Native Hawaiians in Sutter County, California

The San Francisco Call ran a feature article about a colony of more than 100 Native Hawaiians living in Sutter County. The article described them as carefree and their colony as peaceful and content. The Hawaiians rowed their boats, assembled their tents, and played their ukulele and guitar.

John Sutter brought Native Hawaiians there for them to work for him at Sutter’s Fort, the first non-Native American settlement in the California Central Valley. In the beginning, they fished for bass, trout, and catfish and sold them at Sacramento. Eventually, they learned to farm alfalfa and raised hogs and cows.

When a visiting Hawaiian brought poi, ti leaves, kukui, and other items from home, the Hawaiians held barbecues and luau and danced hula. The Hawaiian women still wore their holoku (Hawaiian gowns, each with a train), muumuu (Hawaiian dresses), seed lei, and braided hats.

The Hawaiians intermarried with the Maidu Native Americans in the area. A hundred years later, many of their descendents still strongly relate with both ancestries today.

– Alice Kim

Notes: Native Hawaiians worked on the Mainland in the 1800s. During the gold rush, Native Hawaiians searched for gold in California and Fraser Canyon. Hundreds of paniolo (cowboys) steered livestock in the U.S. Great Basin. Hawaiians in Washington and Oregon harvested sugar beets and apples. Hawaiian fur trappers working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada intermarried with the First Nations people.

The Hawaiians’ legacy can be seen today in the places named with Hawaiian words. They include Kanaka (Hawaiian person), Owyhee (an old Hawaiian name for Hawaii), and Kamai (named after the Hawaiian Kama Kamai): the Kanaka Glade in Mendocino County, California; Kanaka Creek in Sierra County, California; Kanaka Bars in Trinity County, California; Kanaka Flats in Jacksonville, Oregon; Kanaka Gulch, Oregon; Owyhee River in southeastern Oregon; and Kamai Point, British Columbia.


“Hawaii in California”
The San Francisco call., March 26, 1911, Image 4


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