Hawaiʻi is the world’s most-isolated, populated-place; the Islands are about: 2,500-miles from the US mainland, Samoa & Alaska; 4,000-miles from Tokyo, New Zealand & Guam, and 5,000-miles from Australia, the Philippines & Korea.
Using stratigraphic archaeology and refinements in radiocarbon dating, studies suggest it was about 900-1000 AD that “Polynesian explorers first made their remarkable voyage from central Eastern Polynesia Islands, across the doldrums and into the North Pacific, to discover Hawai‘i.” (Kirch)
Then, in the dawn hours of January 18, 1778, on his third expedition, British explorer Captain James Cook on the HMS Resolution and Captain Charles Clerke of the HMS Discovery first sighted what Cook named the Sandwich Islands (that were later named the Hawaiian Islands.)
At the time of Cook’s arrival, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four chiefdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
Four decades later, inspired by ʻŌpūkahaʻia, a Hawaiian who wanted to spread the word of Christianity back home in Hawaiʻi, on October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of missionaries, from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from the northeast United States, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.)
Then, something more significant in defining the social make-up of Hawaiʻi took place.
Sugar changed the social fabric of Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i continues to be one of the most culturally-diverse and racially-integrated places on the planet.
The first commercially-viable sugar plantation, Ladd and Co., was started at Kōloa on Kaua‘i in 1835. It was to change the face of Hawai‘i forever, launching an entire economy, lifestyle and practice of monocropping that lasted for well over a century.
A century after Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawaiʻi, sugar plantations started to dominate the landscape.
What encouraged the development of plantations in Hawaiʻi? For one, the gold rush and settlement of California opened a lucrative market. Likewise, the Civil War virtually shut down Louisiana sugar production during the 1860s, enabling Hawai‘i to compete with elevated prices for sugar.
In addition, the Treaty of Reciprocity-1875 between the US and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i eliminated the major trade barrier to Hawai‘i’s closest and major market. Through the treaty, the US gained Pearl Harbor and Hawai‘i’s sugar planters received duty-free entry into US markets.
However, a shortage of laborers to work in the growing (in size and number) sugar plantations became a challenge. The only answer was imported labor.
Starting in the 1850s, when the Hawaiian Legislature passed “An Act for the Governance of Masters and Servants,” a section of which provided the legal basis for contract-labor system, labor shortages were eased by bringing in contract workers from Asia, Europe and North America.
Several waves of workforce immigration took place (including others:)
• Chinese 1852
• Portuguese 1877
• Japanese 1885
• Koreans 1902
• Filipinos 1905
The sugar industry is at the center of Hawaiʻi’s modern diversity of races and ethnic cultures. Of the nearly 385,000-workers that came, many thousands stayed to become a part of Hawai‘i’s unique ethnic mix.
The Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens is a peaceful place to experience various cultural buildings; it was created as tribute and a memorial to Maui’s multi-cultural diversity.
Started in 1952, the park contains several monuments and replica buildings commemorating the Hawaiian, American missionary, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino cultures that make up a significant part of Hawaiʻi’s cultural mix.
Attractions include an early-Hawaiian hale (house), a New England-style missionary home, a Portuguese-style villa with gardens, native huts from the Philippines, Japanese gardens with stone pagodas and a Chinese pavilion with a statue of revolutionary hero Sun Yat-sen (who briefly lived on Maui.)
It is situated near the entrance to ʻIao Valley in the West Maui Mountain, just above Wailuku. It is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm; admission is free.