By Hailama V.K.K. Farden
Ke hoʻomanaʻo aku nei kākou i ka lā hānau 152 o ke Aliʻi Makaʻāinana, ʻo ia hoʻi ʻo Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole i hānau ʻia ma ka lā 26 o Maraki, mk 1871 ma Kōloa, Kauaʻi.
This month we celebrate one of Hawaiʻi’s most impactful leaders – one not only born into the pedigree of Hawaiian royalty whose bloodline weaves and binds four great island chiefly lineages, but whose influence significantly shaped Hawaiʻi.
His Royal Highness Prince (HRH) Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole was elected as Hawaiʻi’s delegate to the U.S. Congress, serving 10 consecutive terms in Washington, D.C., from 1903 to his death on Jan. 7, 1922.
Rooted in his royal heritage, his names Kūhiō (to stand [to lean] with foresight) and Kalanianaʻole (a chief without measure), foretold his magnanimous life of service.
HRH Kalanianaʻole was an effective leader whose only vote in the U.S. Congress was through the confidence of his colleagues in Washington, D.C., because, as a “delegate” (as opposed to a representative or senator), HRH Kalanianaʻole did not have an actual vote.
Consider, then, the magnitude of his intelligence, charisma, and political acumen that he was able to influence an all-white Congress to adopt what would come to be known as the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA), later signed into law by then-U.S. President Warren G. Harding on July 9, 1921.
Kalanianaʻole was elected as Hawaiʻi’s Congressional delegate in 1902 and never relinquished his ʻahuʻula (mantle) of sacred responsibility to his people – an assignment bestowed upon him by his uncle, His Majesty King Kalākaua.
Though his path of kuleana may have seemed to verge from his royal birthright as leader in the Hawaiian Kingdom after 1893 – did it really? Was he not the same great impactful aliʻi who saw to the wellbeing of his people? Did he stray from or ignore his responsibilities to his people? This answer, of course, is an unwavering “ʻaʻole loa!”
His work to uplift the wellbeing and civic identity of his people in Hawaiʻi is a part of an unbroken chain of responsibility linked to the establishment of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1810 by King Kamehameha I, through the notable contributions of King Kamehameha III, and on through (and not ending with) Her Majesty Queen Liliʻuokalani!
HRH Kalanianaʻole’s civic contributions are more than significant. He assured that the voice of the people would never be silent by founding the ʻAhahui Kamehameha (today known as the Royal Order of Kamehameha I), the ʻAhahui Puʻuhonua no nā Hawaiʻi, and the Hawaiian Civic Club (today significantly grown to 63 clubs and known as the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs).
The Prince’s contributions will never be forgotten and should be celebrated by all – not only by beneficiaries of the HHCA, or the members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and the Association of Hawaiian Clubs – but by all Kānaka ʻŌiwi Hawaiʻi and our guests. When one speaks of degrees of separation, no matter our lineages, we may not be as separated as one might think because of the pilina promulgated by our prince!
In light of recent challenges to select a new Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ director, it is my hope that all who have had, and will have, involvement in the selection of this important role (including all potential candidates), not only think about the context which they honor, but hopefully have and will always defend, the contextual foundations established in the formation of the HHCA and the vision of Prince Kalanianaʻole (and I trust they do)!
Hailama V. K. K. Farden is the immediate past president of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools regional director for Kona, Oʻahu, and kahu of Waiʻanae Protestant Church.