Akaiko Akana: Minister, Orator, Patriot

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

On a wall in the sanctuary of Kawaiaha‘o is a memorial plaque honoring all the ministers of the church who have passed. These thoughts are written for Akaiko Akana: A minister. An orator. A patriot.

A minister: A year after the passing of Lili‘uokalani, Akaiko Akana became the first Hawaiian to become the kahu (minister) of Kawaiaha‘o Church. The previous minister was Henry Parker, the one famous for cursing Kalākaua and Lili‘uokalani from his bully pulpit. When Akana entered the ministry he broke down the pulpit and began to reconstruct the church and inspire the congregation. The wooden interior was eaten by termites. All the things that are seen today: the central cross, the seven candles, the altar, the second floor, etc. were completed by Kahu Akana. Until this day are the little signs on the pillars: “Silence.”

An orator: Akana went to the Kamehameha School for Boys and later graduated from Hartford. In 1918 he wrote his “Sinews of Racial Development.” In his treatise are six sinews, muscles to strengthen the race: a) race consciousness; b) broadmindedness; c) education; d) the home life; e) systematic living; and f) godliness. According to him, race consciousness is the pride and belief in the Hawaiian people and is the foundation for strengthening the nation. Whether one had dark skin, brown skin, or was rich or poor, the Hawaiian must be mindful of, and have faith in, the Hawaiian race.

He was a staunch supporter of the Hawaiian language. He wrote that “the Hawaiian language is the measure for us to know we are a unique people.” He wrote to the legislature to fix the policy that banned instruction in Hawaiian in schools.

A patriot: Kahu Akana had great compassion for those living on the fringe in Kaka‘ako and Iwilei and thought they needed to return to the land. He believed that the land was a refuge. He formed the ‘Ahahui Pu‘uhonua o nā Hawai‘i (Refuge Association of the Hawaiian People), the “parent” on the homesteads. In 1921 he witnessed the Homestead Act and in 1922 he urged the legislature to include Papakōlea in the homestead lands.

At the end of “Sinews of Racial Development” is a song close to the heart of Akaiko Akana. It reflects his love for the Hawaiian people:

Be strong and ally ye, O Sons of Hawai‘i
And nobly stand together hand in hand
All dangers defy thee Sons of Hawai‘i
And bravely serve your own your Fatherland.

Postscript: This is the 200th year of the founding of Kawaiaha‘o, the beloved church of Rev. Akaiko Akana. This story is dedicated to all of the Hawaiian kahu and members of Kawaiaha‘o.