Hawaii is the only major part of Polynesia that is north of the
equator. Its tropical climate means temperatures at sea level rarely
rise above 90Â° in the summer and seldom drop below 70Â° at
night, even in the winter. The islands are graced most days by
gentle trade winds. Its volcanic soil and moderate temperature has
attracted waves of immigrants and led to the ethnic diversity of the
Entire villages of ancient Polynesians had arrived in Hawaii by 700
A.D. after incredibly long sea voyages in double-hulled canoes
made of the koa tree, in search of unsettled lands. Their legends
refer to them as discoverers, not conquerors.
Driven by population pressures, they developed sophisticated
navigational skills, using the sun, stars and wave patterns to find
their directions, creating maps of wave patterns by binding sticks
together, and using bird flight paths and cloud patterns to locate
By 850 A.D., they had settled the seven main Hawaiian islands.
They brought their supplies, domesticated plants and animals and a
few stowaways, like geckos, to the islands with them.
The authority structure of Polynesian society, based on
genealogical ranking, was useful for long expeditions and island
Their double canoes, made of two hulls lashed together, were
stable and able to carry the heavy loads of supplies and equipment
needed by migrating families. A central platform laid over the
crossbeams provided working, living and storage space.
The crafts were driven by sails made of matting, and long steering
paddles enabled them to remain on course.
A middle-sized voyaging canoe of 50-60 feet could accommodate
a dozen or so immigrants, together with their food supplies,
livestock and agricultural equipment.
Local chiefs called ali'i ruled their settlements and launched wars to
extend and defend them. Currently, only 9% of the population is
Polynesian or native Hawaiian.
The 1778 arrival of British explorer James Cook was Hawaiiâ
€™s first documented contact with Europeans. Cook named the
islands the â€œSandwich Islandsâ€� in honor of his sponsor John
Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. He published the islandsâ€™
locations and reported the native name as Owyhee.
Captain Cook (top), Hawaiians meet Cook's ship
(right, sketched by artist on board.) Hawaiians
give gifts to Captain Cook (above).
Chinese immigrants from Guangdong
province came with Captain Cook and
in the late 1700s.
The first Japanese immigrants arrived in
1885 as contract workers on the sugar
cane and pineapple plantations. At their
height in 1920, they represented 43% of
the population. Until 1910, four times
as many Japanese lived in Hawaii as on
the U.S. mainland. The Buddhist Valley
of the Temples (left) is one of the most
tranquil sites in Hawaii.
Other Asian ethnic groups include
Filipinos and Koreans. Currently,
Asians make up 33.4% of Hawaii's
Cook published several books about his voyages,
which attracted many European visitors, including
explorers, traders and whalers. Cook and his crew
brought diseases that Hawaiians had no resistance
to, reducing the native population. Now Europeans
make up 26% of the population.
House of Kamehameha
In 1810, war between the chiefs ended, and
Hawaii was united under the rule of King
Kamehameha the Great. His dynasty
continued in power until 1872. In 1887,
Lunalilo was elected to secede the bachelor
king Kamehameha V, who died without
naming an heir. The death of Lunalilo, who
also had no heir, the next year led to riots.
U. S. and British troops landed, protecting
their economic interests at the cost of
democracy. They chose Kalakaua king and
forced him to sign the 1887 Constitution,
known as the "Bayonet Constitution,"
stripping him of authority. Property
qualifications for voting favored resident
whites at the expense of poorer Hawaiians.
Resident Asians were excluded.
Kalakaua, reduced to a figurehead, reigned
until his death in 1891. His sister,
Liliuokalani, succeeded him.
In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani announced
plans for a new constitution. On January 14,
1893, a group of mostly Euro-American
business leaders and residents formed a
Committee of Safety to overthrow the
kingdom and seek annexation by the U.S.
U. S. Government Minister John L. Stevens
summoned a company of U. S. Marines,
which made it impossible for the monarchy
to protect itself.
A report commissioned by President Grover
Cleveland found that the removal of
Liliuokalani was illegal. In 1898, the
territory of Hawaii was annexed by the
United States, and in 1959, Hawaii became
In 1993, Congress passed and President
Cllinton signed an apology for the overthrow
of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
King Kamehameha V Queen Liliuokalani
Marines overthrow Hawaiian monarchy (above); Iolani Palace in
Hoinolulu, former residence of Hawaiian monarch, then capitol of
Republic of Hawaii (below).