Hanai – To raise, rear, feed, nourish, sustain; provider, caretaker (Pukui;) or, on a historical, practical context, “given away by birth parents to be raised by another couple.” (Wood)
In ancient Hawaiʻi, and even today, the concept and practice of “hanai takes place openly among family and close friends; a child is considered the greatest of gifts.” (Essoyan)
It’s interesting to hear the explanation of a hanai child of her relationship with her birth siblings and parents.
“I was destined to grow up away from the house of my parents. Immediately after my birth I was wrapped in the finest soft tapa cloth, and taken to the house of another chief, by whom I was adopted.”
“(W)hen I met my own parents, it was with perhaps more of interest, yet always with the demeanor I would have shown to any strangers who noticed me.”
“My own father and mother had other children, ten in all, the most of them being adopted into other chiefs’ families; and although I knew that these were my own brothers and sisters, yet we met throughout my younger life as though we had not known our common parentage. This was, and indeed is, in accordance with Hawaiian customs.” (Liliʻuokalani)
Liliʻuokalani was born September 2, 1838 to Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea and Analeʻa Keohokālole, she was hanai (adopted) to Abner Paki and his wife Laura Konia (granddaughter of Kamehameha I.)
“…their only daughter, Bernice Pauahi (born December 19, 1831,) afterwards Mrs Charles R Bishop, was therefore my foster-sister. … I knew no other father or mother than my foster-parents, no other sister than Bernice.”
She was not the only Queen who was hanai. Emma Naʻea was born in Honolulu on January 2, 1836 to high chief George Naʻea and Fanny Kekelaokalani Young (daughter of John Young, King Kamehameha I’s counselor) and Kaʻoanaʻeha (Kamehameha’s niece.)
As was the custom, she was offered to her mother’s sister, Grace Kamaikui Rooke and her husband, Dr Thomas Charles Byde Rooke (an Englishman) as hanai daughter. Unable to have children of their own, the Rookes adopted Emma.
Emma married Alexander Liholiho (he was also hanai, to Kauikeaouli, King Kamehameha III.) At his hanai father’s death, Alexander Liholiho became King Kamehameha IV; when Emma married him, she became Queen Emma.
Hawaiʻi Courts have long recognized hanai relationships. “(T)he customs and usages which have long prevailed, and have been universally recognized, have the same force of law as those subsequently passed and incorporated in a Code.” (Noting that children were given and received freely in adoption in ancient Hawaiʻi.)” (Supreme Court, 1872)
Hawaiian “families of this state have long maintained strong ties among members of the same extended family group. The Hawaiian word ʻohana has been used to express this concept.”
“It is not uncommon in Hawaiʻi to find several parent-children family units, with members of three and even four generations, living under one roof as a single family.” (Supreme Court)
“The Hawaiian concept of adoption also differs from that in other common law jurisdictions. The ancient Hawaiians cherished the principle of adoption which took two forms …”
“… a child or adult one loves, but for whom one might not have exclusive care, might be adopted as a keiki hoʻokama (a child of the family) (and a) keiki hanai is a child given to another to raise, as a foster child (the term hoʻokama has fallen into disuse and the term hanai has since been used to refer to all types of adoption.)”
“Nevertheless the custom of giving children to grandparents, near relatives, and friends to raise whether legally or informally remains a strong one.” (Richardson, Supreme Court)
Courts (and the law) have acknowledged, “in recognition of Hawaiʻi’s unique customs and traditions regarding family, that adopted children are the “issue” of their adopting parents (now codified in HRS § 578-16 – ‘A legally adopted individual shall be considered to be a natural child of the whole blood of the adopting parent or parents.’)” (AG)
A relatively recent hanai relationship is seen in the noted Beamer family. Simon “Kaliko” Beamer-Trapp (a grandson of the ‘Sound of Music’ von Trapps) was born on the Isle of Wight, England and moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1982.
In 1996, Kaliko was adopted into the Beamer family in Waipiʻo Valley, after the late Louise Beamer, Aunty Nona’s mother, suggested privately to Aunty Nona, “I wish Kaliko could be my moʻopuna (grandson.)” (ʻOlelo)
The image shows a drawing by Charles Bartlett, ‘Hawaiian Mother and Child.’ (ca 1920)