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, EP Kamai Beretane writes to the ABCFM regarding the return of Rev. Hitchcock and his wife, their long dedication to the people of Molokai and the strides made in the betterment of the lifestyle there.
Harvey Rexford Hitchcock came with the fifth company of missionaries, founded the first church on Molokai and worked there for many years with his wife, Rebecca Howard.
EP Kamai Beretane – Also spelled Kamaipelekane, this man was a district judge on Molokai and went on to become a member of the house of representatives.
“Nov. 13, 1852”
“Na E.P. Kamai Beretane”
“To the Prudential Committee of the ABCFM”
“Salutations to you.”
“I am inconsiderable brother, living on Molokai declare to you my mind reporting the return of Mr and Mrs Hitchcock to meet with you in their native land. They return on account of their frequent infirmities.”
“They have persevered a long time but have no improvement in health among us. It is therefore thought best that they go there if perchance they may in some degree improve in health and then return.”
“But that is uncertain they may recover and may not, it is with God’s consent.”
“They return greatly beloved by us, very great are Our obligations, to them for their patience in teaching us religion, and teaching our schools.”
“Molokai excels all the islands of the group in peacefulness, docility, activity in every good event, and in the knowledge of the children, and members of the church; as well as in sound comfort – and in constituting [unintelligible] unanimously to all benevolent objects.”
“When they first landed on Molokai it was an ignorant and backward …and – poverty stricken land. seeing our distressed and death like condition.”
“They disregarded their life and devoted it and their strength for ours. From their first arrival 20 years and upward until the present time they have labored hard for our good. Constantly and immeasurably have thy been engaged for the benefit of the people.”
“They have consequently become sick and infirmed. They leave us greatly beloved and with our heartfelt pain, on their account
they also leave us, their children with heartfelt pain.”
“Our Step father father [unintelligible] with us Mr Andrews – Our own father leaves us it my chief – love is to my own father – that to the step father is only a part.”
“They two return greatly beloved by Hawaiians, and and with a name over their hearts which is better than gold or silver. I have done.”
“yours respectfully R. P. Kamai Beretane member of the Hawaiian Parliament & District judge of Molokai.”
Here’s a link to the original letter, its transcription, translation and annotation:
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).