Hawaiian History in a Coconut Shell | EarthyUniversity

Hey you! 😊 Thanks so much for being here!

I'm so excited to share with you some extracts of the very first online course about Hawai'i, this time: Hawaiian history.

The history of the Hawaiian Islands is a sad story about gruesome battles, the rise and fall of the Kamehameha and Kalākaua dynasties as well as the oppression and decline of a rich culture. Hawaii's history was gravely impacted by the initial discovery and later the arrival of European settlers and American missionaries and businessmen. Learn about:

1) Discovery and Settlement

2) Monarchy and Republic

3) Annexation by the United States. 



As you might know Hawai'i was discovered by the Polynesians.

It's not really clear when exactly the discovery took place (probably somewhere between 400-1.300 CE, but it is crystal clear that the Polynesians were excellent navigators of the sea.

Hawai'i is the most isolated spot on Earth.

Polynesia lies in the South Pacific, far away from Hawai'i. The Polynesians were not able to see the islands with their naked eye.

They also didn't have any technical equipment which allowed them to navigate the Pacific Ocean.

So, how on Earth did they know it would be worth traveling to the north?

The answer is as simple as it is astounding. It is assumed  that they studied the migratory routes and feeding behavior of birds and they simply follow the birds.

On their way to the Hawaiian islands in wooden canoes, they used the stars to guide them.

Many, many years later somewhere between 1753 and 1761, but probably in 1758, Pai'ea, a little boy later known as Kamehameha I, is born in North Kohala into a royal family.

Legend has it that the birth of Pai'ea was accompanied by storms and "a light at the sky with feathers like a bird" which is thought to signal the birth of a great chief.

Historians believe that a comet, the Halley Comet, passing Hawai'i in 1758 caused this phenomenon.

For the first five years of his young life Kamehameha was hidden in Waipi'o Valley on the Hāmākua Coast of the Big Island in order to protect him due to the prophecy that has been made about his great future.

This is how he got his nickname "Kamehameha" which means "the lonely one".

A few years later, in 1778, it is Captain Cook, the English navigator and explorer, who discovers Hawai'i and sets foot at Waimea Bay on Kaua'i on January 20th, 1778.

What is interesting is that the navigators already noticed similarities to the language, culture, animals and tools used in Polynesia in the Southern Pacific.

James Cook returns to Hawai'i on January 17th, 1779, one year later, and anchors at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island.

One month later, James Cook got into a fight with locals and was killed at Ka'awa Loa at Kealakekua Bay on February 14th, 1779.

In 1795, Kamehameha I wins the final battle of Nu'uanu on O'ahu.

Hawai'i becomes a monarchy and the Kamehameha Dynasty begins.

In 1810, Kamehameha I unites all the islands, including Kaua'i.

This is a very important step for the future history of the islands, as they are now protected from western power.

This is why Kamehameha the Great, as he was also known, is, despite the many battles and wars and violence, a very popular king.

Across from the 'Iolani Palace, there is a statue erected to remember him. On June 11th, Hawaiians commemorate Kamehameha the Great and celebrate Kamehameha Day and all statues of the King are being decorated with flower leis.

In 1819, Kamehameha I dies and Kamehameha II, his son, also known as Liholiho succeeds the throne.

But Liholiho refuses to keep the tradition which forbids men and women to eat together. His behavior leads to the abolishment of the kapu system, the strict taboo system of the native Hawaiians.

He also allows the settlement of Protestant missionaries from New England, unknowingly determining the decline and the loss of Hawai'i's culture, the fate of the Hawaiian population and even his own destiny.

In 1820, the first missionaries from New England arrive and in 1824, Liholiho dies from measles in July.

His brother, Kaukeaouli, becomes king.

In 1835, the first sugar cane plantation opens on Kaua'i and with that agriculture gains economic relevance.

Ten years later, Honolulu becomes the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom and in the 1850s plantation productions succeed and grow steadily, demanding for new labor.

The first immigrant workers from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Portugal arrive.

In 1874, the Kamehameha-Dynasty ends.

In total, there were five kings from the Kamehameha family.

David Kalākaua succeeds the throne and the Kalākaua-Dynasty begins.

In 1882, the construction of 'Iolani Palace is complete and it is the final residence of the last kings and queens of Hawai'i.

In 1887, to Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai'i is signed.

It weakens the monarch's powers and empowers the government and legislature.

It is also called a "Bayonet Constitution", as the King was forced to sign the constitution under the threat of being deposed.

In 1891 King David Kalākaua dies on January 28th.

His sister, Lydia Kamakaeha, follows the throne as Queen Lili'uokalani.

She is the composer of the famous song: "Aloha 'Oe".

In 1893, on January 17th, Queen Lili'uokalani is deposed and the Hawaiian kingdom is being overthrown by American businessman and sugar growers.

One year later, the Republic of Hawai'i is formed. 

In 1898, the Newlands Resolution, as an act of Congress, enables the United States to annex Hawai'i.

It is celebrated in front of 'Iolani Palace.

Two years later, the territory of Hawai'i is established by the Hawaiian Organic Act.

17 years later, sadly, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, Queen Lili'uokalani, dies.

In 1941, during World War II, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor on December 7th. The USS Arizona sinks with 1.100 people on board.

The shipwreck was declared a memorial site in 1962.

In 1959, Hawai'i becomes a 50th state of the United States on August 21st.

In 2006, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is established on June 15 under President George W. Bush.

The name symbolizes Papa and Wākea. Papa is the Earth Mother and Wākea is the Sky Father.

According to the mythology, both created the Hawaiian Archipelago, the taro plant and all Hawaiian people.

This marine monument is the largest continuous protected area under the US flag and one of the largest marine preservation districts in the entire world.

It comprises the entire Northwestern Hawaiian Island Chain from Nihoa, which lies west of Ni'ihau, to the Cure Atoll in the northwest. It spreads across 1,5 million km² or 580.000 square miles.


If you are intrigued to learn even more about Hawai'i and want to become a sustainable, conscious traveler, I invite you to visit the website EarthyUniversity and have a look at the free class MĀLAMA (care for) Hawai'i Pre-Travel Class. I'll see you there! 😊

Be kind and love nature, 




About the author

Daniela is convinced that by gaining deep insights into planet Earth and travel destinations you’ll create meaningful, grounding and memorable life and travel experiences. She explains fundamental geological processes that form and shape landscapes and combines these insights with philosophical and philanthropical views in her online courses, articles, and newsletter. She holds two bachelor's degrees in geosciences (B.Sc.) and business administration with tourism (B.A.). She is the owner and founder of EarthyMe, EarthyUniversity and the Science of Travel blog and the Stories of Earth newsletter.




Image Credit: Photo by Justin Lam on Unsplash


What are your thoughts?

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

/* -- Responsive video embed -- */ .responsive-video { padding-bottom: 56.25%; /* for 16:9 ratio */ padding-top: 25px; position: relative; height: 0; } .responsive-video iframe, .responsive-video object, .responsive-video embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }