To better understand Hoapili, you should look at the relationships, circumstances and situations in which he was involved … from service to Kamehameha to supporter of the American Protestant mission, Hoapili had a profound impact in Hawai‘i. (He was first called Ulumāheihei.)
He was born around 1776 (the year of America’s Declaration of Independence.) (Bingham) In his younger years Ulumāheihei was something of an athlete, tall and robust with strong arms, light clear skin, a large high nose, eyes dark against his cheeks, his body well built, altogether a handsome man in those days. (Kamakau)
Trusted Advisor to Kamehameha
When Kamehameha I was king, Ulumāheihei was a trusted advisor. In the time of Kamehameha II he had suppressed Kekuaokalani in a rebellion after Liholiho broke the ʻai noa (free eating) kapu; he commanded the forces against a rebellion by Prince George Kaumualiʻi on Kauai. Ulumāheihei became noted as a war leader for his victory over the rebels.
Ulumāheihei was a learned man skilled in debate and in the history of the old chiefs and the way in which they had governed. He belonged to the priesthood of Nahulu and was an expert in priestly knowledge. He had been taught astronomy and all the ancient lore. It was at the court of Ulumāheihei that the chiefs first took up the arts of reading and writing. (Kamakau)
After the conquest of Oʻahu by Kamehameha I, in 1795, he gave Moanalua, Kapunahou and other lands to Kameʻeiamoku (Hoapili’s father), who had aided him in all his wars. (Alexander)
Kameʻeiamoku died at Lāhainā in 1802, and his lands descended to Ulumāheihei, who afterwards became governor of Maui. Ulumāheihei’s first marriage was to Chiefess Kalilikauoha (daughter of King Kahekili of Maui Island.) Liliha his daughter/hānai was born in 1802 or 1803.
Ulumāheihei later earned the name Hoapili (“close companion; a friend.’)
Hoapili and his Brother Were Selected to Hide Kamehameha’s Bones
Hoapili was with Kamehameha when he died on May 8, 1819 at Kamakahonu at Kailua-Kona.
“Kamehameha was a planner, so he talked to Hoapili and Hoʻolulu (Hoapili’s brother) about where his iwi (bones) should be hidden.” (Hoapili and Hoʻolulu were brothers. Both were trusted advisors to Kamehameha.)
Kamehameha wanted his bones protected from desecration not only from rival chiefs, but from westerners who were sailing into the islands and sacking sacred sites. (Bill Mai‘oho, Mauna Ala Kahu (caretaker,) Star-Bulletin)
Kamehameha’s final resting place and his bones have never been found; a saying related to that site notes: ‘Only the stars of the heavens know the resting place of Kamehameha.’
Hoapili was Husband of Keōpūolani
Keōpūolani (the gathering of the clouds of heaven) was the daughter of Kīwalaʻo and Kekuiapoiwa Liliha, Kīwalaʻo sister. Keōpūolani was aliʻi kapu of nī‘aupi‘o (high-born – offspring of the marriage of a high-born brother and sister or half-brother and half-sister.)
Keōpūolani was the highest-ranking chief of the ruling family in the kingdom during her lifetime. Keōpūolani was reared under strict kapu because she was sacred; her kapu were equal to those of the gods. She possessed kapu moe, which meant that those who were in her presence had to prostrate themselves, face down, for it was forbidden to look at her.
Kamehameha took Keōpūolani as one of his wives; they had three children, Liholiho, Kauikeaouli and Nāhi‘ena‘ena.
Kamehameha allowed Keōpūolani to have other husbands after she gave birth to his children, a practice common among ali‘i women (except Ka‘ahumanu.) Kalanimōku and Hoapili were her other husbands.
Keōpūolani is said to have been the first convert of the missionaries in the islands and the first to receive a Protestant baptism. (Kalanimōku and Boki had previously (1819) been baptized by the French Catholics. Kalanimōku later (1825) joined the Protestant Church, at the same time as Ka‘ahumanu.)
Hoapili and Christianity
Hoapili had accepted the word of God because of Keōpūolani. After her marriage with Hoapili she became a steadfast Christian. (Kamakau)
Hoapili welcomed the missionaries to the island and gave them land for churches and enclosed yards for their houses without taking any payment. Such generosity was common to all the chiefs and to the king as well; a tract of a hundred acres was sometimes given. (Kamakau)
After the death of Keōpūolani, her husband, Hoapili, was the leading representative of the Christian faith. Later Kaʻahumanu and Kalanimōku and their households followed Christian ways. (Kamakau)
Later, Hoapili was Husband of Kalākua
Kalākua (also Kaheiheimālie) was daughter of Keʻeaumoku, a chief from Hawaiʻi Island and Nāmāhāna, from the royal family on Maui. Kalākua’s siblings included Queen Kaʻahumanu, Hawaiʻi Island Governor John Adams Kuakini, Maui Governor George Cox Kahekili Keʻeaumoku II and Lydia Namahana Piʻia.
She first married Kalaʻimamahu, the younger brother of Kamehameha I. They had a daughter, Kekāuluohi; Kekāuluohi became Kamehameha’s youngest wife. Liholiho (Kamehameha II) later took her as one of his wives and around 1821 Kamehameha II gave Kekāuluohi to his friend Charles Kanaʻina. By Kanaʻina, Kekāuluohi had a son William Charles Lunalilo (future king of the Islands.)
Kalākua was also married to Kamehameha I; she had four children. Their two sons died as infants; the oldest daughter, Kamāmalu, became wife of Liholiho (Kamehameha II,) and the youngest daughter, Kīnaʻu, later became Kuhina Nui.
Kīnaʻu later married Mataio Kekūanāoʻa; they had several children, including Lot Kapuāiwa (afterwards Kamehameha V,) Alexander Liholiho (afterwards Kamehameha IV) and Victoria. (Liliʻuokalani) That made Kalākua mother of another Queen consort, and grandmother of three future Kings.
“In September, 1823, she heard in Hawaii of Keōpūolani’s death and sailed at once for Lāhainā to attend the burial ceremonies. The chiefs had all assembled at Lāhainā, the body of the chiefess had been concealed, and (Hoapili) was in mourning.”
“After the days of mourning were ended (Kalākua) became the wife of (Hoapili) (October 19, 1823,) they became converted, were married under Christian vows, and took the names of Hoapili-kāne and Mary Hoapili-wahine [the Hawaiian form of Mr. and Mrs.]”
Chief’s Children’s School
In 1839, Hoapili signed a letter with King Kamehameha III and Kekāuluohi asking the American Protestant missionaries to run the Chiefs’ Children’s School.
“This subject was fully considered in connection with an application of the chiefs requesting the services of Mr. Cooke, as a teacher for their children; and it was voted:”
“That the mission comply with their request, provided they will carry out their promise to Mr. Cooke’s satisfaction; namely, to build a school house, sustain him in his authority, over the scholars, and support the school.” (Sandwich Islands Mission General Meeting Minutes, 1839)
In this school were educated the Hawai‘i sovereigns who reigned over the Hawaiian people from 1855, namely, Alexander Liholiho (King Kamehameha IV,) Queen Emma, Lot Kamehameha (King Kamehameha V,) King William Lunalilo, King David Kalākaua and Queen Lydia Lili‘uokalani.