Mai Poina: Lost to History

#109 in the Moʻolelo series, this may be the start of a sub-series of posts (like “Wahi Pana”) on little-known but important figures from Hawaiian history who don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. Noenoe Silva resurrected knowledge of figures like Joseph Nawahī, Abigail Maʻipinepine Campbell and David Kaulia, who used to be in this category, but they have come recently to occupy their proper place in the historical narrative of Hawaiʻi. Ronald Williams Jr. has brought us an appreciation of William Punohu White, John Henry Wise and Ramon Hoe Makekau. I aim to place others in this pantheon, and look at four such historical figures here.

  1. Boaz Mahune

The importance of Hawaiʻi’s first Constitution is becoming more well-known. It was the basis for Tonga’s Constitution and I’ve written (though this needs checking) that it may have been only the fifth such Constitution in world history. But we scarcely know who wrote it. Most attribute it to William Richards, but it seems he only oversaw its writing. Richards himself, in his journals, attributes it to “Lahainaluna scholars.” Lorenz Gonschor (2019) writes:

Kumu Kanawai [Constitution], drafted in collaboration with Richards, Boaza Mahune, and Ioane Kapena was decreed by Kamehameha III and Kīnaʻu, usually referred to in English as the Constitution of 1840

Lorenz Gonschor, 2019, 25-26

If the constitution was so significant (it was), then why don’t most people know who wrote it? And how these Lahainaluna scholars acquired the skill necessary to do so is beyond my capabilities to explain.

2. Kaomi

Kaomi’s contribution was not at the level of Mahune’s, but he remains nonetheless a fascinating historical personality. Kuykendall writes that when Kinaʻu was named “kuhina-nui” it surprised many:

it had been hoped by some and feared by others that he would remove Kinau and put in her place Liliha or even Kaomi, a young Tahitian who was his boon companion and principal abettor in his disorderly course.

Kuykendall, 1938, 135.

In truth, Kaomi was half-Tahitian and half-Hawaiian and an aikane of Kauikeaouli (ai without an ʻokina connotes sexual intercourse, but aikane does not necessarily or automatically indicate homosexual activity – it does not preclude it either). He was a brilliant student and skilled healer, but these gifts are overlooked because of his unrestrained influence on the young King.

3. Kekauʻonohi

Kauaʻi people will perhaps know more of this granddaughter of Kamehameha:

Princess Kekauonohi (1805-1851) of Maui, a granddaughter of Kamehameha I, as well as a wife of his son, Kamehameha II, and later, the wife of Kealiiahonui, a son of Kaua‘i’s last king, Kaumuali‘i, was the fourth governor of Kaua‘i from 1842 until 1844.

She was also governor of Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i from 1823 to 1826, and a member of the House of Nobles and the Privy Council of Hawai‘i.

Hank Soboleski, “Kauaʻi’s Fourth Governor,” thegardernisland.com

Kekauʻonohi was influential in the Māhele process as she outranked many of the members of the Land Commission.

4. PUAʻAʻIKI BATAMIA (Blind Bartemius)

About Puaʻaʻiki Batamia (Bartimeus, Batimea), what can be gained from Kamakau (2001) is that he was blind, a “hoa kūkā” of Kaʻahumanu, and that he was baptized around 1825. In an article in Ka Nonanona of 1844, Daniela ʻĪʻī makes several comments about Puaʻaiki’s dedication to Christianity and his work ethic. It is not clear whether this is written post-mortem. The following excerpt from the article is biographical, and concerns, among other his involvement with Malo:

Ua noho oia i Lahaina e mahuahua ana kona alohaia mai a me kona ike ana’ku i ka Haku, a hiki i ka makahiki, 1839, alaila, ua holo pu me Kekauonohi ma i Hilo ma Hawaii. Malaila, ua komo Batimea iloko o ke kula palahalaha. Ma Lahaina, he nui no kana hana, aka, malaila, he mau hoahanau no, ia manawa o Davida Malo ma, a o Kaua, ka hoahanau no Bolabola mai; no ia mea, aole nui ka pouli e like me ia ma Hilo. Aia no na’lii o Hoapili ma e kokua ana mamuli o ka pono ma Lahaina; aole alii haipule ma Hilo. No ia mea, ua nui ka hemahema ma ia wahi. Ua naaupo loa na kanaka. Ua hihiu no hoi. A hiki o Batimea ilaila, ua nui kana hana e pono ai kolaila poe ilihune, a me ka naaupo. No ka nui o ka hemahema o ia aina, ua koiia o Batimea e noho mau malaila, aole e hoi i Maui.

Puaʻaiki/Blind Bartemius

In 1865 J.S. Gelina wrote He Wahi Mooolelo no Baitmea Puaaiki. While the bulk of the book consists of Puaʻaʻiki’s spiritual journey to Christianity, it contains one passage concerning his association with Richards, and supports ʻĪʻī’s praise for his work ethic:

Eia ka mea e maopopo ai ke ano maikai o Batimea: He kanaka molowa ole … Ua ike pinepine au ia ia e halihali ana I ke uwala maoli ia Mi. Rikeke, I kana kumu. Ninau aku au ia ia, “Mahea I loaa ia Batimea na uwala ana i lawe pinepine mai a haawi aku oe? Nawai I kokooua ia ia I kona noho makapo ana?” I nei o Mi. Rikeke iaʻu “Ua oi aku ko Batimea haawina i kana kumu, mamua o kekahi poe waiwai i loko o ke ekalesia, a oluolu loa oia i keia hana.”

Malo has this to say of Puaʻaʻiki’s work in his Wailuku church: “Nui koʻu mahalo i koʻu hoahele ia Batimea I kou lohe ana ia ia e hooikaika pinepine ana I na kanaka o Maui Hikina, I ko lakou hoakoakoa ana ma ko lakou mau kulanakauhale, e hoolohe ke olelo a ke akua ma kona waha.” Forbes lists six references to Puaʻaʻiki, including Edwin Holt’s Anecdotes of the Christian Mission  (1837), which includes a conversation with Richards.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s