HISTORY AND CULTURE
History of Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands have a fascinating history. They were probably first settled by Polynesians from the Marquesas in the 4th century.
The first recorded European contact was in 1778 by British explorer Captain James Cook. Explorers, traders, and whalers later found the
islands a convenient harbor and source of food. Ruled by chiefs, or ali'i, and the kapu system of laws, these were
later replaced by the influence of missionaries and coffee plantation owners, and the conversion of Kamehameha III to the island's first Christian king.
Early British influence can be seen from the design of the Flag of Hawaii which has the British Union Flag in the corner.
The Kingdom of Hawaii existed from 1810 until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by resident American and European businessmen.
It became an independent republic from 1894 until 1898, when it was annexed by the United States, becoming a territory in 1900, and a state in 1959.
Place of Refuge
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is an ancient Hawaiian historical site that includes a palace, a temple, and
a Great Wall, among other important artifacts. It was once a refuge for ancient Hawaiians, and is one of many sacred sites on the island.
In time of battle, noncombatants, defeated warriors, and kapu breakers could escape death if they reached this sacred refuge. Those who had broken sacred laws,
or kapus, were usually killed, but an absolution ceremony performed by the kahuna pule, allowed the offender to return home safely.
Congress established it as a national historical park on July 1, 1961 and it has since been restored to its appearance in the late 1700's.
Volcanos and other natural features play an important role in Hawaiian mythology. Kilauea is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.
Hawaiian chants and oral traditions tell in veiled form of many eruptions fomented by an angry Pele before the first European,
the missionary Rev. William Ellis, saw the summit in 1823. Several special lava formations are named after her, including Pele's Tears, which are small droplets of
lava that cool in the air and retain their teardrop shapes, and Pele's Hair, thin, brittle, irridescent strands of volcanic glass that often form during the explosions
that accompany a lava flow as it enters the ocean.
In Hawaiian mythology, Kilauea is where most of the conflict between Pele and the rain god Kamapua`a took place.
Halema`uma`u, "House of the `ama`uma`u fern", derives its name from the final struggle between the two gods.
Since it was the favorite residence of Pele, Kamapua`a, pressed by Pele's ability to make lava spout from the ground at will,
covered it with the fronds of the fern. Choking from the smoke which could not escape anymore, Pele emerged.
Realizing that each could threaten the other with destruction, the gods had to call their fight a draw and
divided the island between them. Kamapua`a got the windward northeastern side, and Pele got the drier Kona leeward side.
The rusty singed appearance of the young fronds of the `ama`uma`u was said to be a product of the legendary struggle.
Ancient Hawaiians called their stone art k'i'i pohaku, or images in stone. The k'i'i pohaku are petroglyphs, which comes from
the Greek "petros" for rock, and "glyphein" to carve. This rock art provides a unique look into the past, however, there is
almost no historic evidence of the petroglyph's origin in Hawai`i. The earliest were simple stick figures, while the figures
with triangular torsos, which are only found in Hawaii, came later.
Others that show carvings of horses and cattle were obviously carved after Westerners appeared in Hawaii.
The island of Hawaii has the greatest number of petroglyphs in the state, and areas of concentration are
almost always found on the smooth pahoe`hoe lava, cliff faces, or smooth interior walls, on the dry and lava inundated areas of the island,
and along trails known to the ancient Hawaiians.
South Point and Ka Lae
Ka Lae, or South Point, is the southernmost point of the United States. Looking across the
ocean from that point nothing but the wide expanse of the Pacific is visible. There are no Hawaiian, or other islands to its south. The next closest land mass is
tiny Kiribati, located at the equator. It is located at the end of a narrow, one way road that passes through large grass-covered fields
sparsely populated by horses, cows, and gigantic wind turbines. It is also a popular Hawaiian fishing spot.
The Universal Space Network also has a 13 meter autotracking antenna located nearby visible from the road. Ka Lea is also the site of one
of the earliest Hawaiian settlements and has one of the longest archaeological records in the Hawaiian islands.