Polynesians, from Tahiti and the Marquesas, were the original peoples to populate Maui. The Tahitians introduced the kapu system, a strict social order that affected all aspects of life and became the core of Hawaiian culture. Modern Hawaiian history began in the mid-18th century. King Kamehameha I, king of Hawaii’s “Big Island,” invaded Maui in 1790 and fought the inconclusive Battle of Kepaniwai, but returned to Hawaii to battle a rival, finally subduing Maui a few years later.
Kamehameha’s descendants reigned until 1872. They were followed by rulers from another ancient family of chiefs, including Queen Liliuokalani who ruled in 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown. One year later, the Republic of Hawaii was founded. The island was annexed by the United States in 1898 and made a territory in 1900. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state in 1959.
In 1937, Vibora Luviminda trades union conducted the last labor strike of an ethnic nature in the Hawaiian Islands against four Maui sugarcane plantations, demanding higher wages and the dismissal of five foremen. Manuel Fagel and nine other strike leaders were arrested, and charged with kidnapping a worker. Fagel spent four months in jail while the strike continued. Eventually, Vibora Luviminda made its point and the workers won a 15% increase in wages after 85 days on strike, but there was no written contract signed.
Maui was centrally involved in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a staging center, training base, and for rest and relaxation. At the peak in 1943-44, more than 100,000 soldiers were there. The main base of the 4th Marine Division was in Haiku. Beaches (e.g., in Kīhei) were used to practice landings and train in marine demolition and sabotage.