The State of Hawaii designates two state holidays for Hawaiian royalty, March 26 for Kuhio Day and June 11 for Kamehameha Day. Kuhio Day honors Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawai’i’s best known leaders. Kamehameha Day honors King Kamehameha the Great (aka the 1st), who united the islands into one kingdom in 1810. Both holidays fall on the actual birthdays of the leaders although statewide celebrations may occur on other days.
This year Prince Kuhio Day falls on the last Sunday of the month and is observed on Monday, March 27 when state and county offices will be closed. Some people commemorate Prince Kuhio by attending special services at Oahu’s Royal Mausoleum where he is buried. Others may attend festivals including statewide canoe races, cultural demonstrations and luaus. In previous years I have given oral history talks and sing-alongs of songs popular during the Prince’s lifetime (1871-1922) at Hale Ho’ike’ike at the Bailey House and at Kaunoa Senior Center (see sample title slide from a presentation in 2016).
Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Hawaii, prince of the house of Kalākaua, is best remembered for his efforts to improve the lives of the people of Hawai’i. In 1902, Kuhio was elected as Hawai’’s second territorial delegate to the U.S. congress where he served for 10 consecutive terms lasting nearly 20 years until his death. Kuhio was the first Native Hawaiian and the only person elected to the U.S. congress that was born a royal. As a delegate, Kuhio authored the first Hawai’i Statehood bill in 1919. He also won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act in 1921 which created the Hawaiian Homes Commission and set aside 200,000 acres of land for Native Hawaiian homesteaders. Kuhio’s legacy lives on today in two Native Hawaiian organizations, the Royal Order of Kamehameha which he restored in 1903 and the Hawaiian Civic Clubs which he started in 1918.
Prince Kuhio was born March 26, 1871 on the island of Kauai. His mother was Queen Kapiolani’s sister and his father was the ruling chief and son of the last high chief of Kauai. When Kuhio’s mother died soon after his birth, his Aunt Queen Kapiolani and Uncle King David Kalakaua hanaied (adopted) Kuhio and his brother David Kawananakoa into their family. Kuhio’s cousin Queen Lili’uokalani named him heir to the throne, and thus he was given the title of “prince.” Kuhio married Elizabeth Kahanu and they lived in Waikiki near the present day Kuhio beach. They had no children. Prince Kuhio died on January 7, 1922 at the age of 51 on Oahu.
In 1949, the legislature of the Territory of Hawai’i established Prince Kuhio Day as an official holiday. Today, various landmarks, streets, beaches, and buildings in Hawai’i are named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. A statue of Prince Kuhio by sculptor Sean K.L. Browne was dedicated on January 12, 2002 in Waikiki on Oahu. As a teenager, I used to go paipo boarding (form of surfing) at nearby Kuhio Beach.
Now you know a little about the cultural significance of one of Hawai’i’s state holidays, Prince Kuhio Day that is celebrated on March 26.
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele