HONOLULU (KHON2) — In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the U.S. Census Bureau is shining light on a man who played an important role in their mission.

David Kaonohiokala Bray helped break down barriers and get a more accurate census count in Hawaii.

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For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau relied on local translators and census takers to help earn the trust of people who were reluctant to complete the census. It’s not just about counting people door to door. The work takes far more to build trust in a community, which was especially true in the early 1900s. The Census Bureau said Bray was instrumental in getting a more complete count in Hawaii.

He helped encourage Hawaiians to participate in the 1910 Census, serving as part of a coveted group of locals assembled by the Census Bureau to prepare and disseminate information in various languages about the importance of the census to Hawaii, which was still a young U.S. territory.

David Kaonohiokala Bray (Courtesy: Hawaii State Archives)

Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1898, and the Census Bureau first counted its population in 1900. Back then, the islands had a population of about 154,000, according to the census. That number was believed to be much lower than what it actually was due to a variety of reasons:

  • Communication issues: More than half of the population of the age of 10 didn’t speak English.
  • The bubonic plague outbreak significantly delayed the count.
  • Many Hawaiians were reluctant because previous governments used surveys for tax purposes.

To erase misconceptions and encourage more people to participate in the 1910 Census, Bray was tasked to launch an outreach campaign designed to educate Hawaiians.

David Kaonohiokala Bray (Courtesy: Hawaii State Archives)

“We salute David Bray for his work restoring, preserving, and raising awareness of Hawaiian culture and traditions, including ensuring the 1910 Census fully represented the Hawaiian people by communicating to them in their own language and educating them on why it was so important their voices be heard.”

Christopher Martin and Jasmine Pridgen, U.S. Census Bureau

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To learn more about Bray, click here.