Birth of a princess noted

Dec. 19, 1831, a daughter was born to Ke Ali’i Abner Paki and Laura Konia in Honolulu. The infant was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great and would exert a lasting influence on the kingdom, territory and state.

Princess Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop founded Kamehameha Schools, setting aside the bulk of her estate – now encompassing nearly 365,800 acres – as the source of revenue for the schools with a five-member board of trustees, appointed by the Hawaii Supreme Court, in charge of the schools and the estate. She bequeathed Molokai Ranch to her husband.

Each year, students at Kamehameha Schools honor her by observing Founder’s Day. The end of the tradition-steeped ceremonies is the start of Christmas vacation for the students at all of the campuses, including Maui’s.

Princess Pauahi was a student at the Chiefs’ Children’s School when she met Charles Reed Bishop, the son of a farmer in Glens Falls, N.Y., who became collector of customs for the kingdom in 1849 after signing an oath to “support the Constitution and Laws of the Hawaiian Islands.” It was only the first of many high government posts he held under four Hawaiian monarchs.

Bishop courted Princess Pauahi despite her parents’ objections and married her in 1850. After her death in 1884, Bishop wrote: “I know you all loved her, for nobody could know her at all well and not love her.”

At the time of her birth, the native population numbered about 124,000. When she wrote her will in 1883, only 44,000 Native Hawaiians remained. “Her heart was heavy when she saw the rapid diminution of the Hawaiian people” and she “felt responsible and accountable” for having so much, her husband said.

The princess hoped, Bishop said, “That there would come a turning point, when, through enlightenment, the adoption of regular habits and Christian ways of living, the natives would not only hold their own in numbers, but would increase again like the people of other races.”

Princess Pauahi decided to name her schools Kamehameha in honor of her great-grandfather and the dynasty he founded. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the last member of the dynasty, but her name and her concern for her people have survived for 125 years – a lasting legacy that should continue.

(A version of this editorial has appeared in prior years in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.