When you're vacationing in Hawaii, or even just fantasizing that you are, you're bound to come across some pretty unique Hawaiian gifts and souvenirs. One of the Hawaiian islands, Maui, is known for its significant impact on the state's culture and transformation as a whole. Maui's backstory can give us some pretty incredible insight into how our favorite Hawaiian souvenirs gained popularity throughout history.
Beginning of Maui Civilization
Believe it or not, the first ancestors actually didn't travel to Hawaii for the tropical vibes and Hawaiian souvenirs. They followed the stars and the birds across the sea of Hawaii, which they called "the land of raging fire.” So, who were these first migrants traveling to Maui? The first settlers were part of the great Polynesian migration. During that time, people traveled to different islands between Easter Island, New Zealand, and Hawaii. Historians aren't totally sure when the migrants came to Hawaii, but they found a bone fish hook that has been carbon-dated to A.D. 700. The Polynesian migrants who traveled to Maui established its traditional culture and created a religion, language, economy, and class system.
The Hawaiian culture started to flourish around 1300. The settlers were building fish ponds, temples, and aqueducts to water the taro plantations. Sailors accommodated the new lifestyle by becoming farmers and fishermen. Each Hawaiian island was its own kingdom at that time. The alii was a group of hereditary ruling class people who created a caste system and established taboos within Hawaiian society. These expectations were so harsh that people who violated them would be strangled. The high priests were another majorly influential group at this time, and they looked to the gods Lono and Ku for divine guidance. Sometimes this "divine guidance" lead religious groups to make ritual sacrifices.
As you can tell by now, the history of Hawaii isn't as glamorous as the movie Moana makes it out to be. Maui's history is actually filled with lots of wars and conquests. When each island was a kingdom, kings would fight and take over one another's islands.
In the early years, the three kingdoms of Hawaii were:
After three centuries of tension, Piilani became the first ruler to bring all of Maui together in unity. Piilani's time of rule was one of peace and community rebuilding. He facilitated the building of irrigation fields, fish ponds, and he started creating a paved road around the entire island. Once he passed away, his sons and grandsons carried on his legacies by following through with his projects and serving the community. Eventually, they ended up finishing the Alalou, the road that circled the entire island. In addition to the road, they built Hawaii's largest temple to the god of war, Pi'ilanihale, which still stands in Maui today.
Advancing Maui's Culture
Maui was a significant part of the change in Hawaii's history. Kamehameha began the fight to conquer Maui and unite all the islands into one kingdom in 1759. However, he didn't succeed until 1795. In the meantime, around the 1770s, explorers from worldwide started making their way over to Hawaii on their voyages. Almost instantly, Hawaii was introduced to the stone age. The explorers traded things like nails for pigs, fresh water, and even Hawaiian women's affections.
This time of mingling and trade might seem like it was fun and innovative, but it actually brought a lot of issues to Hawaii. The sailors discovering Hawaii ended up bringing lots of diseases to Maui’s people, like measles and syphilis. Since the Hawaiians didn't have the proper medicine and immunity to fight off these diseases, it caused a lot of damage to their population. In addition to all the disease outbreaks, there were plenty of fights in which people were killed.
Hawaii's had its ups and downs throughout history, but it has Queen Kaahumanu to thank for many of its cultural advances. She abolished the old taboos that had been set in place for many years. She got rid of some outdated standards, including rules about women eating with men. She also opened up to the idea of allowing other religions so that people could have their religious freedom.
How Did Hawaii Become Part of the U.S.A.?
You might be wondering how Hawaii went from being ruled by kings and queens to becoming part of the United States. Hawaii has been part of U.S. territory since way back in the early 1900s when America annexed Hawaii during the Spanish-American war. To avoid any conflict or harm to the Hawaiian people, the queen at the time, Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Liliuokalani yielded her power. Once she passed away in 1917, Hawaii became an American territory. Due to political issues, there was a debate about whether or not Hawaii should join the United States. However, in 1959 it became the fiftieth U.S. state.
The Legend of Maui
Now that you know the rich history of Maui's development, how did the marvelous island coin its name? The name "Maui" actually comes from a mythological being. According to ancient legends, Maui was a demigod. He went on a fishing trip with his brothers when he suddenly caught the ocean floor with his magical Maui fish hook. He told his brothers to keep paddling as hard as possible until an island rose from the sea to the sky. Maui continued doing this until all the Hawaiian Islands were created.
In addition to creating the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is known for his persuasion on the weather. His grandmother convinced him to slow the sundown, so she was able to grow more food. He stood on the summit of Mount Haleakala and lassoed the sun's rays. He demanded that the days be long in the summer, and in the winter, the days be short. It's not hard to see why Maui's people would want to name their island after this mighty demigod. When you're shopping in Hawaii or just living vicariously through our online collection of shells and shark teeth, you'll probably be able to identify a lot of Maui history within your Hawaiian gifts.
Maui History in Hawaiian Gifts
Of course, shell necklaces and heart-shaped crystals are super cute Hawaiian souvenirs, but they're more than just a pretty accessory or mini memory of your vacation. Hawaiian gifts are embedded with Maui's legends and history.
You can identify historical elements in Hawaiian souvenirs like:
- Maui shark teeth
- Hawaiian crystals
- Maui scrimshaw
- jewelry from Maui
Knowing the history behind your adorable Hawaiian souvenir will make it that much more special to you. Plus, it will be fantastic to know where the Hawaiian gift came from and what went into creating it.
Maui Shark Teeth
If you've ever been in a Hawaiian gift shop, you've probably seen the rows of shark teeth in cork jars or adorned on necklaces and bracelets. Fossils are a super typical Hawaiian souvenir since there is such a rich history of wildlife in Maui. The extinct Megalodons and many other species of shark have a rich history in Hawaiian gifts and souvenirs.
Did you know the word Megalodon means "big shark"? They haven't been around in three million years or so, but we continue to learn about them through their fossils. Megalodon tooth fossils make a wonderful Hawaiian souvenir. Megalodons are the most giant sharks in history, and their teeth have been measured at up to seven inches! For reference, common white shark teeth today are typically only around two inches long. These giant sharks would shed their teeth once they became worn down, and within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, they would have a new one in its place; hence why we are still able to buy them as Hawaiian souvenirs today. Pick up a Megalodon tooth the next time you're in a Hawaiian gift shop, or find one from the comfort of your own home on our website. For a guide on how to find the perfect Megalodon tooth, check out this post.
Sharks that were around during the beginning of the Maui civilization played a significant role in the culture. Among the original Hawaiian religion, there are plenty of different gods and goddesses; seven being shark gods. Hawaiians might not pray to these gods now, but they still have a significant role in Hawaiian souvenirs and gifts. The Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) believed that when you die, your family could transform your corpse into a shark. Who doesn't want to spend their afterlife swimming around the ocean and attacking small aquatic animals and, on the rare occasion, humans? A family's aumakua was their ability to transform into sharks based on their clothes and the markings on their body.
Some of the aumakua shark gods included:
- Kamohoali'i: the chief shark god
- Kane'apua: the trickster shark god
- Ka-ahupahau: the queen of the sharks
- Kane'i'kokala: the rescuer
If you're intrigued by the thought of shark gods and goddesses blessing your life, picking up a Hawaiian souvenir like a shark tooth would be a great way to promote their energy. Who's to say the descendants of these shark gods and goddesses aren't swimming through the ocean today? Whether you're superstitious or a full-on believer in the ancient shark legends of Maui, you should pick up a shark tooth the next time you're on the hunt for a Hawaiian gift. You can find the teeth of prehistoric sharks like the Otodus obliquus or the Carcharocles sokolovi in our collection if you're looking for a Hawaiian souvenir.
Ancient Maui civilizations used crystals for healing of many kinds. To this day, we can still use the Hawaiian souvenirs to bring joy and prosperity into our own lives. We might not use crystals to cure sicknesses or harness godly powers anymore, but they can still bring positive and cleansing energy into our lives. Crystals are the perfect Hawaiian gift since they're gorgeous, unique, and bring all the good vibes.
One of our best-selling Hawaiian souvenirs is the lapis lazuli pebbles. Lapis lazuli is among some of the oldest gems in the world, and its healing powers are timeless. In the past, people believed that this stone contained deities' souls and brought their energy to life. Many used this Hawaiian souvenir in religious practices and even used them to reflect the high status of their rulers. Today, people can use lapis lazuli to bring love, healing, and wisdom into their lives. This Hawaiian gift is also known to strengthen psychic powers.
Another one of our best-selling Hawaiian gifts is the large selenite hearts. Selenite is an all-cleansing crystal that's perfect for bringing balance and harmony to every area of your life. Throughout history, this Hawaiian souvenir has been known to expand the crown chakra. People worldwide have been connecting with their chakras for many years to bring more joy, positivity, and divine knowledge into their lives. Selenite has also been known to bring light and healing energy to any space or situation. You can get this fantastic Hawaiian souvenir into your life or gift it to a loved one; we know they'll be thanking you later.
Scrimshaw has become a popular Hawaiian gift ever since commercial whaling made it popular in the 1800s. The first scrimshaw carvings were on whale teeth and walrus tusks. The first artists to create these used them to depict images of what they saw and experienced during life on the water. Today, scrimshaw can be made out of many different things and can be found in a variety of Hawaiian souvenirs.
Favorite Maui Scrimshaw Items include:
- letter openers
- money clips
Jewelry from Maui
One of the most beloved Hawaiian souvenirs to bring home from vacation is an adorable new piece of jewelry representing Maui. There's a wide variety to choose from, whether you're more of a necklace lover or a bracelet fan. One of the most significant Hawaiian gifts to Maui's history is the fish hook necklace.
Like we mentioned before with the demigod Maui's legend, fish hooks have a magical connotation in Hawaiian souvenirs and history. They symbolized the Maui peoples' deep connection to the ocean and all that lives within it. The sea was their source of food and their means of travel, so it's not hard to imagine why they admired it so much. Today, fish hook Hawaiian souvenirs represent abundance, prosperity, strength, and major respect for the ocean. If a fish hook necklace sounds like the perfect Hawaiian gift for you or your loved one, our collection has lots of different options made out of materials like mango wood, turquoise composite, deer antler, and more.
If the fish hooks don't really match your aesthetic, we've got you covered. One of the cutest Hawaiian souvenirs you can get from our shop is butterfly wing earrings. They're actually made out of real butterfly wings! If you're a crystals and gems lover, our Baltic amber rings are the perfect Hawaiian gift for you.
Now that you know all about the history of Maui, you're ready to pick out the perfect Hawaiian gift for you and all your loved ones. Next time you spot a fish hook necklace, you can thank the demigod Maui for everything his magical fish hook brought to Hawaii.