DID YOU KNOW that Queen Ka’ahumanu (shopping) Center is named after King Kamehameha’s favorite wife? Born in a cave in Hana, Maui on March 17, 1768, Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu became Hawaii’s first female monarch. She reigned for 55 years, making her the longest reigning monarch in the Kingdom of Hawaii. A tall woman, Queen Ka’ahumanu was noted for her intelligence, beauty and fearlessness. She created the office of kuhina nui or co-ruler, overthrew the kapu system of laws, converted to Christianity, learned to read, and helped to found Kawaiahao Church on Oahu. More than any other woman in Hawaiian history, Queen’ Ka’ahumanu created changes that continue to impact our lives today.
I am a member of the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women in honor of Queen Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu. Every year we honor the Queen on her birthday with a program close to her birthday that is open to the public at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului, followed by a church service at Ka’ahumanu Church in Wailuku. I served as Chapter Historian for many years, and used to give speeches about the Queen and our organization at both places, in addition to giving short oral history stories at monthly membership meetings. In past years, I also joined my Ahahui sisters in dancing hula and playing ukulele on stage. This year, the program at the Center was on Friday, March 14 followed by the church service on Sunday, March 16.
When you see Hawaiian ladies all in black from head to toe, and adorned with golden lei hulu (feather lei) around their necks with Ahahui pin and ribbon, these are the ladies of the Ahahui, aka Ka’ahumanu Society. Membership is by sponsorship only. In my case, the President of the Chapter in 2004 sponsored me, and I have been proud to be a member ever since.
Today in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions, I research and film videos of the stories behind the songs. After living and working on the mainland for 27 years, it was the ladies of the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu who welcomed me back to my Hawaiian roots to continue our cultural traditions.
Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele