The People’s Prince

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!

#ThursdayDoors: Aloha

I’ve just returned from almost a month in Hawaii.  I didn’t intend to stay that long but my grandson was (as they say) on “Hawaiian time.” Finally on March 21st his chubby little cheeks emerged, followed by an equally chubby little body and thank goodness, he was healthy. So I waited until my grandmotherly advice caused my son-in-law’s face to twitch uncontrollably and then left on the next available red-eye.

In Hawaii many of the hotels, government buildings, and even hospitals have open air reception areas and atriums. They have no front doors.  Evidently the craze currently circling the planet thanks to Norm Frampton and the #ThursdayDoors peep-and-tellers hasn’t yet reached the Hawaiian Islands!

Above is the entry to the Hawaiian state capitol.  If you walk through these columns the legislative chambers are to the right and the government offices to the left.  If you look up through the sky light in the atrium, this is what you’ll see:

In front of the capitol is a statue of Father Damien, the patron saint of the Hawaiian Islands.

Religion has played a controversial role in paradise.  Before the missionaries arrived, the islands were ruled by warrior kings who often had several wives (some of them sisters) and maintained order via ancient superstitions and myths. The missionaries brought changes that benefitted the poor but they also brought sickness and doors.

Behind the state capitol is Iolani Palace.This palace was built around 1882 under the direction of King Kalakaua who felt he needed digs worthy of his lofty position.  At that time, many of Hawaiian’s royals were anxious to be accepted by their European counterparts thus Kalakaua’s palace could easily be at home in London or Paris.  Except for the banyan and palm trees on the front lawn, of course.

Ironically Iolani Palace would serve as a prison for the last member of the royal family to have any political power, Queen Lili’oukalani. She was no match for power hungry American businessmen who had the implicit support of the US government.

The doors to Iolani Palace were almost impossible to photograph from the bottom of the staircase on a hot day, but they seem like sad doors to me.

Happily we were also in Honolulu during the festival of Prince Kuhio, the last royal member of Congress and the founder of many civic organizations dedicated to preserving Hawaiian Culture.

More pictures to come. Aloha!