Maui History


Maui history, like that of ancient Greece, is a fascinating blend of fact and legend. Did the demigod Maui really pull the islands out of the sea with a fishhook? For those with a lyrical bent, it's as good an explanation as any. What about the almost continuous sunshine? Well, Maui played a part in that too. For the newly ascended islands initially arose in total darkness, until the tireless Maui climbed the Haleakala volcano, lassoed the sun and refused to let go.

On the other hand, the more scientific explanation is that two separate volcanoes — East Maui, more commonly called Haleakala, and West Maui -- arose from the ocean floor. Overtime, lava flows and soil erosion created a link between the two volcanoes and formed the single island of Maui.

In the 14th Century Piilani conquered the island, an event that influences Maui culture to this day. He was a gifted engineer and built, not only the Piilanihale Temple which still stands, but also an island wide road system. Many of the highways on Maui bear his name to this day. Another landmark event in Maui history occurred in 1795 when Kamehameha the Great established the royal court at the Maui city of Lahaina.

In the 19th century, Maui culture was shaped by missionaries and whalers who, ironically, arrived almost concurrently. The missionaries quickly established laws forbidding drunkenness and debauchery, while the whalers, landing on Maui after long months at sea, were often seeking those very things. The two sides found a way to co-exist eventually, and as the laws relaxed the Maui city of Lahaina became the busiest harbor in all of Hawaii.

By the 1860's the whaling industry had begun its decline, and sugar became the driving force of the economy and much of Maui culture as well. It remained the major industry on the island until the 1960's when tourists started arriving in greater numbers. Today, in addition to sugar and tourism, there is a growing high tech industry and a considerable amount of scientific research conducted in Maui's marine sanctuaries, volcanoes and rainforests.

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