- 2Origin of the Name:
- 3Spelling of State Name:
- 5.1First Human Settlement – Ancient Hawaiʻi (800–1778):
- 5.2European Arrival:
- 5.1Kingdom of Hawaiʻi:
- 5.11887 Constitution and Overthrow Preparations:
- 5.2Overthrow of 1893 – Republic of Hawai’i (1894–1898):
- 5.3Annexation – Territory of Hawai’i (1898–1959):
- 5.1Political Changes of 1954 – State of Hawai’i (1959–Present):
- 8Flag of Hawai’i:
- 9State Nickname:
The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was sovereign from 1810 until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by resident American and European capitalists and landholders. Hawai’i was an independent republic from 1894 until August 12, 1898, when it officially became a territory of the United States. Hawai’i was admitted as a U.S. state on August 21, 1959.
First Human Settlement – Ancient Hawaiʻi (800–1778):
Based on archaeological evidence, the earliest habitation of the Hawai’ian Islands dates to around 300 CE, probably by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas Islands. A second wave of migration from Raiatea and Bora Bora took place in the 11th century.
The date of the human discovery and habitation of the Hawai’ian Islands is the subject of academic debate. Some archaeologists and historians think it was a later wave of immigrants from Tahiti around 1000 CE who introduced a new line of high chiefs, the kapu system, the practice of human sacrifice, and the building of heiau. This later immigration is detailed in Hawai’ian mythology (moʻolelo) about Paʻao. Other authors say there is no archaeological or linguistic evidence for a later influx of Tahitian settlers and that Paʻao must be regarded as a myth.
The history of the islands is marked by a slow, steady growth in population and the size of the chiefdoms, which grew to encompass whole islands. Local chiefs, called aliʻi, ruled their settlements, and launched wars to extend their influence and defend their communities from predatory rivals. Ancient Hawai’i was a caste-based society, much like that of Hindus in India.
It is possible that Spanish explorers arrived in the Hawai’ian Islands in the 16th century—200 years before Captain James Cook‘s first documented visit in 1778. Ruy López de Villalobos commanded a fleet of six ships that left Acapulco in 1542 bound for the Philippines with a Spanish sailor named Juan Gaetano aboard as pilot. Depending on the interpretation, Gaetano’s reports describe an encounter with either Hawaiʻi or the Marshall Islands. If de Villalobos’ crew spotted Hawaiʻi, Gaetano would be considered the first European to see the islands. Some scholars have dismissed these claims due to a lack of credibility.
Spanish archives contain a chart that depicts islands at the same latitude as Hawaiʻi but with a longitude ten degrees east of the islands. In this manuscript, the island of Maui is named La Desgraciada (The Unfortunate Island), and what appears to be Hawaiʻi Island is named La Mesa (The Table). Islands resembling Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai are named Los Monjes (The Monks). For two-and-a-half centuries, Spanish galleons crossed the Pacific from Mexico along a route that passed south of Hawaiʻi on their way to Manila. The exact route was kept secret to protect the Spanish trade monopoly against competing powers.
The 1778 arrival of British explorer James Cook was the first documented contact by a European explorer with Hawai’i.
Cook named the archipelago as the Sandwich Islands in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. Cook published the islands’ location and rendered the native name as Owyhee. This spelling lives on in Owyhee County, Idaho. It was named after three native Hawai’ian members of a trapping party who went missing in that area. The Owyhee Mountains were also named for them.