Letter pertaining to plight of William Kanui, 1863.

Pertaining to  William Tennoee [William Tenoee] Alias Kanui.

We heard from Rev. S. C. Damon, the Pastor at the Bethel Church [ka Halepule Betela] at Polelewa, Honolulu, that he received a letter from San Francisco, pertaining to the old Hawaiian that is living in that city, that being the one named above, and he is living there in severe poverty and in difficulty. Kanui has been living in foreign lands since a long time ago, perhaps more than fifty years.

The number of them that went wandering together, was George Humehume Kaumualii, the son of the first Alii of Kauai; Thomas Hopu, and Opukahaia. There were four of them who went wandering from their land of birth to the United States; and when they reached there, they were enrolled in the Missionary school at Cornwall [Konowale], Connecticut [Kenekute], and there they were educated. Opukahaia died in America, and his companions returned to Hawaii nei with the first Missionaries who came in 1820, and taught at schools here; and as for Humehume, he was the son of Kaumualii, and we know his story and what he did on Kauai, and of his death.

As for the one who this story is about, that being Kanui, he is someone all the oldsters of Hawaii know. When he returned with Bingham folks, he taught school, and King Liholiho who passed on, and some of his high chiefs were some of his students he taught in the beginning, and the Honorable John Ii [Ioane Ii] was one of his students.

In the beginnings of the gold rush of California in 1849, that was when he left Hawaii again, and went to California to dig for gold. He found a mine and made Six Thousand Dollars, and he put his money in the care of a Company, but [??? aole i ???? iho] and that company in which he put his money ended up being people who had unpaid debts, and all Kanui’s money was lost. Thereafter he took various jobs in San Francisco, and he made money to eat and stay alive. He was a member of the Bethel Church in San Francisco and this showed that he was a man who lived righteously and upright.

But in his old age living in the unfamiliar land, he grew very feeble and blind, and he could not provide and care for himself. And the way he lives is through the assistance of the churches of San Francisco. How pitiful! Can we not do anything to help him? Is it right that someone who taught one of the descendants of Kamehameha the Great lives in the foreign lands while being cared for by the cold kindness of foreigners? We say for ourselves, no! no! not at all!

We are giving what we can to fetch Kanui to bring him back to his land of birth to care for him—that the caring ones of Hawaii may care for his life during the remaining days of his life on this side of the valley of death; for this is appropriate for the good will of the Hawaiians, people who are of the same blood of the mentioned Kanui. We are probably not the only one who thinks this way, but it is the kindly thought of Hawaiians from all over. Therefore, O Native Hawaiians, from where the sun rises to where it sets, let us hearken with aloha, and send for our brother to return in body to his land of birth, so that we can care for him in his feeble days.

[It is too bad that this article was not referenced in the section on William Kanui in Partners in Change. There is so much left to learn from the Hawaiian Language Newspapers!!

See however the article “The Story Behind the Headstone: The Life of William Kanui” found in the 2009 issue of Hawaiian Journal of History by Douglas Warne for more on William Kanui.]

(Kuokoa, 7/25/1863, p. 1)


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke II, Helu 30, Aoao 1. Iulai 25, 1863.


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