|During the month of March, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs honors its founder, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole. Called “the Citizen Prince,” Prince Kūhiō is revered for his dedication to Hawai‘i and her native people. Born on March 26, 1871 Prince Kūhiō was raised in the court of King Kalākaua, and his wife Queen Kapi‘olani. The Queen was his aunt. In 1891 Kalākaua died and was succeeded by his sister Queen Lili‘uokalani. At that time, the economy of the islands was dominated by a sugar industry with dependency on a U.S. market.In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a small group of Caucasian businessmen with American ties. The young Princeâ€™s participation in a failed 1895 attempt to restore Queen Lili‘uokalani to the throne led to his being tried, sentenced and jailed as a traitor to the newly-declared Republic of Hawai‘i. He was only 22 years old.After a brief, self-imposed exile, the Prince returned to Hawai‘i. By this time, Hawai‘i was a U. S. Territory. With the welfare of his people in mind, Prince Kūhiō agreed run as the Republican Party’s candidate for the post of Delegate to the United States Congress from the Territory of Hawai‘i. In 1902, he young won the election and continued to serve as Hawai‘i’s Delegate for the next twenty years.Kūhiō was concerned that many of his people had been removed from their land. This alienation from land resulted from a series of mid-19th century edicts which brought about the privatization of the land and the designation of government lands under the Hawaiian Monarchy.By the end of the 19th century, thousands of Hawaiians had lost traditional agrarian land and fishing grounds. With dispossession came further disintegration of traditional Hawaiian society. More than seventy percent of the native Hawaiian people lived in squatter villages, many in the city of Honolulu.
The Prince and a group of his friends created a plan to place homeless Hawaiians on former monarchy lands. Needing a strong constituency to back this ambition, the Prince and 40 compatriots gathered and formed the first Hawaiian Civic Club on December 8, 1918. The purpose of the Hawaiian Civic Club was to create an open forum to discuss and take action on matters affecting the welfare of the Hawaiian People and the perpetuation of their culture. Members were to be activists, civic leaders, and lobbyists for the well-being and benefit of the Hawaiian people. By 1921, with an active constituency to back him, Kūhiō managed to passage in Congress the enactment the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.
Royal lands that were confiscated during the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 were ceded to the U.S. at annexation. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act set aside some of these Royal lands to be developed for homesteads for Hawaiians. Tragically, the Prince would die in early 1922 and not be able to steer the Program on its early course.
Today, 60 Hawaiian Civic Clubs in 12 states from Washington, D.C. to the Hawaiian Islands celebrate Prince Kūhiō’s legacy during the month of March. Hawaiians congregate to share their aspirations, their vision for the future, and their determination that their culture and traditional values will not be lost. In Honolulu, Kailua-Kona and Lahaina, celebratory activities include holoku formal Hawaiian dress) balls, chorale concerts, craft and cultural demonstrations (Ho‘ike‘ike), hula and Hawaiian music performances, parades, commemorative ceremonies, and lū‘au (Hawaiian feasts). More information on this Celebration can be found on our website: www.hawaiimaoli.org. Please join us for an enjoyable cultural experience.