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Episode 34: The ‘Ai Noa and the arrival of the first missionaries with Davianna Pomaika‘i McGregor

The profound changes that began at the end of the 1700s—the coming of new diseases, new species, and capitalism—did not let up as the new century dawned; if anything, they accelerated. In the early 1800s, two major events transformed Hawai‘i further—one that came from within the culture, one that came from foreign shores. In 1819, the ‘Ai Noa occurred: Kamehameha’s son and heir, Liholiho, sat down to eat with Queen Ka‘ahumanu and by so doing officially broke the kapu system that for centuries had so powerfully codified Hawaiian life. Six months later, the ship Thaddeus sailed into Island waters bearing the first Christian missionaries to Hawai‘i, puritanical American men and women who had come from New England intent on converting souls to Jehovah. Here is UH M?noa professor Davianna Pomaika?i McGregor.

“Beginning with the ‘Ai Noa, that idea of land as sacred began to change, and as Christianity came in, it began to replace that value system, also because Christianity focused more on humans and salvation as people, whereas our traditional religion focused on the land and keeping the land healthy. You do have people who perpetuate the relationship to the land as sacred but because it’s no longer formally upheld, it’s not institutionalized.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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