How Thanksgiving Came to Hawaii

(c) Copyright 2006 - 2010 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.

In 1849 King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III issued a royal proclamation declaring that December 31 would be a national holiday of prayer and thanksgiving. He did that as a way of cementing Hawaii's extensive economic, social and political relations with the United States, and as a way to show his love and respect for the great work done by the American missionaries in bringing Christianity and the rule of law to Hawaii and creating a written Hawaiian language.

The history of the Thanksgiving holiday in Hawaii comes in two parts -- ancient and modern. Following is a greatly shortened and simplified description of those aspects of religion and society in Hawaii and America necessary to an understanding of how the uniquely American and Christian holiday of Thanksgiving got established in Hawaii. No attempt is made to provide documentation for the details, some of which are controversial; but a few sources are provided at the end for anyone interested in further study.

In recent years it has become fashionable throughout America to trash Thanksgiving as a colonizers' holiday made possible only at the expense of exploitation and genocide of indigenous people. Hawaii's ethnic nationalists have jumped on that bandwagon, urging that Thanksgiving should be replaced by a Hawaiian Kingdom holiday celebrating the agreement between Britain and France on November 28, 1843 that neither country would take over Hawai'i at the expense of the other one.


Ancient history for humans in Hawaii began around the year 300 AD when the first Polynesian explorers came to Hawaii from Pacific islands thousands of miles away. Obviously, the first group to arrive could not have known where Hawaii was. They used a combination of luck and skill to find land. But thereafter, Polynesian navigators knew what the stars looked like in Hawaii, and more immigrants were able to come intentionally. The ancient period continued until 1778.

Throughout the ancient period, Hawaii had a stone age culture. There was almost no metal -- only small bits that washed ashore in driftwood from sunken ships far away. There was no clay pottery, and no written language. Even the wheel was not invented. Hawaiians had a subsistence and barter economy with fishing, hunting, gathering, and farming.

Despite Hawaii's primitive lifestyle, there was a sophisticated social system with chiefs and commoners of various ranks determined by genealogy and occasionally elevated or reduced by individual accomplishment.

There was an animist nature-religion that permeated every aspect of life. It is said there were 400,000 gods, with different gods being manifested in each type of wind or rain, and in each species of animal or plant. Chiefs and commoners prayed frequently -- for example, short prayers when entering the forest to gather fruits or fiber; or sophisticated ceremonies when cutting down a tree to build a canoe. Among the 400,000 gods four were major ones, each with clearly defined areas of responsibility and entitled to receive prayers and sacrifices on relevant occasions. Sometimes the sacrifices were human beings, especially when dedicating a stone temple to the war god Ku, or when building a house for a high ranking chief. The strict religion demanded the death penalty for even small violations of taboos. If someone touched a piece of clothing that had been worn by a high chief he would be put to death immediately; because he had damaged the spiritual power of the chief and the result would be the loss of the chief's power and ability to guarantee communal prosperity unless the violator was killed. If a woman ate a banana, coconut, or pork she would be put to death, because those foods were the embodiments of the god of maleness and therefore forbidden to women.

As the years went by, there came to be constant warfare. Perhaps warfare happened because of competitiveness and prideful seeking of power, and perhaps warfare was the natural result of a growing population competing for limited usable land and resources. No warrior chief was able to gain control of all eight major Hawaiian islands during ancient times; perhaps because the weapons were primitive, because each island was divided by rough mountain-and-valley terrain, and because it was hard to build enough canoes to successfully invade a different island.

There was a prolonged Thanksgiving holiday in ancient times, with prayer and feasting. Here's how that happened.

Despite the constant warfare, there was one season of the year when warfare was absolutely prohibited. The Makahiki season was a period of four lunar months, running approximately from what we now call November through February. During Makahiki, the major god Lono ruled supreme. He was the god of agriculture, peace, and prosperity. The commoners and chiefs in each district would assemble a collection of slaughtered hogs and vegetables, and place them on an altar at the boundary of each land-division. (The word for land-division is "ahupua'a" which literally means "pig-altar"). The warlord of that island or district would then pass through, collect his tribute, and sponsor a feast.

Since warfare was prohibited during Makahiki, and the rainy weather prevented much work from getting done, there were many sports competitions accompanied by prizes and feasting. There were surfing competitions, boxing, and wrestling. There was heavy gambling on the outcomes of the competitions, with stakes that sometimes included houses or even one's own bones ("You bet your bones!"). There was a game looking somewhat like checkers, but much more complicated ("konane"). There was a game somewhat resembling lawn-bowling ("ulumaika") in which the champion won the right to choose which woman to spend the night with.


To understand how the American Christian holiday of Thanksgiving came to Hawaii, we must answer three questions: How did all of Hawaii come to be ruled by a single King; how did Christianity come to Hawaii; and why did the King choose a uniquely American holiday to be a national holiday of the Kingdom?


During the last couple centuries of the ancient period there was no contact with the outside world. Polynesian voyagers stopped coming from far-away Pacific islands, and the Hawaiians themselves forgot how to navigate by the stars over long distances.

The ancient period came to a sudden end with the unexpected arrival of British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778.

Cook arrived in Hawaii during the Makahiki season, when the god Lono ruled supreme and warfare was forbidden. His ship (which the Hawaiians thought was a floating island) had large billowing white sails, which looked like the white tapa-cloth banners of Lono. Cook did not drop anchor immediately, but sailed around and around Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii for a couple weeks, just like Lono would be expected to do, and in the same direction Lono would have taken. The harbor where Captain Cook finally dropped anchor had the name "Kealakekua" which literally means "the pathway of the god" where prophecy said Lono would someday return. And so the natives treated Captain Cook as the god Lono, including prayers and feasting.

The king of the island, Kalaniopu'u, was elderly and somewhat decrepit. He wanted to visit Captain Cook's ship, and took along a young warrior chief by the name Kamehameha. Kamehameha was reportedly seven feet tall, with a muscular athletic build, fierce-looking face, and bright intelligent eyes. He looked around the ship and saw huge amounts of metal -- that rarest and most valuable commodity. He saw metal nails holding metal plates to the ship; he saw metal knives and metal swords; he saw guns and the ship's canon being fired; and he was amazed at the size of the ship. Kamehameha thought "I want these things for myself."

As the next several years went by, England learned about Captain Cook's voyage and sent more ships to visit Hawaii. Kamehameha made friends with the captains, and was able to acquire large numbers of knives, metal spear-points, and guns. He acquired a canon, and also a ship. He even acquired two British sailors whom he kidnapped during a hostile encounter. Kamehameha kept John Young and Isaac Davis against their will for several months but eventually those sailors came to like living in Hawaii so much, and they were given such "royal treatment" by Kamehameha, that they voluntarily spent the rest of their lives as high-ranking chiefs in Kamehameha's royal court. Young and Davis taught Kamehameha how to use the new technology and weapons of mass destruction he had acquired. And for that reason Kamehameha was able to kill off all his enemies; invade, pillage, and take over six of the eight major islands; and then intimidate the King of Kaua'i and Ni'ihau into surrendering under threat that they too would soon be invaded. Thus Kamehameha unified the Hawaiian islands under a single King -- a feat nobody had ever accomplished in 1500 years of ancient history. A decade of peace and prosperity followed, until Kamehameha died in 1819; although the prosperity was marred by continual loss of population as natives died from foreign diseases to which they had no resistance due to centuries of isolation and inbreeding.


When Kamehameha the Great died in 1819 his older son Liholiho became Kamehameha II. But Liholiho was too young to rule alone. At the first public ceremony the great conqueror's favorite wife, Ka'ahumanu, stepped forward, stood next to her stepson Liholiho, and announced "We shall rule together."

The old religion clearly was not working. Natives continued dying from disease and Hawaiian priests were unable to cure them. Foreigners did not obey the taboo laws, and never suffered bad consequences. Kamehameha the Great had come to power in fulfillment of a prophecy of the old religion, and had increased his power by offering human sacrifices of the high chiefs he killed. He remained a staunch defender of the old religion even during the decade of peace and prosperity following his final conquest. But on his deathbed he ordered that there should be no human sacrifices made to honor him when he died, thus hinting that the old religion should give way to humane treatment and individual rights.

Ka'ahumanu, regent to the boy-King Liholiho Kamehameha II, resented the oppression of women. She held political power, and is recorded to have said she wanted to eat bananas and coconuts along with the men. She persuaded young Kamehameha II to abolish the old religion just a couple months after the great King died. She arranged a large public feast with many high chiefs present. She arranged for the young new King to get drunk so his inhibitions were low and his courage was bolstered. When the right moment came, Liholiho went over to sit with Ka'ahumanu and the other women and shared their food. That was a violation of the strict taboo requiring men and women to eat separately, and would have resulted in the death penalty. But for a King?

Liholiho and his stepmother Ka'ahumanu stood up together and announced what the astonished people had already seen with their own eyes moments earlier -- the old religion was dead. They ordered the people to destroy the temples and burn the wooden god-images. A brief civil war followed in which defenders of the old religion died in battle at Kuamo'o. Thus the old religion was abolished. The natives lived with no religion for several months feeling lost, confused, and demoralized.

Now a miracle happened.

Several years before the old religion was abolished a small group of native young men got on a ship going to America. One of them was the son and heir-apparent of the King of Kaua'i. One of them, Opukaha'ia, was a commoner who had seen his parents and a younger brother (a small child) killed in one of Kamehameha's wars. The Hawaiians made their way to Connecticut, to Yale University, where they studied Christianity. Opukaha'ia (also spelled Obookiah) became fluent in English, was a great public speaker, and a fervent Christian. One day he was sitting on the steps of the Yale library weeping, and was asked why. He begged and pleaded with the faculty to please send missionaries to Hawaii to raise up his people out of their heathen ways.

And so a boatload of Calvinist missionaries (a conservative, strict sect of Protestant Christians) set sail from Boston to Hawaii. Opukaha'ia had died back at Yale, but the remaining native men returned with the missionaries, and taught them to speak Hawaiian fluently. The ship arrived in Hawaii in 1820 at exactly the right historical moment, just a few months after the old religion had been overthrown. The missionaries were amazed to hear that news, and gave thanks to God for that miracle of timing.

Over the years more boatloads of American missionaries came. Some were medical doctors in addition to being ordained ministers. The missionaries and their wives rendered great service and were dearly beloved by the native commoners and most of the chiefs.

The missionaries brought more than Christianity and medicine. They created a written Hawaiian language and taught it to the people. They brought a printing press and printed the Bible in Hawaiian, using it to teach reading. In a few years thousands of natives had converted to Christianity, including important high chiefs and the King. The people eagerly learned how to read and write. Hawaii soon had the highest literacy rate in the world.

American sailors and businessmen came to Hawaii; some in the sandalwood trade, some in the whaling industry, some merchants, and eventually sugar plantation owners. The economy of Hawaii came to be dominated by American business interests, while the society and culture were increasingly influenced by American values.

Two American missionaries (Gerrit Judd and William Richards) became the closest advisors to King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III (younger son of Kamehameha the Great). Both were fluent in Hawaiian. Judd always walked side by side with the King during formal processions, despite the jealousy of native chiefs walking farther back.

In 1840, with the help of Richards, Kauikeaouli wrote and proclaimed the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Its first two sentences were: "God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the earth, in unity and blessedness. God has also bestowed certain rights alike on all men and all chiefs, and all people of all lands." Such a proclamation was an astounding rejection of the old religion's use of genealogy to give radically different rights to different social castes. The Constitution was based on the American Constitution, and by proclaiming it the King voluntarily gave up his dictatorial powers won by right of his father's conquest. In 1848, on advice from the missionaries and at the request of American businessmen, Kauikeaouli voluntarily gave up his personal ownership of all the lands of Hawaii, again won by right of his father's conquest He created private property rights, setting forth a process to divide the lands among the himself, the government, the chiefs, and the commoners. Thus investment in capital projects was encouraged, because of assurance the land permanently belonged to the businessmen who bought it and their investments would not be confiscated arbitrarily by the King.

By 1848 twelve boatloads, or "companies" of missionaries had arrived in Hawaii, all from the same New England organization of Calvinists.


We all remember our school lessons about how Thanksgiving got started in America. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The Pilgrims went ashore and built a fortified town called Plimouth Plantation. They nearly starved to death because they didn't know how to grow crops in the local environment and they did badly at fishing and hunting. But the local Indian tribe came to the rescue, bringing food and friendship; and the Pilgrims and Indians sat down together for prayer and feasting.

For the next couple of centuries Americans celebrated Thanksgiving at various times in different places, depending on when the harvest was collected and when the weather began to turn wintery.

Finally in 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that the fourth Thursday of November that year and forevermore would be a national holiday of prayer and thanksgiving.


As noted above, Hawaii had grown very close to the United States both economically and socially. Britain and France were not nearly so important. France made repeated threats to take over Hawaii. A rogue British naval captain (Lord Paulet) actually did take over Hawaii with gunboat diplomacy, in 1843, forcing Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III to cede sovereignty for several months; until his superior officer Admiral Thomas landed at Honolulu and returned sovereignty to the King. The hero of the returning of sovereignty was the King's closest advisor, American missionary Gerrit Judd, who secretly wrote an appeal to the British government and smuggled it out with an American sailor, resulting in Admiral Thomas delivering a proclamation restoring sovereignty.

King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III looked to America for protection. He saw the dominance of American economic interests and social values. He greatly loved and respected the American missionaries. He decided that if any other nation was going to take over Hawai'i, he wanted that nation to be the United States. In 1849 Kauikeaouli wrote a provisional deed to cede the Kingdom of Hawai'i to the United States, and gave it to the United States Commissioner in Honolulu to hold onto and use if necessary. But Britain and France backed away from their takeover attempts (which, incidentally, were in violation of their joint agreement of 1843), and the deed ceding Hawaii to the U.S. was never implemented. Nevertheless the King wanted to cement the closeness of Hawaii's relations with America, and he wanted to show his appreciation to the missionaries.

The King had observed over the years that the missionaries and other Americans living in Honolulu celebrated an annual Thanksgiving holiday, with prayers and feasting. He made inquiries, and learned how the holiday had gotten started in America and how widely it was celebrated there. But Hawaii already had a national holiday at the end of November.

The King chose December 31. He issued a Royal Proclamation declaring that December 31, 1849 would be a national holiday of prayer and thanksgiving. And on that day the King and royal court and their families, together with American residents of Honolulu, and the missionaries, all assembled for prayers at Kawaiaha'o Church -- a large Boston-style church built from 14,000 huge blocks of coral harvested by natives using hand-tools, from under the water of Honolulu harbor -- a church whose very existence is a monument to cooperation between natives and whites in service to a higher purpose -- a church which still is actively used today, where Sunday services are conducted partly in Hawaiian language.

When the church service ended, there was a lu'au -- a feast, with dishes cooked in the Mission House across from the church and also some food brought by the King and the American residents.

And so Thanksgiving became a national holiday of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1849, fourteen years before President Abraham Lincoln declared it an American national holiday.


On January 17, 1893 a revolution in Hawaii overthrew the monarchy. The revolution was led by local white businessmen, about half of whom were native-born or naturalized subjects of the Kingdom, backed up by 1500 men who attended a mass meeting, including several hundred who were armed. Some of the organizers and militiamen were Americans or descendants of Americans who were now naturalized Kingdom subjects; others were Portuguese, German, British, etc. including some Hawaiian natives. The U.S. was the only nation with a naval vessel in Honolulu harbor at the time, and sent ashore about 160 sailors as peacekeepers to protect American lives and property and to prevent arson, rioting, and looting. The heavily armed local men took over government buildings and negotiated the Queen's surrender. The American peacekeepers kept strictly neutral. They never fired a shot nor attacked or surrounded any building. The revolutionary Provisional Government was recognized within two days by all the accredited local consuls representing all the foreign governments which had treaties or diplomatic relations with the Kingdom. No nation ever protested to either the Provisional Government or to the United States.

The revolutionary government submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. But incoming President Grover Cleveland was a personal friend of deposed Queen Lili'uokalani, and blocked the treaty. Through the end of 1893 President Cleveland did his best to destabilize the Provisional government and put the ex-queen back on the throne; but the provisional Government was too strong. When the Provisional Government gave way to a Republic of Hawaii with an elected legislature, President Cleveland and the Queen of England gave full diplomatic recognition to it, but Cleveland still opposed annexation. Hawaii remained an independent nation until Grover Cleveland (Democrat) was replaced by William McKinley (Republican), and then once again submitted a treaty of annexation. In 1898, five and a half years after the revolution, and spurred by the emergency of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. Congress finally passed a joint resolution accepting the treaty of annexation offered by the Republic, and President McKinley signed it. The Territory of Hawaii continued until 1959, when Congress passed the Statehood Act, President Eisenhower signed it, and Hawaii voters approved it by a 94% "Yes" vote.

The vast majority of Hawaii's people are proud to be Americans and do not want to be divided along racial lines. However, a radical fringe of ethnic nationalists want to rip the 50th star off the flag and make Hawaii once again an independent nation. A strong racial separatist movement, with the support of most of Hawaii's political establishment seeking to protect race-based entitlements, want to create a race-based government exclusively for the 20% of Hawaii's people who have at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. The Akaka bill to create a federally recognized (phony) Indian tribe for ethnic Hawaiians has been blocked in Congress from 2000 through 2006 by conservative Republicans who say it is unconstitutional and would establish principles leading to the further balkanization of America.

The Hawaiian independence activists join Indian activists on the mainland who trash Thanksgiving. They say Thanksgiving is a colonizers' holiday made possible only at the expense of exploitation and genocide of indigenous people. Hawaii's ethnic nationalists have jumped on that bandwagon, urging that Thanksgiving should be replaced by a Hawaiian Kingdom holiday inaccurately called "Independence Day."

The following is taken from an e-mail announcement of the celebration of Hawaiian Independence Day in November, 1998, written by noted activist Noenoe Silva. (The celebration was attended by about a dozen people). The announcement has been used every year since then. Note that Richards is described as secretary to Ha'alilio; and the Hawaiian holiday is explicitly touted as a hijacking of "the quintessential colonizers' holiday" of Thanksgiving.

"Aloha kakou: Thanksgiving is the quintessential colonizers' holiday. It celebrates the first firm foothold of the puritans on north america, a land already populated by indigenous peoples. The early history of the settlements were characterized by massacres rather than the myth of mutual cooperation that is called Thanksgiving (see Howard Zinn's _A People's History of the United States.) For those of us living in U.S. colonies, Thanksgiving has much greater emotional (and economic) impact than Columbus Day because of the attendant ritual feasting and the intense religious overtones. Thanksgiving was not always officially celebrated in Hawai'i nei: after all, it is not our history, except the puritans also had a hand in colonizing Hawai'i nei; it has nothing to do with the Kanaka Maoli, except as we empathize with the indigenous people of north america, some of whom call it the National Day of Mourning. La Ku'oko'a -- Hawai'i's Independence Day -- was celebrated around the same time as Thanksgiving from about 1844 until 1893. La Ku'oko'a is the 28th of November. It marks the day, November 28, 1843, that the Ali'i Timoteo Ha'alilio succeeded in obtaining the signatures of the authorities of Great Britain and France on a treaty recognizing Hawai'i as a sovereign nation. Ha'alilio, with the missionary William Richards along as his secretary, traveled through Mexico on foot and donkey to Washington D.C., where they met President John Tyler. President Tyler agreed to the intent of the proposed treaty. Ha'alilio and Richards, armed with his agreement, then went on to Europe, to Belgium, Paris, and London, where the treaty was finally signed. They returned to the United States to cement U.S. agreement. On the journey Ke Ali'i Timoteo Ha'alilio died, on December 3, 1844 ... In our current process of decolonizing, reject the colonizer's holiday, and resurrect La Ku'oko'a instead."

Some rebuttal is in order:

On November 28, 1843, the governments of Britain and France issued a joint resolution "to engage, reciprocally, to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state, and never to take possession, either directly or under the title of protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed."

This was not a treaty with Hawaii. Rather, it was a non-aggression agreement between Britain and France, agreeing with each other that neither country would take over Hawaii at the expense of the other one. Hawaii, of course, was the beneficiary, and chose to regard this joint resolution as a treaty recognizing Hawaiian independence (although Hawaii was not a party to the "treaty"). Modern-day sovereignty activists hail this joint resolution as a formal recognition of Hawaii as a member of the worldwide community of nations whose independence was (and continues to be) protected under international law. France violated the 1843 agreement by repeatedly threatening the sovereignty of Hawaii throughout the 1840s and into the 1850s.

The Hawaian Kingdom diplomatic delegation to Britain, France, and America which left in 1842 consisted of two men: Reverend William Richards, a white missionary who had become a powerful close advisor to the King, and Timoteo Ha'alilio, a young native chief.

Richards had arrived in Hawaii in 1823, and served as a missionary in Lahaina where he was noted for educating thousands of natives and protecting them against drunken sailors and sharp businessmen. In 1838 Richards was appointed by the King to serve as "Chaplain, Teacher, and Translator to the King." Richards helped the King write his 1839 Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the first Constitution (of 1840). Gerrit Judd had arrived in Hawaii later than Richards, and was brought into the King's cabinet to serve under Richards. Thus, Richards was a very senior member of the Kingdom government.

Timoteo Ha'alilio is described by Gavan Daws ("Shoal of Time") as "a capable young chief who had been private secretary to King Kauikeaouli."

Richards had been given virtually unlimited powers by the King. Gavan Daws reports that Daniel Webster, U.S. Secretary of State, "was unresponsive, and he remained so until Richards let it be known that he would place the islands in the hands of Great Britain. As a matter of fact he was empowered to do anything he wanted: he was carrying papers signed and sealed by King Kauikeaouli but otherwise completely blank."

Later on, before leaving to return to Hawaii, Timoteo Ha'alilio died. William Richards alone brought back to Hawaii the precious joint resolution from Britain and France, and the unused signed blank Royal papers.

Note that William Richards was definitely the senior partner in the diplomatic mission, and Timoteo Ha'alilio was described as having been private secretary to the King. Yet, Hawaiian sovereignty activists like to do ethnic cleansing of history by reversing their roles, claiming that Richards served as a mere secretary to Ha'alilio!

One measure of a person's importance is whether streets are named after him. "Richards Street" is in a very prominent location in Honolulu, running alongside 'Iolani Palace where it intersects "King Street." Richards street was there and had been given that name at a time when the official royal residence was already there, years before the new Palace was built by King Kalakaua in 1882. Thus, the sovereign monarchs of the independent nation of Hawai'i gave special honor to Reverend William Richards. By contrast, there never was and is not now any street in all the Hawaiian islands named after Timoteo Ha'alilio. The purpose of pointing out this information is not to denigrate or insult Mr. Ha'alilio -- rather, the purpose is to counteract the disgraceful insult to Reverend William Richards committed by today's Hawaiian sovereignty activists who twist history and engage in ethnic cleansing of Hawaiian Kingdom holidays by portraying Richards as merely a secretary to Ha'alilio.

Finally, a minor criticism: Noenoe Silva says the celebrations of Ka La Ku'oko'a holiday continued annually until 1893. Her Hawaiian-language version published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (see below) says the holiday continued until 1896. However, another source indicated the celebrations probably stopped after only a few years. The Kingdom holiday being discussed in the following quote is the far more important "Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea" (Sovereignty Restoration Day), so it seems likely that a lesser holiday would more easily fall by the wayside. A book friendly to the activists' general viewpoint is Helena G. Allen, "The Betrayal of Liliuokalani" (Glendale CA, Arthur H. Clark Co., 1982). On p. 61, she says the following: "In the afternoon Kamehameha III went in a solemn procession with his chiefs to Kawaiahao Church ...A ten-day celebration of Restoration Day followed, and was annually observed. The last of the Restoration Day celebrations came in 1847. The missionary element in the government were thereafter to declare the celebrations 'too expensive.' ... A thousand special riders, five abreast ... were followed by 2500 regular horsemen ... arrived at the Nuuanu picnic ground in a pouring rain, with spirits undampened. ... It was to be the last of such Hawaiian festivities ..."


Without doubt, the most complete, thorough, and balanced account of the history of Hawaii from 1778 to 1893 can be found in the 3-volume set by Ralph S. Kuykendal, "The Hawaiian Kingdom" (University of Hawaii Press, 1968).


Hawaii Mission Children's Society Library at Mission Houses Museum in Honolulu contains valuable memoirs written by the missionaries and their wives and children.


Henry Opukaha'ia (Obookiah) -- Native Hawaiian Travels to New England in 1809, Converts to Christianity, and Persuades Yale Divinity Students to Come to Hawai'i as Missionaries in 1820 to Rescue His People From Their Heathen Beliefs and Lifestyle


For those curious to see Hawaiian language, an article was published on November 24, 2002 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin by Noenoe Silva, which included content (in Hawaiian) similar to her 1998 Thanksgiving vs. La Ku'oko'a announcement above.
A rebuttal (in English) was published November 28:

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 24, 2005, Thanksgiving editorial
** Excerpts

The first Thanksgiving feast in Hawaii is not recorded in the history books. However, Hawaiian historian Rubellite "Ruby" Johnson cites missionary Lowell Smith's entry in his journal noting that "people turned out pretty well and they dined in small groups and in a few instances in large groups" to commemorate Thanksgiving on Dec. 6, 1838.

In 1841, 25 adults and 32 children in Honolulu united for Thanksgiving on New Year's Day, "donned our best apparel and sat down at the long table to enjoy a double feast," according to missionary Laura Fish Judd's "Sketches of Life in Honolulu," also cited by Johnson and displayed on the Web site of the Hawaii Mayflower Society, of which Johnson is a former governor.

Perhaps confused by the timing of those celebrations, King Kamehameha III proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday to be observed on Dec. 31, 1849. Members of the national legislature rejoiced the proclamation but not his choice of date. "To be sure," they wrote, "Thanksgiving on the 31st of December when that occurs on Monday rather shocks our ideas of the festival, which we have always been accustomed to celebrate on Thursday, and that Thursday ordinarily the last of November." They suggested that the king's ministers "consult their almanac next year before making the appointment."


See also:
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Saturday, October 2, 1999
Article by Herb Kane describing Captain Cook's role in Hawaiian history


See also
"How Christmas Came to Hawaii"


In recent years Hawaiian sovereignty activists have engaged in ethnic cleansing of Hawaiian Kingdom holidays, by removing Caucasians from the pantheon of heroes during revived celebrations of those old holidays -- most notably Sovereignty Restoration Day and Independence Day. They have also tried to hijack modern American holidays to serve the sovereignty agenda, including July 4, Martin Luther King's birthday, and Christmas/ New Years. See
"Happy Holidays -- Not So Happy Anymore! Ethnic Cleansing of Hawaiian History"


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(c) Copyright 2006 - 2010 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.