Monday, September 20, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
President William Howard Taft and Prince Jonah Kuhio
Kalanianaole, Hawaii's first delegate to Congress.

Kuhio’s advice still
relevant today

By Pat Omandam


BACK in the 1870s, a French school teacher at St. Alban's College, now Iolani School, commented on how young Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole's eyes twinkled merrily and how he kept a perpetual smile.

"He is so cute, just like the pictures of the little cupid," teacher Pierre Jones said.

The nickname, "Prince Cupid," stuck with Prince Kuhio for the rest of his life.

Born March 26, 1871, Kuhio was the grandson of Kauai King Kaumualii and the cousin of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani. He was prepared by the royal family to someday take over the monarchy, but those plans ended with its overthrow on Jan. 17, 1893.

Instead -- and after spending a year in prison in 1895 for his part in a counter-revolution to restore the monarchy -- Kuhio married Elizabeth Kahanu Kaauwai, the daughter of a Maui chief, and toured the world for a few years. They returned to Hawaii in 1901.

A year later, Kuhio joined the Republican Party and was elected a territorial delegate to Congress, where he served for 10 terms until he died 20 years later, on Jan. 7, 1922.

As a congressman, Kuhio's crowning achievement was passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, something he worked on for many years, prompted by the rapid decline in the population of his native people. Hawaiians were considered a dying race and the political compromises Kuhio struck in Congress to get the Hawaiian Homes legislation passed were impressive, said Kenneth H. Toguchi, an information specialist at the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Toguchi said Kuhio was able to convince Congress to focus on the rehabilitation of Hawaiians while reaching an agreement with the formidable sugar interests in Hawaii to exclude some prime agricultural lands from the homestead list.

Since its passage, the Hawaiian Homes Department has awarded 6,821 residential, agricultural and pastoral leases as of July 31, helping more than 27,000 Hawaiians.

"What he did, I think, was a masterful piece of political engineering," Toguchi said.

Kuhio in 1919 also introduced the first bill asking that Hawaii become a state. Former Gov. John Waihee believes Kuhio knew Hawaii had more political clout as a state than as a territory, and wanted to level the political playing field for the islands.

"Kuhio clearly understood that forces beyond his control would forever change the nature and dynamics of how and by whom important decisions that intimately affected his people would be made -- and he was determined not to let others dictate Hawaii's future without a Hawaiian voice," Waihee wrote as part of the Star-Bulletin series published in July.

In 1903, Kuhio organized the Order of Kamehameha, which held the first observance of Kamehameha Day in 1904. And he helped found the Hawaiian Civic Club, which today has more than 40 chapters. Today, a state holiday is named after him, as well as the U.S. federal building in Honolulu, one of several sites that bear his name.

Kuhio was given the last state funeral held in Hawaii for an alii. On his death bed, Kuhio urged a friend to continue fighting for native rights, with advice that remains useful today.

"Stick together and try to agree to the best of your ability to meet the most important problem: the rehabilitation of our race," Kuhio said.

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