Ancient Hawaii

European Contact - Kingdom of Hawaii


From Republic to State

Sovereignty Movement

Bibliography and Image credits

Captain Cook

In 1778 Captain James Cook of Britain became the first European to make contact with the Hawaiian islands.  He first landed on Kauai in Waimea bay, but after only a short stay moved on to explore almost the entire west coast of North America.  The following year he retuned to Hawaii, and landed this time on the Big Island of Hawaii at Kealakekua Bay.  His arrival probably coincided with Makahiki, a period of the year in which the native Hawaiians held festivals for the worship of the god Lono).  Because of this (and the shape of Cook’s vessel and sails), the people of the island of Hawaii may or may not have taken Cook to be a deity in the month he stayed.  Soon after his departure however, his foremast broke and Cook was forced to return to Kealakekua bay.  Perhaps because it was no longer makahiki, or perhaps for no explainable reason, a skirmish involving the British sailors and the Hawaiians took place and resulted in Cooks death.


Kamehameha I

In 1810, a Hawaiian warrior (eventually known as Kamehameha the Great) succeeded in uniting all of the Hawaiian chiefdoms under one leader for the first time in history.  His success was largely due to his use of western war tactics and weapons, plus the aid of British soldiers such as John Young, Isaac Davis, and Alexander Adams.  The new unified Hawaii was called the Kingdom of Hawaii and its government was modeled after the European monarchies.  This action transformed Hawaii from the feudal society it had been existing as for hundreds of years into the “modern” constitutional monarchy it would still be at the time of the overthrow in 1893.