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PRIMITIVE HAWAII. THE long period of relations between the government of the United States and that of the Hawaiian Islands, culminating in the summer of the year 1898 in the political union of the two nations, is as unique as it is one of the most remarkable episodes in our American history.
The origin of the brown-skinned Polynesian race, the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands, has not been satisfactorily traced by ethnologists. The time of the settlement of the Islands by these people is not fixed by the traditions, but it is believed to date as early
year 500 A.D. When, on the 18th of January, 1778, Captain James Cook, the English navigator, having set sail from Bolabola, one of the Society Islands, came in sight of the island of Oahu, he found this group of islands thickly inhabited by this gentle yet warlike people. This event must be regarded as the turning-point in the history of the Hawaiian Islands; for now for the first time the people came in contact with the white
The discovery of these Islands by Captain Cook, however, was, in reality, a rediscovery; for, doubtless, the first white person ever seen by the simple Hawaiians was the captain of a vessel — presumably Spanish — which was wrecked on the south coast of the Island Hawaii, probably at some period in the sixthteenth century. The sister of the captain, who was accompanying him on his voyage, was likewise, so says the tradition, saved from the wreck. The two strangers were received kindly by the natives, who set food before them, and cared for their wants, so that in the process of time they became reconciled to their lot, and intermarried among the people of the Islands. Well-known families of chiefs are said to have sprung from these unions.
In the year 1542, the Spanish navigator, Juan Gaetano, voyaging in the Pacific Ocean as pilot for Ruy Lopez de Villalobo, had discovered the Caroline Islands. A few years later, so say unpublished Spanish archives, on a second voyage Gaetano discovered a group which, on an ancient Spanish manuscript chart preserved at Madrid, is laid down at
a point near that where modern geographers place the Hawaiian Islands upon their maps. It is, therefore, believed that in the year 1555 Juan Gaetano was the first true discoverer of the Islands. Contenting himself with giving fanciful names to the various members of the group, Gaetano apparently made no effort to reap any benefit from his discovery; and the natives remained in undisturbed possession of their country until the arrival of Captain Cook off their coasts, with his fleet of two armed vessels, Resolution and Discovery. He found, as has been intimated, a simple people, having no written language, and living under a form of government and social order primitive to a degree. The traditions of their origin were extremely vague. The most definite of these traditions appears to be one of an original migration from some far-off place, but further than this the original settlement of this island group is wrapped in mystery. The presence on the Islands of prehistoric works would point to an early occupation by a people somewhat advanced, but this is but conjecture.
Captain Cook named the group the “ Sandwich Islands,” after his patron, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. * He estimated the number of inhabitants at four hundred thousand. The accuracy of this estimate cannot be determined, but it is beyond question that the native people were vastly more numerous then than at the present day. Their system was a feudalism, much resembling that of Europe in the former days. The people were divided into three classes : the nobles, alii, in which class were included the kings and the chiefs of various grades; the priests, or kahunas, who were believed to possess the spirit of divination; and the common people, or makaainana.
The chiefs were believed to be of divine origin, and were regarded with the greatest awe by the common people. The king was the sole proprietor of the soil, and owned all that grew upon it, as well as the fish in the sea and the time and labor of the common people. Lands were held by the high chiefs, by sufferance
* The name “Hawaiian Islands" has been used throughout in this volume in preference to that given by Captain Cook, both as being associated with the earlier name of the islanders and as being finally authorized in official and popular use.