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Ke Ali'i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop (1831-1884)
Founder of Kamehameha Schools

In 1883, Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop bequeathed her entire estate for the establishment of a school to educate Hawaiian children. Today, her endowment supports the largest independent pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school in the United States.  Born December 19, 1831 in Honolulu, Hawai`i to High Chiefs Abner Paki and Laura Konia, Pauahi Paki was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united all the islands of Hawai`i under his rule in 1810. 
Educated by American Protestant missionaries, Pauahi Paki married a young American named Charles Reed Bishop from Glens Falls, New York. He was a widely respected and successful businessman who through banking, real estate, and other investments, became one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom.
When Pauahi Bishop was born in 1831, the native population numbered about 124,000.  When she wrote her will in 1883, only 44,000 Hawaiians remained. From childhood, Pauahi witnessed the steady physical and spiritual demise of Native Hawaiians.  Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawai`i in 1778 introduced foreign influences that weakened the traditional order of Hawaiian life and culture.  Diseases to which Hawaiians had no immunity caused tens of thousands of natives to die in epidemics.
Deeply troubled by the decline, Pauahi Bishop felt a lack of education helped precipitate that decrease.  As the heir to most of the lands of high-ranking Kamehameha chiefs, Pauahi “felt responsible and accountable” for having so much.  Her husband Charles Reed Bishop said, “Her heart was heavy when she saw the rapid diminution of the Hawaiian people going on decade after decade.”  She hoped, he said, “That there would come a turning point, when, through enlightenment, the adoption of regular habits and Christian ways of living, the natives would not only hold their own in numbers, but would increase again like the people of other races.”
In addition, “She wished to establish an institution bearing the name Kamehameha, for which name she had high respect and preference, and a hospital or hospitals and schools for boys and girls were mentioned, and in consideration of the Queen’s Hospital already established…it was decided that schools would be preferred, not for boys and girls of pure or part aboriginal blood exclusively, but that class should have preference.”  As a result, she left her estate, about nine percent of the total acreage of the Hawaiian kingdom, to found the Kamehameha Schools.
After Pauahi Bishop’s death on October 16, 1884, Charles Bishop, as president of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate’s Board of Trustees, ensured that his wife’s wish was fulfilled.  He generously provided his own funds for the construction of facilities and added some of his own properties to her estate. Until his death in 1915, he continued to guide her trustees in directions that reinforced Pauahi Bishop’s vision of a perpetual educational institution that would assist Native Hawaiians to become “good and industrious men and women.”

Pauahi’s original endowment has grown to become one of the most important trusts for Hawaiian people. Today, her estate encompasses nearly 365,800 acres of land in Hawai‘i which, combined with other assets, are valued at more than $6 billion. The revenue generated by these assets fund Kamehameha Schools’ educational programs and services for thousands of students statewide.

Over more than a century, the lives of thousands of Hawaiians have been touched by the generosity and legacy of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The words of Mrs. Pierre Jones, on the occasion of Founder’s Day, December 19, 1923, remind us of the gift Pauahi bestowed, and the kuleana those who have benefited must assume.

“The result of her wise disposition of her property, you young people all know too well. It is yours – you who live it each day of your lives. Without it, where would many of you be today? Think what a heritage Pauahi Bishop has left you, and when dark days and trials come, as come they will to us all, stop for a moment, look up, and realize what your Ali‘i has done for you, and take on courage and renewed strength for life’s battle.”

For Further Reading

Cobey Black and Kathleen Mellen.  Princess Pauahi and Her Legacy.  Honolulu, Hawai`i: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1965.
David A. Heenan & Warren Bennis.  Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Leaders.  New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.
George S. Kanahele.  Pauahi, the Kamehameha Legacy. Honolulu, Hawai`i: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1986.
Harold W. Kent.  Charles Reed Bishop, Man of Hawaii.  Palo Alto, California: Pacific Books, 1965.
Richards, Mary Atherton (editor).  Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke: Their Autobiographies Gleaned from Their Journals and Letters.  Honolulu, Hawai`i: The Daughters of Hawai`i, 1987.
Julie S. Williams.  Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.  Honolulu, Hawai`i: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1992.
Authorized by Trustees of Bernice P. Bishop Estate, Bishop Museum and Charles R. Bishop Estate.  Wills and Deeds of Trust, Third Edition, Honolulu, Hawai`i, 1957.