Deep into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, lies 8 islands of diverse and breath taking beauty. They are the furthest north island group of the Polynesian sub region Oceania, called Hawaii. This US state has a rich Polynesian culture and unique way of life. Its people, like the varied terrain, are vital in making Hawaii the alluring islands they have become.
This week, the friendly Hawaiian state celebrates a milestone in their history. It has been 55 years since Hawaii voted, almost unanimously, to become a part of the United States of America. The 50th and most recent member of American statehood quickly became synonymous as a neighbouring piece of paradise to the US motherland.
Formed from volcanic activity, that is continuously active today, undersea magma sources, called hotspots, created the volcanic mountains that form all 8 islands. Stretching across 1,500 miles of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii hosts a varied landscape that has allowed for a range of flora and fauna to grow. This environment originally pollinated the islands through the 3W‘s; wind, waves and wings. Tropical rainforests, alpine regions, deserts, beaches and reefs may all be found in many parts of the 8 Hawaiian Islands.
In the 19th century, all these inhabited islands were brought under a single ruler, known as King Kamehameha the Great. He established the Kamehameha dynasty that continued to dominate until 1872. Decades later, after being deposed by a provisional government, the Hawaiian kingdom ended and Hawaii became a territory of the US. The 1950’s brought with it the revolution from powerful plantation owners, who for the last 60 years had enjoyed the lower labour costs, Hawaii being a territorial status, allowed.
The democratic party of Hawaii seized political freedom and people were eager to gain full voting rights statehood would provide. President Eisenhower passed the Hawaii Admissions Act in 1959 that made Hawaii America’s 50th state and brought modernisation to the islands. Indigenous language and culture were encouraged under the act and the Polynesian population soon expanded to Asian and European settlers.
Today sees this US state blossom in both tourism and export. Coffee, pineapple, sandalwood, sugarcane, macadamia nuts and honey are Hawaiian trading highlights enjoyed globally; while Hawaii’s coastlines, warm winds and tropical weather maintain a high tourism trade that has moved from strength to strength. Hawaii’s traditional culture has even grown to become celebrated in other states, especially luaus and hula.
Oahu’s Ehukai beach holds a surf reef break, called the pipeline, which has become a notorious surfing spot for its large, hollow waves that surfers can ride inside of. Kahalu and Holualoa Bays have also become a breeding ground for local and visiting surf enthusiasts. Surfing isn’t anything new to Hawaiians, standing on a surfboard is a fairly recent Polynesian innovation first recorded in 1769.
In ancient Hawaii, surfing or water sliding (He’e Nalu) was an artistic part of their culture. The best wave surfers would be; chiefs, warriors and other higher class members of society, who impressed others with their skill and control in the water. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Hawaiian’s living close to Waikiki began to revive the surfing sport. With the help of Duke Kahanamoko, an Olympian medalist, who helped to expose the sport of surfing to the world; Hawaii was being noticed for more than beautiful beaches. Developing slowly in Hawaii, California and Australia, this underground sport soon became a mainstream adrenaline fuelled way of life.
Hawaii is largely visually and culturally different from many other states in the US, this milestone celebration is a timely reminder of honouring their differences and homeland patriotism. Hawaii has proven it is a place of beauty and culture, with a long standing nation of varied ancestry and history.
What are the productive aspects of celebrating the history of ones homeland?