For more than a century, the Hawaiian island of Niihau has been forbidden to outsiders. The owners are the Robinson family, descendants of the Sinclairs who originally purchased the island in 1864. Keeping the privacy of Niihau as a way to protect the Hawaiian lifestyles of the residents, the Robinson family has restricted visits over the years to an occasional invited guest, a few public officials and physicians. To add to the mystique of life there, the family will not grant any interviews to discuss aspects of life on Niihau. Most information about the people and their lifestyles has been gathered from Niihau residents themselves.
According to the 1980 census, there were 226 persons living on Niihau. Approximately two thirds of the residents are Hawaiian, comprising the largest colony of pure Hawaiians in the state. The remaining part-Hawaiian residents are a mixture of Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese or other ancestry. The Niihauans are free to travel to and from the island whenever they wish. What little information that outsiders have received suggests that the lifestyle of Niihau retains a special native Hawaiian spirit that resembles the rural Hawaii of a fading past.