Wahi Pana: Mauna ʻAla

#125 in the Moʻolelo series

According to Bill Maioho, its former kahu, Mauna ʻAla was declared by an act of Congress in 1900 as sovereign land of the Hawaiian Kingdom. But think about that: if thatʻs true, then is there still a Hawaiian Kingdom? If that is true (and mounting evidence says it is), and perhaps even if it isnʻt, then how does Congress have the authority to name territory as the sovereign territory of another nation? Or are they saying that they extinguished the sovereignty of all of Hawaiʻi except Mauna ʻAla? You can see that this is all very confusing.

Alexander Liholiho, Kamehameha IV

Mauna ʻAla was created as an area to consolidate the iwi of Hawaiian royals (probably not all aliʻi). At this time, the “stirps” of the Kingdom was only the Kamehameha family. Lot provided in his 1864 constitution the means to establish a new stirps, or royal family line, but he had little way of knowing that other families would be buried there. If there were a new stirps, however, he would have known that it would come from his classmates from the Chiefs’ Children’s School.

Lot Kapuaiwa, Kamehameha V

Prior to Mauna ʻAla, there were royal mausoleums at Lahaina (the cemetery at Waiola Church, where Kaumualiʻi, Nahienaena and Kaʻahumanu are still buried) and at Pohukaina, on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace, where Liholiho was buried. According to the site Pacific Worlds, which takes a special interest in Nuʻuanu Valley, where Mauna ʻAla lies:

The passing of Ka Haku o Hawai‘i–the young prince of Hawai‘i at the age of four–begins the story of Mauna ‘Ala itself: “King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma chose this site, called Mauna ‘Ala, to erect this larger mausoleum building. The mausoleum building on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace was full, and they built a temporary shelter alongside of that building for the Prince.

“This site was chosen for its sacredness. There are petroglyphs alongside of Nu‘uanu Stream, just below Mauna ‘Ala, that lend to the mystique or the mana of Mauna ‘Ala.This was one of the first successful battle sites on O‘ahu for Kamehameha, in chasing Kalanikupule and his warriors further up the valley. Before that, this was the battle encampment of Kalanikupule, the high chief of O‘ahu.

“Mauna ‘Ala means ‘fragrant mountain.’ And this lends itself to the Hawaiian cultural tradition that fragrances would bring back memories of your loved ones, of special events that happened in your life, special places. And that would all be included in the mana of the iwi of the Kamehamehas.”

Bill Maioho in Pacific Worlds, pacific worlds.org
The young Kalākaua (photo from Bishop Museum)

The Kalākaua crypt is fascinating to me: besides Kalākaua himself, chiefs from as early as Keaweaheulu (Kamehameha’s uncle and great-grandfather of Kalākaua and Liliʻu) to as recent as David Kalākaua Kawananakoa (son of David Laʻamea Kawananakoa – Kūhiō’s brother – buried in 1953) are interred there. More recently, the State of Hawaiʻi affirmed that Abigail Kawananakoa will also be buried in the Kalākaua crypt. So burials in the Kalākaua crypt will eventually range across four centuries from the 1700s to the 21st century.

The chapel at Mauna ʻAla was designed by the German architect Theodore Heuck

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Cook’s Arrival: The Sahlins-Obeyesekere Debate

#124 in the Moʻolelo series, #4 on the Moʻolelo Channel, this is from an in-class lecture. As I said, I wonʻt usually post lectures – theyʻre normally too long – but this one is a short “bridging” lecture, and doesnʻt have any students who can be seen or heard (except their laughter at a couple of points). Please excuse the phone that rings at the beginning – this is from real life! The video “premieres” on Friday morning, October 30th at 7 am:

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Walter Murray Gibson

#123 in the Moʻolelo series

Walter Murray Gibson was a storyteller. He met Nathaniel Hawthorne in England and spun a tale about being born aboard a ship off Gibraltar, and, finding out that there were two simultaneous births aboard that ship, that he had been assigned the wrong mother (who didnʻt seem to love him!). He was thus in England searching for his “true family.” Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter (who lived in my wife’s hometown of Lenox, Massachusetts at Tanglewood, which is now a famous music center, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), was a close friend of Herman Melville, who also came to Hawaiʻi. He chalked it up to “another instance of the incurable American fancy for connections with aristocratic British lineage and great estates” (Daws, 1980, 131).

Walter Murray Gibson (source: wikimedia commons)

Gibson was actually born in 1822 in Northumberland, England and moved to Canada and then New York while still a child. He left home at 14 and had dreams of the Far East and particularly of islands. After “adventures” in Central America, Indonesia and Malaysia, replete with scandals that lead Daws to state he was:

a man a great immediate charm and persuasiveness who ultimately rang hollow, a man who dreamed of fortune and renown but whose life – to be blunt about it – was that of a confidence man.

Daws, 1980, 138

Gibson went to Utah and met, and impressed Brigham Young, who ended up giving Gibson free rein to do missionary work in the Pacific after he converted to Mormonism. This is how Gibson ended up in Hawaiʻi. He arrived with a letter from Brigham Young that put him in charge of the Mormon mission on Lānaʻi, at the “City of of Joseph” at the site called Palawai. Gibson wrote that there was no vice here as in the cities and was enchanted by the small, albeit run down, settlement of about 200 Hawaiian members of the LDS faith. Gibson began to buy lands, in his own name, and eventually a delegation from Utah interrogated him quite publicly causing the settlement to be deserted by all but Gibson himself.

Gibson had been somewhat implicated, perhaps by rumor only, in a plot to overthrow King Lunalilo. When Kalākaua was elected a year later, however, he found that he and Gibson had much in common; a sincere desire to constrain Western influence and an interest in empire-building. As a newspaper editor, he wrote of Hawaiʻi “sit[ing] royally as the Queen of the great ocean, and shin[ing] forth as a proud and redeemed state before an admiring world!” (Daws, 1980, 150).

It was Gibson who orchestrated Kalākaua’s much-criticized (by Western residents at least, for its expense) coronation ten years after taking the throne. After eyeing a cabinet position for a decade, Gibson was allegedly given multiple positions, leading to his nickname “the Minister of everything.” Gibson was at the center of the alleged scandals surrounding the Bayonet Constitution: selling public offices, giving exemptions to Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients, selling extra opium licenses (opium was regulated at the time). But it is becoming increasingly clear that these scandals were fabricated, and it may be that Daws is too harsh in his assessment of Gibson.

At her talk given through UH Mānoa Native Hawaiian Student Services, I asked Tiffany Lani Ing, author of Reclaiming Kalākaua, whether she thought that Hawaiians had believed the accusations surrounding Gibson (given that they were mainly made in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, owned by Lorrin Thurston). She replied that some Hawaiians did, some didn’t – there was diversity in Hawaiian views on all these matters. In his journal on the day his cabinet was dissolved, Gibson wrote only “Cabinet resigned today,” giving us no indication of his own innocence, guilt or even feelings on the incident. He died in San Francisco soon after the Bayonet Constitution.


Gavan Daws, A Dream of Islands, Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1980.

Tiffany Lani Ing, Reclaiming Kalākaua: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on a Hawaiian Sovereign, Honolulu; University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2019.

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Wahi Pana: Kona

#122 in the Moʻolelo series

I once attended a retreat, for those of us who were members of the editorial board of Kamehameha Publishing, at the Keauhou Beach Hotel in Kahaluʻu, Kona. It was described to us by kumu hula Taupouri Tangarō (son-in-law of Pua Kanahele) that Kahaluʻu referred to deep diving, immersing oneself, both literally in the kai, and figuratively, in one’s activities and in life itself. In the mornings, I would go running along the coast and saw the many heiau that line the coast. I thought about global warming and sea level rise and how these historic sites were so very much imperiled.

Kailua Kona (source: wikimedia commons)

According to the Hawaiian Dictionary:


1. nvs. Leeward sides of the Hawaiian Islands; leeward (PPN Tonga.)

2. nvi. A famous leeward wind; to blow, of this wind. Many names of Kona winds follow. See ex., Kapakū.

3. n. Name of a star.


Kona is a massive moku, or district, about the size of Maui or Oʻahu, so large that it is currently divided into North and South Kona. Indeed, the Northern and Southern parts of the moku are geographically quite different, the North dominated as it is by lava flows. Kona had been the unofficial capital of Hawaiʻi Island since the time of ʻUmi-a-līloa, who moved from Waipiʻo to Keauhou, at a site called ʻUmihale. At the time of Kamehameha, seven generations later, Kona was still the base of operations. It was from Kona that the fleet was launched for the Battle of Nuʻuanu in May 1795. Known lyrically as Konakaiopuaikalaʻi, Kona sits at the base of the 10,000-foot Hualalai. Henry Waiau wrote of a love affair between Liholiho and “a woman of rank” (huapala.org):

ʻO Kona kai ʻōpua i ka laʻi
ʻO pua hinano i ka mālie
Wai na lai
Ka mako a ʻōpua
ʻAʻole no ahe lua aʻe like aku ia


The cloud banks over Kona’s peaceful sea

Like the hinano flower

In the peaceful sea

The cloudbanks of Kona

Are incomparable, second to none

Henry Waiau, accessed at huapala.org

Iʻm not sure how many people know that the Island of Hawaiʻi is over 4000 square miles, just slightly less than two-thirds of all the land in the archipelago. (It is sometimes noted that Hawaiʻi is the “largest island in the United States”). It was here on Hawaiʻi Island that the Pacific scholar Epeli Hauʻofa arrived at his idea, now central to Pacific Island studies, that the Pacific Islands are not small but consist of a “sea of islands” including the ocean that connects them.

Central to Kona is the town of Kailua, which was the seat of the governor of Hawaiʻi Island during the Kingdom period. It is the site of the first completed church in Hawaiʻi, Mokuʻaikaua (visible in the picture above). Huliheʻe Palace, which sits on Aliʻi Drive in Kailua town, was home to Aliʻi including Princess Ruth. According to the Daughters of Hawaiʻi – a sort of Hawaiʻi version of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), it is only open to women who descend from Hawaiʻi residents before 1880 (Hawaiian or not):

The Palace was originally built out of lava rock during the Kingdom of Hawai‘i on land known as Kalāke‘e, a former residence of Kamehameha the Great. The Palace itself was first home to High Chief John Adams Kuakini, brother of Ka‘ahumanu the favorite wife of Kamehameha, and later home to more members of Hawaiian royalty than any other residence in Hawai‘i.


Kalākaua stayed at Huliheʻe at times and some of his belongings are there on display, including a guitar of his.

Huliheʻe Palace (source: wikimedia commons)

Today, Kona is known worldwide for three things; its deep-sea fishing, Kona coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world, and the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, which for triathletes is often just called “Kona.”

In South Kona is Puʻuhonua o Honaunau, the “City of refuge.” Now a National Park, it was the site of ceremonies surrounding Kalaniopuʻu’s death in 1782. Kamehameha had disrupted the new king Kīwalaʻō’s aha ceremony and at an ʻawa drinking at Hōnaunau, Kīwalaʻō took symbolic revenge:

Kīwalaʻō passed the ʻawa chewed by Kamehameha on to his aikane. Kekūhaupiʻo exclaimed “The chief has insulted us! Your brother did not chew the ʻawa for a commoner, but for you, the chief” (Kamakau, 1992, 119). The two sailed to Keʻei to avoid further conflict.

Kealakekua Bay (By Travis.Thurston at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10632640)

Kona is also home to Kealakekua Bay, the site of Cook’s arrival on Hawaiʻi Island and of his death:

Cook was killed on February 14, 1779 in an altercation while trying to take Kalaniopu’u, King of Hawai‘i island hostage to regain a stolen longboat. He did not feel he could leave without it, and employed a tactic he had used in other islands – he took a hostage. He took as hostage King Kalaniopu’u. Cook convinced the King to join him on his ship, but as the group was walking down the beach, Kalaniopu’u’s wife realized what was happening and threw herself at the King, begging him not to leave. Kekuhaupi’o, who had seen a skirmish between Hawaiians suspected of stealing the boat and Cook’s sailors, called out “O heavenly one! Stop! It is not safe on the sea … go back to the house.” With these warnings, Kalaniopu’u turned to go back to his house, but Cook’s men tried to restrain him. When the Hawaiians on the beach saw this, they began to move down to the shore to defend the King. Cook’s men fired into the crowd, but they continued to crowd around them. Cook was stabbed. And when he groaned with pain, it was the final verification that he was not a god. According to Kamakau, “Captain Cook struck Ka-lani-mano-o-ka-ho’owaha with his sword, slashing one side of his face from temple to cheek. The chief with a powerful blow of his club knocked Captain Cook down  against a heap of lava rock. Captain Cook groaned with pain. Then the chief knew that he was a man and not a god, and that mistake ended, he struck him dead together with four other white men.”

Kamakau, 1992, 102-103.

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The Queen’s Cabinet

#121 in the Moʻolelo series

In her autobiography, Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen, Liliʻuokalani writes with some palpable despair that she spent much of her two-year administration, “thanks” to the legislature, “in the making and unmaking of cabinets.” Hawaiʻi had three political parties at this time; the Reform Party (sugar growers), the Liberal Party (Wilcox’s pro-democracy party) and the Queen’s National Reform Party (as if to say: “we want reform too, but in the national framework of the monarchy, not through treasonous annexation).

This was a period when the Queen was still under the Bayonet Constitution, so the cabinet had all the power, but she had the ability to nominate members. Those members had to be approve by the legislature – you can see the problem. So it was difficult for the Queen to select cabinet members who would satisfy all three parties. She would nominate a cabinet member and the legislature would reject them. One who was selected and rejected was Joseph Nawahī, who had given up his legislative seat to serve the Queen. In this post, I go through the cabinet members and how they may have shaped the period immediately prior to the overthrow.

John Francis Colburn IV – I had as a student at Kamehameha John Francis Colburn IX, who descended in a direct line from this member of Liliʻu’s cabinet. Colburn himself was a descendant of Don Francisco de Paula Marin who had assisted Kamehameha I, so their loyal pedigree was unquestionable. His maternal grandfather was harbormaster of Honolulu. The reason this Colburn was acceptable to the legislature for confirmation, was that he was an Independent – he ran for office as such on Maui. Colburn was the Minister of Interior, but was only on the cabinet a short period, as he was the victim of the politics of the time.

John Francis Colburn IV, Minister of Interior

Samuel Parker – Kamaoli Kuwada’s translation in nupepa-hawaii.com notes:

During the reign of Queen Liliuokalani, Colonel Samuel Parker held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and when Hawaii was put under the jurisdiction of the federal government, he was the first candidate for delegate to congress that the Republicans put before the voters, to go to Washington, but he lost to Robert Wilcox, the Home Rule candidate for delegate.

Samuel Parker

Parker’s association with the Queen stems from his being classmates with her brother David Kalākaua. Many know that the Parker family are descendants of Kamehameha I, because John Palmer Parker (founder of Parker ranch) married Kipikane, Kamehameha’s granddaughter (through Kanekapolei).

Samuel Damon – if there was a spy in their midst, it was probably Damon. We can say this because later, as a Kamehameha Schools-Bishop Estate trustee, Damon said “if we are to have peace and annexation, the first thing is to obliterate the past.” Damon was the son of Samuel Chenery Damon, who was the minister to the haole drunken sailors in Honolulu.

Arthur F. Peterson – Attorney General at the time of the overthrow, Peterson came to Hawaiʻi from Massachusetts while very young and graduated from Punahou. At his death, a San Francisco newspaper had this to say:

Sources: Maui News, March 19, 1920.

San Francisco Call, Mar, 17, 1895.

Kuokoa, 3/26/1920, p. 1, trans. Kuwada in nupepa-hawaii.org.

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The Royal Hawaiian Band

#120 in the Moʻolelo series

I’ve long known that my great-grandfather (on my motherʻs motherʻs side), Joseph Kaʻaʻa, played the bass for the Royal Hawaiian Band in 1910. But Iʻm not sure whether he played under the famous bandmaster Henri Berger. The Royal Hawaiian Band was founded by Kamehameha III in 1836 and was originally called The King’s Band. But its heyday was during Kalākaua’s reign under Berger. This hire was meant to bring a European sense to the Band and to Hawaiʻi generally, which, in my view, was trying under Kalākaua to assert itself as akin to small European country like Monaco, Luxembourg or Malta, rather than as a “Banana Republic” (a newly independent country, thought to be independent in name only, with severe dependence on one export, usually bananas). Of course, Hawaiʻi right then could have easily been called a “Sugar Kingdom,” but it was trying to diversify (see “The Reciprocity Treaty” for other export crops Hawaiʻi was developing).

The Royal Hawaiian Band in 1889, Henri Berger, Bandmaster

In the 1880s it was possible for a visitor, if they were a VIP, to ride the streetcar through Honolulu, attend an opera at the opera house, go to the horse races at Kapiʻolani Park, listen to the Royal Hawaiian Band play Prussian-inspired music, and dine with Kalākaua (a Freemason) in ʻIolani Palace on fine china and discuss science and the events of the day in any of six languages. So the Band was part of a larger campaign to show Hawaiʻi’s place in the world.

According to the Royal Hawaiian Band’s website:

Leading the band at that time was Heinrich (Henry) Berger, who remains its most influential bandmaster. His musical setting of the “Hymn of Kamehameha I” would eventually become the Hawaiian national, and now state, anthem “Hawai‘i Pono‘ī.” Thus for his contributions to the band and Hawaiian music in general, Berger became known as the “Father of Hawaiian Music.”

As the band grew in prominence, it made its first voyage outside of the kingdom to participate in a band competition held in San Francisco. There the band took first prize amidst stiff competition from bands all across the country. This would mark the first of many major trips undertaken by the band which would draw attention to the beautiful music of the Hawaiian Islands. 


The Band went through a number of bandmasters as well as name changes – His Majesty’s Band, Royal Hawaiian Military Band, and later “Provisional Government Band.” Berger was actually hired by Kamehameha V and came to Hawaiʻi after having trained as a military musician. He was from Potsdam, East Germany, which was then in Prussian (pre-German unification – Hawaiʻi is older than Germany as a sovereign country! and Italy! But I digress..). Berger began an association with the Kamehameha Schools, where he worked, building up their boys band, until 1903. (Incidentally, the current Bandmaster is Clark Bright, who I knew from when he was the band director of Kamehameha). In 1914, Queen Liliʻuokalani bestowed upon Berger the title “Father of Hawaiian Music.”

At the time of annexation, the Band took a stand against the oaths that the usurping government was imposing on citizens – one of the only type of leverage the illegal government had was employment. This is when Kaulana nā Pua was written, as it was the Band members themselves who said they would “eat stones” – ʻai pōhaku – rather than “value the government’s sums of money” (“ʻAʻole mākou aʻe minamina I ka puʻu kālā o ke aupuni,” see “Buke Mele Lāhui: the Book of National Songs). According to Silva (2004), the Band members reorganized into “Ka Bana Hawaiʻi” and toured on the continent. So there are those who would say that the current Royal Hawaiian Band, which is under the City and County of Honolulu is not the original band, or at least does not have a lineage directly back to Kamehameha III’s original band as it says in their promotional material.


For an extensive description of the Royal Hawaiian Band, see David Bandy, “Bandmaster Henri Berger and the Royal Hawaiian Band,” Hawaiian Journal of History.

Noenoe K. Silva, Aloha Betrayed, Duke University Press, 2004.

Royal Hawaiian Band website: rhb-hawaii.com

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Buke Mele Lāhui: The Book of National Songs

#119 in the Moʻolelo series

Most are familiar with the song “Kaulana nā Pua,” also known as “Mele ʻAi Pōhaku,” the “Stone eating song.” I mentioned it in the previous post, “10 Misconceptions about Hawaiian History – # 6-10.” The mele was written on behalf of the Royal Hawaiian Band, who were threatened with being fired for supporting the Queen, and speaks of native resistance to annexation:

ʻAʻole aʻe kau i ka pūlima 

Ma luna o ka pepa o ka ʻēnemi

Hoʻohui ʻāina kūʻai hewa

I ka pono sivila aʻo ke kanaka

No one will fix a signature

To the paper of the enemy

With its sin of annexation

And sale of native civil rights

by Ellen Wright Prendergast

But relatively few know that mele lāhui were not a song or two, but a genre of Hawaiian music and there is an entire book full of such mele. Leilani Basham, professor of Contemporary Hawaiian Culture at UH West Oʻahu, wrote her dissertation on this book and these mele. But I have to confess I havenʻt read the dissertation, since it’s one of the first to be written in Hawaiian (and my Hawaiian is not at that level!). She did publish in Hūlili journal and writes:

Through these descriptions and definitions of the Lāhui Hawaiʻi [seen in part in mele], we gain a better understanding of who we are as the Lāhui Hawaiʻi. It is important that we understand and frame our identity by and from our own perspective, in and on our own terms. It is imperative that our modern identities be founded on our traditional ones – on our genealogies, our histories, our cultural practices and our right to independence and self-governance.

Leilani Basham, “Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi: He Moʻolelo, He ʻĀina, He Loina, a He Ea Kākou,” Hūlili, vol. 6 (2010).

Many other mele exist and in this post I merely give a glimpse of these with my very rough translation. One is called:


Kaulana mai nei Daimana Hila,
O ka pu raifela kani alapine;

Pane mai Wilikoki me ka nahe-

“Imua kakou a e na hoa,
E hopu i ka pu paa I ka lima
E moe a ilalo me ka eleu
Kapae ka makau me ka hopo
Makia ke aloha o ka aina,
E koe oukou a e wiwo ole,
I ola Hawaii a mau loa;”

Pane mai Wilikoki me ka wa
lohia:”Aole kakou a e lanakila,
Aole pukuniahi me a’u

Buke Mele Lahui

This song speaks of the “quick sounding rifles” at Diamond Head, where Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox smuggled the weapons used for the counter-revolution, and his rallying cry to his comrades-in-arms, in a way reminiscent of Kamehameha’s speech at the battle of Kepaniwai (Imua e nā pokiʻi). He tells them to set aside their fear and anxiety (Kapae ka makau me ka hopo
hopo) and remain fearless (wiwo ole could also possible be translated as disobedient?) so the “life” (sovereignty?) of Hawaiʻi can perpetuate (E koe oukou a e wiwo ole I ola Hawaii a mau loa).

Another mele praises Liliʻuokalani as the lei of Hawaiʻi:


Hooheno neia nou e Liliulani;
Ke Kuini i poniia no Hawaii,

He lei nani oe na ka lahui,
O ka hulu o-o e memele nei

by “W. Olepau,” which may be the real name, but is more likely a reference to the loyalty her subjects have for her, which is “[a]ole Pau” – not ended or never ending.

Yet another mele, “Hoʻonanea A Hoʻokuene Liliu” speaks of Waipa (Parker perhaps?) in this case, the police captain of the Provisional Government (P.G. or Pi Gi) and his “hewa:”

O ka hana ia a Waipa,
Kapena makai o ka Pi Gi,

Eia ko hewa la e Kalani,
No kou aloha i ka lahui

by Haimoeipo

Basham concludes that:

it is not that the lāhui possesses these things, but that we are these things – we are our genealogies, our songs, our land, our cultural practices and our political independence. In this modern era, out identity is being questioned and defined in both courtroom and legislative contexts, so these framings and definitions of the Lāhui Hawaiʻi are vitally important to our understandings of who we are as a people.

Basham, 2010.


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10 Misconceptions about Hawaiian History – # 6-10

#118 in the Moʻolelo series, This is the promised sequel to “The 5 Most Egregious Misconceptions about Hawaiian History” and video #3 on the Moʻolelo Channel – don’t forget to subscribe!

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Hawaiʻi in the 1920s

#117 in the Moʻolelo series

Hawaiians controlled the Territorial legislature from 1900 until the mid- to late-1920s. At the head of this Hawaiian-Republican alliance was Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, who for two decades championed the cause of Hawaiʻi sugar in Congress.

1920 – According to Honolulu Magazine, a publication chartered by King Kalākaua and originally known as Paradise of the Pacific:

The name Alaloa is the frontrunner for a new road on O‘ahu, until the Daughters of Hawai‘i object based on its meaning, “death trail.” It was named Kamehameha Highway instead.


1921 – Kūhiō finally achieves his raison dʻetre, his reason for being in Congress, with the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. As if his life’s purpose was over, he passed away the very next year.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaʻole

1925 – Again, Honolulu Magazine tells us:

Rosalie Enos Keliinoi is elected to the House of Representatives in the Territory of Hawai‘i, making her the first woman in politics since the monarchy … Keliinoi is from Kaua‘i, which Paradise deems “appropriate,” as “this most northern of the archipelago’s principal isles has ever been the most independent.”

According to hawaiihistory.org, the 1920s in general:

 saw the blossoming of ocean liner travel to the Islands and the growth of tourism.


1927 –  hawaiihistory.org tells us of the heyday of inter island shipping:

Matson’s SS Malolo began regular service to Honolulu from the West Coast in 1927. The shipping company financed construction of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki which opened to great fanfare the same year. Along with the older Moana Hotel, the Royal catered to luxury travelers who came to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches and exotic culture.


1929 – The Great Depression struck Hawaiʻi, but the effects were not as severe (at least in terms of employment) as on the continent. The Depression is usually thought of as a phenomenon of the 1930s, but it began with the stock market crash of 1929, as I wrote in “Hawaiʻi During the Great Depression.”

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The Hawaiian Language Ban

#116 in the Moʻolelo series

In the mail last night came a box. At first, my wife thought I was surreptitiously buying things on eBay. But it was from the publisher W.W. Norton and it was two copies of the book When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, edited by Joy Harjo, the Native American poet who is the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Many months ago, Iʻd received a letter asking my permission to reprint one of my mother’s poems in this collection – the first comprehensive collection of native poetry. I’d forgotten that it was from W.W. Norton, a major publishing house.

In her poem “Ka ʻŌlelo,” Brandy Nālani McDougal writes of the 1896 Hawaiian language ban. Her stanzas recall the wā of Kumulipo:


Like the urchin leaves, pumping its shell

as its many spines let go, turn to sand,

my great-grandfather’s Hawaiian words fell

silent, while his children grew, their skin tanned

and too thin to withstand the teacher’s stick,

reprimands demanding English only.

The ban lasted until 1986,

after three generations of family

swallowed our ʻōlelo like pōhaku…

Brandy Nālani McDougall, “Kā ʻŌlelo,” in When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, Joy Harjo (ed.), WW Norton, 2020.

The Hawaiian language ban, which McDougall herself points out in her book Finding Meaning, was actually an “English mainly” policy, not technically an outright ban on ʻōlelo. It held that English was to be the primary medium of instruction in public and private schools (not the only medium). But it may as well have been. As we have seen with Hawaiian immersion schools, full immersion is nearly the only way to get the language to sink in – the “English mainly” policy was immersion in reverse.

The ban was prefaced, one could say, at, of all places, Lahainaluna in 1868! An article in Kuokoa entitled “Hawaiian Language Banned at Lahainaluna” asked whether “Hawaii [was] to become a state of the United States?”

We have heard through a letter from one of the students at the College [Lahainaluna was not a high school until the twentieth century], “The teachers and students have decided to ban the speaking of Hawaiian, and instead to speak English [namu kawalawala] all the time; and should anyone speak in Hawaiian, he will be made to work.” Is what we hear correct?

How sad for children to be denied their mother’s milk, and fed only cow’s milk. They will end up malnourished, for the nourishment God prepared for them is better than all other foods. How tragic is it for the youth to be denied speaking the language of their parents. What is this big push to acquire the English language [olelo haole]? Is it to prepare them to become Americans when Hawaii joins as a state of the United States as is being rumored about? Is that the idea at Lahainaluna?

attributed to SP Kalama, Kuokoa, March 7, 1868. Accessed from nupepa-hawaii.com (Kuwada)

It is important to note that 1896 is during the period of the self-proclaimed Republic of Hawaiʻi. The law read:

Nāhoa Lucas notes that while the 1896 ban did not explicitly ban Hawaiian, it meant that Hawaiian language medium schools would not be recognized (accredited) by the Department of Education. It contributed to a decrease in Hawaiian-medium schools from 150 to zero in 1902. It is also important to note that Hawaiian parents often wanted their children to learn English at school because they could learn Hawaiian at home, and the decline in Hawaiian medium schools began before the ban.

Pila Wilson and Kauanoe Kamanā relate an account of Hawaiians grappling with the change in language from 1906, a change which, it was claimed, was “in the interest of the Hawaiians themselves:”

It was as if, far from becoming truly bilingual, the youth of the early twentieth century were simply becoming less lingual. And without language, it is difficult even to think.

McDougall continues in her poem, that ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi:

holds the song my grandfather longs for

most, as he remembers his father’s voice,

and regrets not asking him to speak more

Hawaiian, so that he may have the choice

to offer words in his inheritance,

knowing his ʻohā will not be silenced

Sources: Paul F. Nāhoa Lucas, “E Ola Mau Kākou I ka ʻŌlelo Makuahine: Hawaiian Language Policy and the Courts,” Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 34 (2000).

Brandy Nālani MacDougall, “Ka ʻŌlelo,” When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, Joy Harjo (ed.), New York: W.W. Norton, 2020.

William Wilson and Kanoe Kamanā, “ʻIn the Interest of the Hawaiians Themselves:’ Reclaiming the Benefits of the Hawaiian Medium Education,” Hūlili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well Being, vol. 3, No. 1 (2006).

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