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E. Helekunihi’s visit to Niihau in 1871 – Part 2

In Sept. of 1871, Mr. E. Helekunihi, Mr. and Mrs. Waiana‘au, and the Rev. Mr. A Kaukau visited Ni‘ihau, where they were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Francis Sinclair, the owners of the island.

Helekunihi later wrote an account of his experiences there in the Hawaiian newspaper “Ke Au Okoa,” and what follows is Part 2 of that account.

“The white rulers (the Sinclairs) live on the land bought from the chief P. F. Kaokanu. It is good land, high and level and lies beyond Pu‘uwai, the place where the church stands.

“We were invited with a warm welcome. We conversed and after a time Mr. Sinclair opened a small organ. As he wound the box, we giggled. He played three rolls, 10 tunes to a roll, making 30 tunes.

“This music box was bought in England by Mr. Sinclair’s daughter to entertain in this lonely place and delight visitors.

“They are very kind chiefs who really love the people. They take good care of them to preserve their health.

“The chiefs have written a law for the Ni‘ihau people prohibiting Ni‘ihau youths from mingling with bad women on Kaua‘i, or from visiting Kaua‘i girls without consent of the chiefs.

“If a boy should run away because he wants to and is assisted by his parents, then both the parents and the boy are fined. Mr. Sinclair is afraid lest the boys catch bad diseases.

“Ni‘ihau boys are encouraged to marry Ni‘ihau girls.

“Intoxication is suppressed and the drinking of fermented prickly pear juice is absolutely prohibited.

“Once a man was tried for intoxication. Mr. Sinclair freed him from punishment under the law of Kamehameha V, but he imposed his own law to keep peace in the land.

“So it is with stealing. This is his law against stealing. If something has been taken and the guilty person is not known, everyone where the stealing took place is punished. It is a good strong law.”

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: and here Hank can be reached at
Source: The Garden Island

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