Many of us have heard stories of the “beginnings” of Hawaii. For example, it became a state in 1959. And even before then it was a U.S. territory beginning in 1900. Prior to 1900, Hawaii was considered its own kingdom.
But how far back does the history of Hawaii go?
Let’s first take a step back in time to approximately 1600 years ago. It is believed that Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands were the first to discover Hawaii somewhere around the year 400.
Marquesas is located in the South Pacific. And the great expanse of seawaters around was just waiting to be explored. It was the ultimate frontier of the time. Voyagers set out in their canoes using the stars, clouds, currents, and fish as clues for navigation. And it’s believed that seabirds are the ones which led the voyagers to discover first the Big Island of Hawaii.
Around the year 1200, a new set of explorers came on the scene. The Tahitians sailed upon what they thought to be new lands. But instead, they found small villages built up around the outer perimeters of the islands.
The Tahitians conquered these villages as well as the Marquesasians themselves. Social order was introduced. New laws and rules were established, as well as a division of social class. The Marquesasians were ordered into slavery. And the Tahitians brought in the first royal line, allowing the beginnings of Hawaiian cultures to form.
Another 500 years passed and the Hawaiian Islands were not even known to the rest of the world. Then Captain James Cook from Britain was on an expedition circumnavigating the globe. On January 18, 1778, he and his crew land upon the islands and were greeted warmly by the Hawaiians.
Cook and his crew were treated like gods. They were given food and supplies. The Hawaiians were fascinated with the ships Cook sailed in on. But soon those relations began to die away. Conflicts and tension rose. Captain Cook was killed by one of the island chiefs. And finally, the crew began their voyage back home to England.
Kingdom of Hawaii
Shortly after Cook’s discovery of Hawaii, the islands started becoming known across the world. Immigration began. Missionaries came. And the European military helped Kamehameha I conquer the islands. And soon, the Kingdom of Hawaii was established.
Naming of the Islands
There’s no record of a name given to the islands in its early discoveries. It was not until Captain Cook made his discovery that the name “Sandwich Islands” became known. It was named after the Earl of Sandwich, which was the sponsor of Cook’s voyage.
However, another name of “Hawaii” was starting to be used not too many years after. It is believed this name originated from the Hawaiians themselves after the word “Owhyhee” which means homeland. It did not become official until the writing of the first Hawaiian Constitution in 1840.
History to Present Day
And so now we move into the 20th century when Hawaii is annexed into the United States in 1900 and later becomes a US State in 1959. At this time tourism begins to flourish throughout the islands. Advances in air travel have made it easier for mainlanders to visit. And Hawaii finally becomes the exotic location that everyone wants to vacation to today.
Image by: Montgomery College