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Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole -- Just how princely was he? (Kuhio was absent from his nation for many years on an adventure trip during the crucial period in the late 1890s leading to annexation; and he filed a lawsuit in 1915 to have Liliuokalani declared mentally incompetent so he could steal her Waikiki lands she had set aside for her Childrens Trust)

(c) Copyright 2009 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

In the State of Hawaii March 26 is an official holiday known as Prince Kuhio Day. That's because Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was born on March 26, 1871 and later became an officially designated heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

But why make this particular man's birthdate a state holiday when other historical figures with far greater accomplishments and stronger genealogies are not similarly honored? There are two primary reasons.

First: Kuhio was the last living person who had a direct and indisputable claim to the throne if the Kingdom had continued. Thus today's ethnic nationalists revere his memory as part of their dream for a restoration of Hawaii as an independent nation and perhaps also as a monarchy.

The second reason why Kuhio is lauded as a hero is because two wealthy and powerful racial separatist agencies of the state government owe their existence to Kuhio.

In 1921, as Delegate to Congress for the Territory of Hawaii, Kuhio secured passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act which set aside 203,500 acres of land to provide homesteads and farmland exclusively for Hawaiians of at least 50% native blood quantum. The HHCA also guaranteed that those lands would be racial-separatist forever, by specifying that they could be leased but never sold. But as time went by there was concern that few leases had actually been granted because the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands did not have a permanent source of revenue to develop infrastructure, other than by leasing land to businesses that were mostly owned by people with no Hawaiian blood.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created by the state Constitutional Convention of 1978. Shortly thereafter the Legislature passed a law giving OHA permanent funding consisting of 20% of ceded land revenues to be used solely to benefit native Hawaiians "as defined in the HHCA of 1921" (i.e., at least 50% blood quantum). Thus OHA owes thanks to Kuhio for its existence and nearly all its money. It's unclear why OHA was not mandated to send most of the revenue directly to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. Over the years OHA has intentionally blurred the separation between its huge ceded lands trust fund (exclusively for natives with 50% blood quantum) and its much smaller general fund obtained through annual Legislative appropriations of tax dollars. OHA has gradually diverted nearly all the ceded lands money to the far larger group of ethnic Hawaiians defined by the one-drop rule. OHA has also spent untold millions of dollars to pass the Akaka bill to create a phony Indian tribe to assert ownership of the ceded lands for the larger low-quantum group.

Ordinary ethnic Hawaiians revere Kuhio as a prince for the same reasons the peasantry in any monarchial nation reveres its royalty -- majesty, mystery, pride in the nobility of a great leader, and hope for handouts to help the poor and downtrodden. Wealthy racial separatist Hawaiian government institutions honor Kuhio as their founding father, the man who bowed low enough to the colonizers to bring home the bacon from their far-away seat of power.

But was Kuhio's personal behavior princely? As a toddler he looked so cute and kolohe (naughty) that people called him Cupid. As a grown man the women found him so irresistible, and his eagerness to please them so insatiable, that he continued to be called "Prince Cupid." But let's set aside the issue of sexual morality. After all, the public seems to admire the peccadilloes of princes, presidents, and movie stars.

At least two major events in Kuhio's life after the revolution of 1893 should cause Hawaiian sovereignty activists to question his worthiness as their torch-bearer. On these two occasions Kuhio was grossly unpatriotic to his Hawaiian "nation." The first occasion was when he abandoned his nation at its time of greatest peril in order to pursue personal pleasure and foreign adventure. The second occasion was two decades later when he abused his power and prestige to launch a personal attack against Queen Liliuokalani in order to steal her land, for his personal enrichment, from the children she intended to help. Kuhio's behavior on both occasions should be viewed as not merely selfish, but treasonous from the viewpoint of the sovereignty activists.

In January 1895, at age 23, Kuhio participated in the attempted counterrevolution against the Republic of Hawaii led by Robert Wilcox. He was sentenced to a year in prison, where his fiancee visited him regularly. After his release they got married and went to Europe. It's understandable that the heir to the throne would feel unhappy about imprisonment and about the loss of his future crown. Certainly nobody would begrudge him the right to get married, and perhaps to travel for a while.

But Kuhio's extended absence is inexcusable in view of the major political events taking place in Hawaii. He played no part in fighting against annexation, even while his fellow "patriots" were making speeches, writing articles in the newspapers, and gathering 21,000 signatures on a petition in 1897 opposing annexation. Today's sovereignty activists excuse his non-participation by claiming he was "in exile." But nobody forced him to leave. Robert Wilcox, sentenced to death and eventually released from prison, continued the struggle along with hundreds of other "freedom fighters." Wilcox organized the ethnic nationalist Home Rule Party and won election as Hawaii's first territorial Delegate to Congress in 1900.

Meanwhile Kuhio had extended his European adventure by going to Africa where he spent three years fighting on the side of England in the second Boer War. Let's put that in different terms so that today's sovereignty activists will get the point. Kuhio, designated heir to the throne, abandoned his native land during a time of great political upheaval and went to war halfway around the world, fighting on the side of one white colonial power against another white colonial power in a war to see which one would win control over the land of a poor, downtrodden dark-skinned native population. Kuhio returned to Hawaii in time to join the Republican Party and defeat Robert Wilcox in the 1902 election for Territorial Delegate to Congress, whereupon he took the oath of office swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic (Traitor to the Hawaiian nation!). He introduced the first bill in Congress for statehood for Hawaii (Traitor to the Hawaiian nation!). He finally "brought home the bacon" after 19 years in Congress with passage of his Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (Sellout!).

The case of Kuhio vs. Liliuokalani in 1915-1916 is perhaps even more troubling. The "prince," now Hawaii's Territorial Delegate to Congress for 13 years, abused his power and prestige to launch a personal attack against Queen Liliuokalani in order to steal her land from the children she intended to help. Kuhio publicly accused her of mental incompetence in order to nullify her creation of the Queen Liliuokalani Childrens' Trust, and to establish himself as conservator of her estate, so that after her death her Waikiki properties would go to him instead of to the benefit of the Hawaiian children. Luckily for the children, his lawsuit failed. Full text of the Hawaii Supreme Court decision, including details about what Kuhio was trying to do, is on a webpage (see references, below).

Kuhio filed his lawsuit on November 30, 1915. After various motions were decided, oral arguments were held in the Hawaii Supreme Court on August 3, 1916, and the decision was handed down on August 16. Liliuokalani died broken hearted, only 15 months later, on November 11, 1917.

Evelyn Cook's book "100 years of Healing" includes extensive description of the lawsuit, and especially the role of attorney W.O. Smith in defending Liliuokalani. Knowledgeable readers might be surprised, because W.O. Smith was one of the leaders of the revolution of 1893 that overthrew Liliuokalani. But as time went by the ex-queen realized that Smith was completely trustworthy whereas Kuhio was arrogant, selfish, greedy, and profoundly disrespectful to the woman most ethnic Hawaiians still regarded as their Queen. She appointed Smith as trustee.

In a review of Cook's book published in the newspaper West Hawaii Today, December 14, 2003, Bobby Command wrote: "Despite the betrayal by Smith, Cook said Liliuokalani some years later hired Smith to regain control of her estate from Kuhio, who felt he should have inherited the queen's personal lands. Cook said Smith proved in a headlines - making 1915 trial that Kuhio, then Hawaii's congressional delegate, had forced Liliuokalani to change her will in exchange for his promise to fight in Washington, D.C., for the return of the crown, or ceded lands. The document was dissolved and the queen set up one of the so-called alii trusts, the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which is now a children's center that has served a quarter of a million kids of Hawaiian ancestry. 'Today, the prince is worshipped, and W.O. Smith is vilified,' she said. 'But who is the hero and villain? People don't know their own history.'"


"Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 - Present"
KALANIANAOLE, Jonah Kuhio, (1871 - 1922)

A slightly longer, and well-balanced biography of Kuhio, is at Biography of Kuhio

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin published a biography of Kuhio to honor his 125th birthday on the holiday in 1996, at:

The University of Hawaii Center for Biographical Research hosted a series of five panel discussions on five important historical figures, produced booklets about them, and TV programs (except that the Sanford B. Dole TV program was never shown. Surprise, surprise!) "PRINCE JONAH KÜHIÖ KALANIANA‘OLE" was written by Hawaiian sovereignty activists Davianna Pömaika‘i McGregor and Noenoe Silva, with additional panelist contributions from Mähealani Kamau‘u [now Wendt], Linda Delaney, and Jim Bartels. However, neither the panel discussion nor the booklet mentioned Kuhio's extended absence from Hawaii between 1896 and 1902, nor his participation in the Boer War, nor his lawsuit against Liliuokalani. Surprise, surprise! The booklet in pdf format is here:

A scholarly book about the life of Robert Wilcox has many interesting details about Kuhio, especially regarding their conflict at the 1902 convention of the Home Rule Party which caused Kuhio to leave that party and join the Republicans. The panelists for the UH Center for Biographical Research (above) claimed it's all a mystery why Kuhio left the Home Rule Party to join the Republicans; but this book provides the answers quite clearly: "Unconquerable Rebel: Robert W. Wilcox and Hawaiian Politics, 1880-1903" by Ernest Andrade, Jr. -- notes taken by Ken Conklin on topics of importance regarding current Hawaiian sovereignty issues.

JONAH KUHIO KALANIANAOLE v. LILIUOKALANI, Supreme Court of Hawaii, 23 Haw. 457; 1916. Syllabus and full text of the Court's decision.


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(c) Copyright 2009 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved