Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (Mission Houses) collaborated with Awaiaulu Foundation to digitize, transcribe, translate and annotate over 200-letters written by 33-Chiefs.
The letters, written between 1823 and 1887, are assembled from three different collections: the ABCFM Collection held by Harvard’s Houghton Library, the HEA Collection of the Hawaii Conference-United Church of Christ and the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society.
These letters provide insight into what the Ali‘i (Chiefs) were doing and thinking at the time, as well as demonstrate the close working relationship and collaboration between the aliʻi and the missionaries.
In this letter, Kalaimoku (Kalanimōku) writes to Rev. Hiram Bingham dismissing the blame placed on the missionaries for other foreigners’ misconduct. He encourages their goodness and their teachings and professes his own faith in God.
Kālaimoku, also known as Kalanimōku and William Pitt Kalanimōku, was a trusted advisor of Kamehameha I. During the travels of Liholiho and Kamāmalu to Great Britain, he co-ruled with Kaʻahumanu, maintaining a leadership role during the first reigning years of the new king, Liholiho’s younger brother, Kauikeaouli.
In part, the letter notes:
“Honolulu, Oahu October 28, 1826”
“Greetings to you, Mr. Bingham,”
“Here is my message to all of you, our missionary teachers. I am telling you that I do not see your wrongdoing. If I should see you to be wrong, I would tell you all.”
“No, you should all just be good.”
“Give us literacy and we will teach it; and give us the word of God, and we will heed it.”
“Our women are restricted, for we have learned the word of God.”
“Then foreigners come, doing damage to our land, foreigners of America and Britain.”
“Do not be angry, for it is we who are to blame for you being faulted, and not you foreigners.”
“Here is my message according to the words of Jehovah. I have given my heart to God and my body and my spirit. I have devoted myself to the church for Jesus Christ.”
“Have a look at my message, Mr. Bingham and company, and if you see it and wish to send my message to America, to our chief, that is up to you.”
“Greetings to our chief in America. Regards to him. From Kalaimoku”
Here’s a link to the original letter, its transcription, translation and annotation (scroll down):
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) They arrived in the Islands and anchored at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 180-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the earliest efforts of the missionaries, who arrived in 1820, was the identification and selection of important communities (generally near ports and aliʻi residences) as “stations” for the regional church and school centers across the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian Mission Houses’ Strategic Plan themes note that the collaboration between Native Hawaiians and American Protestant missionaries resulted in the
• The introduction of Christianity;
• The development of a written Hawaiian language and establishment of schools that resulted in widespread literacy;
• The promulgation of the concept of constitutional government;
• The combination of Hawaiian with Western medicine, and
• The evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition (with harmony and choral singing).