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Humehume of Kaua‘i: A Boy’s Journey to America, an Ali‘i’s Return Home

Humehume was the firstborn son of Kaumuali‘i, the last great ali‘i nui to rule over Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. As a four-year-old, Humehume was sent to America and promised a Western education. He reached New England but received little schooling and was eventually abandoned. His father presumed him dead.

In actuality, Humehume survived his adverse childhood. After fifteen years of separation, he returned to Kaua‘i with the first group of Protestant missionaries and reunited with his father. According to observer Samuel Ruggles, when Humehume arrived, “his father arose, clasped him in his arms and pressed his nose to his son’s after the manner of the country; both were unable to speak for some time. The scene was truly affecting.”

Yet Humehume’s homecoming was bittersweet. The American missionaries expected him to be fully converted to Christianity and an example to his countrymen. But Humehume—as the son of Kaua‘i’s most powerful ruler—was expected to know the ways of his people and to follow the lead of his father. Humehume of Kaua‘i is the story of these conflicting expectations.

Humehume of Kaua‘i illuminates a specific time and place that have received little attention in the history books. The story of Humehume’s life also sheds light on Kaua‘i’s unique position in the larger context of Hawaiian history.

Douglas Warne with the collaboration of Holly Kilinahe Coleman

Softcover, 246 pp.

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