Kaumuali‘i as portrayed by Moses Goods

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Moses Goods as King Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i following the premiere performance of his solo portrayal performed at the Kaua‘i Museum on Sunday, December 15, 2019. Here Moses holds up a prop Bible used in tell the story of the arrival of American missionaries at Waimea, Kaua‘i on May 3, 1820. The name Taumualii appears in gold leaf on the cover of the Bible. The actual Bible given to Kaumuali‘i that day was a gift from the American Bible Society in New York City. A similar Bible was sent to Kamehameha. The sending of the Taumualii Bible came about at the request of George Prince Kaumuali‘i [Humehume] the son of Kaumuali‘i. From the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut in late summer 1819 George sent a request to the American Bible Society for a Bible of equal status as the Kamehameha Bible, a Bible that would bear his father’s name. In 2003 I spoke at the Hawaiian Islands Ministries annual event in Honolulu on how the Bible came to Hawai‘i. To prepare I contacted the American Bible Society archives and library. They discovered a folder of Foreign Mission School schoolwork sent by George to the Bible society to prove his worth in requesting the Bible. In 2016-2017 Kaua‘i Museum Director Chucky Boy Chock and I worked with artist Evelyn Rittner on designing a painting based on the Kaumuali‘i Bible account. Today the painting hangs in the main gallery at the museum. Moses incorporated the Kaumuali‘i Bible as a prop. Upon seeing Moses use the prop Kaumuali‘i Bible at the premiere performance Chucky Boy and I glanced at each other and smiled, happy to see how Moses perpetuated this intriguing story of the Kaumuali‘i Bible. Photo by Chris Cook

King Kaumuali‘i is a key figure in the introduction of Christianity in Hawai‘i, especially to the windward Hawaiian islands of Kaua‘i and nearby Ni‘ihau.

On May 3, 1820 Kaumuali‘i greeted American Board missionary teachers Samuel Ruggles and Samuel Whitney at his kauhale, his compound, just east of Pa‘ula‘ula-Fort Elizabeth at Waimea, Kaua‘i. The Samuels were returning to Kaumuali‘i his son George Prince Kaumuali‘i and landed from the brig Thaddeus, Captain Blanchard. Kaua‘i was the last stop for the Thaddeus in Hawai‘i on the way to the fur trading ground George was sent away as a young boy to New England aboard the American merchant vessel Harzard, Captain Rowan. Over about fifteen eventful years George had lost the ability to speak the Hawaiian language, and forgot his Hawaiian name, Humehume.

Kaumuali‘i and Humehume had a tearful reunion that May day. Ruggles and Whitney might have surprised the Kaua‘i king by greeting him not with a handshake, but by rubbing noses in the traditional Native Hawaiian form of greeting, of sharing their breaths of life, a-lo-ha.

Fast forward to December 2019 and notable Hawai‘i actor Moses Goods enters the gallery of the Kaua‘i Museum dressed in a kihei garment, taking on the role of Kaumuali‘i. Moses sits down and pulls up a wooden portable writing desk c. 1800 and begins to pen a letter back to New England. In the letter he describes the emotional return of his son Humehume and much more. The performance was sponsored by the Hawaiian Mission Houses in Honolulu, the Kaua‘i Museum and the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities.

To experience Moses’ full one-man drama based on this significant event in the life of Kaumuali‘i, join us in Waimea the weekend of May 2-3, 2020 when we commemorate the bicentennial of the arrival of the Hawai‘i Mission, and the beginnings of the spread of Christianity on Kaua‘i, Moses is scheduled to return with Mission House actors portraying his Native Hawaiian Foreign Mission School student William Kanui, who departed from Kaua‘i in 1809 for New England, and Kaua‘i Queen Deborah Kapule, the wife of Kaumuali‘i and a propoent of Christianity on Kaua‘i. The trio will be part of the Mission Houses’ Ali‘i Letters series of dramatic costumed performances during the Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial events set for April and early May in Hawai‘i.

Go to missionhouses.org to access a complete schedule of events, and a look back at the Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial events held in New England in fall 2019.

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