Hawaiian History

Learning about the history of Hawaii helps the visitor to have a richer experience when they visit the Islands. From accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor to tales of the conquest of Captain James Cook, there is a lot to learn about the history of Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Islands are a string of 8 inhabited volcanic islands in the center of the Pacific Ocean that stretch out over 6,000 square islands. The first inhabitants of Hawaii were voyagers from the Marquesas Islands, which first arrived between 450 and 600 AD. The next wave of arrivals was the Tahitians that set out from Polynesian Society Islands around 1000 AD.

The Hawaiians never had their own written language, so they passed down their rich culture through spoken word; in oral legend and song. The men who carried this knowledge were called Kahunas, but many of them have died, and taken the history of Hawaii with them.

The modern part of Hawaii history begins with the arrival of Spaniards in the sixteenth century. Within half a century, the population was halved from the strange disease that the Spaniards bought with them. The native population was then replaced by the various visitors, like the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, American and British settlers.

After the first wave of Spaniards, the infamous Captain James Cook made contact with the people of the islands of Kauai and Niihau, beginning the modern era of Hawaii history.

Chief Kamahameha was one of the most powerful chiefs; quickly rising to power after Captain Cook first visited the island. He was from the Big Island, and he became chief of the Hawaiian Islands are he vanquished the chiefs of the smaller islands in the early nineteenth century.

This chief encouraged European ships to visit the islands, and he traded with the foreigners and paved the way for English and American missionaries. There was once a leper colony on one of the remote islands, to prevent others from contracting this debilitating disease.

The death of Captain James Cook is a pivotal moment in Hawaii history. It started with a leak in the foremast of his ship. The Hawaiians began to stoning the work crews and would steal valuable items when Captain Cook came to Kealalekua Bay to repair his ship. Then a large cutter was taken, which prompted the kidnapping of one of the Hawaiian chiefs until it was returned. Cook's muskets were slow and ineffective against the Hawaiians on the beach when the chief balked at going aboard the ship. Within minutes, Captain Cook and four of his men died on Valentines Day, 1779.

Hawaii is an island rich in natural bounty. It has abundant rainfall and warm weather. This factor, combined with its strategic location, makes it easy to see why it soon became strategically important to the United States. The islands were annexed by Congress on July 6, 1898. The queen who was reigning at the time was deposed and a republican government was set up.

The next major event in the history of Hawaii was the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, who were expanding into south into the Pacific. What led up to this was the movement of naval forces into Pearl Harbor to deter Japan's expansion into Southeast Asia.

The Americans did not expect the Japanese to attack, so this battle caused utter devastation of the naval forces based in Pearl Harbor.

This while situation had its start in 1937, when Japan began to wage war again China. The military needed raw materials and oil to continue its endless war against China. Japan was desperate to get to the oil-rich nations of the Southeast Asia. The US stopped negotiating with Japan by late November, 1941, and was expecting the Japanese to attack Malaysia and the Philippines.

The blow that came early in the morning of December 7th sunk five of the eight battleships in the attack on Pearl Harbor and severely damaged the others. Over 2,400 Americans perished that day, between those in Pearl Harbor and the troop's stations in the Philippines.

Hawaii became the 50th US state on August 21, 1959.

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