Ancient Ka`anapali Beach, Maui
Artwork by Herb Kane
The population of the Archipelago of Hawai`i is estimated to have numbered in the hundreds of thousands when Europeans first arrived in 1778. At that time, the Kanaka Maoli lived in a "highly organized, self-sufficient, subsistent social system based on communal land tenure with a sophisticated language, culture, and religion." (US Public Law 103-150)
The arrival of explorers and later missionaries began a catastrophic chain of events that nearly destroyed the Kanaka Maoli culture. Foreign exploitation forced the Kanaka Maoli to radically alter their spiritual and societal relationships. It challenged their traditional customs, beliefs, and practices, and led to the dislocation of the people from the land that had sustained their ancestors from the time of origin. Within one hundred years from the time of contact, the population of Kanaka Maoli had been reduced by over 90%, to less than 40,000 people.
Kanaka Maoli had shared their land with each other, and had no idea of privately owning part of Papa, the Earth Mother. In 1848, however, the Western concept of land ownership was implemented in the "Great Mahele" with the influence of foreign business interests, and the land was divided for private and foreign ownership for the first time. This act disenfranchised the majority of Kanaka Maoli, placing them in the dire circumstance of being landless in their homeland.
Despite foreign subjugation of the original culture, the surviving Kanaka Maoli adapted well and excelled as a people and a nation. For example, in two generations from the establishment of a written language, Hawai`i had the highest literacy rate of any country in the world. From 1826 until 1893, the United States "recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government, and entered into treaties and conventions with the Hawaiian monarchs to govern commerce and navigation." (US Public Law 103-150)
Then in 1893 the internationally recognized independent Kingdom of Hawai`i was illegally overthrown with American support, and the sovereignty of the people was stolen.
These historic facts are now considered acts of war and genocide.
Historical Chronology: 1778 - 1893
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