What Type of People Live in the Hawaiian Islands?

type-people-live-hawaiian-islands Credit: USFWS - Pacific Region/CC-BY 2.0

According to the 2010 Census, 23.6 percent of residents in Hawaii are of mixed race, making the islands ethnically diverse. No one race claims a majority, not even Native Hawaiians or Polynesians, which make up 10 percent of the population. The largest group is Asian, at 38.6 percent, followed by Caucasian at 24.7 percent. Hispanics make up 8.9 percent, while African Americans are at 1.6 percent. American Indian and Native Alaskans make up 0.3 percent.

Native Hawaiians are thought to be Polynesians who made their way to Hawaii from Tahiti or other South Pacific Islands. Captain James Cook arrived in 1778 and found between 300,000 and 400,000 Native Hawaiians. Unfortunately, diseases such as measles, small pox and the flu arrived soon after, decimating the population by the late 1800s.

Caucasians were the first foreigners to arrive in Hawaii; many of them missionaries. Whaling ships also stopped at Lahaina, Maui, known for its friendly natives and nearly lawless nights in town. Clashes between sailors and missionaries were frequent. Lahaina was also named the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kamehameha. It was later moved to Honolulu because Oahu had a bigger, deeper harbor.

Others came and planted sugar, which required more workers than were available. The Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Koreans, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans all came to work the sugar and pineapple fields, beginning in the 1850s. The Samoans arrived later, but not as plantation workers; they came to work on the Mormon Temple, built in Laie on Oahu in 1919.