Bit of HiStory: Hawaiian History in the Pacific Northwest

Bit of HiStory: Hawaiian History in the Pacific Northwest

The recent volcanic eruptions and subsequent tragedies in Hawaii are all the more poignant to many Clark County residents because of the special historic relationship between Vancouver and the Islands. Our namesake, George Vancouver, was with Captain Cook at the first European contact with the Hawaiians. Vancouver returned to the Islands many times, especially to Kauai where he enjoyed a close friendship with King Kaumuali’i. Cook, Vancouver, and other British explorers were fascinated by Hawaii, and the indigenous people they found there. Hawaiians had needed skills. They were superb navigators, traveling not only by the stars, but by wave patterns, smells and by observing sea birds. Plus, they could cook. These skills were much needed on the mainland, and eventually the King of Hawaii agreed to send workers from Hawaii to Fort Vancouver as paid laborers. Over 500 Hawaiians, all men but one, initially arrived here to work. The local Chinook women must have been delighted. They had to find husbands outside of their own tribes, and here were dozens of strong, handsome young Hawaiians being delivered right to their door. There  was  an  instant  rapport. The Chinooks loved to feast, sing and dance. The Hawaiians, or Owyhee’ans as they were then known, also loved to feast, sing and dance.

For his part, straight-laced Dr. John McLoughlin (chief factor and superintendent of the Columbia District of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver) was appalled at the partying that was going on. He called for a Hawaiian minister to come and lead them back onto the straight and narrow. William Kauhulehele, known as Kanaka William, was summoned, along with his wife, Mary. He appears to have been successful, setting up the Kanaka Church inside the walls of the Fort. Or, perhaps the revelers simply learned to move the parties out of earshot.

To read more, pick up a copy of the August 2018 issue at any of these locations, or view the digital archive copy here.

Pat Jollota retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and came to Vancouver to find a new career in historic preservation. She was curator of education at the Clark County Historical Museum for 22 years, while almost concurrently serving for 20 years on the Vancouver City Council.

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