History of Lanai

Located southeast of Oahu, south of Molokai, and east of Maui, Lanai sits practically in the center of the Hawaiian archipelago. As one of the smallest inhabited islands, Lanai is a testament to the saying that "good things come in small packages." Whether you are going to Hawaii to stay on Lanai island or just plan on passing by while island-hopping, this wonderful island offers a variety of things to do and places to experience. The island of Lanai is often referred to as "The Pineapple Isle" or "The Secluded Isle." These two names give some insight into the history of this beautiful Hawaiian island. Read on to learn more about Lanai and its interesting history.

Before Lanai island was inhabited

Before going into the history of Lanai itself, it's important to look into how the Hawaiian Islands were formed and inhabited. Millions of years ago, long before man roamed the earth, the tectonic plates and volcanoes of the Pacific Ring were busy forming what we know today as the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by one of the largest geological hot spots in the world. A geological hot spot is basically a stationary reservoir that produces large amounts of magma. As the magma is pushed through the earth's surface and into the waters of the oceans, the magma cools and solidifies. The hot spots continue to produce magma, which is pushed upwards, forming underwater mountains that can break the surface of the water to create islands.

Although these hot spots are stationary, the earth's crust sits on moving tectonic plates that shift and rotate. The Hawaiian Islands are located on the Pacific Plate. As the Pacific Plate shifted and rotated, the stationary hot spot continued to push magma through the crust, eventually creating each of the islands of Hawaii. The first of the Hawaiian Islands to be created around six million years ago is Kauai. After Kauai came Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, the Big Island, and Loihi.

The first inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands were barren for quite a long time, because of the distance that separates the archipelago from the mainland. The first inhabitants of Lanai and the Hawaiian Islands, in general, were the plants. Because the Hawaiian Islands are thousands of miles from any mainland continent, nature played a huge role in getting the first plants and animals on the islands. The seeds of plants were carried to the islands by the winds and the sea currents. Birds also helped to bring some of the plant life to Hawaii as they flew over the islands while migrating around the globe.

Many of the first forms of animal life on the Hawaiian Islands were birds and forms of sea life that evolved to inhabit the lands. The isolated islands were too far from the mainland for reptiles and land mammals to travel to. The plants and animals that first inhabited the Hawaiian Islands had millions of years to evolve. Today, there are numerous species of plant and animal life that are unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

Human contact

The first people to come to Hawaii were the Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands. Arriving on the islands some time between 300 A.D. and 600 A.D., these people made their first settlements along the shores of Hawaii, where they had access to water and food sources. Water is important not only for drinking, but also for agriculture. The natives from the Marquesas Islands made the first farms on the Hawaiian Islands, as they brought with them many types of food to plant and grow. Aside from bringing over taro, sugar cane, and other types of plants, these settlers are also responsible for bringing the first land mammals to the Hawaiian Islands. These natives brought with them animals such as dogs, pigs, and chickens.

A second wave of Polynesian settlers came around circa 1000. These Polynesians were from Tahiti, and they arrived on double-hulled canoes, large enough to serve as symbols of their success as a society and culture. When the Tahitians came to the Hawaiian Islands, they oppressed and alienated the first settlers from the Marquesas Islands, whom the Tahitians called commoners. As a result, those from the Marquesas fled further inland and up to the mountains, while the Polynesians from Tahiti settled on the more farm-friendly lands.

The Polynesians played a large role in inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands, establishing its culture, and forming its history. The Tahitians later run trade routes between Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands, helping them to strengthen their economy, increase their population, and ultimately improve their life in Hawaii. As the natives cultivated the lands, they inhabited many of the main islands of Hawaii, including Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. They set up a social hierarchy that consisted of chiefs and the masses. The Polynesians also played a large role in introducing the first forms of religion and law, called the Kapu system, which was a system based on taboos and forbidden acts.

How Lanai was inhabited

Even though the Polynesians inhabited many of the Hawaiian Islands, Lanai was not one of them. For a long time, the natives thought that evil spirits lived in Lanai. This legend of man-eating spirits kept the natives from venturing to and settling on the island of Lanai. In the 1500s, though, Lanai got its first inhabitant: a man named Kauluaau. Kauluaau was banished to the island by his father, who was a chief on the island of Maui. It is said that Kauluaau went against the Kapu system by uprooting every breadfruit tree that he could find on Maui, so he was sentenced to be banished to the "evil" island of Lanai.

Though the natives believed that Kauluaau would never survive on the island, they were wrong. Every night, the chief would see Kauluaau's fire burning bright along the shores of Lanai, proving that he could brave the island and survive, despite the evil spirits that inhabited Lanai. Recognizing Kauluaau's courage and perseverance, the Maui chief had his son brought back to Maui. As a reward, chief Kakaalaneo gave his son control over the island of Lanai. Kauluaau encouraged the people to immigrate from Maui, Molokai, and other Hawaiian Islands. Much like how the rest of Hawaii was inhabited by humans, the first settlers on Lanai set up fishing villages along the shore. It was not long before they started farming and planting taro on the island's volcanic soil.

The arrival of King Kamehameha I

For hundreds of years, the island of Lanai was under the rule of the Mo'i, or king, of Maui until Kamehameha I set out to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one ruler: himself. It was widely believed that Kamehameha was the legendary warrior who was prophesied to unite the islands of Hawaii. It was this prophecy and the help of the first foreigners who landed on the Hawaiian Islands that made Kamehameha I the first King of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810.

Though some of the natives submitted to Kamehameha I, because he fulfilled the prophecy of the warrior king, others refused to recognize his leadership. He then killed many of the people who opposed to his rule. When Kamehameha I was on his mission for total control of the Hawaiian islands, he used many of the weapons that he got from the Europeans who first came to the islands in the 1770s. The natives had little chance to defend themselves from such powerful weapons, such as canons and guns. These weapons were used to kill many of the inhabitants of Lanai. In fact, Kamehameha I killed so much of Lanai's population in the 1700s that some Europeans coming to Hawaii in the 1790s decided not to land their ships on Lanai for the lack of settlements and inhabitants.

The 1900s to the present

Under King Kamehameha I's rule, the island of Lanai was once again inhabited and slowly developed into the island that we know today. The next big change in the history of Lanai came in 1922, when a man named James Dole purchased the entire island for around $1.1 million. Dole was the president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which was later renamed Dole Food Company. Much of the lands here were used for pineapple plantations. Dole's efforts turned the island of Lanai into one of the largest pineapple plantations in the entire world, hence, its nickname "The Pineapple Isle."

When the pineapple industry started to plateau in the 1980s, Lanai underwent another major change, one that was in line with the changes that were occurring on many of the other Hawaiian Islands. As agriculture declined in Hawaii, the Dole Food Company had to be reformed into a new company named Castle & Cooke. When Dole Food Company CEO, David H. Murdock, bought Castle & Cooke, he also gained control over the Lanai island. Shifting away from agriculture, Castle & Cooke began developing Lanai as a tourist destination.

Today, there are hotels on the island of Lanai, as well as golf courses. The island's beautiful geography attracts many tourists who are looking to celebrate romance, adventure, or just a little R&R. Lanai has definitely had a rough history, but it is currently on the rebound as tourism leads the island and its inhabitants into another phase of its history. There are tons of things to do on the island of Lanai, from snorkeling and basking on the beach to 4x4 adventuring and viewing the Garden of the Gods. When you visit Lanai, make sure to take some time to visit some of its historical sites, meet its friendly people, and explore its beautiful geography.