Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/The Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands
HAWAIIAN or SANDWICH ISLANDS, The, a group of eight inhabited and four uninhabited islands in the North Pacific Ocean, lying between 18° 54′ and 22° 2′ N. lat. and 155° and 161° W. long. The group has a trend of about N. 64° W., which is nearly the trend of all the Pacific groups. From Honolulu, the capital, on Oahu, the distance to San Francisco is 2100 miles; to Auckland, New Zealand, 3810 miles; to Sydney, New South Wales, 4484 miles; to Yokohama, 3440 miles; to Hongkong, 4393 miles; to Tahiti, 2380 miles. The first of the names by which the group is designated above is taken from that of the largest island Hawaii, and is the name adopted by the inhabitants. The other name was given to it by Captain Cook the discoverer, in honour of the earl of Sandwich, first lord of the Admiralty at the time of the discovery.
|VOL. XI.||HAWAIIAN ISLANDS||PLATE XIII.|
History.—These islands, the most important Polynesian group in the North Pacific, were discovered by Captain Cook in 1778. He was received by the natives with many demonstrations of astonishment and delight; and offerings and prayers were presented to him by their priest in one of the temples; and though in the following year he was killed by a native when he landed in Kealakeakua bay in Hawaii, his bones were preserved by the priests and continued to receive offerings and homage from the people, until the abolition of idolatry. At the time of Cook’s visit each island had its chief. On the death of the chief who ruled Hawaii at that time there succeeded one named Kamehameha, who appears to have been a man of quick perception and great force of character. When Vancouver visited the islands in 1792, this chief being desirous of possessing a vessel on the European model, the keel of one was laid down for him. Ten or twelve years later Mr Turnbull found him with 20 vessels of from 25 to 50 tons which traded amongst the islands, and he afterwards purchased others from foreigners. Having encouraged a warlike spirit in his people and introduced firearms, Kamehameha attacked and overcame the chiefs of the other islands one after another, until he became undisputed master of the whole group. He encouraged trade with foreigners, and derived from its profits a large increase of revenue as well as the means of consolidating his power. He died in 1819, and was succeeded by his son, a mild and well-disposed prince, but destitute of his father’s energy. One of the first acts of Kamehameha II. was to abolish tabu and idolatry throughout the islands. Some disturbances were caused thereby, but the insurgents were defeated and the peace of the islands has been scarcely broken since. In 1820 missionaries arrived from America and commenced their labours at Honolulu. A short time afterwards the British Government presented a small schooner to the king, and this afforded an opportunity for the Rev William Ellis, the well-known English missionary, to visit Honolulu, along with a number of Christian natives from the Society Islands. Finding the language of the two groups nearly the same, Mr Ellis, who had spent several years in the southern islands, was able to assist the American missionaries in reducing the Hawaiian language to a written form. In 1824 the king and queen of these islands paid a visit to England, and both died there of measles. For many years the Hawaiians have continued to advance steadily in intelligence, resources, and civilization, but their progress has been at times interrupted by the conduct of the officers of foreign powers. On one occasion a British officer went so far as to take possession of Oahu and establish a commission for its government; and French officers abrogated the laws, dictated treaties, and by force of arms established the Roman Catholic religion in the country. The act of the British officer was disavowed by his superiors as soon as known; and these outrages led to a representation on the part of the native sovereign to the Governments of Great Britain, France, and the United States of America, and the independence of the islands was guaranteed by these powers in 1844. Kalakaua, the reigning monarch (1880), was elected king by ballot on Lunalilo’s death without heirs in 1874. The heir to the throne is a sister of the king, Lelia Kamakacha, and is married to an American.
Inhabitants.—By the census taken in December 1878 the population of the whole group amounted to 57,985 persons, instead of 56,897 as in 1873. The number of natives of pure Hawaiian race was 44,088, of half castes 3420, Chinese 5916, Americans (U.S.) 1276, British 883, Portuguese 430, Germans 272, French 81, other foreigners 666, and Hawaiians born of foreign parents 947.
The natives belong to the Malayo-Polynesian race. Their reddish-brown skin has been compared to the hue of tarnished copper. The hair, usually raven black, is straight or at most wavy; the beard is thin, the face broad, the profile not prominent, the nose rather flattened, and the lips thick. The bulk of the population are of moderate stature, but the chiefs and the women of their families are remarkable for height.
In the former state of society the habits of the people were extremely licentious; men were living with several wives, and women with several husbands. Female virtue was an unknown thing, and there is no native word for it. This state of things has, however, been greatly altered by the exertions of the missionaries.
As regards cannibalism, it appears that the heart and liver of the human victims offered in the temples were eaten as a religious rite, and that the same parts of any prominent warrior slain in battle were devoured by the victor chiefs in the belief that they would thereby inherit the valour of the dead man. When, on the death of the great warrior Kamehameha I., the chiefs assembled to deliberate what should be done with his body, one suggested that they should eat it, but this did not find favour with the others.
The Hawaiians are a good-tempered, light-hearted, and pleasure-loving race. They have many games and sports, and the women spend much time in making flower garlands. Both sexes are passionately fond of riding, almost every one being in possession of a horse. They delight to be in the water, and swim with remarkable skill and ease. In the exciting sport of surf swimming, which always astonishes strangers, they balance themselves whilst standing or sitting on a small board which is carried landwards on the curling crest of a great roller.
In spite of moral and material progress—better food, better clothing, improved dwellings, and many other advantages of civilization—the race is dying out, and, indeed, is threatened with extinction in the course of a few years. Captain Cook estimated the number of natives at 400,000; in 1823 the American missionaries calculated them to be only 142,000; the census of 1832 showed the population to be 130,313; and the census of 1878 proved that the number of natives was no more than 44,088. To account for this it is said that the blood of the race has become poisoned by the introduction of foreign diseases. The women are much less numerous than the men; and the married ones have few children at the most; two out of three have none. Moreover the mothers appear to have little maternal instinct, and there is consequently a neglect of the offspring. Whilst the Hawaiians are decreasing, the Chinese are coming in large numbers, and threaten in time to take their place. To counteract this, as well as to supply the pressing need for labourers, the Government has considered many schemes for introducing other immigrants. Polynesians from other islands have been brought over, and a considerable number of Portuguese have come from Madeira.
The language is a branch of the widely-diffused Malayo-Polynesian tongue; and Hawaiians and New-Zealanders, although occupying the most remote regions north and south at which any of their race have been found, can understand each other without much difficulty. This language is soft and harmonious, being highly vocalic in structure, The only consonants are k, l, m, n, and p, which with the gently aspirated h, the five vowels, and the vocalic w, make up all the letters in use. The letters r and t have been suppressed of late years in favour of l and k, so that, for example, taro, the former name of the Colocasia plant, is now kalo. The language was not reduced to a written form until after the arrival of the missionaries.
In the days of idolatry the only dress worn by the men was a narrow strip of cloth wound round the loins and passed between the legs. Women wore a short petticoat made of tapa (cloth prepared from the inner bark of the paper mulberry), which reached from the waist to the knee. But now the common class of men wear a shirt and trousers, whilst the better class are attired in the European fashion. The women are clad universally in the holoka, a loose white or coloured garment with sleeves reaching from the neck to the feet. A coloured handkerchief is twisted round the head or a straw hat is worn. Both sexes delight in adorning themselves with garlands (leis) of flowers and necklaces of coloured seeds.
The natives derive their sustenance chiefly from pork and fish both fresh and dried, and from the kalo (Colocasia esculenta), the banana, sweet potato, yam, bread-fruit, and cocoanut. The root of the kalo affords the national dish called poi after having been baked and well beaten on a board with a stone pestle it is made into a paste with water and then allowed to ferment for a few days, when it is fit to eat. There was formerly a particular breed of dog which, after being fed exclusively on poi, was considered a great delicacy. The filthy liquor called awa or kawa is still relished by the natives, and though it is only allowed to be made under licence, it is often prepared clandestinely.
The native dwellings are constructed of wood, or more frequently are huts thatched with grass at the sides and top. What little cooking is undertaken is done outside. The oven consists of a hole in the ground in which a fire is lighted and stones made hot; and the fire having been removed, the food is wrapped up in leaves and placed in the hole beside the hot stones and covered up until ready.
Leprosy is prevalent amongst the natives, and the Government has established a settlement on the island of Molokai where all persons found to be affected with the disease are kept entirely isolated from the healthy part of the community. The lepers number about 800.
(j. y. j.)
- According to the Boletin de la Soc. Geogr. de Madrid, 1877, there had been a previous discovery by the Spaniards.
- Mr Ellis was the writer of the article Polynesia, which included an account of the Hawaiian Islands, in the last edition of this work.
- See Chamisso, Ueber die Hawaiische Sprache (Leipsic, 1837); and Andrews, Grammar of the Hawaiian Language (Honolulu, 1854), and Dictionary (Honolulu, 1865).
- Amongst the minor phenomena they speak of the delicate glassy fibres called Pele’s hair by the Hawaiians, which are spun by the wind from the rising and falling drops of liquid lava, and blown over the edge or into the crevices of the crater. Pele in idolatrous times was the dreaded goddess of the volcano. It is noteworthy that a substance resembling Pele’s hair is made from the slag of iron furnaces, by driving steam or air against a thin current of the melted slag. The filamentous material thus made has been termed mineral or slag wool; it can be woven into sheets which are useful for coating steam boilers, &c., as the substance is a very bad conductor of heat.