- Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa 'Ī'ī by Marie Alohalani Brown
More than a century after the 17 January 1893 coup that toppled Ke Aupuni Mō'ī o Kō Hawai'i Pae'āina (the Constitutional Monarchy of the Hawaiian Islands), we, in academia and the general public, know relatively little about the 'Ōiwi (Native) men and women who helped lead the Hawaiian nation prior to the Islands coming under non-Native control. In Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa 'Ī'ī, Marie Alohalani Brown takes up the task of bringing us all much closer to an 'Ōiwi man whom US Consul to Hawai'i Gorham D Gilman characterized as "the most important civilian in the nation" (109). In doing so, Brown, an assistant professor of religion at the University of Hawai'i, seeks a broader mission—illuminating the intellectual history of her ancestors in order to help reshape the narrated identity of these men and women and the self-identity of 'Ōiwi of her own era. In this formative publication, Brown achieves these goals and something even more impactful: the buttressing and expansion of an 'Ōiwi-centered methodological bridge between scholars of today and figures of Hawai'i's past.
The life of Ioane Kaneiakama Papa 'Ī'ī—a man who served in a multitude of eminent government positions under five of the eight mō'ī [End Page 389] (monarchs) in Hawaiian Kingdom history—seems a particularly invaluable lens with which to view the nineteenth- century Hawaiian nation as it navigated tremendous change in realms political, social, physical, and spiritual. During 'Ī'ī's lifetime, 1800 to 1870, the Hawaiian nation lost approximately two-thirds of its population to introduced diseases. Conversion to an introduced religion, Christianity, saw ancient practices challenged and oftentimes suppressed. A relatively swift transformation from divine, absolute rule to constitutional monarchy confronted the limits of the nation's adaptation and fluidity. Yet, in the midst of the tumult, leaders of the Hawaiian Kingdom adeptly navigated these changes to achieve remarkable international feats: in 1843 Hawai'i became the first country of non-European provenance to be internationally recognized as a sovereign state; in 1852, its second kumukānāwai (constitution) sanctioned universal manhood suffrage, nearly a decade prior to the United States going to war with itself over the issue of slavery; and by the 1870s, the Hawaiian Kingdom could claim one of the highest literacy rates in the world. John Papa 'Ī'ī—personal attendant to several mō'ī, kahu (caretaker) to ancient deity, superintendent of schools, Privy Council member, Speaker of the House of Nobles, and a justice of the Hawaiian Kingdom Supreme Court—had a view from the center of it all. Brown explains, "As a privileged spectator and key participant, his accounts of Hawaiian ali'i [chiefs], and his insights into early nineteenth-century Hawaiian cultural-religious practices, are unsurpassed" (3). In addition to his having been a key political figure in the kingdom, 'Ī'ī's historical legacy is enhanced by the fact that he was also a vital Kanaka 'Ōiwi intellectual and published historian. Between 1836 and 1870, seventy-three pieces authored by 'Ī'ī were published by multiple native-language newspapers; Brown lists them in an appendix.
Brown's chronological account of 'Ī'ī's life begins where Kanaka 'Ōiwi life narratives are customarily rooted: in mo'okū'auhau (genealogy). A detailed accounting of 'Ī'ī's lineage, with accompanying charts, reveals how he came to his position in service of Hawai'i's divine rulers. The author explains, "The trajectory of 'Ī'ī's life was largely set long before his birth when two relatives, the hoahānau (siblings or cousins) Keaka and Luluka, accepted the responsibility of raising Kamehameha" (31). It was these familial ties that brought 'Ī'ī, at the age of ten years old, into close contact with the Royal Court. Brown makes clear the weight and potential consequences of this kuleana (responsibility/privilege) taken up...