Thursday, July 14, 2005

Superfast Hawaiian history

In case you are wondering how Hawaiian culture came to be what it is today, here is my superfast history.

Hot spot in the earth's crust created created a bunch of islands in the middle Pacific about 2000 miles from L.A., which is not quite far enough in my mind, but we get by. :) The big isle of Hawaii is the newest and that is where the active volcanoes are - Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Kilouea (spelling is wrong) and the last is the most active in the world, continually pouring out lava as we speak. The full Hawaiian chain actually stretches for a thousand miles from Hawaii to the northwest, including Midway.

The polynesians were the first settlers who came here about a 1000 years ago in outrigger canoes, sailing the ocean currents and stars for thousands of miles, from the Society Islands (Tahiti) and the Marquesas (like that Survivor series). The polynesians were some of the greatest sailors in world history and their homes stretch all the way from Hawaii to the Maori in New Zealand. In 1778, Captian Cook showed up in the islands, changing everything. Some Europeans and many Americans soon followed. There were three immediate consequences. Using European guns King Kamehameha of Hawaii conquered all of the islands for the first time in their history, establishing the Hawaiian monarchy and the capital in Honolulu. Second, the Americans soon set up plantations, and the plantations drove the Hawaiian economy for a hundred years. Sugar was the main crop with pineapples as well. As a note, pineapples and macadamia nuts were all brought to Hawaii at this time, but they happen to grow really well in the climate. Third, new diseases devastated the Hawaiian population. I have heard one estimate that as many as 90% died. This seems high, but the effect was at least as powerful as the Black Death in Europe.

The plantations transformed Hawaii. In the latter half of the 19th century, the plantations began to import workers, mostly from Asia, but some others. These included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Filipinos. The number of immigrants brought in to work the plantations was vast. In the early 20th century, some 40% of the population was Japanese. The workers also had to create a new language with which to communicate, which is called Hawaiian pidgin, but is actually a creole language - more on that at another time. Also, there were increasing tensions between the Americans running the plantations and the Hawaiian monarchy. In the end, the plantation owners organized a militia and imprisoned Queen Lili'uokalani in 1893. In 1898, Hawaii became a territory of the United States.

In the 1920s and 1930s the immigrations slowed down, as did the plantation economy. The next great economic boom came with the second world war, which established Hawaii as one of the principal military bases for the U.S. (Large sections of Oahu are military; it's much more than just Pearl Harbor). Also, the tourist economy really took off. In 1959, the Hawaiian citizens elected to become the 50th state.

I think one of the great treasures of Hawaii, other than its natural beauty, is the ethnic diversity here. Here are the last U.S Census numbers on that. Basically, 20% are white, 20% identify with two or more races, 50% is Asian, and 10% are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (Samoan, Guam, Micronesia mostly). Of course that lumps all Asians together. To get a better idea, here are the stats for the University system: Caucasian 22%, Hawaiian 13%, Filipino 13%, Chinese 6%, Japanese 16%, Pacific Islander 3%, all other 15% (must include Korean, Indian, African-American etc.) and Mixed 12%. Notice that mixed is almost tied for the 2nd largest group here. I keep hearing that the majority of marriages here are interracial or intercultural, but I have no data to back that up. And so that's Hawaii.

3 comments:

pasifikas said...

hey dude, Kia Ora from NZ!

check out:
www.freehawaii.com
thanks for your interesting site.

pasifikas said...

ooops, its me again, i didn't mean to send you to a free hawaii 'holiday' website...ignore that and check out instead:

www.freehawaii.org

regards, Pasifikas x

Anonymous said...

A true american is an indian, the
spanish came to the america's, as
they did here, as they did in the
philipines. Not all white men are
spanish, not all american's are
spanish! The spanish spread their
seeds in many parts of the world,
and made the peoples change their
beliefs, their relegion, their
names.