Kuhio was the Citizen Prince

Tomorrow’s holiday honors a man who went from being the adopted son of a king to a counter-revolutionary to Hawaii’s voice in the U.S. Congress. Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole was born March 26, 1871, the youngest of three sons of Kauai’s High Chief David Kahalepouli Piikoi and Princess Kinoiki Kekaulike.

He was adopted by his mother’s sister, Kapi’olani, and her husband, David Kalakaua, who was elected Hawaii’s ruling monarch in 1874. King Kalakaua declared his 3-year-old hanai son a prince. The boy grew to be a pragmatic politician and was called the “Citizen Prince” because of his devotion to the Hawaiian people.

The devotion included joining forces in 1895 with Robert Wilcox and 191 royalists who attempted to overthrow the Republic of Hawaii and restore the monarchy. He was found guilty of treason and spent a year in prison.

After the annexation, the Territory of Hawaii was run by an appointed governor and an elected Legislature. Although they couldn’t vote for the president, citizens of the territory could elect a nonvoting delegate to Congress. Wilcox was the first, serving one two-year term. In 1902, Prince Kuhio, running as a Republican, was elected delegate and served until his death Jan. 7, 1922. He was 50.

In Washington, D.C., where many considered Hawaiians to be simple natives, Prince Kuhio cajoled Congress into appropriating millions for the construction of Pearl Harbor, the Territorial Building in Honolulu and the Hilo wharf. He was credited with creating Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which originally included Haleakala. The prince created the Hawaiian Homes Commission to get his people out of urban slums and back on the land. The creation was flawed, but the ever pragmatic prince took what he could get.

In 1920, the last of the alii to wield real political power introduced the first congressional resolution calling for Hawaii statehood.

In 1949 the date of Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole’s birth was declared a holiday. The Territorial Legislature wanted to honor the Citizen Prince, a man who never forgot his people.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.