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Capital Honolulu
Nickname The Aloha State
Official Language English, Hawaiian [1]
Governor David Ige, D
Senator Brian Schatz, D

Senator Mazie Hirono, D

Population 1,211,537
Ratification of Constitution/or statehood August 21, 1959 (50th)
Flag of Hawaii Motto: "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono" (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
Hawaiian Island Chain - from Southeast to Northwest.‎

Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hawai'i), the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1795–1893 was annexed by the United States of America in 1894 and a territory from 1900-1959, became the 50th state to join the union on August 21, 1959—it was the fiftieth (and last) state to enter into the union. In 2005 it had a population of 1,275,194 on 6,423 square miles of land.[2] It is located in the Pacific Ocean west and south of the mainland of the United States. It is the only American state to have 2 official languages. The main Hawaiian islands are (east to west) Hawai'i (or 'the Big Island'), Maui, Kaho'olawe, Moloka'i, Lana'i, O'ahu, Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. The state capital, Honolulu, and Pearl Harbor are both on the island of Oahu. The origin of the name Hawai'i is obscure. It could be derived from the Polynesian Owhyii, 'Place of the Gods', or from Hawaiki (the former name of Raiatea in the Society Islands), or may have the meaning 'Homeland'.[3]

The state Constitution of Hawaii, like all of the other 50 states, acknowledges God or our Creator or the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. It says:

We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, and mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island State, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaii State motto, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono."

Ancient History

The original settlers of the Hawaiian island chain were Polynesian explorers who voyaged in ocean-worthy canoes from the southern Pacific (primarily the Marquesas), arriving in the islands circa 300-600 AD. In addition to their Polynesian culture and traditions, these earliest settlers brought with them an array of plants and animals. A second wave of migrations between the Hawaiian and Society Islands took place circa 1000-1300 AD, and this wave brought an infusion of Tahitian religious forms and social structure to the inhabitants of Hawaii. This period ended around 1300 AD, after which the culture of the Hawaiians developed a distinct identity.[4]

The population of ancient Hawaii grew sharply between 900 and 1300 AD, then stabilized at a lower rate as the inhabitants lived in balance with the resources of the islands. At the time James Cook arrived in 1778, the population of the islands was estimated to be around 300,000.[5]

The 18th Century

Unification under a Single King

In the middle of the 18th century, the Hawaiian islands were governed as a collection of separate kingdoms. As the century came to a close, a dynamic figure named Kamehameha began a campaign to unify all of the islands under his rule as sole monarch. This was primarily accomplished though brutal conquest, although some of his opponents capitulated peacefully as his army's reputation grew. Kamehameha's conquest of the islands was complete by 1795, and the westerners who arrived from that time and afterward dealt with a single authority for the entire chain.[6]

Discovery by the West

James Cook discovered the islands during his third voyage to the Pacific in 1778. He named them the Sandwich Islands after the then Lord of the Admiralty, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. He would die there the next year at the hands of the natives. As the location of the islands appeared on navigation charts they were visited by ships of various nations, including the British, Americans, French and Russians, since the location was ideal for providing safe anchorage and the replenishment of provisions in the mid-Pacific. The islands were also strategically located in the migration path of humpback whales, which were among the most sought-after by a thriving whaling industry in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, contact with westerners brought with it western diseases that decimated the indigenous population, which plummeted from approximately 300,000 in 1778 to 56,900 in 1872.[7]

The 19th Century

The End of Kapu

With the death of Kamehameha and ascension of his son Liholiho to the throne, significant changes began to take place. The most profound was the decision by Liholiho to disregard the sanctity of the kapu system of rules and customs that had been the backbone of Hawaiian society. In gradual steps, he allowed changes to customs like allowing men and women to eat together at feasts for the first time, and as objections to these changes were dropped or put down they continued until temples to the ancient gods were dismantled and idols burned. The abandonment of kapu left a void in the social structure of Hawaii just as the first Christian missionaries began to arrive.[8]

The Missionary Influence

Early visitors from Europe introduced Christianity to the native Hawaiians, but these were not part of any organized missionary campaign. A Hawaiian from Kona, Henry Opukaha'ia, is acknowledged to be the first native Christian convert, and in 1808 he traveled to New England. He spent the next 10 years in Connecticut seeking to inspire and organize missionaries to accompany him back to the islands, but he died in New England in 1818. His work inspired others, though, and in 1819 the first missionaries (Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Dutch Reformists) were sent by American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the islands. "You are to aim at nothing short of covering those islands with fruitful fields and pleasant dwellings, and schools and churches; of raising up the people to an elevated state of Christian civilization" was the parting instruction from Dr. Samuel Worchester, secretary of the commissioners.[9]

The missionaries were not initially trusted by Liholiho, who instead placed them under probation. A missionary headquarters was established in Honolulu, and one of the first priorities was to develop a consistent written form for the Hawaiian language, which was only spoken up to that time. They also set up the first island printing press, and as other companies of missionaries arrived, they influenced changes in Hawaiian society as well as developments in education, organization of government and entrepreneurialism. 0[10]

Unfortunately, not all of these changes were for the long-term benefit of the native Hawaiian culture. One particular example was the disapproval and suppression of the hula by the missionaries. The hula is a deep and complex form of recording legends, history and insights about man and nature into patterns of movements that to the uneducated look like elaborate dances. The Hawaiians had no written version of their language prior to the arrival of the missionaries, and the rich collection of hulas passed from generation to generation was their primary form of recorded culture. The Protestant missionaries arriving in 1820 believed that the hula dangerously promoted old heathen beliefs and celebrated physical enjoyment. With this misunderstanding, they strongly pressured the Hawaiians who had converted to Christianity, including members of the monarchy, to eradicate hula. Their efforts drove the practice underground, and while much of Hawaii's ancient history and heritage was lost as a result, public appreciation and study of the true hula (as opposed to dances for tourists) was reawakened in the 1970s, studied, and documented for posterity.[11]


The Hawaiian Kingdom flourished throughout the 19th century with several monarchs. It became increasingly westernized. The United States became the major trading partner and protected the Kingdom of Hawaii from takeover by Japan. The vast sugar plantations attracted workers from across the world, especially from Japan, as the native Hawaiians refused to work for pay.

Revolution of 1893

The modernization of Hawaiian society was incompatible with absolute monarchy. The Hawaiian Revolution of 1893 when Hawaiian citizens (many of western descent) overthrew Queen Liliuokalani in response to her attempt to unilaterally impose a new constitution and seize power as an absolute ruler. The revolution was successful with the loss of no life. No Hawaiians tried to fight for their queen. The new Hawaiian government was set up as the Republic of Hawaii and it was recognized by every nation which had recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom.

During the Hawaiian Revolution, a few American troops landed to protect American life and property. They did not engage in fighting and did not occupy any government buildings. However, this action lead many historical revisionists to falsely claim that the United States invaded Hawaii and deposed the Queen. American President Grover Cleveland was opposed to the Hawaiian Revolution and he sent James Henderson Blount to Hawaii to discredit it. Blount was a racist southerner who did not want any more colored people and he wrote a report that reflected his bigotry. He failed to swear in witnesses, refused to speak to many involved in the revolution, and then issued a report blaming the whole matter on an elaborate American plot to invade Hawaii. His Blount Report is cited as evidence of an illegal takeover of Hawaii by Hawaiian separatists to this day.

An investigation of the Hawaiian Revolution was conducted by Congress in 1894. It was bipartisan, swore in witnesses, and interviewed many that James Blount refused to talk with. Congress issued the Morgan Report which refuted the Blount Report and cleared the United States of any wrongdoing during the Hawaiian Revolution.

The Hawaiian Republic agreed to join the United States as a territory in 1898. Congress annexed Hawaii via a Joint Resolution of Congress.

The 20th Century

Hawaii was attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. This resulted in the death of over 2000 defenders and brought the United States into World War Two.

The islands became a huge naval base and the staging point for the Pacific War. The islands were under martial law during the war and controlled by the military.

Hawaiian citizens voted overwhelmingly (93%) for statehood. It was accordingly added as the 50th American state in 1959.


Since statehood, Hawaii has been dominated by the Democratic Party. John Kerry carried the state electoral vote in 2004 and the entire Congressional delegation is made up of Democrats. The Republican Party has made some recent progress with the current governor being a Republican. Despite that, Hawaii remains one of the most liberal states in the US. 67% of residents believe in social liberal policies.

There is a tiny separatist movement on the islands which wishes to have Hawaii secede from the USA and form an independent Hawaiian nation. Proponents of this course argue that Hawaii was illegally annexed and should be "restored" to nationhood. The overwhelming majority of Hawaiians do not support this view and the separatists remain a small and powerless protest group. None of their leaders is of pure Hawaiian ancestry.

Hawaii offers a significant number of benefits to same-sex couples but has stopped short of offering Same Sex Marriage.

Elected officials




Church Membership (as of 2010)[12]


Hawaii is the United States' only state in the tropics (i.e., south of the Tropic of Cancer) and a popular tourist attraction known for its beaches, surf, volcanoes, and Polynesian history.


  • Measured from the base to its peak, Hawaii's Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world at 33,474 feet, (compared to Mount Everest which is 29,028 feet above sea level).[13]

See also