Native Hawaiians are the descendants of ancient voyagers: bold explorers who sailed over 4,000 miles from French Polynesia, navigating by the stars. They evolved an elaborate social system, full of customs, legends and taboos. The 1778 arrival of Captain James Cook opened up the archipelago to the outside world, forever reshaping it.

Hawaii continued to be a monarchy, until a group of American-backed businessmen and sugar planters forced Queen Liliʻuokalani to abdicate in 1893. Five years later the United States annexed the islands, which finally became the 50th state in 1959. Today 21 percent of residents have Hawaiian ancestry and almost 300,000 people consider themselves fully native. Not only is the indigenous population recovering, but so is the island-wide zeal for traditional culture.