William Ellis: Hawai‘i-Tahiti ali‘i nui marriage proposed

London Missionary Society missionary William Ellis in his Narrative of a Tour Through Hawaii or Owhyee (2nd London edition, 1827) tells of a proposed two-way marriage that would have linked the ali‘i nui of Hawai‘i to the ali‘i nui of Tahiti. The proposal was likely made in the 1810s.

William-Ellis-1820sThis excerpt from Ellis’ book adds another link between Hawai‘i and Tahiti in the years prior to the arrival of the Sandwich Islands Mission in Hawai‘i in 1820. I devote a chapter to these ties  in this era in my book The Providential Life & Heritage of Henry Obookiah.

William Ellis

“…Before I left the party, I could not help stating to them the striking identity between some of their (Native Hawaiian) traditions and those of the Tahitians; and expressed my conviction that both nations had the same origin. They said, tradition informed them that their progenitors were brought into existence on the islands which they now inhabit; that they knew nothing of the origin of the people of the Georgian and Society Islands, yet Tahiti, the name of the largest of the Georgian Islands, was found in many of their ancient songs, though not now applied exclusively to that island. With the people of Borabora, (the name they gave to the Society Islands,) they said they had no acquaintance before they were visited by Captain Cook, but that since that time, by means of ships passing from one group of islands to the other, several presents and messages of friendship had been interchanged between Tamehameha and Pomare I, and that, in order to cement their friendship more firmly, each had agreed to give one of his daughters in marriage to the son of the other. In consequence of this amicable arrangement, a daughter of Pomare was expected from Tahiti, to be the wife of Rihoriho, late king of Hawaii; and Kekauruohe, one of the daughters of Tamehameha, was selected by her father to be the bride of Pomare, the late king of Tahiti. Wanting a conveyance from Hawaii to Tahiti, Tamehameha was unable to send Kekauruohe; which, together with the death of Pomare before he had any opportunity of sending one of his relatives to Hawaii, prevented the intended intermarriages between the reigning families of Hawaii and Tahiti.”

Source: Ellis, William. 1827. [Narrative of a tour through Hawaii, or, Owhyhee; with remarks on the history, traditions, manners, customs and language of the Sandwich Islands.]. (see page 79)

Hana Hou Tour


Deborah Li‘ikapeka Lee of Hilo (right) holds a maile lei sent especially over from Kaua‘i to be placed at the ‘Opukaha‘ia Memorial Chapel at Punalu‘u Beach on Monday, February 15. She is accompanied by her cousin Cynthia Lehua Nani Ho‘omanawanui-Akimseu, also of Hilo. Deborah and Cynthia are both lineal descendants of ‘Opukaha‘ia. They took part in the Hana Hou Christian Heritage Tour. In 1993 Deborah fulfilled her vision of returning the remains of ‘Opukaha‘ia from his grave site in Cornwall, Connecticut back to his home island. Photo by Chris Cook

I served as an interpretive guide on Dave and Cheryl Buehling’s first Hana Hou Christian Heritage Tour held on the Island of Hawai‘i Saturday, February 13 through Tuesday, February 16. The tour focused on the Hawai‘i side of the life of ‘Opukaha‘ia. A group of 24 visitors from the Mainland flew into Kailua-Kona to join the tour. Local participants also joined the tour. Stops spread across four days included the Kahikolu Church overlooking Kealakekua Bay, the Hikiau Heiau and the supposed site of ‘Opukaha‘ia’s altar located alongside the heiau, the ‘Opukaha‘ia chapel overlooking Punalu‘u Beach in Ka‘u (nearby Henry’s home village of Ninole), Volcano National Park where Mary Boyd told the story of Kapiolani defying the volcano goddess Pele, and a final day at the historic Haili Church in Hilo, a church which once counted a congregation of over 12,000 Native Hawaiians during Hawai‘i’s Great Awakening in the late 1830s and early 1840s.


The Hana Hou Christian Heritage Tour led by Dave and Cheryl Buehling gathered at the ‘Opukaha‘ia Memorial Chapel at Punalu‘u Beach on Monday, February 15. Tour member traveled to Hawai‘i Island from across the Mainland and were joined by local residents. (Dave Buehling photo)

For more information go to the Ka‘u Calendar News Briefs.