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Ke Ali‘i Pauahi signed her will on October 31, 1883.

Kūkahekahe: Pauahi’s Will and the Boys School

Nov. 2, 2021

Contributed by Communications Staff

In this Kūkahekahe, we celebrate the 138-year anniversary of Pauahi signing her will which established Kamehameha Schools, and the 134-year anniversary of the opening of the first campus.

On Oct. 31, 1883, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop signed her last will and testament. The thirteenth codicil established the Kamehameha Schools:

Article 13 - “I give, devise, and bequeath all of the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate real and personal, wherever situated unto the trustees below named, their heirs and assigns forever, to hold upon the following trusts, namely: to erect and maintain in the Hawaiian Islands two schools, each for boarding and day scholars, one for boys and one for girls, to be known as, and called the Kamehameha Schools...”

In total, Pauahi’s personal estate encompassed 485,563 acres of land throughout Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina. Approximately 353,000 acres of land were given to her by her beloved kaikua‘ana, cousin, Ruth Ke‘elikōlani. These lands including parcels from Ke‘elikōlani’s father Mataio Kekūanāo‘a, half-brother Lot Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V), half-brother Moses Kekūāiwa, half-sister Victoria Kamāmalu, and hānai son William Pitt Leleiōhoku.

Pauahi had also received inheritances from her father Abner Pākī, mother Laura Konia, aunt ‘Akahi, and uncle Mahune. Pauahi’s husband, Charles Reed Bishop, also contributed greatly to her land estate by purchasing sacred wahi pana so that they could be placed under her purview and protection. The Bishops had already set precedent by acquiring lands they deemed were sacred and historical and worthy of preserving when Mr. Bishop purchased the ahupuaʻa of Hōnaunau in South Kona, Hawaiʻi, as a gift for his wife in 1867.  Testimonies describe how a great lūʻau celebration followed the ceremonial planting of an ulu niu (coconut grove) in the area east of Keoneʻele Cove which Pauahi herself participated in.  The acquisition of lands in Waipiʻo (referred to as the Valley of the Kings) was also made because of the historical and sacred nature of the valley and the desire to protect these lands into perpetuity.    

As an aliʻi, Pauahi felt a great kuleana to her lāhui and sought to care and provide for them in perpetuity. She began to design, alongside her husband, a legacy to uplift her people through education. Mr. Bishop wrote, “The improvement of young Hawaiians was an object and desire constantly near to the heart of the founder of the Schools.” He further elaborated upon Pauahi’s true intentions and motivations for founding this institution in the inaugural Founder’s Day Address given on December 19, 1888, stating:

“Bernice Pauahi Bishop, by founding the Kamehameha Schools, intended to establish institutions which should be of lasting benefit to her country; and also to honor the name of Kamehameha, the most conspicuous name in Polynesian history, a name with which we associate ability, courage, patriotism, and generosity. The founder of these schools was a true Hawaiian. She knew the advantages of education and well-directed industry. Industrious and skillful herself, she respected those qualities in others.”

Following Pauahi’s passing on October 16, 1884, Mr. Bishop and trustees sought to execute the directives of her will, foremost among them the construction of a school.

A little more than three years after Pauahi passed, preparations for the opening of the Boys School were nearly complete. A workshop, dining hall, and the first two dormitories had been built at the Kaiwiʻula campus, where the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum stands today. An invitation had been sent to all Hawaiian boys over the age of 12 to take the admission test, and on October 3, thirty-seven boys arrived on campus to begin their schooling.

One month after welcoming its first students, the Kamehameha School for Boys held its official dedication ceremony on November 4, 1887. Beloved Kamehameha Schools staff member and respected cultural resource Dr. Donald Kilolani Mitchell wrote, in his publication “Kū Kilakila ʻO Kamehameha: A Historical Account of the Campuses of the Kamehameha Schools,” that:

“King Kalākaua addressed the boys in Hawaiian and his remarks were then translated into English. He told the boys that ‘the name the school bears is the name of one who was famous first of all for habits of industry in the fields before he became famous as a warrior.’ He emphasized that it was not simply the work of the hands that would lead to success in life, but the intelligence for which His Majesty urged the boys to strive.”

Today, our many campuses and sites continue to serve our Hawaiian community, and we blessed to be a part of Ke Aliʻi Pauahi’s important legacy. Mahalo nui loa e Ke Aliʻi Pauahi, for your incredible foresight and strength of character. You serve as a beacon of light for your people and will forever be loved and revered.

For more on these special celebrations, visit our Kaʻiwakīloumoku website!
The Last Will and Testament of Bernice Pauahi Bishop
The Founding of Kamehameha Schools

The Kamehameha Schools for Boys at Kaiwiʻula, Oʻahu, the site of the present-day Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Circa early 1900s. Photo Courtesy of Bishop Museum.

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