Ka Wai Ola

October is the birth month of one of Hawai‘i’s most beloved ali‘i; born on October 16th, 1875, Victoria Ka‘iulani Kawēkiu i Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Cleghorn was the only child of Princess Miriam Likelike, who was sister to both King Kalākaua and Queen Lili‘uokalani. Ka‘iulani’s father was the prominent Scottish businessman Archibald Cleghorn.

With her lineage, upbringing and education, Ka‘iulani was raised to be a leader for her people and may have one day been queen. She was educated in England, and at the age of 15, Ka‘iulani was proclaimed Crown Princess of Hawai‘i by her aunt, Queen Lili‘uokalani.

Two years after Ka‘iulani was proclaimed heir apparent, the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown and Queen Lili‘uokalani deposed.

Following the unlawful overthrow on January 17, 1893, the Princess bravely sought to influence change and restore the kingdom. At 18 years old, Ka‘iulani prepared a statement to the press in England, which was eventually reprinted in The Daily Bulletin on March 2, 1893, in Honolulu.

The Princess’ statement was published as such:

Four years ago, at the request of Mr. [Lorrin A.] Thurston, then a Hawaiian Cabinet Minister, I was sent away to England to be educated privately and fitted to the position which by the constitution of Hawaii I was to inherit. For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my native country.

I am now told that Mr. Thurston will be in Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my throne, my nation, and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?

When Ka‘iulani arrived in New York, newspapers across the United States also published her statement:

Unbidden, I stand upon your shores today where I thought so soon to receive a royal welcome on my way to my own kingdom. I come unattended, except by the loving hearts that have come with me over the wintry seas. I hear that commissioners from my land have been for many days asking this great nation to take away my little vineyard. They speak no word to me, and leave me to find out as I can from the rumors of the air that they would leave me without a home, or a name, or a nation.

Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii. They gave us the gospel, they made us a nation, and we learned to love and trust America. Today three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capital asking you to undo their fathers’ work. Who sent them? Who gave them authority to break the constitution, which they swore they would uphold?

Today, I, a poor, weak girl, with not one of my people near me, and all these Hawaiian statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong, strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of 70,000,000 people who in this free land will hear my cry, and will refuse to let their flag cause dishonor to mine.

Although Ka‘iulani was admired and respected by many of the American audience, her pleas did not sway action to right the injustices that had occurred.

Ka‘iulani remained in Europe for the next few years, returning to Hawai‘i in 1897 after nearly nine years abroad. While on a horse ride on Hawai‘i Island just one year later, she got caught in a storm and developed a fever. Ka‘iulani was brought back to O‘ahu where her health continued to decline. She died on March 6, 1899, at the age of 23.

With a sense of minamina, one wonders what kind of leader Princess Ka‘iulani could have been for Hawai‘i, had her life not been cut so short. Yet, what Ka‘iulani accomplished in her lifetime solidifies her legacy as a true ali‘i who exemplified aloha ‘āina. Her tireless aloha for her people and hard-fought struggle to protect the Kingdom reflected the feelings and actions of Hawaiians of the time. Ka‘iulani’s legacy of aloha inspires us to be steadfast and united in our love for Hawai‘i and its people and is expressed by the famous words of James Kaulia: “…a hiki i ke aloha aina hope loa.” (“…to the very last aloha ‘āina.”)