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Hawaii’s History and Interesting Facts

Hawaii State SealFacts First . . .
As you wake to the shush of waves hitting the white sands outside your window, the voice from the radio murmurs: “And the temperature today? High 85. Low 75.” The scent of orchids reaches the corners of your room as golden sun gently illuminates your bed’s gauzy curtains. Yes: you’ve done it. You’ve landed in paradise.

Hawaii’s beauty and comfort will no doubt dazzle you for the first day or two of your trip. Eventually, though, you’ll long to discover the history and culture of this remarkable oasis. The curious will be ready to start with these few facts:

If those basic facts aren’t thrilling enough, here are a few more that make Hawaii absolutely unique. Hawaii is the only state in the entire United States that:Contact Absolute Paradise Vacation Rentals

Hawaii’s Rich History

Hawaii remained free of human habitation until the first centuries of the first millennium, A.C.E., 1500 years ago. At that time, Polynesians first set out from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti, 4,000 miles west. With only stellar formations as guides, they traveled sometimes violent seas carrying pigs, dogs, chickens, potatoes, cocoa nuts, sugar cane and much more.

Both the Tahitians and those from the Marquesas brought with them a lyrical language and a vibrant culture. The Tahitians shared their beliefs in the gods and demi-gods that became the Hawaiian spiritual system. They also invoked a strict social and political hierarchy as well as court protocols, known as “kapu.” (As you travel in Hawaii, look for the occasional sign saying “KAPU,” which means no trespassing or forbidden. These signs are the last remnant of a legal code established by Hawaii’s first inhabitants.) For a long time, different areas of the Hawaiian Islands were managed by groups with warlords at the helm.

The next population to land on Hawaiian shores were the Europeans. In 1778, explorer and cartographer Captain James Cook arrived at Waimea Bay on the island of Kauai. Cook had been exploring the regions of the South Pacific, the California Coast and even Alaska and the Bering Straight, intent on finding a northwest passage when he first landed in Kauai. In 1779, still exploring, he landed at Kalelakekua Bay on Hawaii. Word of the beautiful islands traveled back to Europe, exciting among governments and adventurers talk of more expeditions.

King Kamehameha of HawaiiThe island continued to be ruled by separate factions and kings until the powerful King Kamehameha from Oahu managed to either vanquish or use diplomatic means to convince most of the other Hawaiian kings to unite. By 1810, he had created one royal kingdom consisting of all the islands except for Kauai. He was just 19 years old.

Kamehameha died nine years later in 1819, leaving rule officially to his son Liholiho, but Kaahumanu, Liholiho’s stepmother and King Kamehameha’s favorite wife of all 17, remained in a prime minister-style position. She wielded great control over Hawaiian affairs. In fact, Kaahumanu and Liholiho’s wife, Keopuolani, persuaded Liholiho to abolish the “kapu” system, which at times afforded women only second class status.

Liholiho and his stepmother, Kaahumanu (who never bore any children) went even farther in changing Hawaii’s culture. They challenged the power of the priesthood and the temples by destroying the sacred sites that gave honor to the nature-based gods like Pele and Lono. This move opened the door for Christianity.

Historians give Liholiho credit for attempting to ensure the lasting independence of the Hawaiian kingdom. In 1823, Liholiho and his favorite wife, Kamamalu, sailed to England to finalize an agreement with Great Britain, guaranteeing Hawaii’s continued independence under the protection of the larger country’s militaries. Unfortunately, Liholiho and Kamamalu contracted the measles on the journey and died. They returned to Hawaii in extravagant coffins and were much mourned.

During the next ten years Liholiho’s stepmother, Queen Kaahumanu, ruled Hawaii. A zealous and determined woman, Queen Kaahumanu welcomed the missionaries that began arriving in the 1920s. The “kapu” system had denied women many rights that the European missionary women seemed to enjoy. In Christianity, she saw an avenue for Hawaiian women to gain more power and influence. In 1825, she was baptized as a Christian and took the name Elizabeth after the strong queens of England. While she used Christianity to build her power and keep Hawaii sovereign and independent of conquering nations, observers were also convinced that she had a deep knowledge of Christian teachings and a genuine, even passionate, faith. She died in 1832.

In 1839, Liholiho’s younger brother and Queen Kaahumanu’s successor, King Kamehameha III crafted the Hawaiian Declaration of Rights. One year later, in 1840, he declared Hawaii no longer an absolute monarchy but a constitutional monarchy with three divisions: the King as the Chief Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary.
On July 7, 1898, the Hawaiian Islands were officially annexed to the United States.

Hawaii during World War II

In 1941, two years after World War II began in Europe, the Japanese sent hundreds of warplanes to Oahu’s Pearl Harbor to destabilize the U.S. Navy base, which it considered a threat. With this hostile act, President Roosevelt declared war on the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor is said to have “awoken the sleeping giant”—America’s militaries, which eventually became the most powerful in the world. Four years after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan surrendered to the United States on the Battleship Missouri, still docked in Pearl Harbor today.
In the last fifty years, Hawaii has become an unparalleled tourist mecca and marine sanctuary and research center. Further, its senator, Senator Daniel Inuoye is recognized as one of the U.S. Senate’s most dedicated and respected members. A U.S. Senator since 1963, he is currently the third-most-senior member after fellow Democrats Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy. Born in 1924, he has continuously represented Hawaii in the U.S. Congress since it achieved statehood in 1959.

Map of Hawaii

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