Territorial Hawai‘i Timeline


1820 (April 4th) SS Thaddeus arrives to Kailua-Kona with 1st wave of American Missionaries

These were institutions founded, staffed, and, initially, financially supported by American missionaries. Their goal was to make to Native Hawaiians literate in their own language in order to read the Bible. Later, local aliʻi (chiefs) took over responsibilities for building and supporting the schools who were increasingly being taught by Native teachers.

  • 1831 – Lāhainaluna
  • 1833 – O‘ahu Charity School
  • 1836 – Hilo Boarding School
  • 1840 – Punahou & Royal School
  • 1849 – Honolulu Town School (renamed from O‘ahu Charity School)
  • 1863 – St. Alban’s College (later ʻIolani College)
  • 1865 – Fort Street English Day School (renamed from Honolulu Town School)
  • 1885 – Kamehameha School for Boys
  • 1894 – Kamehameha School for Girls
  • 1895 – Honolulu High School (renamed from Ft. St. School)
engraving of lahainaluna seminary school
Lahainaluna Seminary, later Lahainaluna High School, c. 1830s Public domain, via Wikipedia Commons
O‘ahu Charity School engraving
O‘ahu Charity School, c. 1838 Public domain, via Wikipedia Commons
hilo boarding school horses
Hilo Boarding School, c. 1907 Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Punahou School campus engraving
Punahou School. Drawing by J. Moynet, based on a photo by H. Chase. Public domain, via Wikipedia Commons
royal school building engraving
Royal School, c. before 1875 Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
school aged boys sitting outside their classroom
Kamehameha School for Boys, 1902 Hawaii State Archives, Photograph Collection, PPWD-17-2-004
Women in dresses at Kamehameha School
Kamehameha School for Girls Hawaii State Archives, Photograph Collection, PPWD-17-2-006

A major step for creating national unity as the government took over the operations,
curriculum, and staffing of the nation’s schools. It also reflected the vision of a young
Kauikeaouli (King Kamehameha III, 1824-1854) early in his reign when he exclaimed:
“He aupuni palapala koʻu. O ke kanaka pono ʻoia koʻu kanaka.” (Mine is the nation of
education; the righteous person is my person (Pukui, 1983)

At 2 a.m. on July 6th, 1887, armed gunmen belonging to two all-White separatist groups, the Hawaiian League and Honolulu Riflemen, surrounded Mōʻī (king) David Kalākaua at gunpoint and demanded that he sign a new constitution written by Lorrin Andrews Thurston, a member of the League. This new document, never ratified by the legislature, installed members of their group into his cabinet, empowered the cabinet with decision-making authority over the mōʻī, disenfranchised three-fourths of Native Hawaiians and all Hawaiian citizens of Asian ancestry, and allowed foreign landowners the right to vote. advocates the overthrow of the monarchy and annexation by the U.S. Several members from both groups would go on to support the 1893 overthrow of Kalākaua’s sister, Liliʻuokalani, and lobby Congress for American annexation in 1898.

Kalākaua died in 1891 and was succeeded by his sister, Liliʻuokalani (1891-1893). She quickly proposed a new constitution that would restore executive power to the monarchy and extend voting rights for most Native Hawaiians. Her plans angered many of Hawaiʻi’s haole elite and, in response, they formed a 13-member Committee of Safety with the goal of overthrowing the monarchy and seeking annexation by the United States. On Jan. 17th, 1893, armed gunmen stormed ʻIolani Palace and forced the Queen to abdicate. The Committee of Safety soon established a White-minority provisional government (the Republic of Hawaii (1893-1898) headed by Sanford B. Dole, son of American missionaries. U.S. President Grover Cleveland opposed the provisional government and called for the queen to be restored to power, but Dole refused. In 1895, Hawaiian royalists led by Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox, a Native Hawaiian military officer, attempted a counter-coup against the republic but failed. Queen Liliʻuokalani was arrested for her alleged role in the plot and convicted of treason. Placed under house arrest, the queen agreed to formally abdicate and dissolve the monarchy believing the U.S. would soon intervene.

Hawaiian flag being removed
Removal of Hawaiian flag from ʻIolani Palace, 1898 Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This act was passed during the time of the White minority government (the Republic of Hawaii) and it established English as the only medium of instruction allowable in any school, public or private. This move by the White minority government was to garner support for U.S. annexation by demonstrating how English remained the language of the land. This year also marked the closure of the last three Hawaiian-language public schools on Oʻahu leaving only one left on Niʻihau.

1898 U.S. Annexation


  • Passed by Congress verifying Hawaiʻi’s status as a U.S. territory and outlining the territorial government’s, responsibilities, offices, and institutions.
  • Reconstructing the Department of Public Instruction, teaching both Hawaiian and English equally, ensuring all teachers understand the Hawaiian language
  • Teaching Hawaiian and English in public and private schools
  • This represents the first attempt by Native Hawaiian legislators to return ʻōlelo Hawaii (the Hawaiian language) to school classrooms.
  • School reform bill aimed at decentralizing school governance by creating county superintendents and school councils empowered with complete jurisdiction over their local schools.
  • With most Native Hawaiians living in rural districts, this would have allowed them to determine their own curriculum and medium of instruction.

Hawaiian to be taught upon parental request

Learn from Native Student Experiences:

Public support for language revitalization in the public schools can be seen in both HH40’s and N197’s life histories.She expressed a strong desire to learn ʻōlelo Hawaii and believed the public schools were critical spaces in reviving the language.

“I fervently wish that the Hawaiian language would be taught in every school of the territory,…for the Hawaiians it is of vital importance.”(4)

The same sentiment can be seen with N197’s disappointment in her inability to speak ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and attend a “real” Hawaiian school.

“I regret to say that I have not had the opportunity to attend a real Hawaiian school and I sincerely feel that it is important that I should know how to speak my own language fluently.”

1907 McKinley HS (renamed from Honolulu HS)

Law that provided federal funds in support of vocational education in agriculture and industrial trades. DPI used the funds to hire mainland teachers and expand vocational programs.

Learn from Native Student Experiences:

HH40 expressed general disinterest in vocational education despite its popularity among territorial school officials and sugar planters who wanted Hawaiʻi’s students to embrace employment on the various agricultural plantations.

“I think that agricultural education should not be particularly stressed upon for we all cannot be working on the plantations.” (3)

  • Federal investigation into Hawaiʻi’s schools requested by the DPI.
  • Provides a comprehensive overview of school conditions, teacher and student demographics, and recommendations.
1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act Passed (sponsored by Delegate Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole)
  • Daily use of the Hawaiian language as a medium of instruction
  • The Hawaiian language made part of the curriculum in all public schools
  • Authorizing the teaching of the Hawaiian language in the University of Hawaiʻi and all public high and junior high schools
  • Hawaiian shall be taught in addition to English in all normal and high schools and by parental request in any junior high school
  • Requesting $12,000 for teaching Hawaiian language, customs, traditions, culture, and agricultural practices in majority Native Hawaiian schools

In 1931, Thalia Massie, a young White woman, claimed to have been gang raped by “some Hawaiian boys.” Despite being able to establish their whereabouts at the time of the alleged assault that placed them far from the scene, the trial of the five accused (Joseph Kahahawai, Ben Ahakuelo, Horace Ida, Henry Chang, and David Takai) went ahead and resulted in a mistrial. Soon after, Thalia’s husband, Naval Lieutenant Tommy Massie, and two other sailors kidnapped Kahahawai and later killed him in an attempt to extract a confession. The jury of the murder trial found Tommy Massie and his co-conspirators (including Thalia’s mother) guilty of manslaughter but territorial governor, Lawrence M. Judd, commuted their sentences to an afternoon with him in his office, after which they boarded a ship for the continent never to return.

While none of the student narratives address the murder of Kahahawai or either trials, several offer important reflections on race relations during this time. In particular, they highlight issues of White privilege, attitudes of White superiority, and double standards.

Learn from Native Student Experiences:

“…as I got higher and higher in my education, I noticed that the haole were receiving better marks and less scolding than [they] deserved.”

“…why do haole come to our islands and [preach] brotherly love and say, ʻlet us have peaceʻ…[but] deep in their hearts they do not mean what they say.”

“Why do the White people have private schools for their children?”

  • Teaching in the Hawaiian language for AT LEAST 10 minutes everyday in every public school on Hawaiian homestead land
1941 Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Appropriating funds for scholarships for high school graduates from Keaukaha pursuing a degree in nursing
  • Providing instruction and employing teachers able to provide instruction in foreign and Hawaiian languages the public schools
1947 Gov. Ingram Stainbeck: declares “war on Communism” in Hawaiʻi
1948 Teachers John and Aiko Reneicke fired for Communist sympathies
1951-1953 Smith Act Trial of Hawaiʻi Seven (Communism Trial)
1954 Territorial Election: Democratic Takeover of Legislature

Documents related to Statehood

back view of voting booths with legs
Voting booths Hawaii State Archives, Star-Advertiser Photograph Collection, Box 436

1970s onward

  • Over the eviction of farmers for the commercial development of the area by American construction mogul, Henry J. Kaiser
  • Sparked thousands of young Native Hawaiians to politically organize against further resort, military, and residential construction and protect agricultural lands

Protests over geothermal energy development in the volcanic northeastern region of Puna on Hawaiʻi Island

1990s Protests against live-fire training in Makua Valley, Oʻahu
2010s Resistance over further development of Mauna Kea on Hawaiʻi Island