Mele ʻAi Pohaku: the Story of Kaulana Nā Pua

#182 in the Moʻolelo series

Hawaiians resisted annexationist efforts from the beginning. This view of the events of the 1890s was virtually erased from history books for one hundred years.

This period saw the emergence of large-scale Hawaiian political organizations such as Hui Kālai‘āina, a political party, and Hui Aloha ‘Äina, an  Anti-annexation force. 

Key players in these groups included Joseph Nāwahī, James Kaulia, and David Kalauokalani. The Women’s Hui Aloha ʻĀina was led by Abigail Kūaihelani Campbell, and the Queen’s hanai daughter, Lilia Aholo. Hui Aloha ʻĀina’s petition drive was registered in the Congressional record. The two-month effort gathered 38,000 signatures, in two petitions. The population of Kanaka Maoli at the time was 40,000.

One instance of such resistance involves the Royal Hawaiian Band. As Silva (2004, p. 134 – 135) describes it:

The Royal Hawaiian Band, originally founded during the reign of Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III), had always been funded and administered by the government. But in 1893  the provisional government wanted band members to sign an oath of loyalty, swearing that they would not support the queen or her government. When the band refused they were told that they would be fired, and that soon they would soon be eating rocks (because they would have no paycheck to buy food). The band members remained loyal to the queen, however and because they considered themselves to be poʻe aloha ʻāina [figuratively “patriots,” but Silva stresses that it meant literally “people who love the land”] they walked away from their jobs and paychecks. When they told their story to Ellen Kekoʻaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast, she composed a song  for them called “Mele Aloha ʻĀina” (Song for the people who love the land or “Mele ʻAi Pohaku” (Rock eating song) also known as “Kaulana Nā Pua” (famous are the flowers) [also refers to the children or people of Hawai’i]. 

Noenoe K. Silva (2004, p. 134 – 135).
Painting of Hilo Bay by Joseph Nawahī

Below are the lyrics to this song, a symbol of this Royal Hawaiian Band’s resistance that is still sung often today. They became Ka Bana Hawaii, and toured the United States promoting the Queen’s restoration.

KaulanaNā Pua (Famous Are The Flowers) – by Ellen Wright Prendergast

Kaulana nā pua a`o Hawai`i

Kūpa`a mahope o ka `āina

Hiki mai ka `elele o ka loko `ino

Palapala `ānunu me ka pâkaha

Pane mai Hawai`i moku o Keawe

Kôkua nā Hono a`o Pi`ilani

Kāko`o mai Kaua`i o Mano

Pa`apū me ke one Kâkuhihewa

`A`ole a`e kau i ka pūlima

Maluna o ka pepa o ka `enemi

Ho`ohui `âina kû`ai hewa

I ka pono sivila a`o ke kanaka

`A`ole mâkou a`e minamina

I ka pu`u kālā a ke aupuni

Ua lawa mâkou i ka pōhaku

I ka `ai kamaha`o o ka `āina

Mahope mâkou o Lili`ulani

A loa`a e ka pono o ka `āina

*(A kau hou `ia e ke kalaunu)

Ha`ina `ia mai ana ka puana Ka po`e i aloha i ka `āina

 

Famous are the children of Hawai`I

Ever loyal to the land

When the evil-hearted messenger comes

With his greedy document of extortion

Hawai`i, land of Keawe answers

Pi`ilani’s bays help

Mano’s Kaua`i lends support

And so do the sands of Kakuhihewa

No one will fix a signature

To the paper of the enemy

With its sin of annexation

And sale of native civil rights

We do not value

The government’s sums of money

We are satisfied with the stones

Astonishing food of the land

We back Lili`ulani

Who has won the rights of the land

Tell the story

Of the people who love their land

Kaulana Nā Pua – Project Kuleana

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