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Peter Mills

Talk Story with UH Hilo Professor of Anthropology Peter Mills

Date: Thursday, March 7, 2024
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: UH Hilo campus (free parking) - Kilohana Tutoring Center in the Mookini Library, 1st Floor (lower level)
Topic: Connecting the Kingdom: Sailing Vessels in the Hawaiian Monarchy

In this groundbreaking work, Peter Mills reveals a wealth of insight into the emergence of the Hawaiian nation-state from sources mostly ignored by colonial and post-colonial historians alike. By examining how early Hawaiian chiefs appropriated Western sailing technology to help build their island nation, Mills presents the fascinating history of sixty Hawaiian-owned schooners, brigs, barks, and peleleu canoes. While these vessels have often been dismissed as examples of chiefly folly, Mills highlights their significance in Hawaiʻi’s rapidly evolving monarchy, and aptly demonstrates how the monarchy’s own nineteenth-century sailing fleet facilitated fundamental transformations of interisland tributary systems, alliance building, exchange systems, and emergent forms of Indigenous capitalism.

Peter Mills was born in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York in the same small town where Hawaiian philanthropist Charles Reed Bishop was born (Glens Falls, NY). Mills’s early anthropological career involved fieldwork in New England, Alaska, the Northwest, American Southwest, and California. While working on his PhD at UC Berkeley in the 1990s, he delved into issues of colonialism in the Pacific. Peter’s first book was based on his dissertation, "Hawaiʻi’s Russian Adventure" (2002, UH Press). In that book, he uncovered how a site previously referred to as a “Russian Fort” on Kauaʻi was actually never occupied by Russians, but instead built and occupied by Hawaiians for almost a half-century, and named Pāʻulaʻula. He has been teaching anthropology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the last 27 years and has resided in Laupāhoehoe for all that time with his wife, Phoebe, raised a daughter there, and has accommodated a large assortment of non-human dependents (mule, mares, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, steers). He received the Frances Davis Award for undergraduate teaching at UH Hilo, and received the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology’s 2022 Public Archaeology Award. He has held board positions with the Paniolo Preservation Society, Laupāhoehoe Train Museum, and Hawaiʻi Historic Places Review Board.

book cover: Connecting the Kingdom: Sailing Vessels in the Hawaiian Monarchy, 1790-1840 by Peter R. Mills

Library Lanai Mini Concert: Norman Arancon

Friday March 8: 1pm-2pm

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