Maui has an interesting mix of cultural influences, but the main influence is from the Polynesian. Maui's music, dance, art and customs all directly reflect Polynesian history. It is believed that around AD 700, Polynesians from Tahiti and Marquesas made the long journey across the ocean in outrigger canoes to Maui.
In 1778, Captain James Cook became the first European to "discover" the island – although he never actually set foot on land (he couldn't find a suitable place to dock). Over the years, more Europeans arrived, including many missionaries who greatly influenced Maui's cultural makeup.
Interestingly, the Europeans didn't allow locals to dance the hula, but they did help them learn to read and write using a 12-letter Hawaiian alphabet they created. Before this, Hawaiian history was passed orally from generation to generation. With the introduction of a written language, the native culture and history was able to be better preserved.
In 1893, the monarchy ruling Maui was overthrown and the Republic of Hawaii was established. In the meantime, Maui was experiencing major immigration from China, Japan, Portugal, Korea and the Philippines. The influence of these cultures is still very evident in Maui today, in everything from local architecture to the food.
In 1898, Maui was annexed by the United States. It became a territory in 1900, before becoming the 50th state in 1959. Today, Maui is making great efforts to ensure its customs and traditions are not lost. School children learn the Hawaiian language and have opportunities to participate in Hawaiian dance and music.
A luau is a great way to have fun and to learn about Hawaii's rich traditions. There are many luaus available to visitors on the island providing ample opportunity to share Hawaiian culture and the talents of many local performers.