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October 2008 Blog Archives

A Kanaka named Nakaune

Maybe it's because I too left a warm place for a rainy place that the old stories of Hawaiians in the northwest have really begun to interest me.

Today I researched Hawaiian history in the PNW at the Oregon Historical Society to see what they had on file. It wasn't a lot, one skinny envelope in a library of files, but what I did find was great. Just over the river from me, in Vancouver Washington, hundreds of Hawaiians or "Kanakas" as they called themselves (which simply means "human being" in Hawaiian) lived and worked in Kanaka Village at Fort Vancouver.

As early as 1787, Hawaiians began traveling aboard the English ships coming through the Islands. They came to work mostly in the fur trade and also as indentured servants for the King in return for goods. By 1842, there were over 300 Hawaiians working for Hudson's Bay Trading alone.

Hawaiians could swim, an exceptional skill at the time, even among sailors. Their strength and size served them well in the backbreaking work of portage, hunting, sailing, canoeing, clearing land, farming, and logging. Their willingness to learn and outstanding work ethic made them high in demand. In an era when long distances were traversed by river and sea, Islanders were at home on the water, and in it, too. By 1898 when Hawai`i was annexed, thousands of Hawaiians had been employed in the Pacific Northwest.

One man in particular, Naukane - or John Coxe (or Cox) as he was called by his English boat mates, arrived in Astoria in 1811 to oversee the Hawaiians who had been sent to work in Oregon. He was a well rounded man, having supposedly witnessed the demise of Captain Cook and worked on King Kamehameha I's royal court as a hired observer.  Upon arrival in Astoria, he was quickly employed by North West Company and accompanied surveyor and mapmaker, David Thomson by canoe who portaged halfway across the continent to the company's supply depot and center at Fort William (Ontario) on Lake Superior.

“On Mr. Thompson’s departure, Mr. Stuart gave him one of our Sandwich Islanders, a bold and trustworthy fellow, named Cox, for one of his men, a Canadian ... Cox, again, was looked upon by Mr. Thompson as a prodigy of wit and humour” (Ross, 115).

While writing his memoirs several decades later, Thompson recalled Coxe’s physique and desire to master English rather than his sense of humor: “I exchanged a Man ... weak for the hard labor of ascending the River, for a powerful well made Sandwich Islander, (whom we named Coxe, from his resemblance to a seaman of that name;) he spoke some english, and was anxious to acquire our language” (Thompson, Travels, iii, 281).

In 1812 the ship "Isaac Todd" took Naukane to England. In 1813 he had returned to the Pacific Northwest. Naukane returned to Hawaii in 1815 and then was sent back to England by King Kamehameha (Liholiho) a second time. He moved again to the Pacific Northwest in 1827 where he worked at Fort Vancouver, raising pigs for Hudson's Bay Company. He died of tuberculosis sometime around 1840 and is buried somewhere near Fort Vancouver.

What strikes me about Naukane was his courage to leave his homeland, travel extensively (and successfully), then finally decide to settle in a cold, rainy place.  Islanders are amazing explorers and often travel great distances to unknown lands. I think often of returning to Hawai`i and always the cost of living and traffic (!) turn me back. There's over 50,000 persons of Hawaiian decent in Washington today and I wonder if they all feel completely at peace living so far from home. I think I will look into finding his gravsite. I don't know if Fort Vancouver recognizes him at all.

Doing My Duty
Sorry for the little break. Multnomah County has called and I've been selected for Jury Duty for the next few days. As I sit with a lanyard around my neck and a white tag that clearly states in big, black letters "JUROR", all I can think of is this...

Bless you, Tina Fey.

A Day of Laua`e

Ke Kukui Foundation sent a few of us to Oahu to do research and learn from our teacher's Kumuhula, Vicky Holt Takamine and her Foundation, Pa`i. One of the best days of the trip was spent going out to pick the fern, Laua`e which was to be used both as decoration and costume for their hula competition and upcoming tour to Japan. After downing a few Leonard's malasadas, we headed into the forest to collect twenty-five leaves each. Through a yard and up some steps, the six of us stopped at the bottom of the forest to oli or chant "E Ho Mai" and ask for permission before taking.

The wind had been blowing through the greenery when we entered but as soon as we finished the oli, it had completely stopped. "Let's do it again", said Aunty Deva. "E ho mai Ka ike mai luna mai e, O na mea huna no eau O na mele e, E ho mai, E ho mai, E ho mai e" which translates to: Grant us knowledge from above, All the wisdom of the songs. Grant, Grant, Grant us these things.

After our second attempt, the wind strangely returned and Aunty Deva said, "Okay, we can go now".  With leaves in hand, a few bug bites, scrapes and a trip to Long's Drugs to get benedryl for aforementioned bug bites later, we headed to Aunty Vicky's Mom, Tutu Holt to to clean the laua`e.

Tutu Holt is an amazing woman, dancer, artisan, cancer survivor and cultural fountainhead. She picked through our laua`e and showed us how to clean each one. "This one is junk" she would say and crumple it and throw it in the bucket.

As I looked around her home, I couldn't help but grab my camera and take a few shots. There was a deer head I missed and a weird dog statue and a number of things that were so charming to me. I didn't really want to impose on her, as she'd recently gone through cancer treatment she was concious of her house. Here are just a few I took from that day at her hale.

Burp! Cry! Poop!

Lots of babies happenin' these days. Everywhere I turn, dear friends are cranking them out as if it were nine months after the end of the war. I find it QUITE lovely and sweet to see my friends taking the next adult steps in life and becoming parental. Babies means baby things and shopping for said baby things. I've noticed that these little bitty items - socks, shoes, onesies and hats - they've become so adorably scrumptious to me I want to pop them in my mouth like Starburst candies. Were they always this cute? Does my husband salivate when he sees the squirrel onesie?

Kids who have sewing mothers and fathers are so much more blessed with quality fabrics in great patterns and colors than what my dear Ma sewed for me back in the 80s. Dressed in corduroy and dark blue plaid, I knew my Hawaii days were over and long midwestern winters had begun. Shudder. Now with Amy Butler and Michael Miller sharing their happy prints, it's a perfect time for aunties who try and sew them things and remind them that fun times are here again.

It was the nice Bob Ross looking employee who cut my yardage at Fabric Depot and who complemented me on my lovely choice of fabrics. They were all for my new burpcloth line (which I will be selling at the upcoming Hawaiian Holiday Fair, btw). I accidently joked, "don't you just want to vomit all over them"?  To which he laughed nervously and then stopped talking to me. So sensitive the Bob Ross!  I've got a few Hawaiian Baby Blankets in chocolate and cream - with green, ivory or pink grosgrain detail to sell at the bazaar as well. Mmmm...chocolate and cream. *drool*

Your Friend in the Printing Business

The Independent Printing Resource Center or IPRC located near Powell's on Burnside is one of those brilliant businesses that make Portland a cool place to live. Since it's inception in 1998 when having your own zine was uberalternative, it offers the use of copiers, typewriters, printing machines, type, computers, and more to creatives of all ages. To make use of all this bounty, you simply purchase an annual membership (at a sliding scale depending on your financial situation), and attend one of the monthly orientation sessions. It hits the Portlander's love of art, cards, letterpress, and do-it-yourself needs squarely on the head. It's affordable as well - which never hurts an artist's pocketbook.

I myself have taken two classes from IPRC. One was a letterpress class where I learned that the term "leading" actually had to do with placing bars of lead between your rows of type. Of course! That makes perfect sense. The other was a Print Gocco class where I made these adorable and affordable Owen Cards. IPRC has just come out with their Fall schedule which you can see if you click on the "read more" link below.  My talented friend, Loaded Hips Press's show is currently up right now. I recommend you check it out.


Mon 12 noon to 10 PM
Tue/Wed/Thu 4 PM to 10 PM
Fri/Sat 12 noon to 6 PM
Sun 12 noon to 5 PM (youth only),
    5 PM to 8 PM

LOCATED AT:  917 SW Oak Street #218 Portland, Oregon 97205 USA
Tel/Fax  503.827.0249

Close Retreats

I've always loved tiny houses and outdoor rooms. Growing up, my sister, cousins and I were spoiled with an amazing play house my architect grandfather converted out of their old, unsued outhouse. In it's hey day, we had a phone line, vegetable garden, and patio furniture. The inside, which my sister requested be painted pink, purple, and white, still has it's galley kitchen, convertible table and a working doorbell.  We'd spend countless, happy hours in that glorified shed and even sleep the night.

As an adult, the idea of a backyard retreat intrigues my inner child and yearning to stay outdoors as much as possible. Solution? Glamorous sheds and office outbuildings! All with big windows to get as much winter light in as possible. It's the ultimate writer and artist's retreat and all just steps away.

Some of these, like the one above, Readymade's "Gimme Shelter" can be put together for about fifteen hundred clams. Other's like the Kithaus seen below, come complete as a prefab for a mere twenty-nine grand.  Still, I drool over it.


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