The history of the Hawaiian and Sandwich Islands during the 18th century is as colorful and unique as the flowers that are grown in the region. On December 23, 1826, a treaty between the United States of America and the King of the Sandwich Islands was signed at Honolulu and entered into force. The people who inhabited the islands, took their livelihood out of the ocean waters, and thrived upon their religion and customs continue to romance and mystify the people of today's hurried society. This paper will discuss the people, region, homes, culture, religion and images that make up the interesting historical account of the Hawaiian and Sandwich Islands.
The Polynesians were the first people to live in what is now Hawaii. These people lived off of the sea, and sailed the Pacific Ocean in giant canoes. They arrived in the Hawaiian chain from other Pacific islands about 2,000 years ago.
In Hawaii, they became expert fisherman, sailors, and craftspeople. They utilized their resources and built dugout canoes to travel from island to island. They became more daring and unafraid of the demands of the sea. Their migration continued as they traveled westward into the region of the South Pacific known as Polynesia or "many islands"(Goldberg, 1998). They lived off of the riches of the land and sweet potatoes; taro roots were a great staple along with bananas, sugarcane, coconuts, bamboo, and breadfruit.
The people established an order that was recognized through a series of kapus or taboos. This system was very oppressive. Commoners were not allowed to venture to close to the chiefs, or even touch their belongings. Women were not allowed to prepare food for the men, and any violation of the kapus might mean death to the offender. The early Hawaiian's lived their life based upon religion and gods that ruled over the common people with the help of the kahunas or priests.
The Hawaiian Islands were born of fire millions of years ago. The hot molten lava flowed from the earth to create a solid foundation of underground mountains. The lava continued to flow and the dry land eventually created the islands, which are the largest of all the Pacific island chains. There are now 132 islands, reefs, and shoals in the Hawaiian archipelago. Only eight are considered of major importance and include the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau. Geographers divide the islands into three groups:
eight main islands in the southeast, islets of rock in the middle, coral and sand islands in the northwest.
The total general coastline of the eight main islands is 750 miles long. The shoreline includes bays, islets, and river mouths, with black rocks of lava jut out of the water along some of the coasts. In many places, tall cliffs rise almost straight up from the water's edge. Most of the islands have white sand beaches and black sand, formed from the molten covers several other beaches.
Tropical plants and trees are abundant and thrive in the areas of rich soil where heavy rainfall allows them to flourish with many of the plants being only found on the islands and no where else throughout the world. Sadly, many types are rare and in danger of extinction. There is very little wildlife that is native to the area, and most of it is very rare. The tropical fish, snails and birds that are native to the region are of great interest to scientists.
Not only is the region of the area colorful, but so is the culture of the people. The clothing of the 18th century was very colorful and adorned with fresh flowers. Grass skirts were created and remain as part of the traditional clothing for dancing and luaus. Dancing is the most famous art of the islands. The Hawaiian word for dance is Hula and is a popular pastime on the islands. Hula dancers sway their hips and wave their arms gracefully to the rhythm of the music. The dances tell stories and describe the beautiful scenery of the islands. The music of Hawaii features melodies and lyrics that embosses the atmosphere of the islands. Hawaiians perform other traditional dances accompanied by chants and drums. Music features the ukulele, Kalaau or wooden sticks, ili or stone castanets, ipu or hollow gourds, and the Hawaiian steel guitar. The ukulele was developed from a small guitar brought to the islands by Portuguese laborers in the late 1800's. The word ukulele means jumping flea.
As the men become more concerned with protecting the islands and participating in war, the women took over the dance. During the early part of the 18th century, missionaries disapproved of the hula because they thought that it was indecent and very provocative. Hula dancers and large feasts entertained royalty or luaus were held often.
The ancient Hawaiians did not have an alphabet or written language. The influx of the Protestant missionaries saw a need for a Hawaiian alphabet, and devised a written language as part of their efforts to Christianize the Polynesians. However, their deep roots in the kapu system were strongly instilled. However, on the death of King Kamehameha, the kapu system was abandoned and the Polynesians turned to the missionaries for comfort. Soon laws were passed forbidding work on Sundays and more time was allowed for Christian worship.
The 'Aikapu religion began with the birth of the Hawaiian Islands. The Polynesians faith in this religion and the kapu system also involved many levels of various gods who looked over the daily needs of the people. They believed in the presence of a divine being who were both all-powerful and the great ruler of all things, known as Ore. Another god, known as atua mana, was believed to be the creator of the world and the cause of all things. Oromatautua was his son and he presided over war and peace. The messenger god was known as Tipahoamanu. Symbols were a large part of the religious culture with the "maro'ura" or red feather girdle being a sign of royalty. Large boats also served the purpose to help define stages of class. The Polynesians also believed in ghosts and felt that they were the souls that remained after death.
While most ghosts were friendly, many could be mean or sinister.
Polynesians left food and offered sacrifices for the gods hoping to bring them contentment and happiness.
The Hawaiian temples are very important to Polynesian worship. The Female chiefs led worship at the female temples with the goddess Mob Akua being the focus of worship. It was believed that the goddess Akua had the ability to give birth from any part of her body. Many goddesses were worshipped and were the focus of everyday life. Since the female power was so abundant, the female blessing was desired over men's work and worship, or their work would not prosper. Goddesses ruled all the oceans and volcanoes, and the goddess of Anaa'ana, was prayed to upon the death of a loved one in an effort to bring the recently deceased back to life (Kame'eleihiwa, 2004). The fire goddess, Pele, causes volcanoes to erupt, and many great gods required abstinence and fasting in order for the people to gain great honor and purification.
A temporary house served as a sanction for women during their monthly menstruation cycle.
Women who had their monthly courses at the same time gathered together to rest, to avoid the normal duties of the world, and to spend a few days with other women who felt the same emotions and inconveniences. Men were not allowed to be around the women during this time. During this time, the women would meditate and commune with the ancestral female Akua. "Red was the color of sanctity, as well as the color of menstrual blood, and during their monthly cycles women may have been most kapu, or sacred; certainly it is the time when women were most sensitive to the suggestions of the ancestors" (Goldberg, 1998).
There are also many artifacts related to religious beliefs, the Polynesians made arms, dress and ornaments for the frequent skirmishes and wars between chiefs. These conflicts were among the various tribes or families. These confrontations occurred on land and sea. Weapons such as slings, spears, clubs and truncheons were used as well as war canoes.
The Polynesian culture erupted in a blend of gods and goddesses as they prepared for the return of the god of the land, Lono. During a short four-month period, the lay people regained power over the chiefs, and much celebration was taking place. The festivities and memorials were constructed to honor Lono. People were constantly singing and dancing thus to celebrate their newfound life. Of course, Lono never returned, and the islanders mistook a foreign visitor, by the name of James Cook, for their beloved god.
The Third Voyage of Captain Cook
James Cook was born in Marton, England, near Middlesbrough, on October 27, 1728.…