April 29, 1820 – Life and Teaching in Kailua-Kona

He Huliau: Intersecting Worlds 1820 – 1825

T. Dixon after William Ellis, A Missionary Preaching to the Natives, Kailua-Kona, c 1823.

A grand feast was held to commemorate the death of Kamehameha and the missionaries were invited to participate. During April, the missionaries had settled into their hut, made more comfortable with gifts of furniture from a number of ali‘i, and Hopu and Kanui had joined the king’s retinue. The Thurstons were adjusting to their new life, discovering with a mix of horror and amusement aspects of Hawaiian culture they wouldn’t have dreamed of.

“Kamamalu, his [King’s] favorite queen, applied to me for one of my dresses to wear on the occasion [the feast]; but as it was among the impossibles for her to assume it, the request happily called for neither consent nor denial. She, however, according to court ceremony, so arranged a native-cloth (pa‘u), a yard wide, with ten folds, as to be enveloped round the middle with seventy thicknesses. To array herself in this unwieldy attire, the long cloth was spread out on the ground, when, beginning at one end, she laid her body across it, and rolled herself over and over till she had rolled the whole around her. Her head was ornamented with a graceful yellow wreath of elegant feathers, of great value, from the fact that after a mountain bird had been caught in a snare, but just two small feathers of rare beauty, one under each wing, could be obtained from it. A mountain vine, with green leaves, small and lustrous, was the only drapery which went to deck and cover her neck and the upper part of her person. Thus this noble daughter of nature, at least six feet tall and of comely bulk in proportion, presented herself before the king and the nation, greatly to their admiration.

For three weeks after going ashore, our house was constantly surrounded, and our doors and windows filled with natives. From sunrise to dark there would be thirty or forty at least, sometimes eighty or a hundred. In their curiosity they followed the ladies in crowds from place to place, with simplicity peering under bonnets, and feeling articles of dress. It was amusing to see their efforts in running and taking a stand, so that they might have a full view of our faces.

The king’s orders were that none should be taught to read but those of rank, those to whom he gave special permission, and the wives and children of white men. For several months his majesty kept foremost in learning, then the pleasures of the cup caused his books to be quite neglected. … The king brought two young men to Mr. Thurston, and said: ‘Teach these, my favorites, Ii (John Papa I‘i) and Kahuhu. It will be the same as teaching me. Through them I shall find out what learning is.’”
— Lucy Thurston, Life and Times of Lucy G. Thurston, pp. 41-43.


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