Around 4th or 5th Century AD, a large canoe landed on the Big Island of Hawaii carrying the first few dozen settlers to Hawaii. They traveled from the Marquesas Islands over 2,500 miles away. We’ll never know what brought them to Hawaii – some say war, some say illness, some say overpopulation, drought, or just to see what was beyond their shores. Some believe they followed the kolea (golden plover) bird, to the Hawaiian Island chains. This theory has more credibility than others because Hawaii is very isolated from the other chains of islands.
They brought with them foods from their homelands – food familiar to Hawaiians today: taro, breadfruit, pigs, and fowl. They also brought dogs, but luckily, I hope, dogs are no longer on the menu. These first settlers relied on fish and taro because only other animal life on the island at that time was the Hawaiian bat.
After the Marquesan, the next set of Hawaiian colonists were probably from Tahiti around 10th Century AD. There are legends that are still told to Hawaiian children today about the Menehune. The Menehune are thought to be small people who live in forests like our mainland leprechauns and fairies. Those legends come from this time period. When the Tahitian people came to Hawaii, they subdued the first group of Hawaiian colonists – the Marquesan. Those who did not submit, settled in the forests creating the Menehune legend. The ancient Hawaiians avoided the forests because of their concern for evil spirits that lived there, the Menehune. Even as late as 1800, 65 people identified themselves as Menehune on the Census taken on Kauai Island.
The second group of settlers, the Tahitians, established a long list of taboos called kapu. Kapu was created to keep order. If someone broke a kapu, they were usually killed, either by strangulation, clubbing, or fire. If the kapu was serious enough, the person’s family was also killed. Some of these kapus included never:
- interrupting the chief,
- letting your shadow fall on the chief,
- prepare men’s food in the same container as the women’s food,
- eating together male and female, and
- eating banana or pork if you were a woman
Cite: O’ahu Revealed by Andrew Doughty