Story by Paul Wood
Photos by Elyse Butler
His Majesty King Kamehameha III was slightly older than 10 when he proclaimed in 1824: “He aupuni palapala ko‘u; o ke kanaka pono ‘oia ko‘u kanaka”—“Mine is the kingdom of education; the righteous man is my man.” In this he voiced the enthusiasm of his people, who were fascinated with the new Western technology they called palapala, the written word. As ordered by their chiefs, the Hawaiians flocked to reading classes. The best students went to live at a school founded by American missionaries in Lahaina, Maui, called Lahainaluna. Today the institution, a public high school with a boarding program that has sustained itself for almost two centuries, is “the oldest school west of the Rockies”—a quick catch phrase that compresses a deep and continuing Hawaiian story.