Earliest Commercial Activity on Hawai’ian Islands

Umi Perkins invited us to the interview on the sensitive topic „Big Five“ at the Kamehameha Schools, where he teaches at this university as a professor of Hawaiian history. Not only his biography is very interesting to read, also his books, his work, videos and his website with the strong name „The Umiverse“ to sift through!

A barrier across the driveway prevents us from entering the school grounds. We stop in front of the guardhouse and register with the guard. With a friendly smile on his face, he asks us by name, to whom we want and how long we intend to stay here on the grounds. I diligently answered his questions, whereupon he already hands us the prepared documents such as parking ticket and two ID cards.

The dear Guardian took the time to show me the way on the unfolded map, where we have to drive through this huge terrain to get to Umi. I nodded to him that I understood where I had to drive everywhere – unfortunately it was not like that. After only a few hundred meters of slow driving, I did not know at the first intersection, in which direction I had to drive. Thank God my wife Shana, my salvation, was there. She took very good care of it earlier and is now piloting the crossroads. It was not just a huge terrain, it was exceptionally huge in the mountainside created.

Kamehame School is the largest private school in Hawaii. It was founded after the will of the late Bernice Pauahi Bishop1887, which was an ali’i (noble) of the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Their land holdings from all islands in Hawaii was immense by totaling about 9%. She was married to Charles Reed Bishop, who later built the fantastic Bishop Museum. First the all-boys school was founded for the Hawaiian boys and later in 1894 a building was built for the girls.

Umi was waiting for us in the parking lot. We parked the car under a shady tree and got out. When we discovered Umi, we had a hearty welcome. Now we followed Umi Perkins where he led us through the clutter of the school building until we arrived at the reserved staff room. There I quickly made my moves around the camera setup, while Shana talked with Umi deliciously.

©Foto: Gérard Koch

Hardly anyone talks about the Big Five of Hawaii, if it does, then rather with a small hand. Big Five (Hawaiian: Nā Hui Nui ‚Elima) were five from the US, businesspeople and owners of the first sugar plantations and sugar processing industry in Hawaii. These have teamed up to exercise significant political power in the „Territory of Hawaii“ and have also turned heavily to the Hawaii Republican Party. The five big companies are: Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., American Factors (now Amfac) and Theo H. Davies & Co. The magnitude of power that the Big Five possessed was equated by some as an oligarchy. If someone is researching these companies on the Internet, he first finds out that there is little information about these „big five“. Secondly, he is shocked to learn that these companies are still ruling the US and Hawaii Islands today. Meanwhile, out of the five companies, eight have outgrown the US exceptionally much politically and economically, if you can not even say that they „rule“ the US!

But let’s just tell Professor Umi Perkins:





  1. THE LEGACY OF THE 1848 MAHELE AND KULEANA ACT OF 1850 von Stover 1997

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