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'Iolani School Archives: Asian American Experience & 'Iolani

The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.


Above steps by the National Archives

Teaching with Primary Sources

*Also see the Teaching and Primary Sources box in the Links tab of this guide.

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Asian American Experience & 'Iolani

Upper School Faculty!

The Seto and Ai families figure prominently in the history of 'Iolani School. This lesson provides the opportunity for students to learn more about family names they encounter on campus through primary sources available at the school Archives. They will use critical thinking skills to complete writing assignments which can be modified by faculty to be formal or informal. Student will also be exposed to other U.S. historical collections.
The following is primarily intended to complement your existing teaching units.


Grade: 11-12


Location: Classroom or 'Iolani School Archives or Distance Learning.


Materials and Setup:

Display articles about the Seto Family and the Ai Family found in school publications.
Highlight this passage in the C.K. Ai book, My Seventy-nine Years in Hawaii (1879-1958):

"In September I went by my self to register at Bishop's School. Bishop Willis interviewed me that afternoon. He asked me a question that I couldn't understand. I guessed that he must be asking me for my name. I said, 'Ai', for in my ignorance of the language, I gave him my given name 'Ai' and not my surname 'Chung'. So I was registered in the school as Chung K. Ai, with 'Ai' as my surname. Because of this initial mistake, I have continued to call myself C. K. Ai. Except for my youngest son who recently legally changed his surname to 'Ai', all my other children use the correct family surname 'Chung'.

The archivist has selected several oral history clips from the Densho YouTube site and a few other videos.
The course instructor may decide on one or more to view as a class. View playlist.

---> Writing assignment - prompt:
Compare and contrast the American experience of the Seto/Ai Family with those in the video(s).


Document based question for Proclamation 4417, "An American Promise," February 19, 1976, Gerald R. Ford, found on the Government Publishing Office site (starts at the bottom half of the linked page).

---> Writing assignment - prompt:
Does this document show triumph or tragedy? Why?
[Document mentions Hawai'i]


Relevant resources available in the ‘Iolani School Archives:

The Inlook, October 18, 1929, p. 1
"Wah Chew's Impressions of China"
'Iolani student newspaper name in the 1920s- mentions a trip taken by a student from Honolulu to China.


Imua Iolani, November 14, 1947, p. 2
"Boys From Korea Study Here"
Mentions students from Korea. It states that they were referred to 'Iolani by Father Cho; he is Fr. Cho Gwang-won, 'Iolani student circa 1923 when the campus was at the St. Andrew's Cathedral Grounds. He was honored in 2017 in Korea.


Imua Iolani, May 25, 1956, p. 4-5
"Foreign Student Proves Himself"
The article is about a member of the class of 1956 who came from Japan, Kimitaka Yotsumoto, his life and survival during the war years. He was born in Mukden, Manchuria.


Iolani School Bulletin, Winter, 1972, p. 15-17
"All in the Family: the Seto family is a main branch of the Iolani family, now in its third generation"
Biographies of a father and his six children who all attended 'Iolani School.


My Seventy-nine Years in Hawaii (1879-1958)
By Chung Kun Ai
Cosmorama Pictorial Publisher, 1960
"Schooling and Carefree Years in Hawaii"
Chapter 2 of the book written by C.K. Ai who was classmates with Sun Yat-sen, grandfather to recent past board member Steven Ai, and founder of City Mill.


Iolani School Bulletin, Summer, 1990, p. 2
"The David C. Ai Gift to Iolani School"
Announces a pledge to the school.


Iolani School Bulletin, Winter, 1992, p. 2
"The Ai Family"
Discusses the Ai family's history and support of the school.


  • Also, several yearbooks contain group photographs of the English as Second Language students; some include summaries.

Important Questions

Important Questions in the Study of Primary Sources infographic

(Click to enlarge.)

Thanks for reviewing a draft of
"Important Questions" go to
Dr. Melissa Perkins,
'Iolani School History Faculty
2021 Hawai'i History Teacher of the Year

(Click to enlarge.)