By Kent Coules, Publisher
Americans are obsessed with royalty—British royalty.
Visitors to Kaua‘i have an opportunity to learn the rich, fascinating and controversial history of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s royal families. At the Kaua‘i Museum in Līhu‘e, that includes a special emphasis on Kaua‘i’s King Kaumuali‘i, who ruled over Hawai‘i’s last independent state from King Kamehameha II until he was abducted in 1821.
“King Kaumuali‘i is the star here,” says Kaua‘i Museum Executive Director Chucky Boy Chock. “He is the biggest difference between us and other island museums.”
“Long before the small group of non-native Hawaiians plotted the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893, which set in motion the annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1898, there was Kaua‘i’s fight for independence in the early 1800’s,” explains Chock. “Our amazing team of volunteers walk our guests through the preserved artifacts from the infamous ship Ha‘ahei o Hawai‘i, the luxury vessel King Kamehameha II used to capture King Kaumuali‘i. Smithsonian archaeologists excavated the Hanalei Bay shipwreck nearly two centuries later and have donated most of the rare discoveries to the Museum.”
I recently had the good fortune to enjoy a private tour of the Rice Street institution and came away impressed by the exhibits, the history and the people who dedicate their time to keep the stories of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau alive. The museum packs a lot into the Albert Spencer Wilcox Building. The building itself, originally a library, is a fine example of indigenous architecture. The museum has three blocks: the Hawaiian block, the immigrant block and the missionary block. I spent 90 minutes on site and barely finished the King Kaumuali‘i section.
Talking Story with Chucky Boy
Chucky Boy, an O‘ahu native who has lived on Kaua‘i for over 30 years, is (in no particular order) a musician, minister and small business owner who started volunteering at the museum over eight years ago, assuming the position of executive director in early 2017.
How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
“You know, I’m at a good place in my life and choose to wear different hats. Though it’s a balancing act, somehow it works, mahalo ke akua (thanks be to God). When it comes to sleep, let’s just say it’s hard to watch the 10 p.m. news!
If the museum caught on fire and you could only save one artifact, what would it be?
A traditionally made ‘ahu‘ula (cloak) honoring Kaumuali‘i.
If you could meet one person, living or dead (not named Kaumuali‘i), who would it be?
Easy, Duke Kahanamoku. A gentle, sincere Hawaiian.
You got to record a song you wrote, “Nā Ho‘okele ‘Ōpiopio,” in support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Young Navigators, with Jack Johnson. What was that like?
Jack Johnson’s greatest trait is that what you see is what you get. He’s the real deal: down to earth and a great family man. The intent of our collaboration was truly one of kōkua (be of service) to help Nainoa (Thompson) in his quest to spread the message of sustainability and aloha!
Back to the museum. Has the museum hosted any notable visitors?
The Emperor and Empress of Japan, actor John Belushi, singer Harry Belafonte and surfing world champion Kalani Vierra, just to name a few. It’s important to know that our staff believes every person visiting our museum is just as important as the next. Each guest is a bridge builder to the history of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.
Kids ask the darndest things. Any favorites from the keiki?
I get some good ones. Questions like, “are you Hawaiian, and if so, have you surfed the Eddie?” My favorite though, was after naming all the wives of both Kamehameha and Kaumuali‘i, a visiting fourth grader asked me, “so how many wives do you have?”
Rich History in Paradise
Most visitors to Kaua‘i probably don’t book their trip intent on learning the rich history of their island destination. Learning more about the place they visit, however, will enhance their experience. The Kaua‘i Museum is a perfect rainy day activity. Even if it’s sunny every day you’re here, give your skin a break and come see this amazing gem for yourself.
And don’t forget to grab the coupon in the back of this book and collect your free souvenir coffee mug!
[This article originally appeared in print in the December 2018-February 2019 issue of This Week Kauai]