David Anthony Chang is a professor of history at the University of Minnesota. A historian of indigenous people, race, colonialism, and anticolonialism in the United States and Hawai'i, his research focuses especially on the histories of American Indian and Native Hawaiian people. He is the author of two books. The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration (2016) draws on long-ignored Hawaiian-language sources—stories, songs, chants, and political prose—to trace how Native Hawaiians in the long nineteenth century explored the outside world, generated their own understandings of it, and worked to influence their metaphorical "place in the world." His award-winning first book, The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832–1929 (2010), argues for the central place of struggles over the ownership of Native American lands in the making of the racial and national categories that operated among American Indians, African Americans, and whites in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Oklahoma. He is currently working on two projects: the global and cosmopolitan circuits linking nationalists in Italy, Hawai'i, and China in the late nineteenth century; and the eighteenth-century travels of a Hawaiian chief, Ka'iana'ahu'ula, whose voyage to China, the Philippines, Palau, Alaska, and Vancouver Island convinced him that he could shape relations with westerners to his own advantage.
This lecture tells the story of Kaʻianaʻahuʻula, a Hawaiian high chief. In 1782 and 1783, he toured the Pacific (including Macao, the Philippines, Palau, the Aleutian Islands, and Vancouver Island) in the company of an English captain he had taken as a lover. He then returned to Hawaiʻi, where he used his high rank and his knowledge of the world to cultivate his power further. He was an ally of Kamehameha, but turned on him in a final battle, and was killed. His story makes us rethink the history of exploration: all peoples in the early modern world were involved in it, including indigenous peoples, and individuals used exploration to pursue their own political agendas.