Ka Wai Ola

One of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaole’s greatest lifetime accomplishments was his leadership and advocacy in establishing Hawaiian home lands. As an elected delegate of the Territory of Hawai‘i to the United States Congress, Kūhiō proposed legislation for the establishment of Hawaiian Homelands to rehabilitate Native Hawaiians through homesteading. He believed if Hawaiians could reestablish their roots to the land they would be able to survive as a people.

In Congress, Kūhiō gave a speech citing the urgent need for his proposed legislation. He noted;

Today the great majority of the Hawaiian people own no land. The Hawaiian race is passing. And if conditions continue to exist as they do today, this splendid race of people, my people, will pass from the face of the earth. The legislation proposed seeks to place Hawaiians back on the soil, so that the valuable and sturdy traits of that race, peculiarly adapted to the islands, shall be preserved to posterity.

Kūhiō’s aloha for Hawaiians and the “Rehabilitation Law” was shared by many others. An article titled, “Na Poe Kaulio Eha” or “The Four Horsemen,” was printed in both in the nūpepa Hawai‘i (Hoku o Hawaii, April 26, 1939) and the nūpepa Haole (Star of Hawaii, May 3, 1939), and recounts the dedication and determination of four men to help the Lāhui Hawai‘i:

Photo: Kūhiō, John C. Lane, Rev. Stephen L. Desha Sr., H. Lincoln Holstein
The Four Horsemen. Kūhiō, seated. Standing: John C. Lane, Rev. Stephen L. Desha Sr., and H. Lincoln Holstein. – Photo: Hawai‘i State Archives

The Four Horsemen

“The inset photo was taken at Honolulu a few years before the passage of the Rehabilitation Law. A few days after the return of the Delegate Prince Kūhiō from Washington, four Hawaiians assembled at Pualeilani at Waikīkī to discuss the subject “Rehabilitation of the Hawaiians.” After that discussion, these men went to town and had their picture taken at the William’s Gallery on Fort Street, as it was the Prince’s wish, so that he could show his fellow congressmen in Washington that his backers brought up this important matter for rehabilitating their people, known to be decreasing, during the session of the Hawai‘i Legislature, if the measure is allowed by Congress.

“Two years before the passage of the Rehabilitation Law, these four men – Prince Kūhiō, John C. Lane, Rev. Stephen L. Desha Sr., and H. Lincoln Holstein – had discussed the measure concerning the Rehabilitation of the Hawaiians. Later other friends joined, and they were John H. Wise, Noa Aluli, Akaiko Akana, Emil Muller, Attorney C. K. Breckons, and several others, and they planned to introduce the measure. It was introduced by John Wise in the Senate and backed by Senator Desha and John Lane, and it was introduced in the House by Speaker Holstein. It was through this effort that it became a law and it was approved by Congress at Washington.

“In the year 1921 this measure was passed by the legislature of Hawai‘i – this picture was taken in 1919. Kuhio has always referred to these three men as his cabinet, and it was a fact that they always backed the prince until he passed away in 1922. Of this cabinet of Kūhiō, one had followed his footsteps, and that is the late Rev. S. L. Desha, Sr., and there remain two living. One is Link Holstein who is 74 years and is living in Maui and John Lane, gray haired and living in Honolulu, and none of them had gotten the benefits of what the Prince had done for his people. Others are benefited by receiving big salaries. They had worked hard and others reaped the benefit. Kuhio never forgot this picture and his council.

“The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, formerly known as the Rehabilitation Bill, was passed on July 9, 1921. Although politics in the U.S. and in Hawai‘i had placed severe limitations on the efficacy of the original Act sought by Kūhiō and the other po‘e aloha ‘āina, it nevertheless has provided one foundation for the lāhui to reclaim self-sufficiency.”