(‘O¯lelo Hawai‘i: Hawai‘i) became the 50th state
of the United States on August 21, 1959. It is situated in the North Pacific
Ocean, 2,300 miles (3,700 km) from the mainland, at 21°18?41?N, 157°47?47?W.
During roughly 1778–1898, Hawaii was also known as the Sandwich
In dialects of American English, "Hawaii" is pronounced at least
three different ways: (IPA pronunciation: [h?.?wa?.ji], [h?.?wa?.i], [h?.?wa?.?i]).
In the Hawaiian language, there is also some variation possible, but the
most general pronunciation is [h?.?w?i.?i]. People sometimes use [v] instead
of [w], because [v] and [w] are in free variation in Hawaiian; both sounds
are equally correct.
Hawaii was first inhabited in roughly AD 1000, by foreign Polynesians
who came from islands in the South Pacific, most likely the Marquesas.
By colonizing Hawaii, these originally foreign settlers in effect became
Hawaiian people. For about 800 years, these people were sometimes at peace
and sometimes at war with each other, while they expanded their colonial
territory throughout the eight main islands. During this time, the Hawaiian
people also developed a complex caste society governed by an extensive
system of religious and social taboos called the kapu system. When British
explorer James Cook chanced upon the Hawaiian archipelago in 1778, a Hawaiian
warrior known as Kamehameha was beginning a gradual ascent to power. Before
his death in 1819, Kamehameha had succeeded in conquering (through military
force, or in the case of Kauai and Niihau, by other political means) all
of the major Hawaiian islands..