Kippen de Alba Chu


POSTED: Friday, August 07, 2009

The executive director of 'Iolani Palace was dismayed that the ringleader of a palace takeover was convicted only on a minor charge and hopes for a “;solid conviction”; in an assault case against others accused in last summer's incident.

A state jury last week found self-proclaimed heir to the Hawaiian throne James Akahi guilty of simple trespass rather than second-degree burglary for occupying the palace last Aug. 15. He was fined $1,000.

Two other members of the Maui sovereignty group await trial on an assault charge accusing them of slamming a palace employee with an iron gate as they locked non-Hawaiians out of the Honolulu grounds.

Security has been beefed up since the incident, as executive director Kippen de Alba Chu, 44, and his staff of 33 work to preserve and share the legacy of Hawaiian royalty, including at public events such as an upcoming Victorian garden party.

'Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom's last two monarchs: King Kalakaua, who built the palace in 1882, and his sister and successor, Queen Lili'uokalani.

The palace fell into disrepair after the monarchy was overthrown, and in 1966 Lili'uokalani Kawananakoa Morris, grandniece of Queen Kapiolani, founded The Friends of 'Iolani Palace to restore and preserve it.

“;We're constantly marketing ourselves to visitors because that is our biggest source of revenue, (tour) ticket sales and gift shop sales,”; said Chu, who studied international business at American University in Paris after graduating from Punahou School. “;The other critical component is with the local community, and especially with Hawaiian groups.”;

Chu, who has worked at the palace since 2006, is a former assistant executive director of the Hawaii Insurers Council and before that was chief of staff for his aunt, state Rep. Bertha Kawakami. He spends his free time surfing, and is taking Hawaiian language classes.

Question: Do you think Akahi's punishment was severe enough to deter future break-ins?

Answer: No, that was not a deterrent at all.

Q: So the palace staff was disappointed in the outcome?

A: Very much so. We were hoping for the full conviction and maximum penalty.

Q: What is your hope for the upcoming trial?

A: My hope is that we do get the solid conviction on the assault ... We definitely need to get the message across that the staff are not open for assault ... I think that really crosses the line when you injure someone else.

Q: Did the victim return to work at the palace?

A: Yes, she is back at work.

Q: Do you think the public understands what is at stake?

A: I think for the most part the people who understand what is at stake are the people who are actually familiar with 'Iolani Palace and have been on the tour and know how important these artifacts are.

Q: So there's real fear of damage?

A: Yes, absolutely. This Maui group entered (the grounds) at night when the lights were off. Who knows what damage they could have done ... This sovereignty group ... had never been in the palace before ... so they themselves may not understand what the Friends of 'Iolani Palace is trying to do in terms of preserving these artifacts and the Hawaiian culture and history for future generations.

Q: Has the palace kept up the increased security imposed immediately after the break-in?

A: Yes, definitely ... We restructured how we do security and we have a new security system in place.

Q: Can you tell me about the new system?

A: One of the key elements ... is that (the surveillance system) is digital, so the quality of the images, whether on video or photographs, is good enough to use in any prosecution ... We did not have this capability when the Maui group broke in. We also have more security guards.

Q: Do you think the public took this crime seriously enough?

A: Yes, a lot of people took this very seriously ... even other sovereignty groups feel that what James Akahi did was wrong ... They do not feel that breaking into the palace is the answer. As for (the jury's verdict), I wasn't in court every day, so I can't explain that. But it is disappointing.

Q: Akahi claimed royal lineage. ... Who is next in line?

A: ... 'Iolani Palace recognizes the Kawananakoa family as Hawaii's royal family ... We've had a long history and association with the Kawananakoa family ... their genealogy is well-documented. Many of the (royal) artifacts that we display are their family heirlooms, handed down within their family.

Q: Does the palace still hold genealogy classes?

A: We have an independent instructor who rents space from us and holds these classes on the palace grounds. It's not run by the Friends but it is held on the palace grounds and is open to anyone, of any ancestry, interested in learning about how to trace their family tree.

Q: What other events are coming up?

A: Our annual fundraiser, the Royal Garden Party, is next month. It helps fund our operations. The event is held on the grounds itself ... We try to take people back in time to the Victorian era when Queen Kapiolani used to hold these garden parties. We try to recreate a bit of that ambience. It is open to the public.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your job.

A: One of the most fascinating things about his job is that we continue to receive artifacts to the palace ... A number of significant of pieces have come back in just the past two years. One is a calabash that was given to King Kalakaua for his 50th birthday ... (The calabash was later given by Queen Kapiolani in gratitude to the ship captain who transported the king's body back to Honolulu after Kalakaua's death in San Francisco) ... It stayed in Admiral Brown's family for many, many years ... It was handed down to his great-grandson and he decided it was time to bring it back to Hawaii and donated it to the palace ... Another major gift is a bracelet of Queen Lili'uokalani known as the ho'omana'o mau bracelet, donated by Princess Abigail Kawananakoa. ... In English, ho'omana'o mau means “;always remember”; and that's the legacy we are preserving ... to take people through and to have them appreciate the history of Hawaii.




Interested in tracing your family tree?


Instructor Fran McFarland specializes in teaching genealogical research not just for native Hawaiians who need to establish eligibility for entitlement programs, but also for immigrant groups and foreigners who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to the 'Iolani Palace Web site.


Her two-day workshops, which cost $75, include visits to the state archives and other sites.


For more information, see www.iolanipalace.org or call 522-0822. Or contact McFarland directly at (808) 203-7245 or via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


McFarland is a member of the Utah Genealogical Association.




Royal celebration


The annual Royal Garden Party on the 'Iolani Palace grounds helps fund operations.


When: Sunday, Sept. 20 Time: 5 to 10 p.m. Cost: $300 per ticket Call: 522-0822