Early Christian History Between Hawaii and the United States

Early Christian History Between Hawaii and the United States

By Robert Hernandez Kajiwara

Christianity played a pivotal role in the early histories of both the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States. This short article will briefly examine this early history.

In 1809 five young Hawaiians arrived in New England via an American trade ship. Among them was Henry Obookiah (or Opukahaia), a young man who would go on to play a huge role in Hawaii’s history.1 Opukahaia displayed much academic and linguistic aptitude, eventually studying at Yale University and converting to Christianity.2 Opukahaia spoke and wrote about his home islands, asking that churches in New England send missionaries to Hawaii to share the gospel.3 Opukahaia tragically contracted typhus fever and died at the age of twenty six before he could return home.4 His death, though, sparked a wave of interest among New England Christians, dozens of whom would eventually become the first Christian missionaries to Hawaii. This is well-documented in Opukahaia’s own writings, as well as in the writings of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missionaries (ABCFM) and Lyman Beecher, who was Opukahaia’s pastor.

The first American missionaries arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1820. Through 1848 the ABCFM, a Congregational and Presbyterian organization, would send around 150 missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands.5 Several other denominations, such as Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, and Roman Catholics, would later send their own missionaries and establish thriving churches, some of which last to the present day.

Many of these early missionaries displayed a prejudice and xenophobia towards Hawaiian people, their culture, customs, and lifestyle, as can be seen in their writings. History of the Sandwich Islands: with an account of the American mission established there in 1820, compiled by Ephraim Eveleth and published in 1831 in Philadelphia, is a collection of documents (mostly letters) written by these missionaries. They tend to portray Hawaiians as poor, barbaric, uncivilized, and oppressed by their leaders, which the missionaries would use to justify their eventual takeover of Hawaiian land and government. It should be noted that Hawaiians of the day (including Hawaiian Christians) considered Hawaii to be a thriving, prosperous, and advanced society where poverty and homelessness were practically non-existent, and where good health and longevity were the norm.6

Not all of the missionaries were prejudiced, however. Some were respectful towards Hawaiians and assimilated into Hawaiian society. Perhaps the most important positive contribution of the missionaries was their promotion of literacy. Over the next several decades they would write several works of Christian literature in both the Hawaiian and English languages, and conduct wide-scale literacy campaigns that proved very effective. By 1860 the literacy rate in the United States was approximately 74%, while in Hawaii it was at over 90%.7 “The standard of intelligence among the native Hawaiians is higher than that of any other nation in the world, with illiteracy being practically unknown,” wrote Charles Gulick, whose parents were among the first missionaries to Hawaii.8 Gulick was one of the few members of the missionary families to support the Hawaiian Kingdom during the illegal overthrow in 1893, and today there is a street named in his honor in downtown Honolulu.

The original instructions from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the missionaries to Hawaii had been to work “for no private end, for no earthly object” and “wholly for the good of others, and for the glory of God our Savior.”9 By the 1840s, though, the interests of the missionaries had turned to business and politics, and they began acquiring large amounts of Hawaiian land for themselves. Later in the century the missionary families had developed into a business oligarchy collectively known as the Big Five, exerting a large amount of political-economic control over Hawaii that would last until the mid-twentieth century. In 1893 a group of these American missionaries conspired with the U.S. ambassador to invade the Hawaiian Kingdom and overthrow the monarchy at gun point in what is considered to be the single most harmful event in Hawaiian history.10

The missionaries, most of whom were young adults when they came to Hawaii, used religion to amass political-economic power for themselves and oppress Hawaiians. By taking advantage of Hawaiian interest in Christianity, these missionaries, who had little in the way of accomplishments back in their home towns, found a tremendous amount of personal wealth and influence under the guise of “missionary work” in a foreign land. Many of their descendants enjoy the fruits of their wealth to this day, while Hawaiians, who had sincerely converted to Christianity, continue to be oppressed, marginalized, and even homeless within their own home islands.

Primary Sources:

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.. A narrative of five youth from the Sandwich Islands, now receiving an education in this country. New-York, 1816. 42pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Liberty University. 19 November 2019.

Beecher, Lyman. A sermon delivered at the funeral of Henry Obookiah : a native of Owhyhee and a member of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut : … Elizabeth-town [N.J.]; (Elizabeth-town), 1819. 31pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Liberty University. 19 November 2019

Eveleth, Ephraim. History of the Sandwich Islands : with an account of the American mission established there in 1820. Philadelphia, 1831. 200pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Liberty University. 19 November 2019.

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894, Appendix II, Affairs in Hawaii. Retrieved 19 November 2019 from: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1894app2/d306.

Instructions of the Purdential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Sandwich Islands Mission (Lahainaluna, 1838), 19-20, 27-28.

Kamakau, Samuel (1815-1876). Writings, later published in several collections: Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii; Ka Poe Kahiko: The People of Old; The Works of the people of Old: Na Hana a ka Poe Kahiko; Tales and Traditions of the People of Old: Na Moolelo a ka Poe Kahiko.

Secondary Sources:

Charlot, John. “Two Early Hawaiian-Christian Chants.” Anthropos105, no. 1 (2010): 29-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25734737.

Coffman, Tom. Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawaiʻi. Duke University Press. 2003.

Kajiwara, Robert. Hawaii, Christianity, and the United States: A Complicated History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019. https://www.amazon.com/Hawaii-Christianity-United-States-Complicated-ebook/dp/B07Z2K93F3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=robert+kajiwara&qid=1574205062&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Kuykendall, Ralph S. The Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1, 1778-1854, Foundation and Transformation. 119-120.

Shulz, Joy. Hawaiian by Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific. University of Nebraska Press. 2017.

Williams, Ronald Jr. “A Nation Refuses to Forget.” November 25, 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9CTLnKoUI8

1 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.. A narrative of five youth from the Sandwich Islands, now receiving an education in this country. New-York, 1816. 42pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Liberty University. 19 November 2019.

2Ibid.

3 Beecher, Lyman. A sermon delivered at the funeral of Henry Obookiah : a native of Owhyhee and a member of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut : … Elizabeth-town [N.J.]; (Elizabeth-town), 1819. 31pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Liberty University. 19 November 2019.

4Ibid.

5Schulz, Joy. Hawaiian by Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific. University of Nebraska Press. 2017. 1.

6 Kamakau, Samuel (1815-1876). Writings, later published in several collections: Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii; Ka Poe Kahiko: The People of Old; The Works of the people of Old: Na Hana a ka Poe Kahiko; Tales and Traditions of the People of Old: Na Moolelo a ka Poe Kahiko.

7 Williams, Ronald Jr. “A Nation Refuses to Forget.” November 25, 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9CTLnKoUI8

8Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894, Appendix II, Affairs in Hawaii. Retrieved 19 November 2019 from: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1894app2/d306. 766.

9 Charlot, John. “Two Early Hawaiian-Christian Chants.” Anthropos105, no. 1 (2010): 29-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25734737. 34.

Instructions of the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Sandwich Islands Mission (Lahainaluna, 1838), 19-20, 27-28.

Kuykendall. The Hawaiian Kingdom, Volume 1, 1778-1854, Foundation and Transformation. 101.

10 Coffman, Tom. Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawaiʻi. Duke University Press. 2003.

Syllabus: Survey of Ryukyu History

Survey of Ryukyu History

Syllabus

8-Week Online Course

By Robert Hernandez Kajiwara

Done in partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. in History program at Liberty University

Description: An undergraduate-level course providing a broad overview of Ryukyu history. The course will start with Ryukyu prehistory and cover all the way up to the modern day. The course will examine Ryukyu relations with neighboring regions, including China, Korea, Japan, Malay, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. The course will also provide students with an introduction to fundamental elements and concepts in Ryukyu culture. The curriculum will end with modern Ryukyu history, including Ryukyu relations with both Japan and the United States.

Format: Online

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will gain a broad understanding of the history of the Ryukyu Islands and people.

  2. Students will demonstrate clear writing and analysis ability at the undergraduate level.

  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to make brief video lectures about Ryukyu subjects.

  4. Students will be able to describe U.S. military issues in the Ryukyu Islands.

Module One: Ryukyu Prehistory

Covers Ryukyu prehistory, including the first known human settlements in the Ryukyu Islands. Discusses early Ryukyu relations with China starting around the second century B.C. Analyzes portions of the Omoro Sooshi to gain understanding of life in prehistoric Ryukyu as well as learn about Ryukyu spirituality. Covers Ryukyu trade with Pacific Islands, and the introduction of rice and the sweet potato.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapter 1: Prehistory.

  • Omoro Sooshi (primary source). English Translation done by Robert Kajiwara.

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 1:

    • Students will create a video introducing themselves to the class. Please include the following information:

      • Your name that you are registered in the school under.

      • Your preferred name if different from your registered name.

      • Your academic background.

      • Your future academic or career plans.

      • Any background you might have in Ryukyu studies.

      • Your hobbies

      • Anything else you would like to share with the class

  • Discussion Board 1: Describe some elements of prehistoric Ryukyu society.

Module Two: The Gusuku Period & Early Relations with China

Focuses on the first gusuku (castles) starting around the ninth century. Briefly studies the failed Mongol invasions of Ryukyu. Focuses heavily on the Three Kingdoms period of the 13th century, along with the start of formal political relations with China. Also covers the first Chinese settlement in Ryukyu and the introduction of Chinese cultural and political elements. Students will briefly examine Ryukyu historiography and the differences in sources and viewpoints (Ryukyuan, American, Japanese).

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapters 2-4.

  • Pearson, Richard J. Archeology of the Ryukyu Islands. University of Hawaii Press. 1969.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the gusuku. When did they first start to appear? Describe their appearance and how they were built. What roles did they have in Ryukyu society?

  2. Why did Ryukyuans first seek formal political relations with China? What were the advantages or disadvantages of the Ryukyu-China relationship for both sides?

  3. What are some of the similarities or differences between Ryukyu, Japanese, and American sources?

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 2: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 2: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 2).

  • Begin assembling your final paper based on your notes from this course so far.

Module Three: The First Ryukyu Golden Age

Covers Sho Hashi and the unification of Ryukyu under the Ryukyu Kingdom. Hashi introduced iron tools to Ryukyu, transforming Ryukyu’s socio-economic scene, and ushering in the First Ryukyu Golden Age. Examines Ryukyu trade, particularly with Southeast Asia. Covers the banning of weapons and the development of karate.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapters 5-6.

  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing: 1958. Chapter 5.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe some of the achievements of Sho Hashi.

  2. What elements led to the start of the First Ryukyu Golden Age?

  3. What are some of the differences in perspectives between Kajiwara and Kerr?

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 3: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 3: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 3).

  • Submit a Draft #1 of your Historical Overview paper.

Module Four: The Satsuma Invasion and Ryukyu in the 17th century

The decline of the First Sho Dynasty and the start of the Second. Examines the events occurring in Japan that led to the Satsuma Invasion of 1609. Also examines events in Ming Dynasty China that prevented the Ming from coming to Ryukyu’s aid. Examines the aftermath of the Satsuma Invasion on Ryukyu.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapters 7-9.

  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing: 1958. Chapter 7.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What brought about the decline of the First Sho Dynasty?

  2. What were the reasons for the Satsuma Invasion of 1609?

  3. What was the aftermath of the Satsuma Invasion on Ryukyu?

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 4: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 4: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 3).

Module Five: The Second Ryukyu Golden Age

Examines the Second Ryukyu Golden Age, the successes of the Second Sho Dynasty, and the further developments of Ryukyu politics, economics, and society. Examines increased cultural developments paving the way for modern Ryukyu culture. Examines relations with Qing Dynasty China, as well as the forced tributary relations with Japan, and how Ryukyu further Sinified in order to survive.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapters 10-11.

  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing: 1958. Chapter 9.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the impact on Ryukyu of its relationship with Japan.

  2. What paved the way for the Second Ryukyu Golden Age?

  3. Describe the elements of the Second Ryukyu Golden Age.

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 5: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 5: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 5).

  • Draft #2 Historical Overview paper.

Module Six: Japan Annexation & the Ryukyu Diaspora

Examines the forced annexation of Ryukyu by Imperial Japan starting in 1872 and culminating in 1879. Covers the impact annexation had on Ryukyu society as well as Japanese prejudice against Ryukyuans. Examines the start of the Ryukyu diaspora in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which thousands of Ryukyuans migrated overseas to Hawaii, the United States, China, South America, and elsewhere.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapters 12-13.

  • Kerr, George. Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing: 1958. Chapter 11.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the reasons for the start of the Ryukyu diaspora.

  2. What elements paved the way for Japan’s illegal annexation of Ryukyu?

  3. What was the impact of Japan’s annexation on Ryukyu?

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 6: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 6: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 6).

Module Seven: World War II and the Battle of Okinawa

Briefly covers Japan’s annexation of other Asian countries, such as China, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam, and compares these to the annexation of Ryukyu. Covers Japan’s military build up on Okinawa Island, which paved the way for the tragic Battle of Okinawa. Examines Japanese genocide against Okinawans.

Readings:

  • Higa, Tomiko. The Girl with the White Flag. Kodansha International. 2013.

  • Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020. Chapter 14.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What actions by the Japan military and government led to the Battle of Okinawa?

  2. How did Japan’s treatment of Ryukyu compare with its treatment of other countries it occupied?

  3. Describe the impact of the Battle of Okinawa on the Okinawan people.

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 7: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 7: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 7).

  • Final Paper Rough Draft.

Module Eight: Modern Ryukyu

Covers the immediate post-war rebuilding period, as well as further Okinawan migrations to South America. Examines the effects of tourism and the military in Ryukyu. Examines efforts by Ryukyu to regain its independence and retain their Ryukyu identity, both in Ryukyu and overseas.

Readings:

  • Kajiwara, Robert. Re-examining Okinawa’s Role in Asia-Pacific Security. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019.

  • Kajiwara, Robert. Occupied Okinawa: The United States of America and Japan’s Desecration of Okinawa’s Democracy and Environment. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019.

  • Okinawa Prefecture Government. What Okinawa Wants You to Understand About the U.S. Military Bases. 2018.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the impact of the military presence on Okinawa.

  2. Describe the modern Ryukyu diaspora.

  3. Describe modern efforts to restore Ryukyu history, culture, language, and independence.

Assignments:

  • Video Blog 8: Answer one of the three Discussion Questions.

  • Discussion Board 8: Answer one of the other Discussion Questions (different from the question you answered in Video Blog 8).

  • Final Paper.

Assignment Points

Discussion Boards: 8 Discussion Boards, worth 20 points each. Total = 160 points

Video Lectures: 240 points

Draft #1 of Historical Overview: 100 points

Draft #2 of Historical Overview: 100 points

Final Paper Rough Draft: 100 points

Final Paper: 300 points

951-1000 = A

901-950 = A-

851-900 = B

801-850 = B-

751-800 = C

701-750 = C-

651-700 = D

601-650 = D-

1-600 = F

Students should be able to dedicate around 12 hours per week to this course. Actual time may vary based on the needs of individual students.

Assignment Instructions

Discussion Boards: All discussion board posts must be between 350-500 words. Students should respond to three discussion board posts from other students. Discussion board responses should be between 100-200 words long. Students should also respond to at least one comment received from another student on their own original post. Posts that fall short or go over the word limit will have points deducted.

Video Blogs: All video blogs should be between 3:30-5:00 in length. Videos that go over or under the required time limit will be penalized.

Draft #1 Historical Overview: This should be a 2-3 page paper, double-spaced, of your notes and writings from the course so far. Cite sources in Chicago style. The writing should be in your own words. If quoting directly from another author, be sure to assign proper credit.

Draft #2 Historical Overview: This should be a 4-6 page paper, double-spaced, of your notes and writings from the course so far. This paper should expand upon your previous Draft #1. Cite sources in Chicago style. The writing should be in your own words. If quoting directly from another author, be sure to assign proper credit.

Final Paper Rough Draft: This should be an 8-10 page paper, double-spaced, of your notes and writings from the course so far. This rough draft should expand upon both Draft #1 and Draft #2. Cite sources in Chicago style. The writing should be in your own words. If quoting directly from another author, be sure to assign proper credit.

Final Paper: This should be a 10-12 page paper, double spaced, of your notes and writings from the course so far. This paper should be a culmination and expansion of Draft #1, Draft #2, and your Final Paper Rough Draft. Cite sources in Chicago style. The writing should be in your own words. If quoting directly from another author, be sure to assign proper credit. This paper should demonstrate your general knowledge of Ryukyu history and your ability to explain a basic overview of Ryukyu history using academic writing and sources.

Required Reading

Higa, Tomiko. The Girl with the White Flag. Kodansha International. 2013.

Kajiwara, Robert. An Overview of Ryukyu History. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2020.

Kajiwara, Robert. Re-examining Okinawa’s Role in Asia-Pacific Security. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019.

Kajiwara, Robert. Occupied Okinawa: The United States of America and Japan’s Desecration of Okinawa’s Democracy and Environment. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019.

Kerr, George. Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tuttle Publishing: 1958.

Okinawa Prefecture Government. What Okinawa Wants You to Understand About the U.S. Military Bases. 2018.

Pearson, Richard J. Archeology of the Ryukyu Islands. University of Hawaii Press. 1969.

Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask receives national recognition for scholarship for the public good

University of Hawaii News recently published an article talking about how Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask was presented an award by the American Studies Association for her scholastic work for the public good. Dr. Trask is a hugely important figure not only for Hawaiians, but for other indigenous peoples around the world, such as Okinawans and Native Americans.

Here’s the link to the article:

Haunani-Kay Trask receives national recognition for scholarship for the public good

Racism within academia

My recent experiences with racism within academia has significantly grown my appreciation for Dr. Haunani-Kay Trask, the legendary Hawaiian professor at the University of Hawaii who did so much to advance Hawaiian rights, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples all over the world, such as Native Americans and Ryukyu / Okinawans. Trask particularly had a huge impact on improving the rights of indigenous peoples within academia. Of course, she was attacked mercilessly by many critics at the time who called her “extreme.” Actually though, looking back on the things she said, they no longer seem particularly extreme, but seem rather normal or even mild compared to some of the rhetoric we hear today. This is in large part due to the efforts of Dr. Trask, who laid the foundation for other indigenous scholars to build off of.

Here’s a video of Dr. Trask giving a speech at the University of Hawaii regarding racism within academia. It’s around three decades old, and I was just a very small keiki at the time. But it provides a glimpse of the incredible amount of racism and prejudice that Dr. Trask had to go through at the University of Hawaii.

Today the University of Hawaii is still far from perfect, as the recent controversy surrounding Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope suggests. But it has come an awful long way in the last several decades, thanks to Dr. Trask and others who worked so hard for so long.

 

Marlon Brando’s 1973 speech regarding Native Americans

In 1973 Marlon Brando turned down an Oscar for his role in the Godfather due to the poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry, and in American society in general. He asked Sacheen Littlefeather to read a speech at the Oscar’s for him, but she was not allowed to, and was booed, heckled, and even threatened with physical violence by John Wayne. For the first time in 45 years, Littlefeather reads her speech: