Listen to the Recess! Clip
Brief sound clip
That’s the Concert Glee Club from the King Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu singing a song that celebrates those early explorers, the Wayfarers, from the ancient Marquesas and Polynesia. They sailed to the Hawaiian Islands over thousands of miles of open ocean on their double-hulled canoes, called Hokule. On these boats, they brought their families, livestock, and plantings to these specks of land that, one legend has it, were pulled up from the depths of the ocean by the magic fishing hook of the trickster, god/man Maui. Maui would have pulled up an entire continent, he told his impatient brothers, if they’d given him a chance and not made him lose his extraordinary fishing gear.
One of the other mythical presences in Hawaii, who also has the power to create land, is Pele, the goddess of fire. She had to leave her home in Tahiti because of her jealous sister, the goddess of the ocean. Finally, Pele settled on the big island, where she made (and still makes) her home in the famous crater of Kilauea, and where people still make offerings to her. And, according to legend, from time to time, you can catch glimpses of her on the big island , in the form of a beautiful, tall young woman or as an old woman dressed in white with a little dog.
No one is really sure exactly where the name, Hawaii, comes from. It might refer to the leader of one group of those mythical wayfarers, Hawaii Loa. According to some legends he is said to have discovered this chain of more than a hundred islands at least a millenium ago.
A more recent chapter in Hawaii’s history begins with Captain Cook’s first landfall there in 1778. In the 1800s there were visitors from all over the world — missionaries, whaling ships, traders come for its pineapples, sugar, coffee, and its prized sandalwood. August 21st, 1959, marks Hawaii’s formally becoming a state — the 50th. It’s our longest state, has its own time zone, has one of this country’s most diverse populations, and is still, to this day, the destination of wayfarers.