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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Hawaii

State History

First Inhabitants

The first people to arrive at the Hawaiian Islands were the Polynesians. They travelled to Hawaii by canoe around 500 AD. These original peoples farmed the land and fished for food. Each settlement was ruled by a chief called the ali'i. There were many strict rules called "kapu" that the people lived by and the chief's word was law.

Hawaii is famous for its beaches
Waikiki Beach by Daderot

Europeans Arrive

The first recorded visit to Hawaii by a European was by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778. At first, the local inhabitants treated Cook as if he was a god. They brought him and his crew many gifts. Cook named the islands the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich. In a later visit to the islands, Cook's crew got into a fight with the local natives and Cook was killed.

King Kamehameha

For much of the history of Hawaii, each island was ruled by a different chief. In the late 1700s, one chief, Chief Kamehameha, began to rise to power. One by one he took over each of the islands. By 1810, he had taken control of all the islands and became the first Hawaiian king.


Statue of King Kamehameha
King Kamehameha by Zeichner

Missionaries Arrive

In 1820, Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii. They opened schools and taught the Hawaiians how to speak English. They also created an alphabet for the Hawaiian language which had never been written down before.

Whalers

About the same time the missionaries arrived, so did whalers. The whalers hunted for whales in the waters around the islands. For the next fifty years, whaling ships came to Hawaii. They brought money, new ideas, and disease. Many of the Hawaiians died from the new diseases brought by the Europeans. Also, many Hawaiian traditions, including the kapu law came to an end during this time.

Sugarcane

In the mid-1800s, the main industry in Hawaii was farming sugarcane. Many people moved to Hawaii from places like China and Japan to work the sugarcane fields. Many businesses from the United States became involved in the sugarcane industry and soon the Kingdom of Hawaii and the United States had established close ties and trade treaties.

Becoming a U.S. Territory

In 1893, the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown and the Republic of Hawaii was established. A few years later, in 1898, Hawaii became a territory of the United States. Over the next several years the United States would built military bases on the islands including Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor and World War II

When World War II began, the United States did not join in the fighting. The hope was that the U.S. could stay out of the war. However, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Many U.S. ships were sunk including the USS Arizona and around 2,500 people were killed. The attack came as a complete surprise to the American people. The U.S. then entered the war and helped to defeat the Axis powers including Germany and Japan.


USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor by Anjrsenet

Becoming a State

After World War II, many people began to want Hawaii to become a state. It took several years, but on August 21, 1959 Hawaii was admitted to the Union as the 50th state.

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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