Hawaiian Tribes

“E naʻi wale no ʻoukou, i ke kupono aʻole au” which roughly translated is, “Prevail/continue my just deeds, they are not yet finished” – King Kamehameha’s  final words for his people.

King Kamenhameha-Hawwaiian-


The early settlement history of Hawaii is still not completely resolved. Some believe that the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in the 3rd century and were followed by Tahitian settlers in AD 1300 who conquered the original inhabitants. Others believe that there was only a single, extended period of settlement.

The only evidence for a Tahitian conquest of the islands are the legends of Hawai’iloa  and the navigator-priest Pa’ao  who is said to have made a voyage between Hawaii and the island of  Tahiti, and introduced many new customs.

Some Hawaiians believe that there was a real historical Paʻao. Early historians, also subscribed to this Tahitian invasion theory, but later historians simply do not mention it.

Some writers believe that there were other settlers in Hawaii, peoples who were forced back into remote valleys by newer arrivals. They claim that stories about menehune, little people who built fishponds, prove the existence of ancient peoples who settled the islands before the Hawaiians.

Archaeologists have found no evidence suggesting earlier settlements and menehune legends are simply not mentioned or discussed in current archaeological literature. The history of Hawaiian people is categorized into four major periods:  Ancient Hawaii, Kingdom of Hawaii,  Territory of Hawaii,  and State of Hawaii.

I. Ancient Hawaii

Ancient Hawaii refers to the period of history preceding the unification of the Kingdom of Hawai’i by Kamehameha the Great by in 1810.

The language of Hawaii and archaeological discoveries indicate that Hawaii was settled by two distinct waves of Polynesian migration: First, from the Marquesas, came a settlement as early as 600 or 700 AD, and then from the Society Islands, another migration about 1100 AD. They brought livestock, seeds, tools, and foods, along with a rich culture, lyrical language, and a well-established way of life. The name “Hawaii”is a form of Hawaiki, the legendary name of the Polynesian homeland.

After the first settlements sometime between AD 300-800, a unique culture developed. Diversified agroforestry and aquaculture provided sustenance. Tropical materials were adopted for housing, and elaborate temples (called heiau) were constructed from the lava rocks available.

A social system with religious leaders and a ruling class organized a substantial population.The organization of Hawaiian culture was as follows. First there was the King, who ruled over the Chiefs.  A Chief’s  ranking in society was determined by the legitimacy of his genealogy. Because of this, certain people were socially trained to memorize the Chief’s genealogy. These people were very important among the Chief’s subjects.

Chiefs ruled over portions of the land at the whim of the king, who could remove and replace them according to a system of rewards and punishments.

Below the chiefs were the kahuna (priests/craftsmen) who had more spiritual power than the Chiefs. They were specialists in professions such as canoe-building, medicine, the casting and lifting spells, etc. The majority of Hawaii’s people were commoners,  subjects of the Chief upon whose land they lived. They did most of the hard work: building fishpond walls and housing, fishing, farming, and making tapa cloth.

The commoners paid taxes both to the king and to their chief and provided some warriors for the chief’s army. These taxes took the form of food, clothing and other products.

Below the commoners were a small group of people known as “kauwa” or outcastes. Little is known of their origins or of their true role in Hawaiian society, although they were believed to be slaves of the lowest order.

What controlled this ancient social structure was the Kepu System. This meant that anyone who violated the laws, were swiftly punished by strangulation or clubbed to death. For example, a commoner had to be careful not to let his shadow fall across the person of the high Chief, and he had to be quick to kneel or lie face down in the presence of noble people.  The Kapu system permeated all aspects of Hawaiian life, including birth, death, and behavior. Many daily activities were regulated by Kapu.

The Hawaiian temples contained images which symbolized the gods. The four major gods were known as Ku, Kanaloa, Lono and Kane, who represented the universal forces. Commoners performed their own simple ceremonies to family or personal gods, while the complicated religious life required the services of a kahuna in large temple complexes. In some temples, human sacrifices took place.

II. Kingdom of Hawaii

The kingdom of Hawaii was established during the years 1795 to 1810, with subjugation of the smaller independent chiefdoms (Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kauaʻi and Niʻihau) by the chiefdom of Hawaiʻi (or the “Big Island”) into one unified government. The Kingdom was overthrown in 1893-1894.

A series of violent battles, lasting 15 years, was led by the warrior chief who would become Kamehameha the Great. The Kingdom of Hawaii was established with the help of western weapons and advisors, such as John Young and Isaac Davis. Although successful in attacking both Oʻahu and Maui, he failed to secure a victory in Kauaʻi, his effort hampered by a storm. Eventually, Kauaʻi’s chief swore allegiance to Kamehameha. The unification ended the ancient Hawaiian society, transforming it into an independent constitutional monarchy crafted in the traditions and manner of European monarchs.

When Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778 There were, depending on the various estimates available, between 300,000 and 400,000 native Hawaiians, the kanaka maoli.

Over the course of the next century the native Hawaiian population dropped between 80-90%. This decline was due, in large part, to the diseases introduced by contact with foreigners. These diseases included venereal disease, small pox, measles, whooping cough and influenza.

III. Territory of Hawaii

The Territory of Hawaii was a United States territory  that existed from July 7, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as its fiftieth state, the  State of Hawaii.

The Us Congress passed the Newlands Resolution assed the which annexed the former Kingdom of Hawaii and later Republic of Hawaii   to the United States. Hawaii’s territorial history includes a period from 1941 to 1944 — during World War II — when the islands were placed under martial law and Civilian government was dissolved and a military governor was appointed.

Upon the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893, the Committee of Safety led by Lorin A. Thurston established the Provisional Government of Hawaii to govern the islands in transition to expected annexation by the United States. Thurston actively lobbied Congress while the monarchy, represented in Washington, D.C. by Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani, argued that the overthrow of her aunt’s government was illegal.

IV. State of Hawaii  (Today)

Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states (August 21, 1959), and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. Hawaii’s natural beauty, warm tropical climate, inviting waters and waves, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vibrant native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu.


Lt. Governor James Aiona-Hawaiian

Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaii. As of the year 2000, 401,162 people identified themselves as being “native Hawaiian. The majority of natives are residents of the United States. They are primarily located in the states of California, Nevada, and Washington. Two thirds of Hawaiians live in Hawaii. Today, Hawaiians hold posiitons in rentals and resorts, due to the large number of international visitors. There are positions for snorkeling, sailing, bosting, helicopter tours, whale waching and serveal more. In addition, there are jobs in accounting, bookeeping, etc.

Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion

1. Archaeologists have categorized the Hawaiian people into four major periods. What are they?

2. What event occurred during  Ancient Hawaii in 1810?

3. The language of Hawaii and archaeological discoveries indicate that Hawaii was settled by two two distinct waves of Polynesian migration. The first group, the Marquesas, arrived as early as 600 or 700 AD.  Who were the second group, and what did they contribute?

4. When was The kingdom of Hawaii established?  In what year was The Kingdom overthrown?

5. During what time period was The Territory of Hawaii in existence?  Which country owned Hawaii during this time?

6. Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states. What year did Hawaii  join the other 49 states in the U.S.?

Hawaiian Myths:

Night Marchers

Marchers of the Night, also known as Huaka’i Po and the Night Marchers, are ghost warriors of high rank. They march on certain nights to welcome new warriors or to march to old battle grounds. They permit no disturbances from mortals and if you look into their eyes or stand in their way they take your soul from you and you are dead. It is easy to recognize them for they pound drums, carry torches, chant and their feet don’t touch the ground.

Many people say they either saw the Night Marchers’ torches or heard their drums. A famous place where the Night Marchers march is along the Pali Highway, a steep highway which runs along the Koolau Mountain range where the famous Kamehameha battle was fought. The old saying is to never go across the Pali Highway at night or else you will experience some weird things such as hearing drums or Hawaiian chanting in your car. Can this be true?


The Menehune are little people of Hawaiian tales. Because they live in the mountain forests and only come to the lowland at night, they are not often seen. The Hawaiians describe them as two or three feet tall.The menehune eat bananas, poi, small fish and shrimp.

These little people work at night. They work together and in great numbers. In one night they can accomplish mighty deeds such as building a road, a heiau or walling in a fish pond. At dawn all work must stop for that is the menehune law, and a job must be finished in a single night. (Men still point to certain walls left unfinished when morning came too quickly).

The Hawaiians learned that if you are unkind to a menehune, you will be punished by them. However if you are a friend you might be rewarded by the work of many, many hands.

The menehune play a sport where they jump from a cliff to the sea. The little men bring stones from the mountains until they have a large pile on the cliff. Then a good swimmer throws a stone into the water and leaps after it, trying to catch it as it sinks.

Once, as they played this game, a shark attacked them. ‘A’aka, one of the men, was almost caught. The menehune gathered in an excited group, and soon agreed that they were going to kill the shark.

They put delicious meat in a trap basket and set it into the sea. Soon the shark smelled the food and went after it. He soon found himself caught in a trap basket of beach morning glory vines. The shark was killed, but the menehune never again swam in that bay.


Hawaiian Phrases and Sayings

Wikipedia-Native Hawaiians

Myth: Oracle think quest

Words/Terms from the Reading:

I. Ancient Hawaii





Kingdom of Hawaiʻi

Kamehameha the Great




II. Kingdom of Hawaii

(OʻahuMauiMolokaʻiLānaʻiKauaʻi and Niʻihau)

Kamehameha the Great

John Young

Isaac Davis




ancient Hawaiian

III. Territory of Hawaii

Committee of Safety

Lorrin A. Thurston

Provisional Government of Hawaii


Victoria Kaʻiulani,

IV. State of Hawaii  (Today)

U.S. states


Pacific Ocean

United States