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, Lydia Nāmāhāna writes to Jeremiah Evarts testifying to her strong Christian faith and practice.
Lydia Nāmāhāna Piʻia, a high ranking chiefess, was a wife of Kamehameha I and daughter of Keʻeaumoku Pāpaʻiahiahi, also being Kaʻahumanu’s sister. Nāmāhana was an early convert to Christianity and wife of Gideon Laʻanui, another early supporter of the missionizing effort.
Jeremiah F. Evarts was an early leader of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He was a reformer who advocated for the rights of Native Americans and wrote under the pseudonym William Penn.
“Oahu, March 12, 1828”
“May you live well into your old age. I send great affection to you and all the brethren.”
“Here is my message to you, I am informing you that the holy word of Christ, his laws and all his good practices are being taught.”
“We have obtained some small portions, but have gained no more.”
“The desire of my heart moves day and night to ask him that my spirit attain eternal life in heaven.”
“My wishes, my affection, my heart, and my intention, I have bundled them securely and submitted them to him; his words and his laws are what I follow in my heart …”
“… that my house be populated with his powerful spirit, his eternal love, his true goodness and his patience that all of us from where the sun rises to where it sets be saved by him.”
“The heart fears God because of the extent of physical wrongs, existing in a house of earthly pleasures, nearly killing the body and spirit in a house of earthly delights.”
“Thus my fear of God that makes my heart repent every night and day of my life, yet the heart does not say that it needs to pray to God or repent wrongdoing, no.”
“Goodness is up to God, as is wrongdoing.”
“And what I do is repent of my wrongs and place them upon him, with the confidence of my heart, spirit and my will being with him, so that I may be eternally saved through Jesus Christ. This concludes my message.”
“By Lidia Namahana”
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).