Opukahaia, Hawaiian native, went to Yale divinity school, became a devout Christian and charismatic speaker, and persuaded the missionaries to come to Hawaii.

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — “Native Of Owhyhee” is a feature documentary film about the history of Hawaii focusing especially on the cooperative blending of native and Western cultures during the 1800s, and the role of the American missionaries.

The film shows Hawaiian history over a period of many centuries, emphasizing the blending of cultures, the growth of literacy, and native adoption of Christianity as chiefs and commoners welcomed missionaries from New England. It has 56 expert speakers and 10 Hawaiian narrators; over 1,000 historical images; historical film-clips; great original Hawaiian music; and spectacular cinematography. Further information about contents is provided below.

The 390-minute film is divided into three parts, each 2 hours and 11 minutes. Each part will be broadcast in Honolulu on ‘Olelo TV at least 4 times from Tuesday October 25 to Friday November 18. Each part is already available worldwide “on demand” at the ‘Olelo website, free of charge, at any time a viewer chooses. People living on O’ahu should watch the broadcast on TV for maximum enjoyment of its beautiful cinematography. People not home at the times of the broadcasts can use their recording device, which will also allow them to view again any specific scenes of special interest. The first cycle of broadcasts will be

  • Part 1: Tues 10/25/11 NATV Channel 53, 1:00 pm to 3:11 p.m.
  • Part 2: Thurs 10/27/11 FOCUS digital channel 122-8, noon to 2:11 p.m.
  • Part 3: Thurs 10/27/11 NATV Channel 53, 7:00 pm to 9:11 p.m.

A webpage provides a link to the 3-minute trailer, broadcast schedule when each of the three parts will be broadcast four times scattered over a month-long period, link to view the film “on demand”, details about the contents of the film, a list of all the speakers and narrators in the order of appearance, contact information for the filmmaker and producer, and links to webpages about Henry Opukaha’ia and the role of religion (both native and Christian) in Hawaii’s history. See http://tinyurl.com/3z9lcvp

Part 1 of the film focuses on events in Hawaii before 1820, while Parts 2 and 3 trace the role of the missionaries and the cooperative mingling of cultures during the following decades, as Hawaii became a constitutional monarchy with private land ownership, the rule of law, and one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

The history of Hawaii began over 1,000 years ago. It continued with Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778, and the unification of Hawaii by Kamehameha The Great using British military advisors and weapons. The ancient religion was abolished in 1819, the year before the missionaries arrived, by order of King Kamehameha II, regent and co-ruler Ka’ahumanu, and High Priest Hewahewa. Meanwhile several young native sailors had gone to America and made their way to Yale divinity school starting around 1810.

Henry Opukaha’ia was one of them. As a child he fled the murder of his parents by Kamehameha’s warriors, although his baby brother was killed by a spear thrown at Opukahai’a while he was running away and carrying his brother on his back. He escaped to America, and was given refuge in the homes of professors at Yale Divinity School where he became a fervent Christian and a great orator. He begged American missionaries to come to Hawaii to save his people from their heathen ways. He died before the voyage.

But 3 of the other Hawaiian natives at Yale, including Humehume (George Kaumuali’i, the Crown Prince of Kaua’i), accompanied the first group of missionaries on the journey from Yale to Hawaii, and helped them learn Hawaiian. They arrived in 1820 after a trip of 164 days and 18,000 miles. The film traces the lives of the missionaries and the Hawaiian natives (including other Hawaiians in New England), and their descendants, through several decades.

Filmmaker Jo Danieli says: “I would like to quote Kumu Rubellite Kawena Kinney Johnson, one kupuna speaking in the film: “Spirit is not racial, it is universal”, and that is indeed the motto of the film. History can never be seen from one perspective only, but it is a summary of all experiences and their interpretations. We honor our ancestors — all of them. The world is only divided if we think so.”

The film was rejected in two different years by the left-leaning Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF), probably because it portrays the missionaries in a positive light.

This is the same HIFF which, in a recent year, gave its award for “best documentary” to a rabidly anti-American propaganda film “Noho Hewa” [Illegal Occupation] about the alleged U.S. “military invasion” of Hawaii in 1893 and continuing allegedly belligerent military occupation of Hawaii to this day. The “Native of Owhyhee” film is thus “politically incorrect” in today’s atmosphere of sovereignty activism where America is blamed as an invader and occupier of Hawaii, the missionaries are portrayed as people who “came to do good and did very well indeed”, and the ancient religion is being revived as a political weapon in an effort to push out European, American, and Asian religious and cultural influences.

The filmmaker was diligent to avoid having her film shaped by major Hawaiian institutions with sovereignty political agendas, such as OHA, Kamehameha Schools, and Pacific Islanders in Communication.

It is a truly independent film by Jo Danieli, a woman of deep spirituality, who divides her time between Maui and her native Austria. Co-producer and post-production editor Robert C. Stone, of Stoneman Productions in Makawao Maui, has produced several other documentary films portraying native religions and cultures.

Another film co-produced by Mr. Stone — “When The Mountain Calls: Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan” — will show on Maui the weekend of November 5, and on O’ahu and Kaua’i the weekend of November 11. That film’s website is at http://www.whenthemountaincalls.com/

For further information about “Native of Owhyhee” including the broadcast schedule, links to the ‘Olelo TV website for “on demand” viewing, a list of all the speakers and narrators in the order of appearance, contact information for the filmmaker and producer, and links to webpages about Henry Opukaha’ia and the role of religion (both native and Christian) in Hawaii’s history, please visit http://tinyurl.com/3z9lcvp

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for the notice, Professor Conklin. (I just wanted to get that in before the rabid, incoherent attacks against you begin.)

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