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Overview of Hawaii,  

"Some information from Wikipedia"

Hawaii Overview


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959. It is situated in the North Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles (3,700 km) from the mainland, at 21 18 41 N, 157 47 47 W. During roughly 1778-1898, Hawaii was also known as the Sandwich Islands.

Hawaii was first inhabited in roughly 1000 A.D., by foreign Polynesians who came from islands in the South Pacific, most likely the Marquesas. By colonizing Hawaii, these originally foreign settlers in effect became Hawaiian people. For about 800 years, these people were sometimes at peace and sometimes at war with each other, while they expanded their colonial territory throughout the eight main islands. During this time, the Hawaiian people also developed a complex caste society governed by an extensive system of religious and social taboos called the kapu system. When British explorer James Cook chanced upon the Hawaiian archipelago in 1778, a Hawaiian warrior known as Kamehameha was beginning a gradual ascent to power. Before his death in 1819, Kamehameha had succeeded in conquering (through military force, or in the case of Kauai and Niihau, by other political means) all of the major Hawaiian islands.

The kingdom established by Kamehameha lasted until 1893, when the last Hawaiian monarch, Liliuokalani, was overthrown and replaced by a Provisional Government, and later a Republic. During the kingdom and republic era, Hawaii's economy transitioned from that of an isolated state into that of a state integrated into the world's free market, producing and exporting more than two hundred thousand tons of sugar annually. In 1898, Hawaii was annexed to the United States of America and attained statehood in 1959.

Location, topography, and geology

Hawaii is the southernmost state of the United States, and would be the westernmost, if not for Alaska. It is one of the only two states (Alaska being the other) that are outside the contiguous United States, and do not share a border with another U.S. state. Hawaii is the only state that: (1) lies completely in the tropics; (2) is without territory on the mainland of any continent; (3) is completely surrounded by water; and (4) continues to grow in area because of active extrusive lava flows, most notably from Kilauea (K?lauea). Except for Easter Island, Hawaii is the furthest from any other body of land in the world.

The Hawaiian Archipelago comprises eighteen islands and atolls extending across a distance of 1,500 miles (2,400 km). Of these, eight high islands are considered the "main islands" and are located at the southeastern end of the archipelago. These islands are, in order from the northwest to southeast, Niihau (Ni?ihau), Kauai (Kaua?i), Oahu (O?ahu), Molokai (Moloka?i), Lanai (L?na?i), Kahoolawe (Kaho?olawe), Maui (Maui), and Hawaii (Hawai?i). The latter is by far the largest, and is very often called the "Big Island" or "Big Isle". The use of that alternative name is often motivated by a desire to avoid ambiguity with "Hawaii" meaning the entire state (all of the islands), as opposed to only that one island.

All of the Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanoes arising from the sea floor through a vent described in geological theory as a hotspot. The theory maintains that as the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean moves in a northwesterly direction, the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes. This explains why only volcanoes on the southern half of the Big Island are presently active.

The last volcanic eruption outside the Big Island happened at Haleakala (Haleakal?) on Maui in the late 18th century (though recent research suggests that Haleakala's most recent eruptive activity could be hundreds of years older). The newest volcano to form is Loihi Seamount (L??ihi), deep below the waters off the southern coast of the Big Island.

The volcanic activity and subsequent erosion created impressive geological features. The Big Island is notable as the world's fifth highest island. If the height of the island is measured from its base, deep in the ocean, to its snow-clad peak on Mauna Kea, it can be considered one of the tallest mountains in the world.

Because of the islands' volcanic formation, native life before human activity is said to have arrived by the "3 W's": wind, waves, and wings. The isolation of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the wide range of environments to be found on high islands located in and near the tropics, has resulted in a vast array of endemic flora and fauna. Hawaii has more endangered species per square mile than anywhere else.


The climate of Hawaii is atypical for a tropical area, and is regarded as more subtropical than the latitude would suggest, because of the moderating effect of the surrounding ocean. Temperatures and humidity tend to be less extreme, with summer high temperatures seldom reaching above the upper 80s (F) and winter temperatures (at low elevation) seldom dipping below the mid-60s. Snow, although not usually associated with tropics, falls at high elevations on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island in some winter months. Snow only rarely falls on Maui's Haleakala. Mount Waialeale

(Wai?ale?ale), on the island of Kauai, is notable for rainfall, having the second highest average annual rainfall on Earth: about 460 inches (38 ft. 4 in., or 11.7 m). Local climates vary considerably on each island, grossly divisible into windward (Ko?olau) and leeward (Kona) areas based upon location relative to the higher mountains. Windward sides face the Northeast Trades and receive much more rainfall; leeward sides are drier, with less rain and less cloud cover. This fact is utilized by the tourist industry, which concentrates resorts on sunny leeward coasts.

Hawaiian antiquity

Anthropologists believe that Polynesians from the Marquesas and Society Islands first populated the Hawaiian Islands at some time after AD 300-500, although recent evidence has pointed to an initial settlement of as late as AD 800-1000. It is not resolved whether there was only one extended or two isolated periods of settlement. The latter view of an initial Marquesan settlement, followed by isolation and Tahitian settlers in approximately AD 1300 who conquered and eliminated the original inhabitants of the islands, is hinted at in folk tales, like the stories of Hawaiiloa (Hawai?iloa), Paao (P??ao), and menehunes. There is a theory that: (1) there was only one extended period during which groups of immigrants repeatedly arrived; and (2) contact with their former homelands was not lost until the early 2nd millennium AD. This theory has become more accepted among some scientists, as direct evidence for a massive conquest and a sudden replacement of cultural practices has not been found in the archaeological record.

Voyaging between Hawaii and the South Pacific apparently ceased with no explanation several centuries before the arrival of the Europeans (although at that time, there seems to have been a general decline in overseas trade and voyaging across Polynesia; see Henderson Island). Local chiefs, called alii (ali?i), ruled their settlements and fought to extend their sway and defend their communities from predatory rivals. Warfare was endemic. The general trend was toward chiefdoms of increasing size, even encompassing whole islands.

Vague reports by various European explorers suggest that Hawaii was visited by foreigners well before the 1778 arrival of British explorer Captain James Cook. Historians credited Cook with the discovery after he was the first to plot and publish the geographical coordinates of the Hawaiian Islands. Cook named his discovery the Sandwich Islands in honor of one of his sponsors, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and reported the native name as Owyhee. His visit is confirmed by Hawaiian legends that called for a fair-skinned man - the god Lono - to return to the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiians initially believed Cook to be this legendary visitor. It is possible that Portuguese or Spanish ships could have previously visited the islands, leading to the tale that Lono had promised to return to the islands.

Hawaiian kingdom

After a series of battles that ended in 1795 and peaceful cession of the island of Kauai in 1810, the Hawaiian Islands were united for the first time under a single ruler who would become known as King Kamehameha the Great. He established the House of Kamehameha, a dynasty that ruled over the kingdom until 1872.

The death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V-who did not name an heir-resulted in the popular election of King Lunalilo over Kalakaua. After Lunalilo's death, in a hotly contested and allegedly fraudulent election by the legislature in 1874 between Kalakaua and Emma (which led to riots and the landing of U.S. and British troops to keep the peace), governance was passed on to the House of Kalakaua.

In 1887, citing maladministration, a group of primarly American and European businessmen, including members of the Hawaiian government forced King Kalakaua to sign the derisively nicknamed "Bayonet Constitution" which stripped the king of administrative authority, eliminated voting rights for Asians and set minimum income and property requirements for American, European and native Hawaiian voters, essentially limiting the electorate to wealthy elite Americans, Europeans and native Hawaiians. King Kalakaua reigned until his death in 1891.

His sister, Liliuokalani, succeeded him to the throne and ruled until her overthrow in 1893.

Hawaiian territory

When William McKinley won the presidential election in November of 1896, the question of Hawaii's annexation to the U.S. was again opened. The previous president, Grover Cleveland, was a friend of Queen Liliuokalani. He had remained opposed to annexation until the end of his term, but McKinley was open to persuasion by U.S. expansionists and by annexationists from Hawaii. He agreed to meet with a committee of annexationists from Hawaii, Lorrin Thurston, Francis Hatch and William Kinney. After negotiations, in June of 1897, McKinley agreed to a treaty of annexation with these representatives of the Republic of Hawaii. The president then submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for approval.

Despite some opposition in the islands, the Newlands Resolution was passed by the House June 15, 1898, by a vote of 209 to 91, and by the Senate on July 6, 1898, by a vote of 42 to 21, formally annexing Hawaii as a U.S. territory. Although its legality was questioned by some at the time because it was a resolution, not a treaty, both houses of Congress carried the measure with two-thirds majorities, whereas a treaty would have only required two-thirds of the Senate vote (Article II, Sec. 2, U.S. Constitution).

The power of the plantation owners was finally broken by activist descendants of original immigrant laborers. Because they were born in a U.S. territory, they were legal U.S. citizens. Expecting to gain full voting rights, they actively campaigned for statehood for the Hawaiian Islands.

In 1900, Hawaii was granted self-governance and retained Iolani Palace as the territorial capitol building. Though several attempts were made to achieve statehood, Hawaii remained a territory for sixty years. Plantation owners, such as the Big Five, found territorial status convenient, enabling them to continue importing cheap foreign labor; such immigration was prohibited in various other states of the Union.

Origin of Hawaiian

Hawaiian is a member of the Polynesian branch of the Austronesian family. It began to develop around 1000 A.D., when foreign Marquesans or Tahitians of that era colonized Hawaii. Those originally foreign Polynesians remained in the islands, thereby becoming the Hawaiian people. Consequently, their originally foreign language developed into the Hawaiian language.

Before the arrival of Captain James Cook, the Hawaiian language was never written. The present written form of Hawaiian was developed mainly by American Protestant missionaries during 1820-1826. They assigned letters from the Latin alphabet that corresponded to the Hawaiian sounds.

Hawaiian distinguishes between long and short vowels. In writing, vowel length can be indicated with a macron (kahak?). Hawaiian also uses the glottal stop as a consonant. In writing, it can be indicated with the apostrophe, or with the opening single quote (?okina).


The aboriginal culture of Hawaii is Polynesian. Hawaii represents the northernmost extension of the vast Polynesian triangle of the south and central Pacific Ocean. While traditional Hawaiian culture remains only as vestiges influencing modern Hawaiian society, there are reenactments of ancient ceremonies and traditions throughout the islands. Some of these cultural influences are strong enough to have affected the culture of the United States at large, including the popularity (in greatly modified form) of luaus and hula.
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