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Haumāna from St. Andrew’s Schools give the gift of hula in Bishop’s honor during a Founder’s Day celebration at Mauna ‘Ala in 2019.

Celebrating Charles Reed Bishop

Jan. 25, 2021

Contributed by Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group

In the familiar Founder’s Day mele, “He Inoa No Pauahi” composed for Princess Pauahi by Prince Leleiōhoku, the inoa “Hiʻilei” (to cherish a beloved child) is mentioned and is held by many to be an endearing reference to Charles Reed Bishop.

Born in New York on January 25, 1822, Bishop came to Hawaiʻi in 1846. A successful businessman, he fell in love with Pauahi Pākī while she was at the Royal School. She was in love as well: she asked to be released from betrothal to Lot Kapuāiwa, the future King Kamehameha V. Pauahi and Bishop married in 1850; her parents high chiefs Abner Pākī and Laura Konia overcame their initial concerns when he proved to have the interests of Pauahi and the Kamehamehas at heart.

The mana of the Bishop’s marriage made Charles a trusted advisor to the aliʻi, and he served the monarchy in a variety of offices between 1859 and 1891. Pauahi’s cousin Keʻelikōlani, herself a brilliant woman, chose Bishop to be the executor of her estate.

The Bishops were a power couple, dedicating their lives to service and philanthropy. Queen’s Hospital, Kapiʻolani Hospital, Punahou School, Mid–Pacific Institute, Sacred Hearts Academy, and St. Andrew’s Priory are among the many organizations they supported. When Pauahi passed in 1884, Bishop worked for the rest of his life to enact her vision for the Kamehameha Schools, contributing his own funds towards the building of the Preparatory Department (elementary and middle schools), Bishop Hall, and the Bishop Memorial Chapel. He established the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in memory of his wife. To this day, the Charles Reed Bishop Trust continues to provide for the upkeep of MaunaʻaAla, the resting place of our aliʻi.

In 1894, a year after the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Bishop decided he would start life over in San Francisco. He maintained ties with School leadership over the years and continued to advise on matters of education and finances. Following his passing on June 7, 1915, his ashes were brought back to Hawaiʻi and interred at Mauna ‘Ala in the Kamehameha Crypt next to his beloved Pauahi.

For reasons unclear, some have questioned Bishop’s role and have curiously portrayed him as a conspirator against the monarchy and an enemy of the lāhui. However, Hawai’i’s well-documented history simply does not bear that out. Instead, there is a wealth of widely available historical evidence that illuminates him as a man of integrity who placed the interests of the Hawaiian people first, and through his noble actions had gained the whole-hearted trust of our aliʻi and the Hawaiian people.

“Eia iho ka mehana o ka poli o Hi‘ilei.”

Charles Reed Bishop Founder’s Day Programs

The Kamehameha Schools ‘ohana honored the legacy of Charles Reed Bishop with virtual convocations. Here is a glimpse at our haumāna and staff celebrating Bishop in mele, dance and mo‘olelo.

KS Hawai’i / KS Maui joint Founder’s Day convocation
KS Kapālama Elementary School Founder’s Day convocation
KS Kapālama Middle School Founder’s Day convocation

Charles Reed Bishop married Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi in 1850. Through their 34 years of marriage and up until his death, he steadfastly advanced their shared vision of creating Kamehameha Schools. Bishop believed in the transformative power of education and supported many other schools, helping to shape the future of education in Hawaiʻi.

founder's day,charles reed bishop

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