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June 2005

Hawai`i News

KAMEHAMEHA: An Amazing American?

The United States Library of Congress website has a section called America’s Story from America’s Library.

A Message from the CEO of the Kamehameha Schools

Inaccurate information about our ali'i, our history and our culture should be corrected whenever discovered.

KAMEHAMEHA: An Amazing American?

By Rochelle delaCruz

 The United States Library of Congress website (www.americaslibrary.gov) has a section called America’s Story from America’s Library. Written especially for young people, the site “is brought to you from the Library of Congress in Washington DC., the largest library in the world and the nation’s library.”

At this website, King Kamehameha I is listed as “An Amazing American” along with Buffalo Bill Cody, Meriwether Lewis & William Clark, Harry Houdini, John Philip Souza and others.

The Library of Congress story of King Kamehameha begins, “(He) was a smart ruler who amassed a fortune and made Hawaii a desirable prize for foreign explorers…Kamehameha was an autocratic ruler, one who rules without any limits for his or her power. In America, the system of rule is a federal, democratic, republic form of government, the people rule through their elected representatives…”

The story describes how the king maintained a “harsh system of laws, called kapu” but also tells about māmalahoe kānāwai or the Law of the Splintered Paddle and credits Kamehameha with outlawing human sacrifice, “a cruel ritual that was practiced at the time.”

In the part called the Dynasty of Kamehameha, America’s Story reports that “Kamehameha was a strong and able king, but his successors were not as strong as him and ultimately were not able to resist European efforts to control the islands.” It concludes by mentioning Queen Lili`uokalani as the last royal ruler who died in 1917, and follows with “In 1898, the United States acquired Hawaii, and in 1959 it became the 50th state.” The Library of Congress does not give young researchers any details about the takeover of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States. (For more information about this, see `Onipa`a and September 11, 1897…Patriotism in Hawai‘i)

It also does not explain how a Hawaiian king can be considered “an American” when he was born nearly 20 years before the American Revolution (1776) and died in 1819 when the United States was still a fledgling country, who in his lifetime never set foot on any American continent nor even left the Islands.

King Kamehameha: Amazing – yes. But American - ?

 

A MESSAGE FROM THE CEO OF THE KAMEHAMEHA SCHOOLS

Dee Jay Mailer

Last month, the NW Hawai`i Times reported that King Kamehameha was listed as “An Amazing American” on the Library of Congress website, www.americaslibrary.gov. It was brought to the attention of the Kamehameha Schools and here is their response:

 

Inaccurate information about our ali'i, our history and our culture should be corrected whenever discovered. Mahalo nui to the Northwest Hawai'i Times for being so maka'ala - alert - in bringing the Library of Congress' website to our attention. Kamehameha Schools will be writing to Senator Inouye's office to ask that Hawaii 's Congressional Delegation request an official correction be made to the record. If any of your readers would like to contribute to this effort, I am sure the changes would happen faster if the Library of Congress hears many voices carrying the same message.

Here is a list of concerns regarding the Kamehameha I profile your readers may wish to point out:

1. Kamehameha was not an American. He died in 1819; Hawaii was annexed in 1898.
2. Kamehameha is usually translated as 'the lonely one' rather than 'the one set apart.'
3. The writer of the profile makes inaccurate comparisons between Kamehameha's form of government and America's.
4. The writer also focuses on the negative aspects of Hawaiian culture, such as the kapu system and human sacrifice.
5. Kamehameha was not the grandson of Alapa`i.
6. Nae`ole, a warrior and chief, is credited with spiriting away the infant Kamehameha and hiding him from Alapa`i, not priests.
7. The writer says that Kamehameha's successors "ultimately were not able to resist European efforts to control the islands." There is no mention that the U.S. participated in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, only a sentence that says "In 1898, the United States acquired Hawaii."
8. The Library of Congress write-up omits Lunalilo from the Kamehameha
dynasty (he is a Kamehameha relative).

I have also attached a short biographical sketch of Kamehameha I in case any
of your readers would like to suggest an alternative.

Mahalo again to the Northwest Hawai`i Times for the work you do for our people in the great Pacific Northwest.

Malama pono,

Dee Jay Mailer
Chief Executive Officer
Kamehameha Schools
Honolulu, Hawaii  

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