The original settlement of Hawaii by Polynesians was followed by a second wave of immigrants that sailed from Tahiti during the 9th or 10th century. The original Hawaiians were highly skilled in fishing and farming. By the late 18th century their society had evolved into a complex one with a rigid system of laws set down by chiefs and priests. They worshiped and feared a group of gods not unlike the ancient Greek deities of Mount Olympus in character and power.
Contact with and settlement by Polynesian Tahitians began in the 9th century. The Tahitians ruled the earlier settlers. Powerful classes of chiefs and priests arrived and established themselves. The early Hawaiians lacked a written language. Their culture was entirely oral and rich in myth, legend, and practical knowledge, especially of animals and plant life. Today the Hawaiian alphabet consists in the order of the English alphabet of the letters A, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, U, and W. The Hawaiians displayed great skill in the use of wood, shell, stone, and bone, and their huge double and outrigger canoes were technical marvels. Navigational methods were well developed, and there was an elaborate calendar. Athletic contests encouraged warrior skills.
The arrival of Europeans
Capt. James Cook, the British explorer and navigator, is generally credited with having made the first European discovery of Hawaii; he landed at Waimea, Kauai Island, on Jan. 20, 1778. He traded with the Hawaiians who considered him a great chief with divine powers. He named them the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich, first lord of the British admiralty. Upon Cook's return the following year, he was killed during an affray with a number of Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay.
The initial appearance of Cook was followed by a period of intermittent contact with the West introducing to the islands various livestock, manufactured goods, and plants. During this period King Kamehameha I used European military technology and weapons to emerge as an outstanding Hawaiian leader first by conquering Hawaii Island in a 10 year civil war ending in 1782, then by seizing and consolidating control over the main island group except for Kauai and Niihau. For 85 years thereafter monarchs ruled over the Hawaiian kingdom. The local chiefs became governors over their islands under King Kamehameha I with this state of governorship coming being extended to include Kauai and Niihau since in 1810 Kaumualii their ruler accepted the rule of King Kamehameha I.
After the death of King Kamehameha I in 1819 his son Liholiho became King Kamehameha II. He abolished the Hawaiian religion. The religion involved large temples, many orders of priests and the belief in many gods and goddesses. Protestantism became the official religion enforced by the chiefs who accordingly forced the Roman Catholics to leave Hawaii. They tried to prevent more from arriving and arrested many Hawaiians who became Roman Catholic. In July 1839 the French sent the frigate L'Artemise to threaten Honolulu unless the Catholics were freed. The frigate's captain also demanded religious freedom for Roman Catholics. The Hawaiians gave in to the captain's demands.
Hawaii eventually had a Queen, Queen Liliuokalani. She seemed as if she would abrogate the constitution of Hawaii. The Committee of Safety, a group of American and European businessmen, some of whom were citizens of the kingdom, seized power in 1893, with the help of a company of U.S. Marines from the U.S.S. Boston, at anchor in the harbor. The U.S. government, under Pres. Grover Cleveland, refused to annex the territory, however, noting that the overthrow of the monarchy was an “act of war” accomplished against popular will using U.S. armed force . A short-lived republic (an oligarchy of American and European businessmen) ensued, until the administration of Pres. William McKinley annexed the islands as U.S. territory in 1900.
As a U.S. territory, Hawaii until 1940 was distinguished by a rapid growth in population, the development of a plantation economy based on the production of sugar and pineapples for consumption on the U.S. mainland, and the growth of transport and military links. Movements for statehood, based in part on Hawaii’s obligation to pay U.S. taxes without having corresponding legislative representation, began to emerge. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, brought not only Hawaii but the United States as a whole into World War II, and the islands were beset by an upsurge of military activity and a sometimes controversial curtailment of civil liberties.
Since statehood both the population and the economy boomed in Hawaii, with ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Tourism remained the dominant industry in the early 21st century. Visitors are lured not only by the warm climate and exotic beauty of the islands but also by a growing number of world-class resorts, built on such a grand scale that they are destinations in themselves. Moreover, the Mauna Kea Observatory has helped Hawaii become a major world center of astronomy.
Hawaii is by now multiracial with no dominant race. Still despite the draw of Hawaii for tourists, foreigners, and researchers, Native Hawaiians continue to demand land rights, more autonomy in their internal affairs, and the right to self-governance. The establishment of a Native Hawaiian governing entity continues to be debated between Native Hawaiians and those who oppose ancestry-based sovereignty.
Based partially on http://www.britannica.com/place/Hawaii-state and partially on The World Book Encyclopedia, sometimes quoting them verbatim.