Hawaii, “The Aloha State,” is comprised of eight major islands: Oahu, Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Collectively, the Hawaiian islands are renowned for their spectacular natural beauty, year-round sunny climate and the “aloha spirit” of Island residents.
The total resident population of Hawaii is 1.2 million, which is roughly equivalent to the populations of Idaho. Only a century ago, there were a million fewer people here. One unique aspect of Hawaii’s demography is that no one ethnic group makes up the majority of the state’s population. Over a third of Island residents, in fact, are of mixed races.
Scientists believe it took millions of years for the Hawaiian islands to break the ocean surface. For thousands of years, the islands remained isolated—barren and devoid of life—each a world unto itself. Eventually, seeds and spores carried from other lands, ocean currents and migrating seabirds reached Hawaii’s undiscovered shores, bringing life to the islands. It wasn’t until the third or fourth century that seafaring Polynesians from the Marquesas—2,000 miles to the south—made their way to Hawaii. Some 500 years later, the second wave of voyagers arrived, this time from Tahiti and its neighboring islands. They brought animals, plants and their cultures. In 1778, Captain James Cook made his “discovery” of the Hawaiian islands. By this time, the islands were in turmoil, with chiefs from the different islands waging war to gain or maintain control. In 1810, Kamehameha the Great gained control of the entire Hawaiian kingdom after Chief Kaumualii of Kauai ceded his island to his rival. Hawaii’s Monarchy period lasted until 1893 when an insurrection led by American businessmen forced Queen Liliuokalani to surrender her throne. Hawaii was annexed as a U.S. territory in 1900. Hawaii was admitted to the union as America’s 50th state on August 20, 1959.
The Hawaiian Flag
Salute the Flag. Hawaii’s state flag consists of eight red and white stripes (representing each of the main Hawaiian islands) and an upper left-hand corner design closely resembling the British Union Jack. The flag’s origin can be traced to the War of 1812. At the time, King Kamehameha had been flying the British flag—a gift from Captain George Vancouver—above his royal residence. American officers suggested the king show more neutrality. Thus, Kamehameha and his advisers collaborated on a new flag design, which combines elements from both the American and British flags.
Hawaii’s state motto is “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,” or “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” King Kamehameha III declared these words in 1843 after his authority was briefly usurped by the British. The state flower is the yellow hibiscus. The lyrics for the state song, “Hawaii Ponoi,” was written by King David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last king. The state bird is the Nene goose (a relative of the Canadian goose), while the state tree is the kukui or candlenut tree.
Did You Know? Hawaii is the most isolated population center on earth: 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines….From east to west, Hawaii is the widest state in the U.S….Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time) and does not recognize daylight savings time. HST runs two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and five hours behind Eastern Standard Time….There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet; a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m n, p and w…. The Hawaiian islands are actually the projecting tops of the largest mountain range in the world.