The Islands

The beautiful islands of Hawaii are filled with a host of history and attractions that help to define its culture. But the people of Hawaii play a major role in its cultural development. Here's why:

The story of the Hawaiian people dates back to as far as 400 C.E. More than 2,000 miles separated the Marquesas Islands from Hawaii's Big Island. But that was no match for a persistent group of skilled fishermen and farmers who came in two waves. The first wave of immigrants to Hawaii were Polynesians traveled via canoes to the Big Island of Hawaii. The second wave of Native Hawaiians ensued in the ninth or 10th century. They traveled from Tahiti.

The men of Hawaii were excellent at fishing and swimming. However, the chieftains of these tiny communities often fought each other for territories. The separated islands were eventually united under the rule of King Kamehameha between the years of 1791 and 1810. He was the then-island nation's first king. The island kingdom was eventually overthrown by American colonists in 1893 and created the Republic of Hawaii.

By the late 1700s, there were about 300,000 full-blooded Native Hawaiians. However, that number quickly dwindled, thanks to Western diseases brought on by some of the first European travelers to the Hawaiian islands. The population decreased from 70,000 in 1853 to about 10,000 by the late 20th century. After European settlers, the island state soon saw settlers from China and Japan, followed by settlers from Puerto Rico, Portugal, the Philippines and Korea in the 20th century.

The Native Hawaiians' impact on the culture of these beautiful islands is seen in a variety of aspects from clothing to holidays. For example, the Hawaiian men wore malos, or girdles, and women wore tapas, or grass skirts. These are part of the wardrobe worn during traditional Hawaiian dances. Holidays, such as King Kamehameha Day and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day, are also celebrated as state-wide holidays today.

The history of the Hawaiian people is a story filled with traveling far distances, settling and conquering lands, and melding cultures. The people's cultural influence stretches beyond any one island and is instrumental in developing the customs and practices Hawaiians carry on today.