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Wahine o Hawai`i
1999 Kawika Sands

Kinau, Kamamalu, Kapiolani

Missionaries and Mu`umu`u:
The Congregational Church (now known as United Church of Christ), through its American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, sponsored and sent more than 100 missionaries to the Kingdom of Hawai`i between 1820 and 1850. After the missionaries first arrived, they outlawed canoe racing (and many other Hawaiian ways including hula) because of the gambling and the general raucous behavior that went along with it.

They also had a major crisis in womens' fashion. Suddenly, the lusty, brown-skinned wahine (barefoot and breasts in the breeze) were taking instructions from sour-faced New England matrons in black Mother Hubbard dresses (which erased everything from the ears down), which suited a climate that was much more frigid than Hawai`i in every way. Although the holoku (see previous installment) remained and is still popular today for the more formal occasions, some amount of compromise was needed. So, the natives made some good-natured changes, and the mu`umu`u was born. Colorful, cool, and light, it modestly suited tropical life. The adaptable, one-size-fits-all design was a hit, since Hawaiian women come in ALL shapes and sizes.

Christian missionaries developed the Hawaiian alphabet and therefor created a WRITTEN Hawaiian language, but because they were not linguists, they too made some changes. To them, for example, "T" sounded like "K" and "R" sounded like "L." So, the name "Tamehameha" sounded like "Kamehameha" and "Honoruru" sounded like "Honolulu."

By 1822, there were 60 whaling ships in Hawaiian waters and the diseases that came with them decimated the Hawaiian population from nearly a half million (estimates vary from about 300,000 to over 400,000), to less than 230,000.

KINAU (? - 1839)
Kinau succeeded Kaahumanu and was one of the wives of King Kamehameha II. She followed Kaahumanu's lead by strictly enforcing laws that prohibited murder, robbery, the buying/selling of liquor, and plural marriage. Even with all the changes, Hawaiians still clung to old ways. Wahine wore mu`umu`u, lived in grass houses with lauhala mats, ate fish and poi, but it was under the rule of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) and Kuhina Nui Kinau that their lives were changed most.

Kinau and Kauikeaouli argued over how best to rule. Kinau favored the missionary ways and was no more tolerant of other religions than Kaahumanu and strengthened the land tenure laws by written and official proclamation. Kauikeaouli resented the lessened power of the king who no longer had sole power or could give and take land at will. He wanted the old ways for his people. Eventually they resolved their differences and formed a new government. Now there was a King, a Kuhina Nui, and a Counsel of Chiefs.

Daughter of Kinau, Kamamalu was the fourth Kuhina Nui. She ruled together with King Kamehameha IV and after her death the office of Kuhina Nui was discontinued. Victoria had an unfortunate love affair with an English man and auctioneer named Monsarrat. Of course the King did not approve and as Kuhina Nui she had to sign the papers that would banish him from Hawai`i.

In 1823, five years after taking his throne, Kamehameha II (Liholio) and Queen Kamamalu set sail for London, England aboard the English whale ship L'Aigle on November 27. Everyone in his party came down with measles, for which the Hawaiians had no immunity. Liholio's favorite wife, Queen Kamamalu, died in London on July 8, 1824. Heartbroken, Liholio also died on July 14. Their bodies were returned to Hawai`i for burial, and Liholio's ten-year old brother Kauikeaouli became Kamehameha III. She died at only 28 but some loyal Hawaiians walked as much as 50 miles to pay their last respects. Mark Twain was in attendance but was decidedly unsympathetic and denounced the grief of the misunderstood Hawaiian as "pagan orgies."

Chiefess Kapiolani (as opposed to Queen Kapiolani, wife of King Kalakaua) was the daughter of a chief of the Puna district on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Chiefess Kapiolani's bravery was her cloak. She demonstrated this on at least two occasions. The first dramatic and had far reaching effects. The second, was of a highly personal nature.

Her conversion to Christianity was not enough to persuade her people to turn from Pele. Particularly those of the Puna and Ka`u districts for they were close to Kilauea which was frequented with volcanic activity. Pele, though only a demi-god, was perhaps the most visible and most feared of the Hawaiian gods. But her defiance of Pele came from a love for Christianity and she knew if her people were ever to see the light, she would have to break Pele's spell over them.

In December of 1824, Chiefess Kapiolani journeyed from Kona to defy Pele outright and openly. Her family, friends, and attendants all begged her to stop. She said "If I am destroyed by Pele, you may worship her. If I am not, you must turn to the only true God."

When she arrived she walked to the brink of the crater while one of the priestesses of Pele warned her. Ignoring the priestess, she went down into the crater. To emphasize her defiance, she ate ohelo berries (sacred to Pele), and threw stones at the volcano and shouted "I do not fear Pele...." She survived of course and her act was memorialized by Tennyson in "The Friend" in April, 1893, with a poem which ended:

... None but the terrible Pele remaining,
As Kapiolani ascended her mountain,
Baffled her priesthood,
Broke the taboo,
Dipt to the crater,
Called on the power adored by the Christian,
and crying "I dare her, let Pele avenge herself!"
Into the flame-billow dash'd the berries, and
drove the demon from Hah-wy-ee.

Some time later, Chiefess Kapiolani was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor stated her entire right breast had to be removed. With friends and attendants looking on, the operation was performed WITHOUT anesthetic. Witnesses stated this courageous woman bore the entire ordeal with unbelievable dignity.

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Last Modified: Saturday - 19991113.15:22 EST
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