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February 18, 2013

Sandwich Islanders in Sacramento

Hawaiians at Fort Sutter
Hawaiians at Fort Sutter

John Sutter arrived in 1839 at what he called New Helvetia by boat that was sailed and rowed up the Sacramento River from Yuba Buena largely by SandwichIslanders. The number of Hawaiians with Sutter has been reported in varying numbers. Six by William Heath Davis who piloted Sutter’s boats up the Sacramento River, ten by Sutter himself, but he was only able to provide eight names, (this some thirty five years later). It was known that two of the Sandwich Islanders were women. The eight names known to history are:

1)Kanaka Harry
2)Manuiki, Harry’s wife
4)Elena, Sam’s wife
7)Manuiki (bore same name as sister)
8)LoanneKeaala aka John Kelly

Sutter’s favorite was Manuiki, Kanaka Harry’s wife whom Sutter appropriated for some time and whom bore him several children that never reached adulthood.

The Sandwich Islanders built Hawaiian stile grass huts on a knoll that became Sutter’s Fort. These are considered to be the first houses built in Sacramento. Following that work was started on what was to become Sutter’s Fort, completed in 1841. Many of the American Natives Joined in making the Fort because they saw how well Sutter treated the Hawaiians, however Sutter never treated the native people very well.

In the following years many Sandwich Islanders followed these few to California. John Sutter brought them there to work at Sutter’s Fort and at Hock Farm. A colony of more than 100 Native Hawaiians formed a colony in Sutter County called Verona, the first non-native American settlement in theCentral California Valley. These Hawaiians fished for bass, trout, and catfish and sold them at the Fort and in Sacramento. They learned to raise alfalfa and raised hogs and cattle. The Hawaiians rowed their boats, assembled their tents and played their Ukulele and Guitar. When a visiting Hawaiian brought poi, ti leaves, kukui and other items from home the Hawaiians held barbecues and luau and danced hula.

The Hawaiians physically resembled the Maidu Native Americans in the area, with their dark skin and non-Caucasian features. The two groups intermarried and well over a hundred years later many of their descendants still strongly relate with both ancestries. In fact the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians claims ancestry with these first Hawaiians.

The Hawaiian legacy can be seen today in the places named with Hawaiian words. They include Kanaka Glade in Mendocino County, Kanaka Creek in Sierra County, Kanaka Bars in Trinity County, and Kanaka Flats, Kanaka Gulch and Owyhee River in Oregon.

Reported by,

Brother Fred "Mr Magoo" Willcox