Book closed: 16 × 10 × 1.5 cm (6 5/16 × 3 15/16 × 9/16")
Sheet/Mount: 6 × 9.3 cm (2 3/8 × 3 5/8")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii
The story of Opukahaia extends far beyond the pages of this small book. Orphaned during a Hawaiian civil war, Opukahaia made his way to the mainland, eventually settling in New Haven, Connecticut, where he was known as Henry Obookiah. Under Yale student Edwin Dwight’s tutelage, Opukahaia flourished—he created the first dictionary of the Hawaiian language, for example—and converted to Christianity. In 1815 Opukahaia began to preach in local churches, pleading for a special mission to his homeland. After Opukahaia’s premature death, Dwight published his memoirs, seen by many as the impetus for the first missionaries to the Pacific islands.