“The advent of the white man in the Pacific was inevitable, and especially in Hawaii, by reason of its size, resources, and, most important, its location at the crossroads of this vastest of oceans, rapidly coming into its own in fulfilment of prophecies that it was destined to become the chief theater of the world’s future activities.”
Years before the westward land movement gathered momentum, the energies of seafaring New Englanders found their natural outlet, along their traditional pathway, in the Pacific Ocean.
On the afternoon of January 20, 1778, Cook anchored his ships near the mouth of the Waimea River on Kauai’s southwestern shore. After a couple of weeks, there, they headed to the west coast of North America.
In the Islands, as in New France (Canada to Louisiana (1534,)) New Spain (Southwest and Central North America to Mexico and Central America (1521)) and New England (Northeast US,) the trader preceded the missionary.
Practically every vessel that visited the North Pacific in the closing years of the 18th century stopped at Hawai‘i for provisions and recreation.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity in this first company.
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished; through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho,) with encouragement by former Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother,) the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs.
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”), about 184-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.
“(F)or forty years Hawaiians wanted everything on every ship that came. And they could get it; it was pretty easy to get. Two pigs and … a place to live, you could trade for almost anything.”
“(The missionaries) come with a set of skills that Hawaiians are really impressed with. … The missionaries were the first group of a scholarly background, but they also had the patience and endurance. So that’s part of the skill sets. … That’s really the more important things that are attracted first.”
“But the second thing is they are pono.”
“They have an interaction that is intentionally not taking advantage. It’s not crude. They don’t get drunk and throw up on the street … and they don’t take advantage and they don’t make a profit. So that pono actually is more attractive than religion.” (Puakea Nogelmeier)
Collaboration between Native Hawaiians and American Protestant missionaries resulted in, among other things, the
• Introduction of Christianity;
• Development of a written Hawaiian language and establishment of schools that resulted in widespread literacy;
• Promulgation of the concept of constitutional government;
• Combination of Hawaiian with Western medicine; and
• Evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition (with harmony and choral singing)
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