King Kaumuali‘i Statue Dedicated

Chris Cook and Aletha Kaohi following the dedication of the Kaumuali‘i statue.

I attended the unveiling and dedication of Ho‘ola‘a O King Kaumuali‘i, an eight-foot tall bronze statue of the last ruler of Kaua‘i.

The event took place at Paula‘ula, the traditional homesite of Kaumuali‘i the last king of Kaua‘i, on the grounds of the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Park in Waimea Kauai on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Kaumuali‘i rejoiced in May 1820 at the return of his long-lost son Humehume (George Kaumuali‘i) who was returned to Kaua‘i from New England accompanying the Pioneer Company. The Kaua‘i king provided land and support for a missionary station at Waimea. He enjoyed reading a Bible with his name inscribed on its cover brought to him by the “Samuels,“ pioneer company missionaries Samuel Whitney and Samuel Ruggles.

I joined Aletha Kawelukawahinehololio‘olimaloa Goodwin Kaohi, a lifetime resident of Waimea and a direct descendant of Kaumuali‘i. Aletha worked with the Friends of King Kaumuali‘i organization for years to complete the project. The Legislature provided over $200,000 in funding to allow completion of the statue created by Kauai-based sculptor Siam Caglayan. 

Over the years, I have assisted Aletha with writing and photographs for Kaua‘i history and Kalewina (the Native Hawaiian Congregational churches of Hawai‘i) projects.

Professor Peter Mills, head of the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, flew in for the event. Peter is the author of Hawaii’s Russian Adventure: A New Look at Old History from the UH Press, a book that provides a definitive account of how Kaumuali‘i and the people of Kaua‘i actually built the fort at Waimea, not a party from the Russian-American Company.

Learn about the King Kamualii statue and the Friends of King Kaumuali‘i

George Kaumuali’i – Humehume worked as young teen in Fitchburg, Mass.

George Kaumuali‘i - Humehume as drawn by Samuel F. B. Morse prior to departure for Hawai‘i aboard Brig Thaddeus.

George Kaumuali‘i – Humehume as drawn by Samuel F. B. Morse prior to departure for Hawai‘i aboard Brig Thaddeus.

In searching for information on the life of pioneer Sandwich Islands Missionary Asa Thurston I came across new details on the life of George Kaumuali‘i-Humehume, the Prince of Kaua‘i, son of King Kaumuali‘i.

Most accounts of Humehume’s life in New England skip from his being sent aboard the American merchant ship Hazard to Boston by his father at the age of four. The cargo of sandalwood given to Captain Rowan of the Hazard was to pay for his education. Instead, the funds ran out early in his life in the Worcester, Massachusetts region. Usually an account will mention he worked as a carpenter’s helper, and as a hand on a farm, but little else.

These new insights into Humehume’s difficult years in New England were documented in about 1885. An elderly man who as a child knew Humehume well, asked to be heard during a talk before the Fitchburg Historical Society in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on the life of Sandwich Islands Mission missionary Asa Thurston. Asa grew up in Fitchburg, the son of a family of scythe makers who were town pioneers.

The man told of Humehume pulling him to school in a sled on a winter’s day, of the Hawaiian youth working in a tannery, probably in his early teens, of his losing his job due to his behavior, and of his likely hiding on a Fitchburg farm prior to going to sea as a Marine in the War of 1812.

Here’s the account from the 1885 edition of the Proceedings of the Fitchburg Historical Society.

About the year 1812, a boy thirteen or fourteen years of age, by the name of George Prince Tamoree, a native of the Sandwich Islands, was living in Fitch burg. He was the son of King Kaumualii, of the island of Kauai. George, who is called in some histories “Tamoree,” and in some “Kaumualii,” was brought to this country by an American sea captain, to whom he was entrusted by his father, either that he might obtain an education, or because the king’s wife, or more likely one of the king’s wives, was jealous of the boy, and the father wished to remove him from her sphere of influence. At any rate he came, and the captain who had charge of his funds, lost them, and the boy was thrown upon his own resources. Where or how he lived we do no tknow (except that at one time he was a carpenter’s apprentice) until he came to Fitchburg. Here he is known to have been in the family of Rev. Mr. Cutting, a Baptist minister, for a short time. Mr. Alonzo Goodridge remembers that the lad used to draw him to school on a sled, the school  house being located a short distance beyond the poor farm, on the Wanoosnoc Hill road.

Afterward, Mr. Thomas Litch, who was the father of Charles S. Litch of this city, and of A. K. Litch, who formerly kept a hardware store on Main street, took the young fellow and employed him at his tannery, which was located at the intersection of Pearl and Townsend streets. Being punished by Mr. Litch for some fault, George ran away and never again made his appearance in Fitchburg, although Mr. Goodridge’s grandmother Pearce believed him to be in hiding for some time on their farm. He enlisted in the U. S. navy, was wounded in the engage ment between the Enterprise and the Boxer. He after wards went to the Mediterranean and was in an engage ment with an Algerine vessel. When the vessel returned to Charleston, S. C., some friends got him released from service and sent him to the school for heathen youth, at Cornwall, Conn.

George afterward returned to his home in the Sandwich Islands in the same vessel with Asa Thurston and the pioneer mission band. He met with a cordial reception from his father, King Kaumualii, who gave him a post of great importance in the kingdom, and a large and valuable tract of land. The king said, “I love Hoome (Hoome, the name given him by the natives,) very much more than my other children. I thought he was dead. I cry many times because I think he was dead. Some cap tains tell me he live in America. I say no, he dead. He no more come back. But now he come again. My heart very glad.”

Captain Cook’s Atooi = And Tauai

The Rev. William Ellis of the London Missionary Society is arguably the leading non-Native Hawaiian chronicler of Hawai‘i in the first half of the 19th century.

There are gems tucked away in Ellis’ books that clarify points of Hawai‘i’s history that have surfaced and been sometimes used inaccurately in the 21st century.

One is the pronunciation and source of the place name Atooi, as recorded in the journals of Royal Navy Captain James Cook. Atooi is how Cook heard Kaua‘i Island named by Native Hawaiians he and his crew encountered in landing at Waimea, Kaua‘i in early 1778.

On Kaua‘i today you hear Cook’s word Atooi pronounced Ah-too-ee, likely due to those speaking the place name employing Hawaiian language pronunciation for the vowels in the word. However, in recording the place name for Kaua‘i, Cook used straight English language pronunciation. According to Ellis the place name as heard by Cook was a compound word; A (the “A” translated as the conjunction “and”) Too-i, the “i” as in the word “idea”. The letter “T” was commonly used on Kaua‘i before the Sandwich Islands Mission codified the Hawaiian language, replacing the “t”mostly used in the dialect of the leeward islands with the letter “k”, a letter used in the windward islands. For example, Tamehameha became Kamehameha.

Here’s what Ellis wrote about the meaning and pronunciation of Cook’s word Atooi. Ellis recorded this in the 1832 edition, Hawai‘i volume, of  his book series Polynesian Research During a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the Society and Sandwich Islands:

“Another cause of the incorrectness of the orthography of early voyagers to these islands, has been a want of better acquaintance with the structure of the language, which would have prevented their substituting a compound for a single word. This the case in the words Otaheite, Otaha, and Owhyhee, which ought to be Tahiti, Tahaa, and Hawaii. The O is no part of these words, but is the preposition of, or belonging to; or it is the sign of the case, denoting it to be the nominative, answering to the question who or what, which be O wai?….
…Nom. O wai ia aina?—What that land?
Ans. O Hawaii :—Hawaii.…

“Atooi in Cook’s Voyages, Atowai in Vancouver’s, and Atoui in one of his contemporaries is also a compound of two words, a Tauai, literally and Tauai. The meaning of the word tauai is, to light upon, or to dry in the sun; and the name, according to the account of the late king (Kaumuali‘i), was derived from the long droughts which sometimes prevailed, or the large pieces of timber which have been occasionally washed upon its shores. Being the most leeward island of importance, it was probably the last inquired of, or the last name repeated by the people to the first visitors. For, should the natives be pointed to the group, and asked the names of the different islands, beginning with that farthest to windward, and proceeding west, they would say, O Hawaii, Maui, Ranai, Morotai, Oahu, a (and) Tauai: the copulative conjunction preceding the last member of the sentence would be placed immediately before Tauai; and hence, in all probability, it has been attached to the name of that island, which has usually been written, after Cook’s orthography, Atooi or Atowai, after Vancouver.

“The more intelligent among the natives, particularly the chiefs, frequently smile at the manner of spelling the names of places and persons, in published accounts of the islands, which they occasionally see.”

Source: Ellis, William. 1831. Polynesian researches during a residence of nearly eight years in the Society and Sandwich Islands. London: Fisher, Son & Jackson. pp. 51-53.