The Hawaiian Islands were born from the sea. Rising from the depths of the sea, a young chain of islands came to grace the middle of the Pacific like a flower lei floating on the tide. Geographically isolated and settled by Polynesian voyagers from the South Pacific, the Hawaiian Islands became the hosting ground for a unique natural environment and human culture. Colonized by plants and animals in a haphazard manner – Hawai`i was days away from anywhere via bird flight, weeks or months away via ocean drift – the islands grew to a lush and varied maturity. The Polynesian society that eventually overlaid the islands grew in concert with the natural environment, developing a sophisticated system of stewardship and unmatched levels of culture and artistry.
Before 1778, the Hawaiian Islands were, for the most part, a people of a single language and culture. Yes, there were power factions (there always are), but Hawaiians were a unified, homogeneous people. In one work on its history, Hawaii is said have a “remarkable uniformity of East Polynesia culture, biology and language.” They were of the same race, likely come from the Marquesan or Tahitiian Polynesians (having come there in 4-500 AD). They all spoke the same language (ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi). They had a common religious belief system (a combined Animism and Polytheism). Just prior to the first arrival of Europeans in 1778, the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands lived in a highly organized, self-sufficient, social system, with a sophisticated language, culture, religion and a land tenure that bore a remarkable resemblance to the feudal system of ancient Europe.
It was this complex and stunning world that Western explorers encountered when they chanced upon the Islands. (hawaiihistory.org) What they found was a tropical paradise – a heaven on earth. The European explorer Captain James Cook was very likely the first exception to all this. He arrived in 1778.
Cook found the “country seemed to be both well wooded and watered; and running streams were seen falling into the sea in various places.” The people there were full of good-will and genuine courtesy.
Life before Cook was a unified, homogenous, idyllic paradise.
Then what happened?
The people were happy, self-sustained, and prosperous. One race, one religion, one language, one economy, one culture.
Such a disaster it was! This should not be! The Europeans swooped down and delivered them from the total lack of diversity in the islands. They brought a new race, a new religion, a new language, a new culture to these poor suffering non-diverse people.
More next time…..