In the ancient history of Hawaii, the Big Island is believed to be the first island to be colonized by the Polynesians during the second or third century AD.
It seems plausible that by 1000 AD, groups of warring Tahitians had arrived and conquered the Marquesan’s, who were forced into servitude.
In the 12th century, a powerful Tahitian priest named Paʻao arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii. Paʻao established the “kapu” system, a practice of taboos that rigidly controlled all levels of social interaction.
Pa’ao installed himself as the high priest, or “Kahuna”, and a Tahitian chief named Pili as the King. This lineage of royalty and priests established itself as the rulers of Hawaii for several hundred years.
Under this system, one powerful royal chief ruled each island. Land was distributed to all the chiefs below him. These chiefs, in turn allowed commoners to work the land, but not own it.
This feudal system existed for several centuries. The priests of the islands directed that temples, or “heiaus” be built on auspicious sites, and remains of these temples can still be found throughout the islands today.
Since there was no written Hawaiian language, ancient history was passed on to each new generation through chants and legends told by the priests. As the priests died off, so too, did the ancient knowledge of the ancestors.
Despite this, it is known that the history of the islands involved war and bloodshed, including human sacrifice, as opposing chiefs attempted to gain control of larger areas. In 1791, a great warrior named Kamehameha became the first leader to unite the island of Hawaii. By 1795, Kamehameha was also the sole chief of Maui, Molokai and Oahu.