More on Emma Nakuina, W. T. Brigham, and the Bishop Museum, 1897.


Treatment of Ladies at Bishop Museum.

An Open Protest to the Trustees of the Kamehameha Schools.

MR. EDITOR:—The undersigned with three other ladies, Hawaiians of the highest respectabily, standing and position, with five little children, were sitting this morning in the shade of the Kamehameha Museum enjoying the fine showing made by the naval men drilling on the College campus. Chairs had been offered by a Kamehameha graduate, he placing them on the grass plot adjoining the Museum. After a little while, Mr. Brigham, the curator of the Museum, drove by within a few feet of us. He scowled most savagely at us. In a few minutes a Portuguese workman came to order us away from the place.

As it has invariably been the custom to throw the College grounds open to the public when any sort of a public or semi-public show is taking place within its precincts, we did not pay any attention to his orders, thinking it a piece of officiousness on the part of an ignorant person, and the man went away. After a while the man re-appeared and ordered us off again, saying he was acting by Brigham’s orders, and to use force if necessary. He took hold of the chair of the wife of a prominent official and tipped it partly over. She sprang up to avoid a fall, as did two other ladies. I, being at the very corner of the building and a little in advance of the others did not perceive the man until he had taken hold of my chair and had partly spilled me on my knee. I turned around to protest, when he grabbed my arm and pulled me out of my chair, saying “you get out of this, those are my orders from Mr. Brigham. If you don’t go yourself, I make you go. Mr. Brigham don’t allow any one to get on this grass.”

There were quite a number of carriages standing around, occupied by spectators of the drill.

The actions of the Portuguese were so rough and insulting that the attention of quite a number were attracted to our forcible ejectment.

Now, Messrs. Trustees, I would like to know if the Kamehameha Museum and the surrounding land is Mr. Brigham’s private property, or is it part of the Kamehameha estate, bequeathed by the Princess Pauahi Bishop of revered memory, for the benefit of Hawaiians, and as such, subject to the regulations and customs observed by the school authorities.

It has always been my understanding of the courtesies extended to the public, and especially since the incumbency of the present gentlemanly president and staff, that the college grounds were free to all Hawaiians during occasions such as this morning.

People were sitting down or walking all around on the grass plots everywhere else, unhindered, and it was only the grateful shade of the big building that attracted us to that particular spot. There wasn’t a bush or plant of any kind, other than the manienie grass, and surely our sitting on chairs on the grass couldn’t do much harm. Mr. Brigham was seen by one of the ladies peeping at us around the corner of the house, just a little while before he sent his man to eject us so rudely. Had we been white ladies, he, no doubt, would have paid them the courtesy of appearing in person and asking them to get off his precious grass plot. But being only Kanaka women, though the other three are all married to prominent white men, why, we must be rudely hustled off as common tramps.

The great Kamehameha property was derived from our ancestors, the Hawaiian people, who surrendered it voluntarily into the keeping of our chiefs, who administered it for the good of all, the relation between chiefs and commoners being that of parent and children or of older brother and younger brethren, from whence came the famous battle cry of the great Kamehameha, “I mua e na pokii.” “Forward, my younger brothers.”

Mrs. Pauahi Bishop, with a heart filled with love for her race, childless herself, bequeathed her all for the benefit of every Hawaiian child who chooses and is worthy to benefit by her benefaction.

In doing it she was simply carrying out the tradition and custom of her ancestors and sustaining her own princely relation to the people of her race as mother of all.

Surely, it was never contemplated by her that the trust created for her people should be used to sustain and harbor a man who invariable villifies, decries and runs down her own race.

He has written insultingly about us, he has talked worse, even the honored have not been spared his villifications, and he acts insultingly whenever he gets the chance.

It may be a matter of very little moment to you, Messrs. Trustees, that a few Kanaka women should be so rudely insulted, but it is not the first action of the sort by the individual occupying the sinecure of the Kamehameha curatorship.

Visiting tourists have from time to time, come to me for confirmation or refutation of the fearful fairy tales anent the Hawaiians the veracious curator of the Kamehameha Museum had poured into their ears.

When told the true nature of such stories they generally told me it was my duty to my race to give the lie to them in print.

How much longer are you going to keep that wholesale insulter and villifier of Pauahi Bishop’s race to draw his living from Mrs. Bishop’s bounty.


Honolulu, May 18, 1897.

(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 5/19/1897, p. 6)


The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume XXV, Number 4613, Page 6. May 19, 1897.

3 thoughts on “More on Emma Nakuina, W. T. Brigham, and the Bishop Museum, 1897.

  1. From the book “A Museum to Instruct and Delight” by Roger G. Rose, published by Bishop Museum in 1980, we find that after this incident and its repercussions, William Brigham resigned as Bishop Museum’s Curator on July 9, 1897. Mrs. Nakuina then applied for the job, having been the curator herself of the Hawaiian National Museum, whose collections had become part of the Bishop Museum abruptly in Jan. 1891 after Kalakaua’s death. She apparently was never seriously considered for the job, and Brigham was reinstated and elevated to the position of Bishop Museum Director on Jan. 1, 1898.


  2. See exchanges between Queen’s Lili’uokalani’s chamberlain, J.W. Robertson and Briigham, April 15-17, 1897, in the Lili’uokalani Collection at the State Archives, for more of Brigham’s nastiness at the same time.


  3. Google. W.T.Brigham then went to Wikipedia. There is much more to this man and his friendships with S.B. Dole and C.R.Bishop. Did Roger speak of it in book published 1980.


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