|Aloha Magazine - Culture, Hawaii|
The rich history of the islands of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people date back to when the Polynesians arrived from Tahiti between the years of 300 - 750 A.D; at least a thousand years before the American colonies first became a nation in 1776. Not much is known of the details of events happening from the time of the arrival of the Polynesians until January 20, 1778, which marks the arrival of Captain James Cook, the first European in Hawaii. According to archaeological discoveries and the Hawaiian language, the islands were settled by two distinct waves of migration from Polynesia. The knowledge of navigation that the Polynesians had at this time were superior to those of all other seamen. They discovered Hawaii by sailing out in outrigger canoes and trusting to their knowledge of the sky, the stars, the ocean and its currents, the migration of birds, and many other natural signs.
King Kamehameha the Great - Hawaiian society at the time was that of a highly stratified caste system. This strong pyramid structure was apparent in the small kingdoms that were scattered among all the islands. They were often at war with one another and it was not until 1810 that they were united into one kingdom ruled by King Kamehameha. Soon after the arrival of Captain James Cook and after the Hawaiian islands were under the rule of King Kamehameha, Europeans started to come into the country. They brought with them many domestic animals and plants never seen before. The first pineapples were brought in from Spain in 1813 and in 1816, coffee was first planted.
The Kapu System - It was during the first king's reign that his favorite wife, Queen Kaahumanu, overthrew the ancient Kapu System in league with the king's mother, Keopuolani. The Kapu System at this time (Kapu - taboo meaning sacred or prohibited) kept the caste system strongly in place. Those who did not follow its rules were swiftly punished by death. At the top of the pyramid was the king who had a chief minister and a high priest. Ali'i or chiefs, whose power was determined by their ancestral lineage and prowess, were subject to the whim of the king. Below the chiefs were the persons trained in the memorization of genealogies. In temporal power, the kahuna or priest and craftsmen were below. Although in spiritual power, the priests were above the chiefs. The commoners made up the majority of the people and at the bottom of the pyramid were the kauwa or outcasts.
The Constitution of Hawaii - During the reign of King Kamehameha III, the first Hawaii constitution of the kingdom was established and by 1842, they were recognized by the United States as an independent nation. In 1848, King Kamehameha III signed The Great Mahele which allowed commoners and haoles (Hawaiian word for the Europeans/white people) to own land. On August 31, 1850, Honolulu was declared a city on the island of Oahu.
King Kalakaua the "Merry Monarch" - In 1874, King David Kalakaua, known as the "Merry Monarch," was elected by the Hawaiian legislature winning against his rival for the throne, Queen Emma. King Kalakaua favored the native Hawaiians while trying to maintain the peace by sincerely insisting that there was room in Hawaii for all kinds of people.
Queen Liliuokalani - the First Queen and the Last Monarch. Queen Liliuokalani assumed the throne after the death of her brother, King Kalakaua in 1891 and fought strongly against annexation wanting to restore the monarchy to its original powers. Her rule was short-lived though and two years later, she was overthrown in 1893. She continued to fight against annexation of the islands by the United States through the movement, Oni pa’a (“Stand Firm”) whose motto was “Hawaii for the Hawaiians.” This did not stop the inevitable and President McKinley signed the resolution of the annexation in 1898. That same year, Liliuokalani composed the song Aloha Oe (“Farewell to Thee”) “ever afterward beloved in the islands.” She wrote many other songs as well which are well known even today. She also published her life’s story, “Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen” in the same year. It was not until 1900 that Hawaii became a territory of the United States and then the 50th state in 1959. This brought about a new era to the islands, the age of tourism.
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