Hawaiian Dictionary 

Hawaii History website - Hawaiʻi Events Chronologically

Hawaii history falls into two categories, precontact and post-contact.  Precontact meaning in most context, before the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778.  Research into precontact Hawaii lineage is difficult because history was not written.  Information was passed down through stories, myths, legends, kapa designs, hula, and chants.  

In precontact Hawaii, Hawaiians lived in a complex society.  Land was allotted by the chiefs (ali'i) through intermediaries, to commoners (maka`ainana) who produced a wide array of goods from the resources of the forest, cultivated lands, and the sea.  The high chiefs and subsidiary groups of lower-ranking chiefs governed large areas (ahupua`a and `ili) that were parceled out.  Luxury items such as elaborate feather capes and cloaks, activities such as sports and festivals were made possible by the expropriation of food and labor from the maka`ainana. There was a strong tradition of common use and sharing which sustained many of the physical and spiritual needs of the people.1

Post-contact documentation is readily available.  Captain James Cook's writings about the paradise he discovered led to visits by foreigners from every port in the world to the islands.  Traders, whaling ships, missionaries, and men looking for opportunities flocked to the newly discovered paradise.  

One of the most devastating problems with foreigners in paradise was the introduction of diseases that the native population had no defenses against.  The native population declined (according to Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, Voices of Wisdom, Hawaiian Elders Speak, when Captain James Cook came in 1778 there were as many as a million "piha kānaka maoli, pure blooded" living entirely off the land and sea.  No imports, self-sufficient, healthy, robust people.  Cook knew that his men introduced syphilis, gonorrhea and today we know tuberculosis also.  At the time of the armed invasion by the United States in 1893 and 1898, we were down to 40,000 kānaka maoli.2)

Hawaii today supports a multicultural society.  The first language we learn is the "Hawaiian Pidgin English" .  It originated on the sugar plantations as a form of communication between English speaking residents and non-English speaking Native Hawaiians and foreign immigrants.  Hawaiian Pidgin was influenced by Hawaiian, Portuguese, American English, Cantonese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean.  

I will continue to enhance the History section as time goes on.


1. Information from A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawai`i 1885-1924, p14, Franklin Odo and Kazuko Sinoto, Hawai`i Immigrant Heritage.

2. Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, Voices of Wisdom, Hawaiian Elders Speak, M. J. Harden, Aka Press, Kula, HI, 1999, Revised in 2013.

©Apr 2018                       Honolulu County Coordinator Doreen Harunaga-Ewing