Prince Kūhiō was born in Kōloa on the island of Kauai on March 26, 1871. His father, Kahalepouli, was a high chief and the son of Kaumualiʻi, the last King of Kauai; his mother was Princess Kinoiki Kekaulike, sister of Queen Kapiʻolani (wife of King Kalākaua.) He had two brothers, David Kawananakoa and Edward Keliʻiahonui.
Orphaned after his father died in 1880 and mother in 1884, Prince Kūhiō was adopted by King David Kalākaua’s wife, Queen Kapi‘olani, who was his maternal aunt.
His early education was at the Royal School and Punahou. He studied four years at St. Mathews College of California. Later, he was a student at the Royal Agricultural College in England, finishing his formal education in a business college there.
Upon the assumption of the Kalākaua dynasty to the throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom, a proclamation ending the Kamehameha Dynasty also declared Kūhiō a royal prince. King David Kalākaua, also Kūhiō’s uncle, then appointed him to a seat in the royal Cabinet administering the Department of the Interior. (Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club)
The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 and establishment of the Republic of Hawaiʻi brought about abrupt changes. Kūhiō was then about 21 years of age.
Two-years later, there was a counter-revolution attempting to reinstate Liliʻuokalani as Queen. Prince Kūhiō took part in the revolution. He was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for a year. While he was in prison he became engaged to Elizabeth Kahanu Kaʻauwai and, after his release, married her on October 8, 1896.
In 1900, Robert Wilcox (an Independent) defeated Republican Samuel Parker and Democrat Prince David Kawānanakoa (Kūhiō’s older brother) as Hawaiʻi’s first delegate to Congress Wilcox ran for re-election, but Prince Kūhiō (a Republican) defeated him and served as Hawaiʻi’s delegate from 1903 until his death in 1922.
“Prince Kalanianaʻole was a prince indeed – a prince of good fellows and a man among men; a man of sterling sincerity and strong convictions – he always stood for what he deemed right-yielding to no weakness, and manly always.” (Congressional Record, 1923) Prince Kūhiō restored the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and established the Hawaiian Civic Club.
The Order of Kamehameha I was established on April 11, 1865 by King Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa) to honor the legacy of his grandfather, the unifier of the islands, Kamehameha the Great. The Order was reorganized by Prince Kūhiō in 1902.
The Hawaiian Civic Clubs were organized in 1918 and were formed to provide scholarship aid for the education of Hawaiian students; preserve and promote the Hawaiian heritage, traditions, language and culture; improve the conditions of the Hawaiian people and community at large; and perpetuate the values that dignify all human life.
Kūhiō was often called Ke Ali‘i Maka‘āinana (Prince of the People) and is well known for his efforts to preserve and strengthen the Hawaiian people.
“A pure-blooded Hawaiian, a member of a diminishing race, it was natural and greatly to his credit that he devoted much serious thought and energy to their rehabilitation – it was a work of love on his part.”
“He saw the tendency of his people to flock to the larger cities where their life in crowded tenements, learning the vices of the white man, was leading to racial extinction, and he devoted himself to getting them back to the land.” (Congressional Record)
“His efforts in this line culminated in the passage in 1921 by this Congress of the Hawaiian Homes Commission act, a measure to provide homesteads for native Hawaiians for an indefinite term at a nominal rental and for government loans to the settlers.”
“The Prince was made one of the commissioners and took great interest in the practical carrying out of his dream.” (Congressional Record)
“Kuhio on February 11 introduced a resolution in congress providing for statehood for Hawaiʻi under qualifications to be fixed by congress, and giving Hawaii half of the federal revenues derived from here for territory’s public works for a period of 20 years.” (Maui News, February 28, 1919)
This first bill in Congress calling for Hawaiʻi statehood didn’t pass. (After several other related bills by others, Hawaiʻi achieved statehood on August 21, 1959.)
“Prince Kalanianaole was an unusual man. There was much of the magnetic about him. He possessed a kindliness and a courtliness that instinctively attracted people to him and made him a most welcome guest at every gathering.”
“While his was the philosophy of optimism and he always looked with confidence toward the future, still it seemed to me that there was ever present the element of pathos in his fine character.” (Congressional Record)
“At Pualeilanl through the night of vigil, while the Prince was sitting in his armchair, himself knowing that death could not long be barred from entrance to his chamber, he sat with his face toward the open door facing Kalākaua Avenue …”
“… his lessening vision drinking in deeply of the green verdure across the way in what was formerly the great acres of his aunt the Queen Dowager Kapiʻolani, in whose home he had spent so many happy days of his boyhood and young manhood.”
“Sitting by his side was Princess Kalanianaʻole. She held his hand closely. The Prince smiled often as his eyes met those of his sweetheart Princess and he appeared to be hoping that her last view of him would be a memory of him still smiling.” (Congressional Record, 1923)
Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi died on January 7, 1922 of heart disease. He was given the last state funeral for an Ali‘i; he is buried at Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum.
The territorial Legislature passed a resolution in 1949, establishing March 26 as a territorial holiday in honor of Prince Kūhiō; Prince Kūhiō Day continues as an official holiday in the State of Hawaiʻi. It is celebrated annually on March 26, to mark the birth of Prince Kūhiō.