It is not known when exactly Polynesian people set foot on the beautiful Hawaii islands for the first time, and probably we’ll never know, but what we do know is that it must have occurred after the start of the Christian era.
Linguistic and cultural records and research are also clearly indicating that the first Hawaii Polynesians must have been coming from the ‘Marquesas Islands’, just north of Tahiti.
During the period 1200 – 1400, the sheer number of Tahiti immigrants was overwhelming the initial residents of the region, who were probably shorter and smaller than the Polynesian immigrants. Herein may also lay the basis for the ‘Menehune Legends’. In later days, these little creatures were pictured by the Polynesian emigrants as elves.
Captain James Cook, the famed Pacific explorer, was visiting the region of the Hawaiian islands during his 1778 discovery voyage (his 3rd), and this meant that the island’s long-lasting isolation was over. After Cook had visited the Hawaiian islands, King Kamehameha II visited the various islands, and he succeeded in his efforts to bring the islands together under one kingdom.
In that same period, the area had become very important for the increasing east-west trade, especially in fur, and later also functioned as the center for the whaling industry in the Pacific region. In 1820, a ship of American Christian Missionaries, the brig Thaddeus of Boston, arrived in the region and they were allowed by King Kamehameha II to establish a church on the islands.
The Hawaiian islands changed rapidly, though, as both education and commerce played an increasingly important role, and the old traditional Hawaiian lifestyle and culture began to disappear. The islands underwent an onslaught of new western people, and new diseases (that the previously isolated Hawaiian people were extremely susceptible to), eliminated a huge number of them.
Economic activities and new money came to the island because of the whaling industry and of course all the whaling ships needed provisions as well. In those days there were times that over 500 whaling vessels were docked in the ports of Hawaii, principally Honolulu and Lahaina.
Commercial sugar cane production started around 1835, and this activity gradually became of greater economic importance, particularly when the mighty whaling fleets declined.
The native Hawaiian population wasn’t so thrilled by the idea of plantation work, so consequently, imported labor forces from Asia (the Philippines in particular), and some other parts of the world started to pick up. Herein lies the origin of the widely varied population of the modern-day Hawaiian islands.
Many European nations were continuously looking to add the Hawaiian islands to their expanding empires, so American businessmen and Hawaiian sugar planters started to look for U.S. annexation of Hawaii. Of course, this would additionally give them the chance to enter the American sugar market without having to pay tariff duties, so after a while, in 1875, there came a treaty of reciprocity which brought new and long-awaited prosperity to the Hawaiian islands, and much American wealth was brought into the islands for new investments.
The increasing influence of American businessmen was causing resentment and unrest, resulting in the 1889 uprising of native Hawaiians because the Americans had a few years earlier forced a new constitution on King Kalakaua. This Hawaii rebellion was forcefully suppressed.
In 1893 the American-led ‘Committee of Safety’ declared the Hawaii monarchy ended, resulting in the 1894 foundation of the Republic of Hawaii. In 1898, on August 12th, an annexation treaty was negotiated with the United States, and a sovereignty transfer was made and eventual statehood was promised as well. In 1900, Hawaii officially became a United States territory.
The Hawaiian growth began to speed up even more after it became part of the U.S. and the American Navy started to set up its impressive Pacific regional headquarters at Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor, and also the U.S. Army started to build an enormous garrison at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks.
All these activities resulted in a pretty impressive increase in tourism, cattle ranching, and the development of pineapple and other crop growth. All these activities started to take on greater importance in the economy of the islands.
The World War II attack on Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor resulted in America getting involved in the war, and consequently, Hawaii and its people played a prominent role in the worldwide conflict.
The post-WW II era brought quite a few significant changes and the descendants of the earlier plantation workers started to rise to prominent positions in labor, business, and government, and after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law on March 18, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union on August 21st, 1959.