PO‘IPU -— More than 150 spectators — leaders of the Hawaiian community and visitors — congregated at Prince Kuhio Park in Po‘ipu yesterday to honor a Kaua‘i ali‘i who pushed through federal legislation in 1920 that has provided homestead and farming land for thousands of Hawaiians across the state.
Leaders of Hawaiian organizations, including the event’s sponsoring groups, The Royal Order of Kamehameha I and the Na Wahine Hui O Kamehameha, offered ho‘okupu, or gifts, to honor Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Pi‘ikoi
Offered were songs and colorful lei of more than 20 feet draped over a monument dedicated to the Prince — including one of bright purple bougainvillea flowers presented by Kaumuali‘i Hawaiian Civic Club member Janet Kahalekomo.
Others gave native plants to be placed on a 16-acre lot, Kukuiula Development Hawaii will convey to The Royal Order for the expansion of the existing 5-acre park.
While the flame of sovereignty still burns intensely in Hawai‘i, the event was not staged to fan that movement, said Leon Gonsalves, a Kaua‘i police commissioner and a 15-year-member of the Royal Order.
“No, no. This is intended to celebrate Kuhio’s birthday and the things he did for the Hawaiian people,” Gonsalves said.
Prince Kuhio was born March 26, 1871 im what is now Po‘ipu, and his birthday is observed as Kuhio Day — a state holiday established in 1949.
The Kaua‘i event has been traditionally held on the Saturday before his birthday to encourage a larger turnout. The recognized holiday is Monday.
Perhaps Prince Kuhio’s greatest contribution was the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 — a legacy that continues to establish Hawaiians on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ properties throughout the state.
Kalani Flores, a 67-year-old DHHL beneficiary from Anahola who lost a leg to diabetes, said he attends the event to show support for Prince Kuhio.
“A lot of people come here to receive the accolades, to look important,” said Flores, who is of Hawaiian ancestry. “Not me, coming here today comes from my heart.”
Honolulu resident “Tutu” Roxi Balles, Kalani Flores’ sister-in law, brought two young relatives, Sebastian Balles, 5, and Dylan Balles, 2, both from Auburn, Wash.,“to feel the culture.”
Also attending the ceremony was Kalani Flores’ granddaughter, Sky Flores, who lives with him and his wife, Pua, on DHHL land in Anahola.
“We are raising our children to get involved in the Hawaiian culture,” Kalani Flores said. “That is what today is all about.”
Had it not been for Prince Kuhio, Pua Flores said she probably would not have had the chance to live 15 “wonderful” years in Anahola.
“I am very grateful because he allowed me to lease land on which I could raise my family,” she said.
Julie Souza of Aha Hui O Ka‘ahumanu, one of more than a dozen Hawaiian groups honoring Prince Kuhio, probably reflected the general feeling of everyone at the event: “We are very proud as Hawaiians to be here. We know Prince Kuhio’s legacy will live on and we are here to celebrate his life.”
Linda Estes, who ran unsuccessfully for the 15th House District seat in last year’s election, said she attended the event because it is unique.
“I think it is the tradition and the number of kupuna who come out and show respect at a time when respect is the exception in society,” she said.
Voicing their respect as well were Warren Perry, who has hosted the event for 20 years, Tom Shigemoto, a vice president with Alexander & Baldwin, Dick Holtzman, president of Kukuiula Development Hawaii, and Gini Kapali, a community relations manager with Kukuiula.
Kukuiula Development was formed by Alexander and Baldwin and DMB Associates Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., to develop a 1,002-acre resort, commercial and residential project tin Po‘ipu. Parts of the project will be built mauka of the park.
Representing Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who had to attend another engagement, Wally Rezentes Jr., county finance director and a Kamehameha School graduate, said he felt privileged to be on hand to honor Prince Kuhio.
The same sentiment was expressed by16th House District Rep. Roland Sagum III, who presented Perry, a Royal Order member, with a certificate of appreciation marking Kuhio’s birthday.
The document was signed by House speaker Calvin Say, Sagum,14th House District Rep. Hermina Morita and 15th House District Rep. James Tokioka. All three Kaua’i legislators are of Hawaiian descent.
Born at Hoai, Kualu in the Koloa District of Kaua‘i, Prince Kuhio was the youngest of three sons of Kauai High Chief David Kahalepouli Pi‘ikoi and Princess Kinoiki Kekaulike. As a young man, he left the islands to attend St. Matthews College in San Mateo, Ca. and later attended the Royal Agricultural College in England. After the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, Prince Kuhio joined revolutionaries who tried to restore the kingdom. He spent a year in prison after he and other “royalists” failed.
Prince Kuhio vowed never to return to a Hawai‘i where Hawaiians were not treated hospitably, and fought in the Boer War in Africa. He became homesick and returned to Hawai‘i, and from 1902 to 1922 when he died, he served as a delegate from Hawai‘i to Congress.
Among other achievements he reached in Congress was a $27 million appropriation for the dredging and construction of Pearl Harbor, the establishment of the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse, the building of a territorial building and a Hilo wharf and getting a hospital built at the Kalaupapa settlement on Maui to treat those with Hansen’s Disease.
Prince Kuhio died on Jan. 7, 1922, and his remains have been buried at the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu on O‘ahu.
Peter Kea, a co-host at Saturday’s gathering, said while The Royal Order and its women’s auxiliary group sponsored the event, the entire proceedings was opened to all — Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.
The Royal Order was established in 1865 by Kamehameha V in defense of the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i.
Following the overthrow, the provisional government declared the organization a threat to national security and suppressed it. Prince Kuhio made a public proclamation to restore the group and reorganized all royal Hawaiian societies and civic clubs to advocate for the betterment of native Hawaiians.
Today The Royal Order works to preserve Hawaiian rituals and sites established by the House of Kamehameha.
Aside from the Kaua‘i branch, which boasts up to 30 members who are lawyers, law enforcement officers and businessmen, The Royal Order will soon have two branches on the Big Island, two on Maui, three on O‘ahu and one in Aloha, Ore.