Kamā‘ule‘ule, later known as ‘Iliopunahele and eventually as Boki, was the child of Kekuamanohā and Kamakahukilani. Through his father he was a grandson of the Maui king. Kekaulike, and was a first cousin of Ka‘ahumanu.
Kamā‘ule‘ule, literally ‘the dispirited one’, was a reference to the fainting spells of Kahekili which were occurring around the time of Boki’s birth. As a close companion of Kamehameha he was called ‘Iliopunahele, or ‘favorite dog’.
His name was changed to Boki after Kamehameha met with a large American dog named Boss, the Hawaiian pronunciation of Boss, and was the name by which Kama’ule’ule was known throughout the rest of his history. (Nogelmeier)
During the missionaries’ first years in Hawai’i, Boki’s relationship with the mission was similar to that of his fellow chiefs. Although he and his brother, Kalanimoku, were already baptized prior to the arrival of the American Protestant mission, their involvement with the church was no more enthusiastic than that of the chiefs in general.
Boki provided land for the mission in Honolulu and erected houses for the use of the church, all in accordance with the king’s approval of their residence there. He attended occasional services and expressed interest in study of the bible, even agreeing to daily instruction for a time. (Nogelmeier)
Boki accompanied Liholiho and his entourage to England; Liholiho died, and they returned in 1825. “After an hour or two, the whole company proceeded to the residence of Karaimoku – who was too unwell to go out – near the Mission House: and shortly afterwards to the chapel, to attend prayers, and tender thanks to God for the interesting incident of the day.”
“Before leaving the chapel, Governor Boki delivered a short but excellent address, recommending, as the result of his observation and experience abroad, a renewed and devoted attention to the palapala and the pule—letters and religion.” (Stewart)
“This was a happy moment for Boki to make his report on the question most immediately connected with our business, or the trustworthiness of Christianity. In a short address he expressed his conviction of the truth of the Christian religion, and recommended attention to the palapala and the service of God.”
“In a more free conversation in the evening, he said the ‘King of Beritania,’ with whom he was honored to have a personal interview, after the death of the king and queen, told him to give good attention to the missionaries at the islands, for they were sent to enlighten them and do them good, and make them acquainted with the good Word of God.” (Bingham)
Boki’s ties to the British and his involvement in trade placed him in conflict with his fellow chiefs’ growing acceptance of the American Protestant Christianity. (Nogelmeier)
After his return from England (when Liholiho and his wife died), Boki appeared to fit harmoniously with the changes that were taking place. His experiences on the journey to England and King George’s support for Christianity had made a strong impression on him. He called for prayer immediately on landing at Maui and attended service again at O‘ahu. (Nogelmeier)
“In May, 1827, she charged Boki, Liliha and several members of the king’s train with misconduct, intemperance, fornication, and adultery, and had them fined—just a few days after the facile Boki had told Levi Chamberlain that he wanted to turn to the pono (the good) and that the king had acquired a Christian teacher.” (Daws)
In spite of his stormy relationships with Ka‘ahumanu and his alienation from the church, Boki cooperated on projects that he felt was for the betterment of his people.
He provided support for the missionaries in the way of buildings, land and labor, long after he had become disgruntled with their religion. He collaborated on the provision of schools for the populace, in his own districts of ‘Ewa and Wai‘anae and throughout the island. (Nogelmeier)
“Among the Hawaiian aristocracy there are two rival families, like the houses of York and Lancaster. Governor Boki represents the claims of one, and our good queen the other.”
“Both claim the guardianship of the young king, Kauikeaouli, and are equally anxious for paramount influence, but with widely different views”
“The governor has visited foreign lands. He is ambitious to gain the influence of the resident foreign traders, and the captains of ships to his party.” (Judd)
“Using his position as governor of Oahu to conscript labour, he plunged into the sandalwood trade. Later, he speculated in local and foreign trade, sugar-making, tavern-keeping, and commercialised prostitution. None of these businesses except the last was profitable.” (Daws)
“Ka‘ahumanu, on the other hand, is anxious to lighten the burdens of the people. She makes frequent tours around the islands, assembling them at each hamlet, exhorting them to forsake every heathen custom, learn to read, and listen to the teachings of God’s word and law.”
“She watches the young king with the solicitude of a tender mother, weeping and rejoicing alternately, as he yields to, or resists, temptation to wrong-doing.” (Judd)
“By 1829, both (Boki) and his country were deeply in debt to foreigners. Always a gambler, Boki made a desperate throw to redeem his fortunes by taking an expedition to the Southwest Pacific to search for sandalwood.” (Daws)
Boki attempted to recover by assembling a group of followers and set out for a newly discovered island with sandalwood in the New Hebrides. Boki fitted out two ships, the Kamehameha and the Becket, put on board some five hundred of his followers, and sailed south. Boki and two hundred and fifty of his men apparently died at sea.
Boki’s disappearance, along with hundreds of his supporters, did weaken and eventually bring about a complete closure to the only remaining indigenous opposition to the puritan government of Ka‘ahumanu and her missionary advisors. The changes that followed his disappearance led to an entrenchment of mission interests and American ties. (Nogelmeier)