HAWAII - THE BIG ISLAND
The first settlers to arrive in Hawaii were most likely visitors from the Marquesas Islands approximately 1,500 years ago. They traveled more than 2,000 miles in canoes with only the stars and sun to guide them. About 500 years later, it's believed the Tahitians arrived, and with them their beliefs and customs. One of the customs that took root was the Tahitian kapu (taboo) system, a cultural hierarchy that placed faith in gods and demi-gods, and included a strict class-system.
The exact dates of many of Hawaii's historical milestones may never be known because much of Hawaii's pre-European history was recorded only by word of mouth, and was lost with the death of the kahunas and other Hawaiian leaders. The class system was followed for many years, and was a key aspect of Hawaiian society. The highest level was the king, who was assisted by a chief minister and a high priest. Next were the chiefs (ali'i) whose power varied depending upon each chiefs' genealogy and status in society. The king could bestow power or remove power at his whim, so the chiefs' powers were dependent upon their worth to the king at any given time.
Below the chiefs in power, but not necessarily in spiritual matters, were the kahunas. These were the master craftsmen who were mostly skilled professionals and held specific places in the society. The rest of society was made up of those considered to be commoners. They were mostly the laborers and military personnel. Below the commoners were the outcasts. The rules of the class system were rigid and could result in severe punishments and death if not followed exactly.
Inter-island fighting between kings ended in 1810 when King Kamehameha united all the islands into one cohesive society. In 1819, King Kamehameha's son Liholiho abolished the ancient kapu system, along with the help of Kamehameha's widow.
The first recorded Euorpean to step foot on Hawaii was Captain James Cook, who landed in Waimea Bay in Kauai in 1778. In 1820 protestant missionaries arrived, converting many Hawaiians to Christianity. By 1893, American influences in Hawaii controlled much of the industry, and in 1898, the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by American interests in a peaceful coup. In 1941, the Japanese led the attack on Pearl Harbor and surrendered in 1945 on the USS Battleship Missouri. It wasn't until 1959 that Hawaii became the United States' 50th state.