World Facts

Is Hawaii Polynesian?

Although a US state, Hawaii is the northernmost island group in Polynesia.

Hawaii is the most recent state to join the United States, having been admitted to the Union in 1959. It is the only state located outside the continent of North America and also the only state located in Oceania. Together with Alaska, they form the non-contiguous states meaning they are not bordered by any of the other 48 states. Hawaii is the only US state entirely composed of an island. Hawaii is the northernmost island group in Polynesia and can be rightfully be referred to as a Polynesian. It includes almost the entire of volcanic Hawaiian Archipelago which is made of several islands spread over 1,500 miles in the central Pacific Ocean. The largest island is the Island of Hawai’i, often referred to as the “Hawai’i Island” or “Big Island” to differentiate it from the state.

Polynesian Triangle

Hawaii is often considered to be part of Polynesia because it is one of the corners of the Polynesian Triangle which is an area in the Pacific Ocean with three groups of islands at its corners. These three island groups are Easter Island, Island of Hawai’i, and New Zealand. The triangle is often used as a simple way to define the extent of Polynesia. Geographically, the Polynesian Triangle is drawn by connecting the three islands. Other islands such as Tonga, Samoa, Cooks Island, Niue, and Tuvalu, among other islands are located within the triangle. Some other islands outside the triangle are also inhabited by the Polynesian people.

The Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands is a group of islands consisting of 8 major islands and several other islets, atolls, and seamounts in the Pacific Ocean. The islands extend approximately 1,500 miles from the Hawai’i Island to the Kura Atoll in the south and north respectively. The group of islands was formerly known as the Sandwich Islands while the current name is derived from the largest island, Hawaii Island. The archipelago is occupied entirely by the US state of Hawaii with an exception of Midway Island, which separately belongs to the US as an unincorporated territory. The Hawaiian Islands cover a total area of approximately 6,423.4 square miles. With an exception of Midway Island, the islands and islets are administered by the state of Hawaii. The eight major islands forming the Hawaiian Islands include Hawai’i (the largest island), Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Ni’ihau, and Kaho’olawe. All the islands are inhabited except Kaho’olawe Island.

Demographics of Hawaii

Before the arrival of the Europeans and mainland Americans, the population of the archipelago mainly consisted of the indigenous Hawaiians. When the “foreigners” arrived, the population of native Hawaiians fell drastically from 300,000 to 60,000 between the 1770s and 1850s due to the foreign diseases. The population has never been restored to pre-contact levels to this date. As of 2010 census, approximately 156,000 people declared themselves to be of Native Hawaiians ancestry. As of 2017, Hawaii had a population of 1.4 million residents. The population is due in part to a large number of tourist residents and military personnel. The most populated island is O’ahu Island with about 1,650 persons per square miles.

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