Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Honolulu--Bishop Museum

It is only a short flight from Hilo to Honolulu.  Mary and Jim joined Aunt Louise and myself as we headed for two days of sightseeing in Oahu.

  It was a lovely day for the plane ride... 

And,  though the clouds were covering most of it, we could see a little snow on the volcano as we flew by.

Even before checking into the hotel we searched out the Bishop Museum, which is the official guardian of the history of the Islands.

The skyline of Honolulu from the steps of the Bishop Museum. 

"Hawaii is the only U.S. state that was once a kingdom with its own monarchy.  The only real royal palaces in the United States are in Hawaii. 
"Iolani Palace, the last one to be built, was completed in 1882, during the reign of David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii.  The palace had electricity years before the White House did.  The last royal to live there was Kalakaua's sister, Queen Liliuokalani, who abdicated in 1895 after the overthrow of the monarchy."

These necklaces belonged to the Royal family and are made of very very tiny shells.

"In 1898 Hawaii was annexed by the United States, and in 1900 it became a U.S. Territory.
On August 21, 1959 it became the 50th American state.....

...but...In 1993 the U.S. government apologized for U.S. participation in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii."

This replica brought to mind the book "Hawaii" by Michener and I vowed to reread his saga the first chance I had when I got back to the RV.

"Shell Trumpet called Kihapu
(Conch shell from 1891)
This is said to be the magical conch shell, Kihapu, taken from the gods by the stealing dog, Puapualenalena."

"Hale Pili (Grass House)
This Hale Pile is a traditional sleeping house.  It stood for perhaps a century in Kaua'i before being purchased by the Bishop Museum.  It was recontructed in 1902 and stands today as one of the last examples of the traditional home."
This was a ceremonial cape and is constructed of millions of tiny bird feathers.  Sadly, most of the bird species that were used for these robes have now become extinct.

I wonder why.

 Painting of High Chief, Boki, and Lilima, 1824
Dressed in all the fine feathers.

"In 1881, when Pele, the volcano Goddess, threatened to engulf the town of Hilo in lava, the townspeople called upon Chieftess Ke'elikolani to intercede.  Facing a crowd of disbelievers who mocked her physical appearance (she was quite large and far from attractive) Ke'elikolani made her way towards Pele's flames. 
Offering traditional chants and gifts to Pele, she later slept near the lava's edge.  The following morning the flow ceased, just in front of the sleeping chieftess.  She alone had done what no other could accomplish, for she and the goddess were among the last of their kind, speaking a language that few heeded, persisting within a world that found them increasingly irrelevant.

I loved the carvings..and the sense of life and humor that come through.

But I can just imagine the reactions of the missionaries who descended in large numbers in the 1800's.

We saw vessels made of wood and others made of painted gourds but nowhere did I see anything made from clay.  I can only assume lava soil is not conducive to making pottery.

"A Nation Overthrown
The effort to end the Hawaiian Monarchy was both secretive and brazen.  American and European Kingdom subjects met in secret with U.S. officials in Hawai'i and lobbied for support of a coup.  Meanwhile, local and national editorials and articles trumpeted the superiority of American civilization, openly calling for an end to the monarchy and for American annexation. But the final straw came when 162 armed American troops from the U.S.S. Boston landed in Honolulu on January 16, 1893 at the request of the Committee of Safety.  A day later, in order to avoid the bloodshed of her people, Queen Lili'uokalani yielded "to the superior force of the United States of America."

"The Queen's Official Protest
Liliuokalani by the grace of God and under the constitution of the Kingdom, do hereby solemnly protest against all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.
That I yield to the superior force of the United States.....
Now to avoid any collusion of armed forces and perhaps the loss of life, I do under this protest and impelled by said force, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands."
Queen Liliuokalani, January 17, 1893

"Only one shot was ever fired when a policeman was injured while delivering an ammunitions filled wagon to the Committee of Safety.  With this distraction a handful of Committee members proceeded to the government building and took it over.  From the steps, 'President' Sanford B. Dole (note the name here) read a proclamation declaring the establishment of the Provisional Government.  At the same moment the Queen and her cabinet were at the police station writing a note to U.S. Minister Stevens asking for help in 'preserving the peace.'
The plea was to no avail, as Stevens had already formally recognized the legitimacy of the Provisional Government....  The coup was complete when Marshall Wilson surrendered the police station....
As word spread, thousands gathered in the streets in stunned silence."

(Sunrise in Honolulu)

The coup of 1893 was carried out without the approval of the president of the U.S. and was led by 6 non-natives that included U.S. Minister to Hawaii, John Stevens;  Businessman and grandson of missionaries, Lorrin Thurston; sugar planter, Sanford Dole; plus 160 U.S. Marines.


  1. Wow. And you've got to love the whole "Committee of Safety" thing.
    On an unrelated note- Toni check your hotmail account- make sure I'm not "spam" again.... :-)

  2. Nancy, Reading about this coup really made my blood boil. Somewhere in the accounts I read on line one U.S. politician stated, "Instead of resisting the takeover, those Hawaiians should be thanking us for introducing them to civilization."

    1. I remember reading fairly recently about some of the history of Hawaii becoming our 50th state, and I seem to recall that not all of the locals were happy about joining the union. Not so hard to understand given how they became a territory of the United States.

    2. When I asked that question of those I met along the way I was informed that the take-over of Hawaii has produced a population not unlike the native American population in their poverty, attitude in defeat, loss of culture, lack of a power, etc. That is also the impression I picked up as I toured the museum. Funny, It's not what I remember from the press, TV, etc. when Hawaii became a state.

  3. It's a dynamic situation , and everything gets called into question all the time. It's always been that way in Hawaii. You can even fight about who "true" Hawaiians are. I think it's healthy, by and large. However, I am appalled by the increasing poverty among all groups here.
    As to clay: It was not part of Hawaiian culture. There may be clay somewhere in the Islands, but I've never heard of anyone using local clay. It's all imported.