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Maui History

As is the case with everything if you go back far enough, Maui started with a bang. This took place five million years ago as the result volcanic activity that began the ocean floor and went on to create Haleakala, a now-dormant volcano arising more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Lava flows and the gradual erosion of Haleakala's slopes combined to form the rich plain of Central Maui, which is where most of island's agriculture, industries and population are now located. 

At least that’s the geological explanation. More colorful by far is the legend surrounding the island’s creation that introduces a figure named Maui. As Maui was only a demigod, he went fishing with a line in the time-honored fashion. In time-honored fashion as well, his line caught, and after strenuously pulling to free it, he ensured that he'd have the greatest fishing story of all time by bringing the islands of Hawaii to the surface one by one. Perhaps emboldened by this feat, Maui then stood astride Hakeakala’s vast crater to cast his lasso into the sky, now catching the sun's rays and breaking them off in the same way he raised the Hawaii’s islands – one at a time. He then addressed the star, saying he’d extinguish it entirely if it didn’t traverse the sky at a slower pace to provide more time for fishing. Wisely, the sun obeyed. 

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The first people to inhabit Maui were the Marquesas, who, sometime before 450 A.D., sailed their doubled-hulled canoes off in the direction taken by local birds that annually returned home from their migration considerably fattened. Until the Tahitians came along around 700 A.D. to push them into the forest, the Marquesas spent hundreds of years on Maui building their grass houses and stone temples, making tapa cloth, outrigger canoes, and fishing and grinding the root of the taro plant into poi. In turn, the Tahitians introduced their goddesses and religion along with the kapu system, a strict social order that was central to ancient Hawaiian culture. 

These peoples formed Maui’s original inhabitants – denizens of a tropical Eden living the simple lives of native people. They went on to form three chiefdoms  -- Wailuku, Lele (Lahaina), and Hana that lasted until 1778, when Captain James Cook became the first European to visit Maui. Unable to find a place to land, Cook never set foot on the island. That had to wait until 1786 and the arrival of the French admiral Jean-Francois de Galap, comte de La Perouse, who disembarked on the shores of what is now known La Perouse Bay. In the wake of these early Europeans came traders, whalers and missionaries who would put an end to Maui’s simple way of life -- although the descendants of King Kamehameha I, who conquered the island in bloody battle in Iao Valley shortly prior to Cook’s arrival, reigned until 1872.

After Kamehameha and his descendants came another ancient family of chiefs, including Queen Liliuokalani  who ruled Hawaii in 1893 when the monarchy was overturned. The Republic of Hawaii, formed the following year, was annexed by the United States in 1898. Hawaii was made a U.S. territory in 1900, and 50th state in 1959.

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