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The University of Hawaii is renowned for its tropical location and strong academic programs. But one thing that makes UH truly unique is its long history and tradition surrounding its mascot, the Rainbow Warrior.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The University of Hawaii’s mascot is known as the Rainbow Warrior, represented by a muscular Hawaiian warrior wearing a feathered helmet. The mascot reflects aspects of Hawaiian culture and mythology.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the full history behind the Rainbow Warrior mascot. We’ll look at how it was chosen, what it represents, how it has evolved over the decades, and some of the notable figures and controversies surrounding it.

Whether you’re a current UH student, alumni, prospective student or just a fan, you’ll learn all about this iconic symbol of warrior pride.

The Origins of the Rainbow Warrior Mascot

Rainbow Warrior Mascot

How UH chose its mascot in the 1920s

The University of Hawaii’s mascot, the Rainbow Warrior, has a unique and interesting history that dates back to the 1920s. The university held a contest in 1922 to determine its official mascot, and students were encouraged to submit their ideas.

After a rigorous selection process, the winning entry was the “Rainbow Warriors”, which was inspired by the beautiful rainbows that can often be seen in Hawaii’s skies.

The name “Rainbow Warriors” was chosen to reflect the diverse and multicultural student body at the university, as well as the strong connection to the natural beauty of the islands. It was a symbol of unity, strength, and pride.

The early iterations and evolution of the mascot

Over the years, the Rainbow Warrior mascot has undergone various changes and iterations. In the beginning, the mascot was represented by a cartoon-like character with a rainbow-colored cape and a warrior helmet.

However, as time went on, the design evolved to become more modern and representative of the university’s values and spirit.

Today, the Rainbow Warrior mascot is portrayed as a strong and fierce warrior, often depicted with traditional Polynesian symbols, such as tattoos and war paint.

The mascot represents the university’s commitment to honor the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii and its Pacific Island neighbors.

It’s important to note that the Rainbow Warrior mascot is not just a symbol for the university’s athletic teams, but also a representation of the university as a whole. It embodies the spirit of resilience, determination, and pride that is shared by the entire UH community.

For more information about the University of Hawaii’s mascot, you can visit the official UH Athletics website.

Meaning and Significance of the Mascot

Representation of Hawaiian mythology and warrior culture

The University of Hawaii’s mascot holds deep meaning and significance, as it represents not only the spirit of the university but also the rich heritage of the Hawaiian islands.

The mascot is a symbol of Hawaiian mythology and warrior culture, paying homage to the brave warriors who once protected the islands. It serves as a reminder of the strength, resilience, and unity of the Hawaiian people.

In Hawaiian mythology, there are many legendary figures and deities that embody different characteristics and values. The university’s mascot draws inspiration from these mythical beings, channeling their energy and embodying their qualities.

By embracing the mascot, the university community demonstrates its connection to the land, culture, and history of Hawaii. It serves as a source of pride for students, alumni, and fans, fostering a sense of belonging and identity within the university community.

The rainbow colors symbolism

The mascot of the University of Hawaii is often depicted in vibrant rainbow colors, which hold special symbolism for the Hawaiian culture.

The rainbow is a powerful symbol in Hawaiian mythology, representing transformation, hope, and the connection between the heavens and the earth.

The rainbow colors on the mascot also reflect the diversity and inclusivity that the University of Hawaii promotes. The university prides itself on being a melting pot of cultures, attracting students from all over the world. The rainbow signifies the unity and harmony among different cultures, creating a vibrant and accepting community.

Additionally, the rainbow colors serve as a representation of the natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands. Hawaii is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including colorful rainbows that often appear after a tropical rain shower.

The mascot’s rainbow colors serve as a visual reminder of the breathtaking scenery and natural wonders that Hawaii has to offer.

For more information on Hawaiian mythology and the significance of the University of Hawaii’s mascot, you can visit Hawaii Magazine.

Notable Rainbow Warrior Figures

Live mascot appearances at games

One of the most exciting aspects of attending a University of Hawaii game is the appearance of their live mascot, the Rainbow Warrior. This iconic figure has been representing the university for decades, bringing a sense of pride and enthusiasm to the fans.

The mascot can be seen roaming the sidelines, interacting with the crowd, and even leading cheers. The sight of the lively Rainbow Warrior mascot is enough to get any fan excited and engaged in the game.

Famous Rainbow Warrior athletes

The University of Hawaii has a rich history of producing talented athletes who have gone on to achieve great success in their respective sports.

Many of these athletes have become household names, not only in Hawaii but also on a national and international level. The Rainbow Warrior athletes have excelled in a variety of sports, including football, basketball, volleyball, and surfing.

  • Colt Brennan: Known for his incredible career as a quarterback for the University of Hawaii football team, Brennan set numerous records and led the team to unforgettable victories. His success earned him a place in the College Football Hall of Fame.
  • Anthony Carter: A standout basketball player, Carter represented the Rainbow Warriors with exceptional skill and athleticism. He went on to have a successful professional career in the NBA.
  • Heather Bown: A dominant force in women’s volleyball, Bown was a key player for the Rainbow Warriors and later became an Olympic silver medalist representing the United States.
  • Eddie Aikau: While not an athlete in the traditional sense, Eddie Aikau made a significant impact on the surfing world. As a lifeguard and renowned big wave surfer, Aikau’s dedication to saving lives and his fearless surfing abilities made him a true legend.

These are just a few examples of the incredible athletes who have proudly represented the University of Hawaii as Rainbow Warriors. Their accomplishments have not only brought recognition to the university but have also inspired future generations of athletes.

If you want to learn more about the University of Hawaii’s athletic program and the notable figures associated with it, you can visit the official athletics website at

Controversies and Changes Surrounding the Mascot

Criticism of cultural appropriation in the 1990s

During the 1990s, the University of Hawaii’s mascot faced criticism for cultural appropriation. Some argued that the use of a Hawaiian warrior as a mascot was disrespectful and perpetuated stereotypes.

These concerns were raised by both Native Hawaiian communities and non-Hawaiian activists who believed that the mascot should be more representative of the diverse cultures and traditions of the university.

This controversy led to a series of discussions and debates within the university and the broader community. The university administration took these concerns seriously and initiated a dialogue to understand the perspectives of different stakeholders.

As a result, they made efforts to involve Native Hawaiian cultural experts and community members in the redesign process of the mascot.

The goal was to create a mascot that would honor and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii while avoiding appropriation and stereotypes. This inclusive approach allowed for a more respectful representation of the university’s identity and values.

The retirement of the “Rainbow” name in 2000

In 2000, the University of Hawaii made another significant change to their mascot by retiring the name “Rainbow”.

This decision was made to address the confusion and misconceptions surrounding the name, as many mistakenly associated it with LGBTQ+ symbolism.

The university wanted to ensure that the mascot represented the diversity of the student body and the various academic disciplines offered at the university, rather than being associated with a specific group or community.

The decision to retire the “Rainbow” name was made in consultation with LGBTQ+ student organizations and advocacy groups, who expressed their support for a more inclusive and representative mascot.

The retirement of the “Rainbow” name sparked a wave of positive feedback from the university community and beyond. It was seen as a progressive step towards fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Today, the University of Hawaii’s mascot continues to evolve, reflecting the changing values and sensitivities of the community it represents.

It serves as a reminder that mascots are not fixed entities but rather symbols that can adapt and grow alongside the communities they represent.

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The Mascot Today

Vili the warrior

The University of Hawaii’s mascot has a rich history and has evolved over the years to become an integral part of the school’s identity. Today, the mascot represents the spirit and pride of the University community.

Let’s take a closer look at the current iteration of the mascot design and its presence at UH events.

The current iteration of the mascot design

The University of Hawaii’s mascot is none other than Vili the Warrior. Vili is a symbol of strength, determination, and resilience, honoring the cultural roots of the Hawaiian people.

With his distinctive warrior attire, Vili embodies the spirit of the University’s athletic teams and represents the warrior spirit of the UH community.

The mascot design has gone through several updates and improvements over the years. Today, Vili the Warrior stands tall with a fierce expression, showcasing the University’s commitment to excellence and competitive spirit.

The attention to detail in the design, from the feathers on his helmet to the intricate patterns on his armor, reflects the University’s dedication to honoring and preserving Hawaiian culture.

Presence at UH events and impact on school spirit

When it comes to UH events, Vili the Warrior is a prominent figure. You can spot him on the sidelines of football games, basketball matches, and other sporting events, pumping up the crowd and rallying the fans.

His energetic presence and engaging interactions with the crowd create an electric atmosphere and boost school spirit.

Not only does Vili the Warrior make appearances at athletic events, but he also plays a role in various campus activities. From campus tours for prospective students to alumni gatherings, Vili is there to represent the University and create a sense of connection and pride among the UH community.

The impact of Vili the Warrior on school spirit cannot be overstated. He serves as a unifying symbol for students, alumni, and fans alike. When Vili makes his entrance, the crowd erupts with excitement, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.

The mascot’s presence at UH events fosters a sense of community, pride, and belonging among attendees, further enhancing the University’s overall atmosphere.

For more information about the University of Hawaii’s mascot and its significance, you can visit the official UH Athletics website at


For nearly a century, the Rainbow Warrior has been intrinsically linked to UH history and culture. This powerful mascot represents the university’s Hawaiian roots and celebrates the state’s tradition of warrior pride.

While not without some controversy over the years, today the mascot stands as a respected symbol of strength for all of UH athletics and academics.

So next time you watch a UH sports match or see the mascot appear at a school event, you can appreciate the rich meaning and important story behind this beloved figure.

The Rainbow Warrior is here to stay as part of the university’s identity, motivating students and athletes with its iconic look and warrior spirit.

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