Salt Spring Reads: Kanaka, The Untold Story of Hawaiian Pioneers by Tom Koppel

Salt Spring Reads is an online book club/review. For this column I try to find books that you might love to discover, books with a Salt Spring connection. Reviewed books are available at the Salt Spring Library and in local bookstores. Feel free to share your comments to discuss this book online with others.

Many books have been written about Salt Spring’s human history, including that of First Nations and white explorers. In Kanaka Salt Spring author Ted Koppel focuses on the unique history of people coming to the Pacific Northwest from Hawaii.

Mention Hawaii and most North Americans picture palm trees and beaches. It is difficult to imagine that people would willingly leave the sunny islands of Polynesia to live in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Yet during the nineteenth century, hundreds of Hawaiians did just that, mainly to serve the Hudson's Bay Company at fur trading posts from Oregon to Alaska. By the 1880's Kanakas (the Hawaiian word for "human beings") were living in the Vancouver area, Victoria, the Gulf Islands, the San Juan Islands and in scattered communities along the coast of British Columbia including Washington, Oregon (Fort Astoria) and even in California.

Kanakas, like most populations, included both heroes and villains. Some became esteemed members of their communities while others were hanged for murder. Mainly, however, they were gutsy survivors who worked hard and adapted remarkably well to their chosen home and contributed to its history. Their descendants still live in British Columbia and the American West, remain proud of their unique heritage and celebrate it in gatherings and seaside luaus. The story of this extraordinary migration has long been overlooked. Through archival records, personal letters, photographs, and interviews with descendants of the original settlers, Tom Koppel chronicles the lives of the brave and hardy Kanakas and their offspring, and recognizes the contribution these people have made to British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Kanaka is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of Salt Spring.

Kanaka, The Untold Story of Hawaiian Pioneers in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest by Tom Koppel
ISBN 978-1551102955
Whitecap Books


About Margriet Ruurs

Margriet Ruurs is the author of over 30 books. She runs Between The Covers Booklovers’ B & B on Salt Spring Island. Her newest title is Stepping Stones, A Refugee Family’s Journey published by Orca Book Publishers.

April 5, 2017 7:20 PM