Literary / Clara D. Priester, executive director of the Woman’s Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands (WBM), never learned about Henry Opukahaia in her Hawaiian history or religion classes. But after retyping Edwin W. Dwight’s Memoirs of Henry Obookiah for re-release, she feels a very special and sacred connection to his story. As the first native Hawaiian to convert to Christianity, Opukahaia is a landmark figure and inspiration to missionaries as far away as the East Coast, where Opukahaia passed away almost 200 years ago. In honor of his legacy, the WBM will host a book launch, dedication and signing of Memoirs of Henry Obookiah Thursday, 10/18, at the Hawaiian Missions Houses.
The new edition of Opukahaia’s memoirs includes vintage photographs and snaps of sites key to his life and an epilogue by Deborah Liikapeka Lee, a cousin of Opukahaia who brought his remains from Connecticut to the Big Island 175 years after his body was first laid to rest. “The book contains pieces of his diary, and they reflect the agony of not coming back,” says Priester, which is why it was so important for his iwi to come home.
Lee, along with Karen Welsh (president of WBM and author of the epilogue), Kahu Wendell Davis (chaplain and descendant of Opukahaia, who will give a blessing) and the Rev. Kekapa Lee (also a descendant) will sign the books, on sale in the Mission Houses bookstore for $20 (softcover) and $50 (hard). The Rev. David Hirano, who conducted some of the memorial services for Opukahaia, will talk about his journey. There will be readings along with pupu. Space is limited; reservations required.