Prince Kuhio, 1871-1922
Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was Hawaii’s last royal prince. Although he never sat on a throne, his birthday, March 26th, is cause for celebration in the islands.
Without Prince Kuhio, Hawaiians would have most likely suffered the same fate as Native Americans, forced assimilation into a culture with little respect for the earth; their traditions and language in jeopardy of disappearing forever. Or worse, watching as cherished rituals were reduced to comic stereotypes.
Kuhio was the nephew of Queen Lili’oukalani. After she was overthrown, he was briefly arrested for treason and then fled to South Africa where he joined the British Army and fought the Boers. When he finally returned to the islands he did so with a mission: to promote and preserve the Hawaiian culture. Eight times he was elected to the US Congress where he helped secure rights for native Hawaiians. Rights like, being able to homestead on the lands of your ancestors.
Music is very important to Hawaiians and so for the week leading up to the Prince Kuhio festival, local television stations broadcast events held at schools and cultural centers throughout the islands. Not the kind of music you hear in Tiki bars and shopping centers but traditional songs sung in ancient Hawaiian.
The parade, which kicked off the final day of celebration, began with the traditional blowing of Pu shells to the north, south, east and west. Then came the members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha (descendants of Hawaiian royalty) either walking on foot or driven in convertibles (all Mustangs for some strange reason). I noticed that many of them had red hair and fair skin. Hummm.
A great, great, great grand nephew of King Kamehameha?
Many schools marched in the parade, some singing and some dancing. There were hula dancers, both young and old, drummers, horseback riders and even one dragon.
These kids got to ride on a trolley!
After the parade, people gathered in Kapiolani Park near Diamond Head for a celebration that included song and dance and food from a flotilla of food trucks. All in all, a perfect day and a joyful celebration for a great man. Happy Prince Kuhio Day!