KEALIIKUKAHAOOA the Faithful

from The Friend June 1903

Christianity spread across the Hawaiian archipelago beginning in 1820. While literacy, the printed word, harmonious hymn singing, church gatherings, and western medical care inspired the people of Hawai‘i to become a Christian nation within a generation, the faithfulness towards – and a belief in – Christ lay at the heart of this transformation of the Hawaiian people and formation of their unique style of Christian worship. Following is the story of a Native Hawaiian man from Moloka‘i named Kealiikukahaooa whose life embodies this transformation. He likely lived out in Hawai‘i every year of the nineteenth century, seeing first-hand the transformation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Kealiikukahaooa lived to be over a hundred years old, he grew up worshipping a pantheon of Polynesian gods; as a man in Kamehameha-era Hawai‘i he lived under the fear of breaking one of the stringent laws of the ‘Ai Kapū system, with facing a penalty of being sacrificed at the altar of a heiau. He saw Kamehameha in person, and observed the missionaries arriving beginning in 1820 about six months following the death of the legendary king. In mid-life he left behind his troubled past and learned how to read. His text was the scriptures of the Bible as translated into the Hawaiian language. In the early twentieth century he dwelt in Waianae, O‘ahu with his son, the Rev. Joseph Kaiakea Kekahuna pastor of the Protestant ekalesia [church] in Wai‘anae. Rev. Kekahuna studied under missionary William P. Alexander at Wailuku and ordained in 1869. Kealiikukahaooa as an elderly venerated kupuna could look back on decades of life as a devoted Christian while maintaining his cultural heritage as a Native Hawaiian who knew both the old and the new ways of Hawai‘i.


In the household of the Waianae pastor, there lives an aged man, who is probably over one hundred years old. The household includes further Rev. S. P. Kaaia, his wife, his cousin, Rev. J. Kekahuna, the judge of the district. While visiting there not long since, I noticed the careful attention given to the wants of this old man, and on inquiry, I learned the following interesting facts:

Kealiikukahaooa, father of Rev, J. Kekahuna and uncle of Rev. S. P. Kaaia, was the son of Kapaiulani, konohiki (chief man) of the land of Ohia and Manowai, Island of Molokai. He was a grown man when the missionaries came in 1820, and had seen Kamehameha the First. He joined the church in 1842, under the pastorate of Father Hitchcock, and has been a constant church attendant ever since. He never drank liquor, neither awa, uala, nor imported liquor of any kind. He never smoked, nor was he ever troubled with any hoomanamana (fetish worship) tendency. He looks with disapproval on all kinds of bottled drinks, is suspicious of soda water and everything that has a “pop.” Once when ill it was with difficulty that he could be persuaded to take any medicine. This centenarian can still read without glasses; indeed he has never used them. He has a retentive memory and can repeat chapter after chapter of the Bible. He learned to read in his maturity and has ever since made constant use of Scripture; before he joined the church he was a probationer for several years. He was the father of nine children. When Kekahuna had learned what he could at the district schools and expressed a desire to continue his studies at Lahainaluna, his father took him one Saturday in his canoe over to Lahaina and thence to the school at Lahainaluna, where young Kekahuna was installed as a pupil, a classmate of other men who have also made their mark in Hawaiian history.

“During those days,” said the judge, “there was very little money in currency, and I went through the course of study with practically none. Every Saturday my father would take his canoe across the boisterous Molokai channel and trudge up the hill with packages of paiai and dried fish as my food for the week. When I needed clothing he would bring an extra supply and barter it for a little money. He thus helped me through my three years of school life without leaving me at any time in want of necessary supplies. Through the stormy days of winter, when the winds and the waves of the channel were high, or in the sultry season, when they died away, and he had to use the paddle, that canoe would be beached every week somewhere along the shore and the weekly supply of provisions would come to hand. Do you think I could ever forget those days of strenuous effort and patient, loving service?” 0. P. E…

Charles Darwin praises English missionaries and temperance found in Tahiti – 1835


Charles Darwin writes about his time spent with London Missionary Society missionaries in the Society Islands. November 18th, 1835
pp.492-497

Charles Darwin the father of the Theory of Evolution astutely observed the lives and actions of English missionaries and Tahitian Christians during the Voyage of the Beagle. Following is a passage from Darwin’s journal of his voyage, written in the Tahitian spring of 1835. (editor).

November 18th, 1835.—As the evening drew to a close I strolled beneath the gloomy shade of the bananas up the course of the stream. My walk was soon brought to a close by coming to a waterfall between two and three hundred feet high – and again above this there was another. I mention all these waterfalls in this one brook to give a general idea of the inclination of the land. In the little recess where the water fell it did not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown. The thin edges of the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray, were unbroken, instead of being, as is so generally the case, split into a thousand shreds. From our position, almost suspended on the mountain-side, there were glimpses into the depths of the neighbouring valleys; and the lofty points of the central mountains, towering up within sixty degrees of the zenith, hid half the evening sky. Thus seated, it was a sublime spectacle to watch the shades of night gradually obscuring the last and highest pinnacles.

Young Charles Darwin – Portrait by George Richmond Source: Wikipedia Commons image

Before we laid ourselves down to sleep, the elder Tahitian fell on his knees and with closed eyes repeated a long prayer in his native tongue. He prayed, as a Christian should do, with fitting reverence, and without the fear of ridicule or any ostentation of piety. At our meals neither of the men would taste food without saying beforehand a short grace. Those travellers who think that a Tahitian prays only when the eyes of the missionary are fixed on him should have slept with us that night on the mountain-side. Before morning it rained very heavily, but the good thatch of banana leaves kept us dry.

November 19th.—At daylight my friends, after their morning prayer, prepared an excellent breakfast in the same manner as in the evening. They themselves certainly partook of it largely; indeed, I never saw any men eat nearly so much. I suppose such enormously capacious stomachs must be the effect of a large part of their diet consisting of fruit and vegetables, which contain, in a given bulk, a comparatively small portion of nutriment. Unwittingly, I was the means of my companions breaking, as I afterwards learned, one of their own laws and resolutions. I took with me a flask of spirits, which they could not refuse to partake of; but as often as they drank a little, they put their fingers before their mouths and uttered the word “Missionary.” About two years ago, although the use of the ava was prevented, drunkenness from the introduction of spirits became very prevalent. The missionaries prevailed on a few good men, who saw that their country was rapidly going to ruin, to join with them in a temperance society. From good sense or shame, all the chiefs and the queen were at last persuaded to join. Immediately a law was passed that no spirits should be allowed to be introduced into the island, and that he who sold and he who bought the forbidden article should be punished by a fine. With remarkable justice, a certain period was allowed for stock in hand to be sold before the law came into effect . But when it did, a general search was made, in which even the houses of the missionaries were not exempted, and all the ava (as the natives call all ardent spirits) was poured on the ground. When one reflects on the effect of intemperance on the aborigines of the two Americas, I think it will be acknowledged that every well-wisher of Tahiti owes no common debt of gratitude to the missionaries. As long as the little island of St. Helena remained under the government of the East India Company, spirits, owing to the great injury they had produced, were not allowed to be imported; but wine was supplied from the Cape of Good Hope. It is rather a striking, and not very gratifying fact, that in the same year that spirits were allowed to be sold in St. Helena, their use was banished from Tahiti by the free will of the people.