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Authors

Jon M. Van Dyke

Abstract

More than 200,000 people now living in Hawai'i are descendants of the Polynesian people, who had a thriving isolated culture in the Hawaiian Islands until westerners started arriving at the end of the eighteenth century. The Native Hawaiians "lived in a highly organized, self-sufficient, subsistent social system based on communal land tenure with a sophisticated language, culture, and religion., Their self-sustaining economy was based on agriculture, fishing, and a rich artistic life in which they created colorful feathered capes, substantial temples, carved images, formidable voyaging canoes, tools for fishing and hunting, surf boards, weapons of war, and dramatic and whimsical dances. The newcomers from Europe and the United States brought their technology, their religions, their ideas about property and government, and their diseases to the islands. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Native Hawaiian population had plummeted, its traditional practices and communal land structures had been replaced by Western models, the independent Kingdom of Hawai'i had been illegally overthrown, Hawaiian lands had been taken with neither compensation to nor the consent of the Hawaiian people, and Hawai'i had been annexed by the United States as a territory. Native Hawaiians are now at the bottom of the socio-economic scale in their own islands.

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