Likeke R. McBride

Likeke R. McBride (1926 – 1993) was an author, Hawaiian storyteller, lecturer, educator, noted wood carver, and botanical illustrator. He taught briefly at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.

He first came to the Hawaiian islands with the U.S. Navy in 1943 – during World War II – and was assigned to an LST (Landing Ship, Tanks) at Nawiliwili Harbor, Kaua’i, prior to leaving for the Pacific War. At Nawiliwili, he was befriended by Hawaiian fishermen, and started learning the Hawaiian language and Hawaiian legends and stories. The fishermen called him “Likeke” (Hawaiian for Richard). In 1972 he legally changed his given first name to Likeke.

McBride fell in love with Hawai’i and felt deep connections to the Native Hawaiian people. As his ship left for the war, he vowed that he would return to the islands someday.

McBride obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Geology with a minor in Botany from Ohio State University. He bagan work  on a Master’s Degree in Astronomy at Ohio University but did not complete his academic work due to family considerations. He referred to himself as a “Half Astro-Geologist.” This is an example of his great sense of humor.

He served with the U.S. Navy in Tokyo, Japan during the Korean War. He learned Japanese and spoke the language passably.

McBride returned to Hawai’i in 1961 with his family (his wife Sally, daughters Jann and Kit, and infant son Andy) as a Park Service Ranger under the aegis of the National Park Service (NPS). He was assigned to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawai’i (the “Big Island”). After a brief assignment at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, he and his family returned to the Big Island.

McBride’s association with the NPS lasted 11 years; he was briefly in Park law enforcement and became a Naturalist and Park Interpreter – what he had really wanted to do all along. One of his assignments as a Ranger had been as liaison to the Native Hawaiian community of Kalapana. He ended his association with the NPS after a few years as a seasonal Ranger. 

Once McBride returned to Hawai’i with the NPS, he lived on the Big Island the rest of his life. He devoted himself to the study of Native Hawaiian culture and to popularizing Native Hawaiian culture and oral traditions. He spoke Hawaiian fluently.

McBride told Hawaiian stories and legends of the kahuna, Kamehameha, sharks, the menehune (legendary little people), and about Pele, the Volcano Goddess. When he told Hawaiian stories, he carried a pahoa (dagger) made out of kauila, a Hawaiian hardwood. The pahoa was a symbol of a professional Hawaiian storyteller. 

A noted woodcarver, McBride carved his pahoa and many museum-quality replicas of Hawaiian tools and weapons and placed these replicas in museums in the Pacific and in Europe.

McBride was the author of several books about Hawai’i: Petroglyphs of Hawai’i (1969); About Hawai’i’s Volcanoes in English (1967) and Japanese (1969) editions; Pele, Volcano Goddess of Hawai’i (1968) [currently out of print]; The Kahuna, Versatile Mystics of Old Hawai’i (1972)  [re-issued as The Kahuna, Versatile Masters of Old Hawai’i (2000)]; and Practical Folk Medicine of Hawai’i (circa 1986).

McBride’s illustrations appeared in early editions of Eliza D. Maguire’s Kona Legends (1966) into the 1990’s.

Of Irish and Iroquois Indian descent with deep Aloha (love) for Hawai’i and the Native Hawaiian People, McBride described himself as an “Irish Indian with a Hawaiian Heart.”

4 Responses to Likeke R. McBride

  1. Janet O says:

    Wow. Didn’t know this about your dad. I think I have one of his books. Mahalo nui loa for sharing this.

  2. Janet, thank you for your comment. Dad was an amazing, talented man. Which book of his do you have? You are most welcome. Thank you for reading! Blessings, Andy

  3. Cathy Holmes says:

    I loved this tribute to your father, Andy. What a special and interesting man! I wish I had known him when I was in Hawaii. Mentioning the menehune, Kamehameha, and Pele reminded me of the many backyard barbecues I had with the Rapozo family in Kapaa on the Island of Kauai and hiked the Napali coastline several times. I’m going to make it a goal to get over to the island within the next year.

    Your father was certainly a man of great integrity and I know he would be very proud of what you’ve written here. I am thought I was of Iroquois ancestry…but we are still trying to find our Indian grandmother…she would have been my great-grandmother’s (born 1889) grandmother.

    I like your site…I’ll be visiting it frequently.

  4. Cathy, thank you for your kind comments.

    Dad was an amazing, talented, brilliant man.

    Blessings, Andy

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