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Hawaii is a beautiful tropical paradise surrounded by stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and active volcanoes. People flock from all around the world to experience the Aloha spirit and take in the natural wonders this island state has to offer. But what exactly do you call someone who is originally from Hawaii? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The terms “Hawaiian” and “Native Hawaiian” refer to the indigenous Polynesian people of Hawaii. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the complex history and variety of names used for Hawaiian locals to help you understand exactly what to call someone from the Aloha State.

The Indigenous People of Hawaii

When it comes to identifying the people of Hawaii, there are several terms used to describe them. One of the most recognized terms is “Native Hawaiians.” Native Hawaiians are the indigenous Polynesian people who are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. They have a rich cultural heritage that dates back centuries and have played a significant role in shaping the history and traditions of Hawaii.

Native Hawaiians

The term “Native Hawaiians” refers specifically to the people who are of Hawaiian descent and have ancestry tracing back to the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. They have a unique cultural identity and a strong connection to their land and traditions. Native Hawaiians have faced historical challenges, including colonization and the suppression of their language and cultural practices. However, there has been a resurgence of Native Hawaiian pride and activism in recent years, with efforts to preserve their cultural heritage and promote self-determination.

Significance of the Term “Hawaiian”

The term “Hawaiian” is often used more broadly to refer to anyone who is a resident of Hawaii, regardless of their ethnic background. While this term is widely used and accepted, it is important to recognize the distinction between being Native Hawaiian and simply being a resident of Hawaii. Native Hawaiians have a unique historical and cultural connection to the land, whereas being Hawaiian in a broader sense refers to living in or having ties to the state of Hawaii.

Hawaiian as an Ethnicity

Hawaiian can also be used to describe a person’s ethnicity. In this context, being Hawaiian means having ancestry that can be traced back to the indigenous people of Hawaii. Like any ethnic group, Hawaiians have their own customs, language, and traditions that distinguish them from other groups. It is important to respect and honor the cultural heritage of the Hawaiian people and understand that being Hawaiian is more than just a geographic location, but a unique and vibrant ethnicity.

For more information about the indigenous people of Hawaii, you can visit the Kumu Hawaii website, which provides valuable insights into Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions.

Complex History of Hawaii

Hawaii is a place rich in history, with a complex past that has shaped its present-day identity. From the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy to its eventual statehood, the islands have undergone significant changes that have had lasting effects on both the land and its people.

Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy

In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in a controversial coup led by a group of influential businessmen and politicians. Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, was forced to abdicate her throne. This event marked a turning point in Hawaiian history and set the stage for the U.S. to exert its influence over the islands.

The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was not only a political upheaval but also a cultural and social disruption. The indigenous Hawaiian people, who had a deep connection to their land and a rich cultural heritage, faced discrimination and marginalization in their own homeland. Their traditional way of life was threatened, and their language and customs were suppressed.

Hawaii Becomes a U.S. State

After a period of territorial governance, Hawaii officially became a U.S. state on August 21, 1959. This marked a significant milestone in the history of Hawaii, as it became the 50th state to join the union.

The statehood of Hawaii brought about both positive and negative changes. On one hand, it opened up opportunities for economic growth and development. The tourism industry flourished, bringing in visitors from all over the world to experience the beauty of the islands. On the other hand, statehood also brought challenges for the native population, as their land rights and cultural practices continued to be threatened by urbanization and commercialization.

Effects on the Native Population

The effects of Hawaii’s complex history on the native population are still felt today. The indigenous Hawaiian people continue to fight for their rights, cultural preservation, and land sovereignty. Efforts are being made to revitalize the Hawaiian language, preserve traditional practices, and reclaim ancestral lands.

The Hawaiian people have a strong sense of pride in their heritage and are actively working towards a future that honors their past. Organizations and initiatives have been established to promote indigenous rights, education, and community development.

To learn more about the history of Hawaii and its impact on the native population, you can visit websites such as and

Other Common Terms for Hawaii Locals

When referring to people from Hawaii, you may come across various terms that are used to describe the local population. These terms not only reflect the diverse cultural heritage of the islands, but they also offer unique insights into the history and identity of Hawaii’s residents.


The simplest and most common term used to refer to people from Hawaii is “local.” This term encompasses individuals who were born and raised in the islands, as well as those who have made Hawaii their home over time. Being called a “local” is a point of pride for many residents, as it signifies a deep connection to the land, culture, and community.


Another term you may encounter is “kama’aina.” In Hawaiian, “kama’aina” translates to “child of the land.” Originally, this term referred to someone who was born in Hawaii, but it has since evolved to include anyone who has lived in the state for an extended period and has developed a sense of belonging. Being called a “kama’aina” is a sign of respect and recognition of one’s commitment to the local community.


The term “haole” is unique to Hawaii and is often used to refer to individuals who are not of Hawaiian or Polynesian descent. Originally, it simply meant “foreigner” or “white person,” but its meaning has evolved over time. While some may find the term offensive, it is commonly used in a more casual and non-derogatory manner today. It is important to note that not all non-Hawaiian residents are referred to as “haole,” and the term does not apply exclusively to people from the mainland United States.

Understanding these terms can help foster a greater appreciation for the cultural diversity of Hawaii and its people. It is essential to approach these terms with respect and an open mind, recognizing that they are part of a complex and rich cultural tapestry that makes Hawaii truly unique.

Using the Right Term

When referring to people from Hawaii, it is important to use the appropriate term to show respect and cultural awareness. While there are a few common terms used, it is essential to be mindful of the preferences of the individuals and the context in which the conversation takes place.

Being Respectful

One commonly used term for people from Hawaii is “Hawaiian.” However, it is important to note that “Hawaiian” specifically refers to the indigenous people of Hawaii, also known as Native Hawaiians. Using this term to describe anyone from Hawaii can be seen as disrespectful and can perpetuate cultural appropriation.

Instead, a more inclusive term to use is “Hawaiian resident” or “Hawaii resident.” This acknowledges that the person is from Hawaii without assuming their ethnicity or cultural background.

Asking Someone’s Preference

If you are uncertain about how someone from Hawaii prefers to be referred to, it is always best to ask them directly. People’s preferences may vary, and they may have their own unique way of identifying themselves.

By respectfully asking someone about their preferred term, you show that you value their identity and are willing to learn and adapt to their cultural needs. This fosters a more inclusive and respectful conversation.

Context Matters

The context in which the conversation takes place also plays a role in determining the appropriate term to use. For example, when discussing a specific cultural event or tradition, it may be more appropriate to use terms such as “Hula dancer” or “Hula performer” when referring to someone from Hawaii who practices this traditional dance.

It’s important to be mindful of the specific context and use terms that accurately and respectfully describe the person’s involvement or connection to the topic being discussed.

Remember, using the right term when referring to people from Hawaii shows respect, cultural awareness, and a willingness to learn. By being mindful of people’s preferences and the context of the conversation, we can foster a more inclusive and respectful dialogue.


To summarize, the indigenous people of Hawaii are referred to as Native Hawaiians or simply Hawaiians. But after Hawaii became a U.S. state, the culture evolved into a melting pot of ethnicities and backgrounds. So when referring to current residents of Hawaii, broader terms like “local” or “kama’aina” are commonly used. The history is complex, so being thoughtful about which term you use and asking someone’s preference shows respect. With this background, you can now confidently refer to Hawaiian locals in the appropriate context.

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