Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Niʻihau School

Enrollment in Hawaiʻi’s public schools (255-Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (DOE) schools and 33-Charter schools) is counted as 185,273 for the 2013-14 school year (about 175,000 in the traditional DOE schools and 10,000 in Charter schools.)

The largest public schools (all K-12) are Campbell High (2,821,) Waipahu High (2,450,) Mililani High (2,445,) Farrington (2,437) and Kapolei (2,045.)  The smallest include, Kilohana (80; K-6,) Waiāhole (71; K-6,) Maunaloa (16; K-6) and Hawaiʻi School for the Deaf and Blind (12; K-12.)

Niʻihau High and Elementary School (K-12) is the smallest public school in the state; according to a Hawaii Department of Education report its 2013-14 enrollment was 10-students.

Ni‘ihau School is near the village of Puʻuwai on the Island of Niʻihau and consists of three classroom buildings and a combination cafeteria and meeting hall.

Enrollment at the school fluctuates as children travel to and from Kauaʻi for several weeks at a time. Students are first taught in English.  Niʻihau High and Elementary (grades K-12) primary focus is on improving reading and math skills of students.  (DOE)

Elective classes include chorus, drawing and painting, Hawaiian arts and crafts, Hawaiian dance, keyboarding, music appreciation, Polynesian music, ukulele and a writing workshop.

Students at Niʻihau School excel in the area of fine arts, particularly chorus and ukulele. The expression of the arts is evident in community celebrations such as Family Literacy Day and graduation.  (DOE)

A photovoltaic-cell system was installed at the school during the summer of 2007; this enabled reliable refrigeration and use of technological hardware (laptops were given to the school for students to begin using the keyboard and basic computer skills) - however, no internet or email system is available to Niʻihau School, as of yet.

The 2010 Census noted that the total population on Niʻihau was 170-people; there were 35-housing units (persons per occupied unit was over 6 – more than double of each of the other islands (housing vacancy was over 22%.))  (hawaii-gov)

Ni‘ihau is approximately 70-square miles or 44,800-acres.  It’s about 17-miles west of Kauaʻi.  The island’s highest point is 1,281-feet; approximately 78% of the island is below 500-feet in elevation.   Located inside Kauai’s rain shadow, Ni‘ihau receives only about 20 to 40-inches of rain per year.  Ni‘ihau has no perennial streams.  (DLNR)

“There was no appearance of any running stream; and though they found some small wells, in which the fresh water was tolerably good, it seemed scarce. The habitations of the natives were thinly scattered about; and, it was supposed, that there could not be more than five hundred people upon the island, as the greatest part were seen at the marketing-place of our party, and few found about the houses by those who walked up the country.”  (Cook’s Journal)

With limited rainfall and no perennial streams, for people to survive on the island, they likely farmed ʻuala (sweet potato) and/or uhi (yams.)  The evidence indicates Niʻihau produced excellent ʻuala and/or uhi.

“The eastern coast is high, and rises abruptly from the sea, but the rest of the island consists of low ground; excepting a round bluff head on the southeast point. It produces abundance of yams, and of the sweet root called Tee … they brought us several large roots of a brown colour, shaped like a yam, and from six to ten pounds in weight.”

“The juice, which it yields in great abundance, is very sweet, and of a pleasant taste, and was found to be an excellent substitute for sugar. The natives are very fond of it, and use it as an article of their common diet … We could not learn to what species of plant it belonged, having never been able to procure the leaves ….”  (Cook’s Journal)

For many years Niʻihau was called Yam Island by Western sailors because of the high quality of yams grown there.  A map of Yam Bay and the island of Niʻihau appeared in Captain George Dixon’s journal in 1788.  (Joesting)

So, while the island has limited rainfall, it was sufficient to grow food and sustain a population of around 500 (according to Cook.)  Niʻihau had a population of 790 people in 1853.  The census of 1860 reported a Niʻihau population of 647.

In the Māhele (1848,) Victoria Kamāmalu (sister of Kamehameha IV and V) claimed Niʻihau, however returned it and the land was retained by the government.  A couple Land Commission Awards were made to Koakanu, as well as a sale to Papapa.

In 1863, King Kamehameha IV offered to sell the island of Niʻihau to the Sinclair family.  (Joesting)  A final purchase price of $10,000 was agreed upon.  (Later, the family includes the Sinclairs, Gays, Robinsons and Knudsens.)

 “The whole island is now owned by a Presbyterian family of Scotch origin, who received me very kindly, & who will assist our work there very materially & very heartily.  The native population now remaining there is about 250 in number.” (Gulick to Anderson ABCFM (1865,) Joesting)

 “It is said that the transfer of the island involved some hardships, owing to a number of the natives having neglected to legalize their claims to their kuleanas, but the present possessors have made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the language, and take the warmest interest in the island population.”  (Isabella Bird, 1894)

The Sinclairs "bought sheep and cattle from the big ranches on Hawaii, and took them, with some fine sheep (they) brought with (them) from New Zealand, (began a) new ranch on Niihau."  (Von Holt)  They hired the Hawaiians to help with the ranch and the island.

"The natives on Niihau and in this part of Kauaʻi, call Mrs. (Sinclair) "Mama." Their rent seems to consist in giving one or more days' service in a month, so it is a revival of the old feudality. ... It is a busy life, owing to the large number of natives daily employed, and the necessity of looking after the native lunas, or overseers."  (Isabella Bird, 1894)

Today, Niʻihau has about 170-people who live at Pu‘uwai village, on the western (leeward) side of the island.  Niʻihau is nicknamed the "Forbidden Island," because the Robinsons (present owners and descendants of the original Sinclairs) strictly limit access to the island.

The island lacks basic municipal infrastructure.  There are no paved roads (walking, horseback or bicycle are the only transportation options on Ni‘ihau.)  No water and wastewater systems.  No stores.  No restaurants.  No doctors.  No police.  No fire department. (But it has the only school in the State powered by photovoltaic.)

The image shows the Niʻihau School.  In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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