Hawaii is made up of a group of volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean. Now, the volcanoes are mostly dormant except for the emerging volcanoes of Mauna Loa, Kilauea, and Loihi Seamount. On the “Big Island” (Hawaii), the first two can be seen sometimes erupting with lava flows.
The first known people to live in the area were most likely Polynesians who migrated from the Marquesas Islands between the fourth and seventh centuries. The name Hawaii is thought to come from “Hawaiki,” which was the former name of Raiatea, the old home of the Polynesians. During the ninth or tenth century, a second wave of immigrants sailed from Tahiti to the new land.
Much like Native Americans in other states, the Hawaiians were made up of small communities ruled by chieftains who fought each other for territory rights. In 1778, Captain James Cook (not the pirate in Peter Pan) became the first European to land on the Hawaiian Islands. He named the territory after the Earl of Sandwich, calling them the “Sandwich Islands.” A year later, Cook returned but was killed during a fight with the natives at Kealakekua Bay.
American colonists came to the island to take advantage of the sugar crops. In 1898, the United States took over Hawaii as a territory. Queen Lili’uokalani was the last to rule the islands. After the U.S. took the area over, she was forced to give up her throne. She is the author of Hawaii’s signature song, “Aloha Oe,” and is still a hero to the people.