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The History of Maui

Maui is one of the many Hawaiian islands. Legend serves that a hero known as Kaʻuiki was a nearby resident to Hawaii, living just across the bay from Hana. The legend says that he found the islands of Hawaii while he was off on a fishing trip. With his magical fishing hook, he tried his very best to pull all of the Hawaiian islands together, but because the other people on the canoe didn't keep paddling, he was not successful. The Hawaiian islands remained far apart from each other all because Kaʻuiki was not able to magically pull them together.

Early settlement on Maui consisted of Polynesians that came to Hawaii during three different times. The earliest time was when the Marquesas came to the island, which was expected to be around sometime near to 450 A.D. There were many other Marquesas who came later on, they were followed by Tahiti's which arrived around 700 A.D. When the Tahiti's arrived on Maui, they were introduced to many different parts of Hawaiian culture. This included Hawaiian activities, language, land rights, religion, class systems and even custom cultural traits that were part of the Hawaiian life. Now there are many temple enclosures on Maui called heiaus. These structures were built by the Menehune, according to legend. Legend has it that they were made overnight and built by stone, located on Paukukalo Beach. These structures more likely began to be built as Wailuku began to get larger in size. Finally, the last touches on Maui were made by King Kahekili. Prior to the 15th century, Maui was primarily ran by three chieftains. These chiefdoms were Wailuku, Lele, and Hana. Eventually, some of the West areas united and became consolidated and Hana became secluded.

A lot of Hawaii's history revolves around what legend tells. Legend is responsible for a lot of the structural buildings that were built on Maui. For this reason, it's difficult to tell exactly what cultures arrived on the Hawaiian islands and built the structures, since legend tells a different story than what historians might have to say. Land tenure were a big part of Hawaii's history, including Maui. They had a very complex but yet effective land tenure system. Maui was essentially divided into what was 12 districts at the time. These districts were even subdivided into many more districts, so that they could be regulated on a smaller level. Each district was responsible for its own laws and rules, which were created by the chief. The chief's family was who was in control of the district. Believe it or not, each district was even divided into communities. These communities were controlled by sub chiefs, who were responsible for land tenure and regulations. There were even boundaries drawn, which were formatted by using natural features of the island. On Maui, there are many different streams, forests and rocks, so they used these natural features of the island to pinpoint where the boundaries were. Each community within the island was even subdivided into extended families. As you can see, land tenure was extremely complex but it was a very effective system. Because there were so many different districts, subdivisions, communities and families, everything was very well-managed. Each district was even appointed a sanctuary where you could escape from vengeance or penalty. The sanctuary was located on Kukuipuka, which was near the west side of Maui. When you went to this sanctuary, you had to wait an extended period of time before the offender was able to go home. This was a place that women, children and elderly members of society could escape to when there were wars going on or issues within the Hawaiian Islands.

The social system that existed on Hawaii and especially on Maui was known as the Kapu system. Legend has it that this system was presented by the Tahiti priest known as Pa'ao. Legend tells that this happened as early as the year 1300. The Kapu system was very closely related to the class system and religious system that now we had in place. When you were born, you were placed into one of a total of four rankings. At the top of the rankings were a group known as the Ali'i. One down from them were the Kahuna' and these were mainly rankings for priests and those involved in religious ceremonies. These were people of the Hawaiian culture that were responsible for their spiritual work and healing work. The third rank of the Hawaiian social system was the Maka'aina, these were common people of society who maintain jobs like gathering wood, working on a farm, building canoes, fishing or just doing general labor. The fourth rank of the social system was the Kauwa, which some say were outcasts of society. This was very evident in the way in which they lived, they were often referred to as the "Untouchables" because they lived away from the Maui Island on the outside of the community.

These social systems had different rules that applied to each grouping. For instance, men and women were not allowed to eat together during meals and menstruating women were even forced to sleep outside of the house. There were other rules for each group of the Kapu system that differentiated each group from one another. For instance, the top two groups could fish for any type of fish that they wanted, but the other groups were only allowed to fish for certain types of fish, and only during certain months of the year. They had restrictions that the higher members of society were not subject to.

The unification of the Hawaiian Islands

Eventually, the Hawaiian islands came together and were united, instead of being divided into separate areas. Kamehameha the Great was the man who was able to conquer the battle between the Hawaiian Islands and establish the Kingdom of Hawaii, which was created in 1810. He was able to configure an alliance between the Pacific colonial powers and join the islands together. He was able to preserve the independence of Hawaii under his ruling. He is known as someone that protected human rights of Hawaiian citizens and he was not aggressive when it came to battle and warfare.


Whaling is a huge part of Hawaiian history. During the 1800's, there were many whaling ships that could be found off of the coast of Peru and Japan. Because Hawaii was positioned directly between the two, Honolulu started to become a main port for whaling businesses. While Maui did not have much relation to the whaling industry, it was involved in a small way. By 1824 there were more than 100 ships that were visiting Hawaii every single year for whaling. By the 1850's there were more than 400 whaling ships. Whaling was growing considerably because the food was very popular and it was a big part of Hawaiian culture. At the time, whale oil was a popular product for providing lighting. However, when the 19th century came around and electricity and kerosene was invented, whaling started to decline in popularity. Hawaiians also started to plant crops nearby, such as potatoes, sugar cane and coffee, so sailors that used to do whaling were suddenly exposed to new types of business and they started to transition away from their roots.


In the early 1800's, missionaries were arriving from areas around the world and they began to establish churches inside Maui. This is when Christianity really began to grow in Hawaii. There were over 3000 people attending Christian churches by 1832. By 1870, Hawaiian churches were found in over 13 locations on the island of Maui.


Farming is a huge part of Hawaiian culture. Without agriculture, Hawaii would not be what it is today. The absolute perfect weather conditions make growing sugarcane, coffee and other types of products very popular in Hawaii. Immigrant workers also became a big thing during the 1800's. Workers coming from China, started to arrive in about 1852. These immigrant workers have remained there today. However, new types of cultures have immigrated to the islands, with the most recent immigrants being Filipinos.

World War II

When Japan attacked the United States on December 7, 1941, all of the airfields present in Hawaii became militarized. The Air Force even decided to build a new naval air station in 1942. Maui was the location for the Pacific theater of World War II. It was a staging center, training base and provided a place of relaxation for the soldiers. In 1943 and 1944, there were over 100,000 troops that were on Maui. They used the area to practice landings, train for demolition and sabotage, and prepare for the war. It was a hot location for soldiers.


Believe it or not, the first resort Hotel on Maui was Hotel Hana which was established in 1946. Since then, tourism has become extremely popular in Hawaii. People travel from all over the world to visit the Hawaiian islands, with Maui being at the peak of interest. Maui's resort communities are very popular today and tourism on the Hawaiian islands is expected to grow considerably from here on out. As the population around the world increases, the Hawaiian Islands are becoming even more popular.