Hawaii and Native Hawaiians – What You May Not Know

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

The lovely Hawaii Island is probably one of the most breathtaking countries to visit. It is home to many beautiful beaches, people and culture. However, Hawaii has more to offer than just their hospitality, delicious foods and beaches. In fact, Hawaii is home to one of the most fascinating histories in the world!

Hawaii’s history and its people

Although Hawaii is a US State, it is not named for the state. Truth is this state is named for the people. The people of Hawaii are known as the Kanaka Maoli. They are the native people of Hawaii who were the first people who sailed to this island. The original Polynesians set foot on this island around the 5th Century A.D. and since then flourished in the island.

In the latest census in the island in 2010, the natives living in the island is about 527,077. These are mixed race including the Native Hawaiians. According to survey, there are about 8,000 pure-blood Native Hawaiians left all over the world.

Captain James Cook was an English explorer who first came into contact with the natives of Hawaii in 1778. He sailed on the HMS Resolution and landed on the Kealakekua Bay in on the Big Island of Hawaii. By then about 400,000 to a million Native Hawaiians were living in this part of the island at that time but because of the diseases that the explorers came with, the population of the natives dropped to 40,000. The people suffered from measles, smallpox, common cold, whooping cough and even sexually transmitted diseases.

In 1820, the first Christian missionaries set foot in the islands of Hawaii. Children began attending school and learned how to write and read their language. By 1869, Hawaii representatives attended a Paris exposition and displayed Bibles, textbooks, agricultural products and many samples that taught them what it means to be civilized. Many people were surprised that these natives were able to learn the things that only elite Europeans were given the privilege to learn.

In January 17, 1893, the Hawaiian government was illegally overthrown. US Government Minister John L. Stevens set foot at the Honolulu Harbor along with the US Marines from the USS Boston and two companies of US sailors. There were also US and European businessmen who started an illegal coup against the Queen Lili’uokalani in order to take over the land and control of the sugar industry. Planters like Sanford Dole and James Dole also began the pineapple business in Hawaii around this time. Because of this, the natives tried to win back their island through the use of US legal process. Hawaii became a US protectorate while the case was being investigated by then US President Grover Cleveland as requested by the Queen of Hawaii. It was later on concluded that the overthrow was indeed illegal.

Native Hawaiians launched a petition to stop the formal annexation of their island to the US and wanted Hawaii’s independence back. About 21,269 natives signed the said petition which was the majority of all population since some of the residents were children. The Queen traveled to Washington D.C. to present her case and protest to the Congress but to no avail. No one acted in the congress and a new batch of Congress came into place when the new president was elected. Around the same time a Spanish-American war was taking place and the Americans didn’t want to give up Hawaii. In 1898 the island was illegally annexed to the United States as their new territory. The Hawaiian crown was surrendered along with the 1.2 million acres of land. Not a cent was given to anyone as part of their compensation.

After the crown was surrendered, new laws were passed and the English language soon became the official language of the Hawaiians. The natives were colonized and children were punished for speaking their native language. This oppression took over for many decades and the language was almost forgotten. It was not until 1978 when a constitutional amendment was passed in Hawaii. It was again legal to teach the language that the natives once owned.

After all these, the only person who suffered was Queen Lili’uokalani who was sentenced to jail for treason when several weapons were found under her palace. She was sentenced for five years of hard labor but served nine months of house arrest. During her imprisonment she wrote the song Aloha Oe which was a love song. In 1917, the Queen died at the age of 79 and requested in her will that all her belongings be sold and the money rose to be given to the Queen Lili’uokalani Children’s Trust for orphaned and indigent children.

The US Apologizes

In 1993 under the reign of US President Bill Clinton, a letter of apology was written for the people of Hawaii during its 100th year of being illegally overthrown. The Public Law 103-150 was given by a joint resolution of Congress in 1993 to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the island’s case. The law states that the overthrow was illegal, the Unites States apologizes and the island of Hawaii can have legal claims from the US.

Today the island of Hawaii is rebuilding their culture and traditions. They may have had a long history of being under much oppression but the people of Hawaii have moved on from that. It’s a time for rebuilding and moving onwards for these natives. After all, they are one of the most beautiful places in this world and nothing can compare them from that.