Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole was called the Citizen Prince because he was of royal blood but always fought for the welfare of his people. Once jailed as a revolutionary, Prince Kuhio was the last of the monarchy's ali'i to wield real political power.
There were still Hawaiians who had firsthand memories of the monarchy when the Territorial Legislature declared March 26, the date of his birth on Kauai in 1871, as a holiday. State and county government offices are closed today in honor of the prince who made his most indelible mark in America's citadel of democracy, the U.S. Congress.
Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole became a prince by decree after he was adopted by his mother's sister, Kapi'olani, and her husband, David Kalakaua, who became Hawaii's ruling monarch in 1874. He was the youngest of three sons of Kauai's High Chief David Kahalepouli Piikoi and Princess Kinoiki Kekaulike.
In 1895, at the age of 24, Prince Kuhio was jailed along with 191 other royalists for treason. He had joined Robert Wilcox in an ill-fated effort to restore his aunt, Queen Liliu'okalani, to the throne.
Wilcox was elected the territory's first delegate to Congress, a nonvoting position with no power but persuasion. In 1902, Prince Kuhio was elected to the post as a Republican, the strongest political party in the islands at the time. An editorial in The Maui News said he won the election on the basis of his personality and character. He was the delegate until his death at the age of 50 in 1922.
Prince Kuhio, a standout athlete, had been educated at the Royal School with other ali'i, at missionary-run Punahou when it was known as Oahu College, St. Matthew's College in California, and at the Royal Agricultural College in England.
Prince Kuhio was credited with a long list of federally funded projects in Hawaii, including the creation of Pearl Harbor. In 1920 he introduced the first congressional resolution calling for Hawaii to be made a state.
His crowning achievement was the creation of the Hawaiian Homes Commission. It was a long fight motivated by a desire to give Native Hawaiians - his people - a chance to live with dignity.
(This editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.