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Oahu’s, And The Hawaiian Islands History and Culture

by Fergy Ferguson

The statue of King Kamehameha in front of the Supreme State Court House

You can choose to learn a little or a lot, about Oahu’s, and the Hawaiian Islands history and culture on your Seattle to Hawaii vacation.  There are many reasons for a Hawaii vacation, and those arriving for the first time can learn about the history and culture of Oahu, and the Hawaiian Islands very easily.  The cultural benchmarks and history of these islands probably begins earlier than you might think.  An important first fact you should know is that the Polynesians probably settled these islands well before the Europeans discovered North America.

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The first people to settle the Hawaii chain were seafarers from other parts of Polynesia.  These intrepid settlers were master seamen of amazing skill who are believed to have first arrived in Hawaii over 1,500 years ago.  Another amazing fact is that these first arrivals brought all their food with them, except what they took from the sea.  They also brought their animals, plants and knowledge of how to cultivate the rugged islands.  The vessels they sailed in were carved out of massive trees, and stabilized with outriggers to help them navigate the rough seas of the Pacific.  Although they brought their native culture with them, it is believed that a new culture was quickly formed to adapt to their new conditions and surroundings. 

As they settled the main islands in the chain, each island eventually formed into it’s own separate kingdom.  The ruling class was known as Ali’i or high chiefs.  As is always the case there was one King, and as you can imagine, this system was very efficient for it’s time.  The next rung down on the ladder were the craftsmen, and healers, or priests.  They were called the kahuna an it was believed that they possessed the power to communicate with the spirits, and so were revered, and feared among the people.

The early system of laws in the Hawaiian Islands was known as the Kapu system.  It was based upon the laws of nature and the general beliefs surrounding everyday tasks, and duties associated with their lives.  An example of an early Kapu law would have to do with the prohibition of fishing during certain times of the year.  This was deemed necessary to allow their food stocks to replenish themselves.  Another example would be the prohibition of the common people to be allowed to gaze upon the king when he passed.  The punishments passed out for breaking local Kapu ranged from withholding of food, all the way up to swift death.  There were avenues of escape from punishment though.  These escapes were often accomplished with great feats of strength and endurance, such as outrunning an enforcer, or by swimming across treacherous waters to a city of refuge.  Much of the Kapu system was in a period of decline as the first Europeans sailed into the lives of the Hawaiians.  As the European systems, religion, and laws were introduced to the islands, it caused a great upheaval in the Hawaiian way of life.

I will cover the landing of Captain Cook and the subsequent history of the Hawaiian Islands in my next post.  I highly encourage you to look into the history culture of the people of Hawaii on your Seattle to Hawaii vacation.  It’s a fascinating story that will help you to understand the warmth and open nature of the Hawaiian people.

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