Hawaiian History and Culture

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A Brief Hawaiian History and Culture

James Cook was Hawaii’s first European contact in 1778 although he called the island the “Sandwich Islands”.  Apparently Cook left the keys to the boat in the boat and was stolen by the locals.  He tried to abduct the King and use him as ransom but the tactic failed.  He and 4 others were killed.

The Hawaiian kingdom started in 1809 following the fall of King Kamehameha. The new king moved to Honolulu, because of its centralized location to take control of the trade among the islands.

Sugar plantations were established in the 1830’s and Honolulu became a booming city including restaurants, bars and entertainment.  Honolulu replaced Maui in 1845 as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Around 1898 Hawaii officially became a US territory as Western influence began in Hawaii, and most importantly Pearl Harbor.  Several arguments, failed bills and lots of political red tape kept Hawaii from becoming a US state.

Pan American Airlines started flying to Hawaii in 1936 leading to growth of tourism.  The tourism was the beginning leading to Hawaii becoming a state. The attacks on Pearl Harbor and after the Korean War, Hawaii was declared the 50th State in 1959.

With the increase in tourism and becoming a state, Hawaii had a boost in culture and heritage that spark a resurgence of the ancient Hawaiian language starting in the 70’s.  The original Hawaiian language was reintroduced back in schools and became an important part of the heritage. Now thanks to Disney’s movie Lilo and Stitch we know that ‘ohana’ means family. Today the language is taught in many of the Universities as well.

Luau, meaning celebration or party, is a very important part of the culture that has been present in the islands for hundreds of years.  Family and friends honor special occasion with each other such as births or weddings.  Some luaus are like family reunions or simply a family gathering.  This is very authentic Hawaiian.  These are private, and unless you have a local connections, it is unlikely you’d be be invited.

Another luau is a touristy/commercial type.  These are mainly for tourists and often time have entertainment.  Typical luaus have roasted pig as the main course to the buffet with rice and pineapple.  Hula dancers are often presents at these types of luaus.

The largest hula festival in the world is called the Merry Monarch and was founded in 1971.  The festival features thousands of dancers honoring the Hawaiian tradition of hula dancing.  The festival takes place in Hilo, the big island, in the Spring and last for a week.

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