A Culture Unfolds
The roots of Hawaiian culture stretch south to older areas of Polynesia and beyond to the islands of the Western Pacific and the edges of Asia. The first settlers to Hawai`i brought with them the more ancient Polynesian traditions and lifestyles. Over generations, they adapted their beliefs and ways of living to accommodate their new island home, adding new gods like Pele to their pantheon and honing new skills such as surfing. As a distinct Hawaiian culture took shape, it grew in response to Oahu's forests and coral reefs, Molokai's shallow offshore waters, Kauai's steep valleys, Maui's high summit and Hawai`i Island's ever-changing volcanic lands.
Differences between Hawai`i and the larger Polynesian family grew more pronounced once the era of transpacific migrations ended. In many artistic endeavors - kapa making, featherwork, hula - Hawaiians surpassed the rest of their cousins in skill and proficiency. A highly structured and sophisticated culture blossomed in the Islands' benign climate and lush abundance. Over time, Hawaiian society grew as distinct as Hawaii's endemic plant and animal communities, left for eons to evolve in isolation.