E. Helekunihi ‘s visit to Niihau in 1871 – Part 1

In Sept. 1871, Mr. E. Helekunihi visited Ni‘ihau and wrote an account of his sojourn there that was published in the Hawaiian newspaper “Ke Au Okoa.”

The first part of that account is as follows, and the second will appear in a future Island History.

He wrote: “The Island of Ni‘ihau is good. It is a pleasant land continually cooled by breezes from the ocean which spread over it a fine sea spray.

“Cactus is the commonest plant here, covering about one third of the island. The green coloring is a restful sight. When the light of the sun shines upon the silvery green of the plant, the image comes back to the eye as a pleasant scene, just like a forest.

“The water on Ni‘ihau comes from wells. When the heavy rains come, the wells are filled and, because of the clay, the water is white like cow’s milk or water in which poi is washed.

“Because of the whiteness, strangers call it ‘milk water.’ If the natives had not explained this to us, we would not have drunk it.

“The west side is the side where the people dwell. There is a fine road there, good and level, and better than Kauai roads.

“A fence separates the horses from cattle at Ki‘i, and the natives have enclosures for their plantings so that the land is crisscrossed with fences. A low stone wall, four and one half miles long, crosses the island from Kamalino to Oiamoi.

“The people of Ni‘ihau do not own a single dog. There is just one dog on the island, the shepherd owned by the white chief (Francis Sinclair). There is not the sound of a dog’s bark from one end of the island to the other.

“The bodies of the Ni‘ihau people are good and strong because everyone works regularly, men and women. There were only three deaths this year.

“Some of the work is done for the whites at regular pay; some for themselves and some for the konohiki.”

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. kauaidoug February 1, 2020 2:17 pm Reply

    As a tour guide here on Kauai I really appreciate these glimpses of history. I find the picture of the homestead of Ms Sinclair fascinating.

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