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Lyman Museum presentation on the controversy behind the renaming of “Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park” on Kauai

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Bird’s-eye view of the fortress on Kauai. Photo credit: Alexander Molodin

Bird’s-eye view of the fortress on Kauai. Photo credit: Alexander Molodin

An international controversy is brewing over the proposed renaming of the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park on Kaua‘i to “Pā‘ula‘ula/Fort Elizabeth.” A book by UH-Hilo’s Dr. Peter Mills—Hawai‘i’s Russian Adventure: A New Look at Old History (UH Press, 2002)—clarifies that the fort was built by Hawaiians as part of King Kaumuali‘i’s own residential compound in 1816-1817, when Kaumuali‘i formed an alliance with Dr. George Anton Schäffer of the Russian-American Company (RAC). For a brief period (less than a year), the RAC gained a sandalwood monopoly on Kaua‘i and a base for food and cash-crop production while Kaumuali‘i swore allegiance to Russian Emperor Alexander I. Schäffer provided designs for the walls of the fort in Waimea, and named it Fort Elizabeth (after Alexander I’s wife)—but the fort was occupied by Kaumuali‘i, never by Russians, and then used for a half-century by the Hawaiian monarchy, whose Hawaiian soldiers called it Pā‘ula‘ula. On August 8, 1824, the fort became the location of one of the most important battles in history between Hawaiian chiefs; and the ali‘i also chose to use it as a burial ground for Kaumuali‘i’s grandson and for Kaua‘i’s first governor, Kaikio‘ewa.

Dr. Mills explains the ongoing controversy that has prompted the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antanov, and thousands of Russians and Russian-Americans to protest the proposed renaming of this historic site on Hawai‘i Island. Learn more about it on either of two occasions: Monday evening, March 4, or the following afternoon, March 5.

Admission to these wonderful programs is free to Museum members, and $3.00 for nonmembers. Please support the Museum by becoming a member, and enjoy all Saigo Series programs, all year round, at no charge! Seating is limited; first come, first seated. ON MONDAY EVENINGS ONLY, additional parking is available next door at Hilo Union School, Kapiolani St. entrance; park, then walk through our green gate in the rock wall.

On Monday evenings, doors open at 6:30 p.m. E komo mai!

Learn more about it on either of two occasions at the Lyman Museum in Hilo:

  • 7-8:30 p.m., Monday (March 4)
  • 3-4:30 p.m., Tuesday (March 5)

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