Hawaii’s HISTORY

Hawaii’s history is intwined with various countries throughout the world to include: Russia, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States.

Arrival of James Cook

In 1778 Captain James Cook, commanding the HMS Resolutions, became the first European to begin formal contact with the Hawaiian Islands and its people. Captain James Cook returned to Hawaii in 1779 after a trip to the Bering Strait, making landfall at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii island. There is a monument erected to mark the location of his arrival and death. After a misunderstanding between the crew of the HMS Resolution and the Hawaiians, Captain Cook was killed after trying to take King (Ali’i Nui) Kalani’opu’u prisoner. Captain James Cook’s arrival marked the beginning to the gradual end of Hawaii’s sovereignty.

Origins of Hawaiian People

The name “Hawaiians” was given to the people of Hawaii under the rule of Kamehameha I. They were the original settlers of the islands. Although the exact date of arrival of the Hawaiians is not known, there are archeological surveys dating back to 300AD at various locations throughout the island chain. Through Mitochondrial DNA and assumptions of migration through the pacific, it is hypothesized that the Hawaiians Migrated through Asia, down through the South Pacific Islands, eventually landing in Hawaii. The “Origins Chant”, also known as the Kumulipo, perpetuated by the people of Hawaii, places Hawaii at the piko of the world. All life to have originated in Hawaii from the beginning and rising from the sea. The Kumulipo also safeguarded rank, birthright, mana (power), and genealogical ties. The chiefs, and later the kings and queens of Hawaii (1795-1893), used to Kumulipo to signify their rank amongst the people. An individual’s genealogy determined the amount of spiritual power, or mana, they possessed.


The Hawaiian Religion is polytheistic and animistic. They believed in many dieties and spirits, including the belief that spirits are found in non-human beings and objects such as other animals, the waves, the sky, and the land. Ancient religious temples were built throughout the islands to strengthen the relationship with the power or mana of the natural world. Temples, or Heiau, can be seen throughout the islands. The most famous Heiau, Puukohola, can be found on Hawaii Island. The Heiau was built by Kamehameha I to gain the blessing of Ku, the god of war, prior to Kamehameha I’s campaign to unite the islands under one rule.

The Rule of King Kamehameha I

Kalani Pai’ea Wohi O Kaleikini Keali’ikui Kamehameha o’ Iolani I Kawikapu Kau’i Ka Liholiho Kunuiakea also know As Kamehameha I or Kamehameha the Great was the first king of all the Islands. He was born on the Kohala cost on Hawaii Island (exact date not known) and was born into prophecy which resulted in his reign. He fulfilled three major prophecies to include lifting the Naha stone, a 5,000 pound stone located in the front of the Hilo library on Hawaii Island. Lifting this stone secured his right to rule the Hawaii Islands. By 1810 he became the first king of all the islands.

The Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Hawaii

He established trade amongst countries throughout the pacific to include Russia, Great Britain, Asia, South America, and North America. Hawaii became a resupply point, a whaling community, an exporter of goods and a strategic haven in the middle of the Pacific, prime for colonialism and opportunity. The strategic location in the Pacific proved to be the final blow to Hawaiian independence. In 1893 the Nation of Hawaii was overthrown by the Division of Public Safety. The Division of Public Safety was once comprised of missionaries, and now wealthy farmers and merchants overthrew the government. The monarchy existed from 1810 to 1893 reigned by eight kings and queens. Prior to and after the overthrow, the group lobbied the United States for annexation under the American Flag. In 1898, their lobbying efforts under President William McKinley proved successful. The Spanish, Cuban and American War placed Hawaii at the forefront of strategic significance. Hawaii was made a territory of the United States in 1900, securing the boarders of the United States from threats in the Pacific.

Thus issued a new era for Hawaii’s History. The fall of the Kingdom of Hawaii fostered a new era in Hawaii’s History. These were turbulent times for the native sons and daughters of Hawaii. This new error resulted in the suppression of the culture and the indigenous people. Hawaiians became second class citizens in a purposeful “whitewash.” Iolani palace located on Oahu is the only palace in America- a home and prison to the last queen of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani.

Involvement in WWII

The strategic value of Hawaii became even more apparent during WWII when Japan attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The United States was able to take the fight to Japan during it Pacific Island Hopping campaign using Pearl Harbor for resupply and repair of its fleet. Today, you are able to visit Pearl Harbor see where WWII began for America. The Arizona Memorial symbolized our involvement in WWII. The USS Missouri symbolized victory over Japan. On the Deck of the USS Missouri the Surrender was signed in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.

Hawaii’s strategic significance continued during the Korean War and Vietnam, and continues to serve as a safeguard throughout the Pacific.

The Road to Statehood and Controversy

On 21 August 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. Coincidentally, the novel Hawaii by James A. Michener was published the same year. With victory in the Pacific, the length of time between the overthrow, the assimilation of the new culture, and the acceptance of the constitution of the United States, more than 93% of the people of Hawaii voted for Hawaii to become a state.

In the excitement of this new era, the past was all forgotten. Or was it? In a resurgence of Hawaiian culture, the Hawaiian people started to remember, and thus steamed a new era of Hawaiian responsibility. Through education, the Hawaiian people learned of the injustices of the past and have chosen to fix it. Unfortunately, the will of the State versus the will of the Hawaiian people are not in-line, which results in continuous protest throughout the islands. The latest stance by the Hawaiian people can be seeing throughout social media, news, and in person on Maunakea, in efforts to stop the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). How do you fix the problem for all to live in harmony?


There are many events that added to the allure of Hawaii and increased tourism. The rich history of the islands, countless movies and TV series, tropical weather, beaches, mountains, vegetation, snorkeling, WW1 involvement, and the security of the United States has attracted people to Hawaii from all over the world. In 2017, Hawaii hosted a record 9.4 million visitors to the islands, and the number continues to grow.

The Kahili Room at Bishop Museum

The Kahili Room at Bishop Museum

Timeline Hawaii

1778 Hawaii Pre-Contact

1795 Battle of Nu’uanu

1810 King Kamehameha I establishes monarchy

1819 Death of Kamehameha I and the Era of Whaling

1820 Introduction of Christianity

1835 First Sugar Export

1848 Great Mahele

1850 Importing Workers to Farm

1893 Coup d’etat against Queen Lili’uokalani

1898 Spanish American War

1900 Annexation of Hawaii

1907 Congress Establishes Coast Artillery Corps

1914 WWI

1939 Germany Invades Poland

1941 United States Involvement WWII

1950 Korean War

1955 Vietnam

1959 Hawaii Establishes Statehood

1969 Hawaii Five-O

1979 Hawaiian Language Taught in School for the First time Since Overthrow

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