Before the World Came Calling

One could only imagine how life on these pristine islands flourished 1500 years in the past, subsisting in a land bequest with beauty, found nowhere else on earth and teaming with victuals from both land and sea. Those first occupants might have existed here as much as 700 years before the next voyagers from the southern hemisphere appeared. As many as 30 to 40 continuous generations inhabited this archipelago hidden to the rest of the world. Moreover, for almost all (especially the latter) of these generations, this might have been the center of the universe, for they knew of no other existence. Only the presence of their own people, of their Gods, of the towering peaks that climbed endlessly to the clouds, found nowhere else in the vast Pacific ocean. Combining the sea, that encircled them from every direction and the “mana” (the land) that provided their permanent existence, they resided with an abundance of bounty. Mother earth could not have placed these “Jewels of the Pacific”, as they were coined some 1600 years later by Charles Lindbergh, with more isolation. At between 18’52” and 22’15” north latitude, and roughly at 154 to 160 degrees west longitude, they are set in the middle of the central pacific. Ultimately, with much irony, this strategic location, halfway between the orient and the western coasts of both north and South America, would prove to be one of the biggest impacts that would dictate the history and monumental social evolvement in the islands of Hawai’i. Yet for those centuries between 300 AD and 1000 AD a life of uninterrupted bliss existed for a brown skinned race, in a land that did not exist.

It is believed that those that arrived first, did so from the Marquesas, and were thought to have carried a rather docile demeanor to their culture. Rather short in stature, they favored the northern islands of Kaua’i and Oahu. Water was plentiful on these isles and rainfall of copious amounts. Being the oldest of the archipelago, the only navigable rivers existed here, giving them endless supplies of fresh water. On all of the eight major islands of the chain, as is the case on all continents of the northern hemisphere, the southwestern sections tended to exist under semi-arid conditions, yet on the islands to the north these conditions seemed small and insignificant. This, along with the dominating tropical environment of Kaua’i and Oahu, which included an abundance of native fruits and vegetables, and the aforementioned inexhaustible supply of water, was more than likely the primary reasons behind the migration to the northern tip of the island’s main chain.

These initial generations probably lived, sharing a boundary adjoining true paradise, flanking generation after generation for possibly 800 years. For these people an idyllic existence endured, and the evolution of their society was impacted from within. Which is to say, that whatever good, evil, spiritual, or social progression took place, it proceeded untouched by outside influences for eight centuries.

It would be hard to imagine drawbacks to a society living in such tranquility, devoid of disease, pestilence, jealousy, indifference, or arrogance. This would be especially true in reference to those that had descended from the Marquesas, given their numbers were less than those of the second wave from O’Tahiti. At this point the mysteries of Hawaiian legend enter the picture. The Tahitians carried with them no resemblance of a docile society. Their culture was steeped in a classed structure with the Ali’i chiefs governing spiritually as well as culturally. The tendencies of this society leaned at times toward violent warring traditions inherited over centuries of tribal conflicts in the south pacific. When the first bands of Tahitians wandered upon the islands, their spiritual legends of Gods and Goddesses, such as Pele and Lono, lead them situate on the southern islands of Hawaii and Maui primarily. In time a procession northward brought them into contact with the original inhabitants from the Marquesas. This ultimately created a clash between two different groups of Polynesians. The discord was not brought about by a conflict of subsistence, as each were similar in nature. Its variance tended to root in the difference in natural demeanor between the two groups. One peaceful and tranquil, which lived unaware of an outside world in virtual harmony with its surroundings for the better part of 700 years. The other, a dominating society , founded upon a strict .classed culture, which carried a brutal manor to it at times.

If one is familiar with a tropical atmosphere, they may come to the conclusion that a thick forested tropical jungle would favor and individual that is smaller in stature. Moving quickly through the under brush of this environment would not behoove a large individual. Tahitians by contrast were giants in comparison to their Marquesan cousins. And as the mighty Ali’i, with his legions of warriors descended upon the interior of Oahu, the occupants simply vanished into the rain forest. Over time the strength of the invaders would prevail, and many of the docile tribe were led to a life of slavery, or worse offered in sacrifice at the many heiau’s (temples) that the Ali’i had erected. However many of the first occupants escaped owing their freedom to a wide and rough channel between Kaua’i and Oahu. When examining a map of the Hawaiian archipelago, one can easily note that of the five main channels that entwine themselves within the boarders f these islands, all are fairly short in width, with the exception of one. The Kauai channel, which runs between the southeastern shore of Kauai and the northwestern shore of Oahu, is almost three times the width of the Molokai channel, second largest among the passages. A little over one hundred miles in width, it churns the roughest swells in the Hawaiian chain. In the early 1790’s almost fifteen years after James Cook had stumbled upon these isles, an Ali’i chief, who would later become known as Kamehameha the Great, the unitary of The Kingdom of Hawai’i , would fail on three attempts to cross the channel. Emblazoned with weapons from the west, and possessing the largest, if not the most ominous armada ever amassed in these waters, only to beaten back by the treacherous swells of the channel. Yet we know that the descendant’s from the Marquesas continually used this channel to escape the persecution of the Tahitians in the 1100’s. Why were they so successful, when others failed ? The answer I believe lies in their knowledge and experience obtained over 700 years of voyages between the two islands. This early race of people from the outset of their arrival settled and traveled between these two northern isles for seven centuries. They new the currents and wave patterns, and with remarkable skill were able to sail small craft through this perilous section of the archipelago. As anyone who has lived on Kaua’i for any length of time will tell you, there is an underlying difference in its atmosphere which is reflected in its people. Could it be the Marquesan blood that lingered on the Garden isle for many centuries? Couple that with the fact that Kaua’i is the only island in the chain to escape the physical wrath of the great Kamehameha and one might draw theories as to the difference in the ambience felt when you walk it’s shores.

Yet even with the archipelago’s wealth of natural confluences aiding greatly in the subsistence of its inhabitants, during centuries of seclusion, it is but a mere 7,000+ square miles in area. Thus, continued existence depended heavily on a population that remained stabilized. To the Ali’i, this had to have been one of the major challenges for sustained existence.

In the population centers of Europe, the Middle East, the Orient, and Africa, famine, and disease, at times in epidemic proportions, helped to curve population growth. This was not the case in a land free of the common cold, or where the mosquito did not exist. So could the seasons beset with warlike activities that are etched in the Hawaiian calendar since the arrival of the second wave of Polynesians around the 11th century be construed as a form of population control? Moreover, if this was the case, it succeeded in achieving a harmonic balance between the islands natural constrictions and the Hawaiian race. In turn this equilibrium between man and nature, allowed them to subsist independently of the outside world for possibly 1600 years.

During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, as travel between the new world and the orient progressed, shipwrecked survivors had been known to escape the perils of the sea, and wash upon the islands shores. However their impact was felt genetically as to their assimilation, and had minimal effect on the social structure of Hawaiian society. However with the progression of ocean travel in the Pacific it was but a matter of time before these placid islands, in its tranquil setting, were revealed. When Captain James Cook stumbled upon them in 1778, it opened the door to a host of callers from various parts of the world. Unfortunately with their visits came their vices of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and much more, which in all honesty, many Hawaiians embraced. However it was their diseases that overwhelmed this society, void of even the most diminutive resistance to infection. In the 72 years that followed Cooks arrival, major occurrences influenced the Hawaiian race socially, as well as spiritually, religiously and economically, doing much to change the outlook and future of its culture. Yet, no impact was felt more prodigiously than the insidious diseases be felled native Hawaiians between 1778 and 1850.The population controls of the Ancients were no longer required, for they had been replaced by the descending world of the 19th century.

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