Facing the Spears of Change takes a close look at the extraordinary life of John Papa `Ī`ī. Over the years, `Ī`ī faced many personal and political changes and challenges in rapid succession, which he skillfully parried or seized, then used to fend off other attacks. He began serving in the household of Kamehameha I as an attendant in 1810, at the age of ten, and became highly familiar with the inner workings of the royal household. His early service took place in a time when ali`i nui (the highest-ranking Hawaiians) were considered divine and surrounded with strict kapu (sacred prohibitions); breaking a kapu pertaining to an ali`i meant death for the transgressor. He went on to become an influential statesman, privy to the shifting modes of governance adopted by the Hawaiian kingdom. `Ī`ī’s intelligence and his good standing with those he served resulted in a great degree of influence within the Hawaiian government, with his fellow Hawaiians, and with the missionaries residing in the Hawaiian Islands. As a privileged spectator and key participant, his published accounts of ali`i and his insights into early nineteenth-century Hawaiian cultural-religious practices are unsurpassed.
In this groundbreaking work, Marie Alohalani Brown offers an elegantly written and compelling portrait of an important historical figure in nineteenth-century Hawai`i. Brown’s extensive archival research using Hawaiian and English language primary sources from the 1800s allows access to information which would be otherwise unknown but to a very small circle of researchers.