Hawai'i in History
by Amy Hoff
From the lone shieling to the misty island Mountains
divide us, and the waste of seas! Still, the blood is
strong- the heart is Highland! and we in dreams behold
the Hebrides. Fair these broad meads, these hoary woods
are grand... but we are exiles from our fathers’ land.
—Canadian boat song, of disputed authorship
The history of both Hawai’i and Scotland are almost
the same. Two tribal nations embroiled in conflict with
an oppressive foreign party intent on taking over, illegally
if necessary. Both peoples went through a time where
their clothing, language, music, and very way of life
was outlawed. Both nations seek sovereignty today, with
the memories of the wrongs visited upon them in the
past. Together, perhaps we can learn that division only
helps those in power; that Hawaiians and malihini alike
must unite to see change come.
Kaiulani and father
For several centuries, Scotland’s enemy was England,
her neighbor to the south. Even the Romans came from
that direction in order to subjugate Scotland’s people,
who were one of the few societies that remained free
from Roman rule because of their fierce warriors. Later,
England would see the Scots as barbaric and strange,
and believe they had rights to the northern lands inhabited
by these warlike people.
The Scottish people come from three distinct groups:
the Picts, the original tribespeople of Scotland; the
Irish Scotti tribe, and the invading Vikings.
The people of Scotland lived under a clan system, or
tribal system, with a chief at the head. Initially,
women fought alongside men, and this was a widespread
practice; in the ancient tales, Scathach was the warrior
woman of Skye who trained the mighty Cuchulain in battle,
as the early Scots believed that women only trained
men, and men only trained women to fight. Children were
taken very seriously, and none would abuse or misuse
them, because they had the clan’s protection. Women
and children were seen as the future of the clan, and
in some ways were considered more important than men.
An oddity in both Scottish and Irish history is that
both countries became Christian long before most others,
and without outside missionary influence, force, or
violence; several Pictish kings were Christian. It is
the one example of a peaceful conversion in the world.
Their Christianity was much different than Roman Christianity,
as they just put Christ at the head of everything else
they believed in, as they too had been visited by the
‘wise men of the east’, and believed their teachings.
So they continued to believe in faeries, brownies, and
silkies while also believing in Christ. To the rest
of Europe, this was a strange world with strange beliefs,
the people wore odd clothing and the women were allowed
to fight. So they were considered savages, and their
thoughts and feelings did not matter to those who would
For several centuries, the Highlanders were virtually
unknown to outsiders. They never left their glens for
much of anything. They came down to fight in certain
wars, such as the War of Independence to assist Robert
the Bruce in attaining the throne. It was not until
the mid-1500s that they are much written about in history.
However, those in the Borders and Lowlands had contact
with the English throughout this time. Borderers are
known for their rebellion and their wildness; Lowlanders
are considered almost the same as the English: money-oriented,
dull, sometimes traitorous. However, Scotland’s famous
poet, Robert Burns, came from Ayrshire in the Lowlands,
so these are mere generalizations. The Scots dialects
are a kind of pidgin, as the Scots were forced to learn
English instead of their native Gaelic. It is sometimes
said that the reason Highlanders sound more English
is because war forced them to learn the foreign tongue,
whereas the Lowlanders and Borderers learned it slowly
over time due to proximity. It is also said that those
in the Borders have a more pronounced accent because
they want to make absolutely sure they are differentiated
from the English.
One thing most of the Scots agreed on was Bonnie Prince
Charlie. Called The Young Pretender’ because of his
Catholicism (royalty in Britain alternated between Protestant
and Catholic, and they were not supposed to have a Catholic
on the throne twice in a row), the Scots felt that he
and his father, James Stuart, were the true royal line.
They put everything on the line for him, so heroic and
charming was he. However, his military experience was
not great, and many turned against him before the end.
It came to a final head at the battle of Culloden Field,
where the Scottish army was destroyed by the English;
peasants and cattle alike were slaughtered by the unforgiving
Sassunnach, who did not want the savages to get away
with trying to place the rightful, Scottish king on
the British throne. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped, spirited
across the sea to Skye by Flora MacDonald. He died alone,
a serious drunk, in Rome, his country forever lost.
Following Culloden, the Act of Proscription went out
among the people, forbidding the wearing of tartan,
playing of the bagpipes, ownership of weaponry, and
the speaking of Gaelic, the Highlanders’ native tongue.
Punishment for disobeying the law was death, or being
sent into slavery in the colonies. This law stayed in
effect for thirty-six years, and oddly the first man
who broke this law in Scotland was black! Perhaps there
was a kind of racial sympathy in his heart.
The Scots were then forced to starve or to ship out;
several of them were rounded up and sold as slaves to
southern plantations. Others were exiled to areas of
the world designated for prisoners; sometimes America,
sometimes Australia or New Zealand. Many other Scots
trying to escape these dreadful times went to Canada,
as it was under British rule and easier to enter than
the United States, where they may not have had equal
footing with others, as is evident with the Irish in
the following century, who had to face signs in store
windows reading, No Irish Need Apply. So the Scots were
homeless, landless, forced to wander foreign lands and
find some place to call home.
Many Scots who were forced to travel discovered shadows
of their homeland in other native peoples they encountered,
and therefore tended to intermarry with Native Americans
and other tribal people. In fact, Chief Kooweskoowe,
the greatest Cherokee chief, was named John Ross, and
was a Native American/ Scot. There are several examples
of this occurring anywhere the Scots set foot. Hawai’i
was no different.
Captain James Cook was raised in England, but he had
Scottish parents. It would be interesting to investigate
how he felt about Scottish politics, as the Act of Proscription
may have happened within his own, and definitely within
his parents’, lifetime. It is evident in the fact that
he named some of the South Pacific islands he encountered
after Scotland, such as New Caledonia and the New Hebrides.
Not that he had any right to do so, but it is an example
that he was proud of his heritage.
Kamehameha the Great’s enterprising spirit and intelligence
in war told him that Scotsman John Young (from England,
probably of Scottish parentage), and Welshman Isaac
Davis were just what he needed to help win the wars
that brought the islands together under his rule. They
manned the cannon during the battle in Maui between
King Kahekihi and his men. The cannon was a major reason
for his victory. Young was made a high chief, and was
advisor and friend to the great king; he brought western
knowledge of war and tactics to the king, as well as
opinions on the state of the Hawaiian nation. He married
a Hawaiian woman, and their granddaughter Emma would
become the wife of Kamehameha IV.
Captain Alexander Adams was also a confidant to Kamehameha,
and served on the battle fleet under Young’s command.
It is said that Adams was the one who helped Kamehameha
to decide what the Hawaiian flag would look like, as
up to that point the Union Jack alone was flown on Hawaiian
Kamehameha also, along with other ali’i, seceded the
islands to Great Britain while he was with Vancouver
on the ship Discovery. Although the Hawaiians exclaimed,
‘We are men of Britain!’ at the time, the secession
was never rati- fied by the rulers of Great Britain,
but it began long and friendly ties between Hawai’i
and that country.
During the plantation era, the overseers were all hired
from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland’s College
of Agriculture. This led to the nicknaming of the Hamakua
Coast, ‘The Scottish Coast’. James Makee, celebrated
in the ‘Hula O Makee’, was the owner of Ulupalakua Ranch,
which he renamed Rose Ranch and planted sugar. He was
a famous Scottish sea captain that had been wounded
in a Honolulu waterfront brawl. James Campbell on Oahu
thought there was a way to irrigate the dry Ewa Plain
to produce sugar and discovered a vast freshwater table
that brings water to the people of Honolulu to this
Robert Louis Stevenson
King Kalakaua spent part of his trip around the world
in Scotland, which he preferred to England because he
felt that the Scots treated him more like a king. In
London, he felt as though they saw him as more of an
oddity. Kalakaua knew Robert Louis Stevenson, as well
as his sister’s husband, Archibald Cleghorn, both of
whom hailed from Edinburgh. Cleghorn and Stevenson both
had a great love of the Hawaiian people, a love perhaps
engendered by the fact that they were tribal desendants
themselves, and the tribes were still very much alive
in the memory of the elders of their time. Kalakaua
appointed Cleghorn to the House of Nobles, and later,
Queen Lili’uokalani made him the governor of Oahu. A
skilled horticulturalist and businessman, Cleghorn helped
found Ka’iulani Park and built Ainahau, one of Hawai’i’s
most beautiful estates. ‘Ainahau was supposed to have
been an eternal monument to Ka’iulani’s memory, but
none of it remains today.
Robert Crichton Wyllie, another Scotsman, was appointed
Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1798, and got Hawai’i
recognized as an independent nation. He was the most
vocal against what he predicted would be the illegal
annexation of Hawai’i as a part of the United States.
He engineered every treaty with foreign nations stating
the independence of the Hawaiian kingdom. After Wyllie’s
death, the Hawaiian Gazette of October 21, 1865, read:
“The death of such a man can not but be regarded as
a national calamity. There is not a Hawaiian, from one
end of the Islands to the other, but who, when he hears
of Mr. Wyllie’s death, will say – ‘There went a true
friend of our King and His People.’”
The daughter of Archibald Cleghorn and Princess Likelike,
the beautiful and intelligent Ka’iulani, was half Scottish,
half Hawaiian. She befriended the famous writer, Robert
Louis Stevenson, while he lived in the islands. He wrote
her beautiful poetry, and some said they were in love,
although their age difference calls this idea into question.
Stevenson wrote her a goodbye poem when she was on her
way to England to study, and she heard of the overthrow
of the Hawaiian monarchy while she was in Great Britain.
Archibald Cleghorn, her father, had then lived in two
nations that were illegally overthrown by an oppressive
superpower. It must have been strange indeed to see
his wife and daughter in such distress, and to know
the other land he loved shared the same fate as his
North Sea home. Ka’iulani is still fondly remembered
today for her beauty, her spirit, and her dedication
Today, St. Andrew’s Societies and the Highland Games
keep the Scottish spirit alive in the Hawaiian islands.
Hawai’i even has its own state tartan. Many hapa haole
people have a Scottish ancestor, or Scottish parent.
Scotland’s history is just as heroic, passionate, and
beautiful as Hawai’i’s, and teaches a great deal about
what can be learned by researching the past. We are
not so different. Finding our similarities may be what
brings us all in Hawai’i, both malihini and kanaka maoli,
to a greater understanding and friendship, to affect
the change we are all hoping for, in the recognition
of our own sovereign nations, the kingdom of Scotland-
and the kingdom of Hawai’i.
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appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and
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