asked if she could talk about some traditional Hawaiian beliefs, and she described the Night Marchers.
“Basically, the Night Marchers are a tribe of old Hawaiian warriors that walk certain paths throughout the Hawaiian Islands, usually during the night. They don’t necessarily go around killing things, but if you’re caught in their path then you have to get naked and lay in the fetal position to show submissiveness. You’ll know they’re coming because you’ll hear the sound of beating drums and see torchlights. Sometimes to show that you are truly submissive to them you even have to pee yourself. You also have to keep your eyes closed and can’t look them in the eye. If you have Hawaiian blood in you, hopefully one of your ancestors will notice you and save you, but if you do not, and especially if you aren’t submissive or don’t get in the fetal position, there’s a chance the Night Marchers will kill you. Not necessarily on the spot, but there have been cases where someone encounters the Night Marchers and has died a few nights later.”
By representing warriors that fought to protect Hawaii in the land’s past, the Night Marchers are a manifestation of the island’s tumultuous past and the lengths that native Hawaiian’s ancestors have taken to protect their customs and traditions. The way in which a person is supposed to react when caught in the Night Marchers’ path highlights the considerable respect that Hawaiian natives have for their ancestors. By stripping and laying in the fetal position, anyone who encounters the Night Marchers must make themselves entirely vulnerable, showing that they do indeed have respect for their ancestry and the land. This legend shows the importance that islanders place on nativity, as having a blood-relative in the Marchers can guarantee one’s safety. It seems that the ultimate purpose of this legend for Hawaiians is to warn anyone against disrespecting their native islands, or else be prepared to suffer the consequences.