Native Hawaiians, or simply Hawaiians (Hawaiian: kānaka ʻōiwi, kānaka maoli, and Hawaiʻi maoli), are the Indigenous Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands. The traditional name of the Hawaiian people is Kānaka Maoli.
Hawaii was settled at least 800 years ago with the voyage of Polynesians from the Society Islands. The settlers gradually became detached from their original homeland, developing a distinct Hawaiian culture and identity in their new isolated home. This included the creation of new religious and cultural structures, mostly in response to the new living environment and the need for a structured belief system through which to pass on knowledge. Hence the Hawaiian religion focuses on ways to live and relate to the land, instilling a sense of communal living as well as a specialized spatial awareness.
Much of the modern Hawaiian experience has been dominated by interactions with the United States and the relationship with settlers primarily of Asian and European ancestry. These interactions have ranged from constructive to detrimental, with much of the contact being dominated by desires for control versus self-determination. There have been numerous struggles by Native Hawaiians to assert their sovereignty and numerous affronts by the United States to sovereignty and continuity of the Native people.
In the 2010 U.S. Census, 527,000 people identified as Native Hawaiian, which is closer to the roughly 750,000 who lived on the island before European contact, and a significant increase from the low of 50,000 in the early 19th century. This growth has been attributed to a high fertility rate and the allowance of multiple race identification in the census: 371,000 people identified themselves as being "Native Hawaiian" combined with one or more other races or Pacific Islander groups, while 156,000 (33%) identified themselves as being "Native Hawaiian" alone.
Two-thirds of Native Hawaiians (roughly 238,000) reside in the state of Hawaii, and the rest are scattered among other states, especially in the American Southwest and California.
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