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Thursday 23rd May
Hawaii USA Information - Page 2
Polynesian colonists arrived in Hawaii in double-hulled canoes over a one and a half thousand years ago. They brought plants with them such as breadfruit, sugar cane, sweet potato and yam. From the eleventh century onwards voyagers came from Tahiti ("Hawaii" is a Tahitian word).

Captain James Cook, the British explorer, was the first European recorded to have landed in the Hawaiian Islands. He landed on Kauai in 1778. The following year Captain Cook died in Hawaii after being stabbed in a dispute with Islanders.

At the end of the eighteenth century the Hawaiian Islands were united by King Kamehameha I. This unification was achieved after much bloodshed and with the use of Western weapons.

In 1820 the first Christian missionaries arrived on the Islands. As well as setting up schools they worked against the Islanders' religion and other aspects of their traditional way of life such as the hula in which dance, chanting and music tell traditional stories. Surfing was discouraged as a time wasting activity.

At around the same time, Hawaii became important as a supply centre for whaling ships. Honolulu's deep-water harbour led to the economy becoming dependent on the whalers. The whaling trade stopped when whale oil was no longer used to light lamps.

During the American Civil War, sugar became an important crop in Hawaii. However, as so many of the Hawaiians had died from disease, workers for the plantations were recruited from Asian countries such as Japan. Links with America became increasingly important and in 1887 a group of businessmen compelled the King to hand over power to an assembly elected by property owners. In 1894 a provisional government declared Hawaii a republic; in 1898 Hawaii was annexed to the US. Hawaii did not become a state of the USA until 1959.

As early as 1840 the Americans were interested in using Pearl Harbour as a Naval Base. During the Spanish-American War in the Philippines its strategic importance became even more significant. It was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which brought the Americans into the Second World War.

There is increasing interest in Hawaiian and Polynesian history and culture and a movement in Hawaii to restore the Islands' separate identity.

The volcanic soil remains very fertile but the importance of agriculture in Hawaii's economy has declined. The main crops are still those of historical importance: sugar and pineapples. Other produce includes macadamia nuts, bananas, guava, mangoes, corn and Kona coffee.

Cattle, pigs and sheep are bred and all the meat and dairy produce is eaten on the islands.

Fishing remains an important part of the island economy. Although some fish for consumption has to be imported, tuna is a significant catch for the islanders. The abundance of fish around the islands is a major attraction for tourists.

Industrial processing of sugar and pineapples, along with canning of fruit and fish provide employment. A proportion of the macadamia nut crop is used in a local candy factory which makes chocolate and macadamia sweets.

Clothing and textiles are produced for export. Hawaii also has a publishing and printing industry.

The large American military presence is a major contributor to the economy of Hawaii.

Tourism is the most important sector in the economy. When direct flights to Hawaii from the American mainland became possible in 1936 the popularity of the Islands as a holiday destination increased dramatically.

The Hawaiians carved petroglyphs (pictures) on boulders. The early ones, thought to have been carved about five hundred years ago show simple stick figures. Later variations become more naturalistic.

Hawaiians were skilled wood carvers and boat builders. Woven baskets, cloth made from beaten tree bark, bowls and surf boards were among their traditional crafts. The clothing of the chiefs included dramatically coloured (yellow/red) cloaks made of birds' feathers woven into the cloth backing.

The original Hawaiians chanted poetry called meles; when accompanied by music and dance the combined performance was called a hula. Dancers were trained at special sacred schools and the performances were surrounded by many kapus (code of taboos).

The hula was largely suppressed by the first missionaries but came back in favour at the end of the nineteenth century.

The guitar was introduced to the Islands by Spanish and Mexican immigrants and the ukelele was developed from an instrument played by Portuguese workers.

The other characteristic instrument of modern Hawaiian music is the steel guitar whose distinctive sound is produced by slack key tuning and by sliding a metal bar across the guitar frets. There is an annual slack-key guitar festival Honolulu on Oahu.

Polynesian music has become part of the movement towards a Polynesian identity. Contemporary Hawaiian music is influenced by traditional Polynesian music as well as rock, country music and reggae.

Hawaii is famous for surfing and it was a Hawaiian, Duke Kahanamoku, who was largely responsible for popularizing surfing around the world.

World surfing events take place on the famous Oahu North Shore in February and November. Windsurfing competitions are held on the coast off Maui and canoe races take place round the Islands.

As well as scuba diving and snorkelling, deep sea fishing is a popular sport. Kona is an important centre for marlin fishing.

The Islands are well supplied with golf courses and provide excellent facilities for climbing and walking.

As well as the national holidays of the USA, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving there are many local festivals and events such as Lei Day and Kamehameha Day.

News from the US is available from Newslink.

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