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Ancient History To The Reciprocity Treaty


The origin of the native settlers of the Hawaiian Islands has not been definitively determined. 1/ While "comparative ethnology, linguistics, and archaeology leave little doubt that Hawaiians were East Polynesian in origin," 2/ scholars do not agree on the origin, timing of the initial settlement, and the number of periods of migration.

Excavations on the island of Hawaii indicate to some that "the first significant settlement of the islands was by people with a cultural assemblage similar to that of archaic East Polynesia and that this settlement occurred sometime prior to A.D. 400." 3/ The island from whence these settlers originated, according to this scholar, has yet to be determined. Other scholars have concluded that: "Early dispersal [from the Marquesas Islands] to the Society Islands, Hawaii, and Easter Island probably took place between A.D. 650 and 800..." 4/ The population and culture of these early settlers developed "largely isolated from changes in other areas of Polynesia." 5/ There is, however, an oral tradition in Hawaii of a period of two-way voyaging between Hawaii and places to the south after this period of isolation. With the use of genealogies for time reckoning, "scholars have estimated that this voyaging would have occurred sometime between A.D. 950 and 1350 if it did in fact take place." 6/ This second migration is said to have had a significant impact on Hawaii, particularly in the area of new religious rites and symbols. 7/

After this period, again according to Hawaiian tradition, there was "no contact with other areas of Polynesia for some twenty generations prior to European contact," 8/ Throughout this period, meanwhile, the Hawaiians were developing complex social, cultural, and political systems.

Every aspect of Hawaiian life was carried out in accordance with deeply implanted religious beliefs. Important events in each individual's life were commemorated with prayers and feasts honoring the person and the family gods. Significant events in everyday life began and ended with appropriate rituals, including house building, canoe making, fishing, and farming. Gods were invoked for every purpose from warfare to sports tournaments. 9/

Besides the great gods of Hawaii (by the time of the missionaries there were four: Kane, Ku, Lono, and Kanaloa), there was an infinite number of subordinate gods descended from the family line of one or another of the major deities. These gods were worshiped by particular families or by those who pursued special occupations. All forms of nature were thought of as bodily manifestations of spirit forces. Some Hawaiians worshiped their gods in the form of images, while others worshiped without any concrete form. 10/

There was a kapu, or taboo, system that was closely intertwined with this religion, as well as with the governmental and social organization of Hawaii. The word kapu means a prohibition or restriction. The kapu system was used to regulate every aspect of ancient Hawaiian life of


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