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Hawai’i and Native Hawaiians — What You May Not Know

Posted on February 18th, 2016 by Cici

Native Hawaiians Are a Race of People

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Hawaiian hula dancers c. 1885, photographed in J.J. Williams photo studio. Image from hubpages.com.


  • Hawaiians are not named for the state (think Californians, New Yorkers, Texans, etc). Unlike the aforementioned states’ residents, the state of Hawai’i is actually named for the native people.
  • Native Hawaiians, known also as kanaka maoli, are the indigenous people (and their descendants) of the Hawaiian islands. Their ancestors were the original Polynesians who sailed to Hawai’i and settled the islands around the 5th Century A.D.
  • “Native Hawaiian” is a racial classification recognized by the United States. In the 2010 Census: 527,077 people reported that they are Native Hawaiian alone or of a mixed race that includes Native Hawaiian. There now may be as few as 8,000 pure-blood Native Hawaiians remaining in the world.

Hawaiians Almost Became Extinct

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Native Hawaiian family c. 1878. Image from hubpages.com.


  • The first recorded western contact with Hawai’i was in 1778 when Captain James Cook, an English explorer, sailed on the HMS Resolution into Waimea Bay on Kaua’i. The next year he sailed into Kealakekua Bay in Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
  • It is estimated that between 400,000 and as many as one million Native Hawaiians were living on the major Hawaiian islands in the late 1700s when Cook landed in Hawai’i.
  • Because Hawai’i is a group of islands isolated from other land masses and people, diseases known in the rest of the world were not known in Hawai’i. Within a century after Cook first landed, the Native Hawaiian population had dropped to about 40,000. Deaths were attributed to a number of “new” diseases including smallpox, measles, influenza, sexually-transmitted diseases, whooping cough and the common cold.
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