History of Hawaii
Apart from California Republic, the Republic of Texas and the Vermont Republic, Hawaii is the only state that was independent before the inclusion in the US. Hawaii was a sovereign kingdom before 1893 when monarchy was overthrown by European and American businessmen. In 1894 it became an independent republic until it was annexed as a territory by the US in 1898, and finally became a state in 1959. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor and other military facilities on O’ahu island that has propelled the US into the WW II.
The oldest evidence of human habitation on these islands dates back to 300 AD. It is supposed that the people who inhabited the islands at that time were Polynesians from Marquesas. The first recorded European that came to the Islands was James Cook, a British explorer who came to the islands in 1778. There is much uncertainty about the history of Hawaii before the coming of the Europeans. It is believed that the islands were first populated by the Polynesians somewhere between 300 and 500 AD. Along with the latter settlers from Tahiti, these original people on the islands are believed to be the ones who have established the Kapu system and the infamous rituals that included human sacrifice. Some researchers, however, claim that there is no evidence of Tahitians actually settling in this region. The people of the region were organized in chiefdoms that slowly grew over time.
It is possible that Spanish explorers arrived to the islands before James Cook; some even believe that it may have been as long as two centuries before his arrival. Members of one of the Spanish expeditions described coming across something that might have been Hawaii in 1555, but it was never determined without a doubt that what they were talking about were indeed these islands. As was already mentioned, the first recorded instance of Europeans coming to the region happened in 1778 with the arrival of James Cook. The sponsor of his expedition was John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, so Cook decided to name this region the ‘Sandwich Islands’. During his second visit to the islands in 1779, Cook got into a conflict with the native people, took their king as a hostage, and eventually got killed in the skirmish that ensued.
Because of his visits to the islands and the reports of those visits Hawaii became a popular destination for European whalers who needed a harbor to refuel, as well as various traders and explorers. This newfound popularity turned out to be quite fatal for the indigenous people, as Europeans brought a number of diseases that the native people simply didn’t have the opportunity to develop immunities to, such as measles, smallpox and influenza. In 1850s measles were responsible for the deaths of around 20% of the total population of the native people. The islands were also a popular destination for Chinese people who came in several waves.
In 1810, after a long period of conflicts among the local chiefs the islands were united under King Kamehameha the Great, whose dynasty remained in power until 1872. After his successor got on the throne in 1819, the Protestant missionaries from America started coming to Hawaii and converting its populace. The next king in line, Kamehameha III became the first Christian king of Hawaii, and held a prominent missionary as an advisor. There were a number of missionaries trying to convert the natives to other denominations, but they have never made a significant impact. The last king of the Kamehameha line didn’t have an heir and the people of Hawaii held the election for the new king. There were two possible candidates, Kalakaua and Lunalilo, the latter won, but he died the very next year. He also left the country without naming an heir, maybe because he wanted the next king in line to also come to the position with the blessing of the people. However, these elections weren’t quite as smooth as the first ones, and after riots and intervention from British and American troops, the crown eventually went to the House of Kalakaua.
His authority became severely limited after he, not too willingly, signed the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Due to the fact that he was threatened into signing it, the constitution is nicknamed the ‘Bayonet Constitution’. This, however, was not the only thing that was wrong with the constitution. It made requirements that were specifically designed to disenfranchise the immigrant workers, Asians and native Hawaiians, and that pretty much only favored the white inhabitants. King Kalakaua, who was left with just the title and basically no power died in 1891 when he was succeeded by his sister, Lili’uokalani.
Her reign lasted until 1893 when she was overthrown by a group of American and European businessmen who formed the Committee of Safety and demanded that a troop of US marines be sent to the region. They established a provisional government in the country, which the queen tried to fight for a while. A number of reports and investigations on the legality of replacing the queen as the head of the country were made, but the situation was never fully resolved. In 1993 President Clinton signed the Apology Resolution that was passed by Congress and the purpose of which was to apologize for the overthrow of the queen. The provisional government lasted until 1894 when the Republic of Hawaii was formed.
In 1898 the country was annexed as the Territory of Hawaii, despite the fact that the majority of Hawaiians opposed the decision. It finally became one of the states in 1959, with the majority of native Hawaiians now being for the proposal, but only because their only other option was to remain an incorporated territory.
Economy of Hawaii
Throughout its history Hawaii has had a number of important industries, lately it is focused on education, tourism, military industries, sugarcane plantations and pineapple growing, while in the past it was also known for sandalwood growing and whaling. Since it became a state in 1959, its most important industry was tourism, which in 1997 provided 24.3% of the state’s GSP. State’s GSP in 2003 amounted to $47 billion, while its per capita income in the same year was $30,441.
Today the most important exports of the state are apparel and food. However, exporting goods is not especially profitable for this state because of its distance from the potential markets, as the costs of transportation make the effort almost futile. Main food exports of the state are sugarcane, livestock, pineapples, macadamia nuts and coffee. According to the Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service the agricultural sales in 2002 amounted to $64.3 million from sugarcane, $100.6 million from pineapple and $370.9 million from diversified agriculture.
Because of the fact that in Hawaii social services, health care and education are provided by the state, instead by the local governments as is the case in other states, taxes in Hawaii are quite high. However, not all of the taxes are collected just from the residents as tourists are also paying some taxes like hotel room and general excise taxes. High taxes are still creating a less than friendly business environment, despite of who is paying them. In 2010 the unemployment rates in the state were 6.9%.
The costs of living in the state are rather high, mostly because of the distance that goods from the other countries need to cross before arriving to Hawaii. This was exacerbated by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Basically this act forbids foreign ships from transporting cargo between different American ports. This means, that even if most consumer goods these days come to America from East Asia, the ships that are transporting them can’t deliver the goods to Hawaii, pick up Hawaiian goods meant for the continental US, and take them to the West Coast, but instead they have to carry the goods directly to the West Coast, and they are then delivered to Hawaii from there, which makes the process not only more complicated but much more expensive as well.
Hawaii Geography and Climate
Hawaii is basically an archipelago that is located around 2000 miles to the southwest of the US mainland. This makes it the southernmost US state. The only US state that extends more to the west than Hawaii is Alaska. These two states are also the only ones in the US that don’t share a single border with another US state. There are a number of other things that make Hawaii unique among the states, it is the only state that doesn’t have a straight line in its boundaries, has royal palaces, is entirely surrounded by water and grows coffee.
The Hawaiian archipelago consists of a number of islands, the largest of which are Hawai’i island, also known as The Big Island with the area of 4,028 square miles and population of 185,079 people, Kaua’i island, nicknamed the Garden Island, with the area of 552.3 square miles and population of 66,921 people, the uninhabited Kaho’olawe island or the Target Isle, with the area of 44.6 square miles, Lana’i island, or the Pineapple Island, with the area of 140.5 square miles and the population of 3,135 people, Maui island or the Valley Isle, with the area of 727 square miles and the population of 144,444 people and the O’ahu island also known as The gathering Place, with the area of 596.7 square miles and 953,207 inhabitants. Other larger islands in the archipelago are Ni’ihau and Moloka’i. With all the smaller islands and islets it is estimated that there are around 130 of the land surfaces in the archipelago.
The highest mountain in Hawaii is Mauna Kea with its 13,796 feet above the sea level. The islands were formed by volcanic activities, but there are not many active volcanoes left in the archipelago. However, earthquakes and the tsunamis that they cause are not a rarity in the region. Because of the isolated nature of the region, there is a number of endemic species of both plants and animals, many of which are currently endangered. The state has two national parks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the southeastern part of the Hawai’i island and Haleakala National Park on Maui. Both parks have a volcano in their territory the former park has an active one, while the latter one has a dormant volcano.
Hawaiian climate is mild tropical due to the winds that have an important role in lowering the temperature and humidity extremes. During the summer months the daily temperatures are usually in the area of 80 °F, while at night they go down to 70 °F. During the winter temperatures are not much different; daily temperatures are just slightly lower than during the summer, while at night they might drop to somewhere around 60 °F. Snow usually only falls on the two mountains on the Hawai’i island, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Mount Wai’ale’ale that is located on the island of Kaua’i is the place with the second highest annual precipitation in the world with 460 inches of rainfall. The highest temperature in the archipelago which was recorded in 1931 in Pahala was 100°F, while the lowest temperature of 12°F was recorded in 1979 on Mauna Kea. Hawaii is thus the only state in which a temperature lower than 0°F was never recorded.
In 2011 Hawaii had 1,374,810 inhabitants, which was 1.07% more than in the previous year. In 2005, the population of the state was 1,275,194 which was an increase of 1% or 13,070 people when compared to the year before, or 5.3% or 63,657 when compared to the year 2000. This was combination of 47,917 deaths and 96,028 births which resulted in a natural increase of 48,111 people and the net migrations which resulted in 16,956 more people coming into to the state than leaving it. O’ahu is the island with the highest population and population density in the state, and bears the appropriate nickname – the Gathering Place. Around 1.3% of the entire population of the state is made up of US military personnel.
In 2010 the ethnicity in the state was as follows: 22.7% of the population consisted of non-Hispanic white people, 2% of Hispanic white, 1.6% of African American people, 0.3% of Native American and Alaska Native, 38.6% of Asian, 10% of Native Hawaiian people and other Pacific Islanders, 1.2% of people from other races and 23.6% of people from two or more races. Hawaii is the state with the highest percentages of multiethnic people and Asian Americans in the nation. The Asian American population consists of 14.6% or 198,000 of Filipino Americans, 13.6% or 185,000 of Japanese Americans, 4.0% or 55,000 of Chinese Americans and 1.8% or 24,000 of Korean Americans. The largest European ancestry groups in the state are: 7.4% are of German descent, 5.2% of Irish, 4.6% of English, 4.3% of Portuguese and 2.7% of Italian.
The Hawaiian constitution of 1978 recognizes two official languages in the state, Hawaiian and English. English is spoken as the first language by 74.6% of the population, Spanish by 2.6%, other European languages by 1.6%, different Asian languages by 21%, and some other languages by 0.2%. Hawaiian language is spoken by only 0.1% of the inhabitants. Another language unique to this location is the Hawaii Creole English, also known as Pidgin. It is a mix of many languages spoken in the region, mainly corrupted English with added words from Hawaiian, Portuguese, Japanese, Tagalog and Chinese.
As far as religion is concerned, Christianity has 351,000 believers which makes up for 28.9% of the entire population, Buddhism has 110,000 or 9%, Judaism has 10,000 or 0.8%, 100,000 people or 10% of the population belong to some other religion and 650,000 people or 51.1% of the population are unaffiliated.
Hawaii Government and Legislature
The current Hawaiian government model is based on the US federal government, but it is also somewhat influenced by the Hawaiian past as a monarchy. Just like the governments of other US states, Hawaiian government is composed of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii are charged with leading the executive branch. Lieutenant Governor in Hawaii also acts as the Secretary of State, even though these positions are usually filled by different people in other states. Another duty of Lieutenant Governor is filling in for the Governor when and if the need arises. Governor is the only executive branch official that is being elected, and he or she is then responsible for appointing other public officials. Washington Place is Governor’s official residence.
As is the case with almost all of the other states, the main legislative body of Hawaiian government is bicameral, meaning that it consists of the lower bodies, the Hawaii House of Representatives that has 51 members and is presided over by the Speaker of the House and the higher body, the Hawaii Senate that has 25 members and is presided over by the President of the Senate. The meetings of the legislature are held at the State Capitol. Finally, the judicial branch operates through a number of courts with different jurisdictions and authorities, the highest of which is the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have municipal governments; instead all of the local governing is done on the county level. The heads of these departments are called mayors. There are four of them, the mayor of Maui, the mayor of Kaua’i, the mayor of Hawaii County and the mayor of the consolidated Honolulu County. The last remaining county, the Kalawao County is used as a leper colony and as such doesn’t have a mayor. Before Honolulu became the capital, this honor was bestowed upon Lahaina on Maui, and before Lahaina, the capital was in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawai’i. Hawaii has two representatives and two senators in the US congress and all of them belong to the Democratic Party.
Each of the larger islands in the state is encircled by a system of state highways. O’ahu is the only Island with federal highways. The roads are often quite difficult to navigate as they are rather narrow and winding, so congestions on them are not exactly a rarity. There are public buses on each of the larger islands. Honolulu International Airport is the state’s main aviation hub and it provides passage to Australia, Asia and continental USA. There are a number of air travel companies operating in Hawaii. Traveling between the islands is usually done with the help of boats, ferries or even cruise ships. Hawaii once had a railroad system, but there are only 13 miles of it left.