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John Papa ʻĪʻī
Hawaiian man in western Victorian formal suit
Born 1800
Waipiʻo, Oʻahu
Died May 2, 1870
Children Irene

John or Keoni Papa ʻĪʻī (1800–1870) was a 19th century educator, politician and historian in the Kingdom of Hawaii.


ʻĪʻī was born in 1800 and raised under the traditional kapu system. He was the son of a chief of Kona and his wife. He was born at Waipiʻo, Ewa, Oʻahu.[1] His father and mother were of petty minor chiefs destined to serve the higher chiefs as retainers and kahu (babysitter) for their children. ʻĪʻī was trained from childhood for a life of service to the high chiefs. At the age of ten he was taken to Honolulu by his uncle Papa, a kahu (royal attendant) of Kamehameha I, to become a companion and personal attendant to Prince Liholiho, who became King Kamehameha II in 1819. ʻĪʻī was close to Liholiho during the young heir's instruction in the conduct of government and ancient religious rites. His master died in 1823 in England.[2]

After Liholiho's death, ʻĪʻī continued to serve the rulers of Hawai‘i and including being kahu for Victoria Kamamalu and hanai father of Mary Paaaina. ʻĪʻī was selected to be kahu of the students (effectively a vice principal) at the Chiefs' Children's School in 1840.[3] Throughout his life he was in constant contact with the political, religious, and social concerns of the court, as well as the common people.[4] ʻĪʻī was among the first Hawaiians to study reading and writing with the missionaries, yet although he adopted Christian teachings, he retained a profound love and respect for the culture of his ancestors.[2]

ʻĪʻī served as a general superintendent of Oʻahu schools and was an influential member in the court of Kamehameha III. In 1842, he was appointed by the king to the Treasury Board. He served as a member of the Privy Council 1845–1859 and in 1846 was appointed to the Board of Land Commissioners. ʻĪʻī served in the House of Nobles from 1841 to 1870. In 1852, he represented the House of Nobles in the drafting of the Constitution. He served as a member of the House of Representatives during the session of 1855. He served from 1848 as a superior court judge, and from 1852 to 1864 as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Kingdom.[5] ʻĪʻī died on May 2, 1870.


He left a first-hand account chronicled in a series of articles in the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Nupepa Ku'oko'a from 1866 until his death.[4] These were translated by Mary Kawena Pukui and published in 1959 as "Fragments of Hawaiian History",[6] which describes life under Kamehameha, through his personal experiences and descriptions of the pattern of Hawaiian culture during a period of great significance in the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom.[2] A second edition was edited by Dorothy Barrère and published in 1983.[7] His daughter was Irene Kahalelauko-a-Kamamalu ʻĪʻī and later called Mrs. Holloway. She was a court lady of Queen Liliuokalani.


  1. ^ Title details ('John Papa Ii')
  2. ^ a b c "Bishop Museum Press Authors". Bishop Museum. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  3. ^ Sheldon Dibble (1909). History of the Sandwich Islands. Honolulu: Thomas George Thrum. p. 291.  
  4. ^ a b Michael Tsai (July 2, 2006). "John Papa 'I'i". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  5. ^ "John Ii office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii.,%20John.jpg. Retrieved 2009-10-27.  
  6. ^ John Papa ʻĪʻī (1959). Fragments of Hawaiian history. Bishop Museum Press.  
  7. ^ John Papa ʻĪʻī (1983). Dorothy Barrère. ed. Fragments of Hawaiian history. Bishop Museum Press. ISBN 9780910240314.  


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