Since people have first lived in Hawaii, they have taken advantage of the natural resources of the region. It was originally inhabited by seafaring people known as the Polynesians. They came to Hawaii from the Marquesas Islands around 300 AD. The Polynesians were skilled at creating boats that could travel long distances and withstand rough seas. These sea travelers were known as the menehune.
The next group of people to arrive in Hawaii came from Tahiti. They arrived around 1300 AD and conquered the menehune in the area. The Tahitian settlers brought a belief in multiple gods and the kapu system of leadership and ruling with them, and were responsible for creating a great deal of the traditional Hawaiian culture. The majority of the early settlers in Hawaii inhabited the Big Island, but some gradually moved northward. They built homes and temples, and planted a variety of the trees and plants that are associated with Hawaii today. Hawaii’s kapu system was divided into different kindgoms, each with a different ruling king.
Unified Big Island
In 1778, an explorer from the west named Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii. He was looking for a way to get from Asia to Alaska and landed in
Hawaii, opening the region to others from Europe and America. Shortly after the arrival of the Europeans, the political structure began to change in Hawaii. These two events were likely unrelated, though they occurred within just two decades of one another. Prior to 1791, Hawaii featured kingdoms with separate rulers. These rulers were often warring with one another. However, the separate kingdoms were united under Kamehameha and went on to conquer several other islands. All of the islands of Hawaii were united under his rule by 1810. His son took the throne following his death and the kapu system was eventually abolished and replaced with a legislative monarchy.
By the end of the 19th century, missionaries began to arrive in Hawaii from New England. Most of the citizens of Hawaii had rejected their religious beliefs, so the missionaries were welcomed when they came to the area to share Christianity. From the highest ranking officials to the average citizen, Hawaiians embraced Christianity, as well as other Western concepts and medical practices.
The acceptance of Western culture eventually led to Hawaii becoming a part of the United States. The mainland and the islands had economic relations already, including a great deal of Western businesses having a hold in Hawaii. The royal family of Hawaii no longer had as much power and there was pressure from the mainland to annex the islands. There was some resistance, but the monarchy was eventually overthrown peacefully and Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1898. It took more than 50 years, but in 1959, Hawaii became an official state.