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Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole

From Prince to Statesman

The Hawaiian royalty always played an important role in the hearts and minds of native Hawaiians but few were more revered and respected than Prince Kuhio. During a time of struggle and conflict at the turn of the century he became a champion of the Hawaiian people and his efforts are still being expanded upon to this day.

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The Hawaiian people, especially what was then known as the makaainana, or commoners, have struggled for centuries to stay safe and productive on their homelands. In the days of ancient Hawaii, the land was owned by the Ali’i (royalty) which was worked by the commoners who paid tribute each year to the Ali’i chiefs in the form of food and clothing. The kapu (taboo) system of governing saw laws and rules developed for managing the land, sea, and people under penalty of death. When Kamehameha I united the island chain peace finally came to the islands after what was estimated to be 100 years of war.

Young Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole

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Prince Kuhio was born March 26th on the island of Kauai in 1871. His Ali’i (Hawaiian royalty) bloodline was complex. He was named after his grandfather, Kuhio Kalaniana’ole (High Chief of Hilo), and his paternal grandfather Jonah Pi’ikoi (High Chief of Kauai). His father died in 1878 and his mother died in 1884 leaving him an orphan at the age of 13. He was adopted by Queen Kapi’olani, wife of King David Kalakaua.

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Like many Ali’i of the time he attended the Royal School and Punahou School on Oahu. After finishing his basic studies he traveled abroad studying first in California then London. He returned to Hawaii where he was appointed to the the Royal Cabinet of the Kingdom of Hawaii administering to the Department of the Interior. After King Kalakaua’s death in 1891 Queen Lili’uokalani came to power and continued to favor the young Prince. By the time he was 21 the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown by a coalition of American and European businessmen. In 1893 they created a provisional government which became a constitutional republic with no role for Hawaiian Royalty.

Prince Jonah Kuhio went on to become Hawaii’s first territorial delegate to Congress and spearheaded the 1921 federal Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

a vintage photo of a person sitting on a bench posing for the camera

In 1895, at the age of 24, Prince Kuhio participated in a rebellion against the republic of Hawaii which landed him in jail for 1 year. His fiancee, Elizabeth Kahanu Ka’auwai visited him daily while in prison and they were married upon his release in 1896.

The young prince, feeling frustrated by the takeover of his kingdom, decided to travel away from his homeland.

Prince Kuhio and his wife traveled widely in Europe and Africa from 1897 to 1902 and were treated as visiting royalty. During Prince Kuhio’s travels, Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898.

Prince Kuhio returned to Hawaii and became involved in island politics. Kuhio was often called Ke Ali’i Makaainana (Prince of the People) and is well known for his efforts to preserve and strengthen the Hawaiian people.

He became active in representing native Hawaiians and continued to fight for Hawaiian independence. He was elected as Hawaii’s delegate to congress in 1903 and served until his death in 1922 winning a total of 10 elections.

Prince Kuhio

and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act

a man wearing a hat

During his bid to pass the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1920 his letter to U.S. Senators gives us a great example of his intelligence and thinking;

After extensive investigation and survey on the part of various organizations organized to rehabilitate the Hawaiian race, it was found that the only method in which to rehabilitate the race was to place them back upon the soil.”

Though the Hawaiian Homes Act was passed, it was not to Kuhio’s liking as it contained requirements of high blood quantum and leased land instead of granting it fee simple which created a permanent government institution. He continued to serve the native Hawaiian people both at home and in Washington until his death in 1922.

He is much beloved to this day. A statue honoring Prince Kuhio was dedicated in 2002. The statue is slightly larger than life-size and is located in Waikiki. Artist Sean K.L. Browne said that building the statue was of great significance to him because he was raised on Hawaiian Homes land. Today thousands of native Hawaiians are living on land that was made available to them because of the efforts of Prince Kuhio over 100 years ago.

The Territorial Legislature passed a resolution in 1949, establishing March 26 as a territorial holiday in honor of Prince Kuhio.

Prince Kuhio Day Events

Maui Events

Oahu Events

Kauai Events

28th Annual Prince Kuhio Day Celebration 2018 Prince Kuhio Festival 7th Annual Anahola Prince Kuhio Day Celebration
  • 04/01/2020 – 9 am – 4:30 pm – Paukūkalo homestead (Maui’s first Hawaiian homestead community) hosts the celebration that opens with a procession of royal Hawaiian societies and homestead leaders at 9 am with an oratory contest at 9:30 am. Kalo Cookoff at 11:30 am with music all day long.
Honoring the life and legacy of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole (ke ali’i maka’ainana – the citizen prince).

  • 03/18/2020 – Pualeilani at Royal Hawaiian Center
  • 03/24/2020 – Mauna ‘Ala Services
  • 03/25/2020 – 10am Prince Kuhio Parade O Kalakaua Avenue
  • 03/25/2020 – 10am Ho’olaule’a & Ho’iki’iki at Kapi’olani Park
  • 03/26/2020 – 8:30am Ali’i Sunday at Kawaiaha’o Church
  • 03/26/2020 – 6pm Ke Ahe Lau Makani – Hawaiian Choral Concert
  • 03/27/2020 – Prince Kuhio Day State Holiday
  • 03/18/2020 – 11am – 5pm – The event reaffirms the leadership, stewardship and vision of the prince and his legacy in perpetuating the growth of healthy Hawaiian community. Enjoy music, entertainment, hula, food and crafts.

2020 Prince Kuhio Festival

To celebrate the last reigning Prince and celebrator of traditional Hawaiian arts. Join the celebration at Prince Kuhio Park and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.

  • 03/24 – 9am – Opening Protocol Honoring Monarch Prince Jonah
  • 03/24 – 9am – Craft fair & silent auction
  • 03/24 – 10am – Hawaiian music by Kupuna of Kauai
  • 03/25 – 5pm – Torch Lighting Ceremony & Hula Dancing
  • 03/26 – 9am – Tsunami Taiko Drummers
  • 03/26 – 9am – Craft fair & Hawaiian cultural practices
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