In Ke Au Hawai‘i, the year of the Hawaiian, we seek to learn from the many ways our küpuna sought to foster pride in Hawaiian identity.
Throughout his lifetime, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole was a loyal and dedicated aliʻi who wanted what was best for the lāhui Hawaiʻi during a time of great change. In the years following the annexation of Hawai‘i to the United States, Kūhiō believed that it was essential to the well-being of the Hawaiian people to restore respect and pride in their own ethnicity.
To this end, Kūhiō assisted in the founding of the Order of Kamehameha, a society devoted to the perpetuation of the memory and the greatness of Kamehameha I. In fact, Kūhiō can rightfully be attributed with reinstating the present day commemorative exercises held to honor the memory of the great King Kamehameha I. The society was organized May 13, 1903 with the prince designated as the Aliʻi Aimoku, a leadership role. The first official act of the society was to conduct the 1904 observance of Kamehameha Day.
On the eve of Kamehameha Day 1904, the prince and the charter members of the Order of Kamehameha gathered at night at the statue of Kamehameha in front of the judiciary building. The men formed a circle about the statue, each holding a loop of a lei of plumeria. The prince made a speech detailing the purposes of the order; then each of the men followed the prince in taking an oath to do all in his power to perpetuate the memory of Kamehameha the Great.
The next day, the prince officiated the first of the modern day Kamehameha Day programs held at the foot of the statue. Prince Kūhiō remained a leading member and supporter of the ʻAhahui Kamehameha until his death in 1922.
Kūhiō was also instrumental in forming the ʻAhahui Puʻuhonua O Nā Hawaiʻi (Hawaiʻi Protective Association). Organized in November 1914 by 200 Native Hawaiian leaders, the ʻAhahui Puʻuhonua published its own newspaper, spoke through churches and civic groups, encouraged education in agricultural pursuits, and published articles in other newspapers.
In 1918, the ʻAhahui Puʻuhonua developed a plan to “rehabilitate” impoverished Native Hawaiians exposed to diseases, such as tuberculosis, in the crowded tenements and squatter camps which had sprung up in Honolulu, Oʻahu. Led by Kūhiō, Hawaiʻi’s delegate to the U.S. Congress, this group drafted legislation to reserve the former Hawaiian Crown lands for exclusive homesteading by Native Hawaiians. On December 7, 1918, Kūhiō and leaders of the ʻAhahui Puʻuhonua formed a second organization of Native Hawaiians, the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, which included regional clubs on all the islands, to help gain support for the rehabilitation plan. Both organizations campaigned vigorously at home and abroad and successfully brought about the enactment of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act through the U.S. federal law.
The Hawaiian Civic Club’s main purpose, at the time of its founding, was “to be responsible for and dedicated to the education of the Hawaiian, the elevation of his social, economic and intellectual status as they promote the principles of good government, outstanding citizenship and civic pride in the inherent progress of Hawaiʻi and all her people.” Today, the Hawaiian civic clubs continue to be an important kuamoʻo or backbone of the Hawaiian community.
It is fitting that the civic clubs are enjoying their centennial anniversary in 2018, Ke Au Hawaiʻi. Upon reflecting on the HCC’s 100 years of existence, it is with enormous gratitude and respect that we recognize how leaders among our people have selflessly continued to provide their time, expertise, and commitment to further our well-being as a lāhui Hawaiʻi through their involvement in the civic clubs. As Kūhiō and our kūpuna knew, it takes a body of like-minded people with good and sound leadership to bring about profound change for the betterment of the whole.
May we draw inspiration from our küpuna and continue to help solidify the kahua of well-being for our people into 2019 and beyond! Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono! E ola e nā ʻAhahui Siwila Hawaiʻi!