In honor of Mahina ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian Language Month), we honor the heroes – those individuals who have cared for, strengthened and promoted the Hawaiian language for future generations. Among them is Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa. She is indeed a Hawaiian language hero! In honor of Hawaiian Language Month, this story is presented in both Hawaiian and English.
This mo‘olelo is part of Kūkahekahe – Cultural Conversations – featuring personal experiences and insights from faculty, staff and friends about compelling cultural happenings within the KS organization, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and across the larger Pacific and global communities.
Welina mai e nā hoa ʻōlelo o kēia pae ʻāina aloha ʻo Hawaiʻi! Ke holomua nei nō kēia mahina ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, he wā e lohe ʻia ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi i ʻō a i ʻaneʻi o ko kākou kulaiwi. I kēia mahina, e mahalo ana kākou i nā meʻe, ʻo ia nō nā poʻe i mālama, hoʻoikaika, a hoʻolaha i ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi no nā hanauna e hiki mai ana. Kamaʻāina nō paha ʻoe i ke Kamāliʻiwahine Ruta Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa. He meʻe ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi nō ʻo ia!
He wā huliau ke kenekulia 1800 ma Hawaiʻi a ma ka honua holoʻokoʻa. Akā naʻe, he kākoʻo nui ʻo Keʻelikōlani i ka ʻike kuʻuna Hawaiʻi. Ua hiki iā ia ke ʻōlelo, kākau, a heluhelu ma ka ʻōlelo Pelekānia. Akā, i loko nō o kona poeko ma ka ʻōlelo Pelekānia, ua ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi wale nō ʻo ia, a ua koi ʻia ka poʻe a pau e kamaʻilio ana me ia e ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi a i ʻole e kiʻi i mea mahele ʻōlelo.
Ua hoʻokohu ʻia ʻo Keʻelikōlani i lālā o ka ʻAha Kūkākūkā Malū o Kamehameha III (1847) a me ka Hale ʻAhaʻōlelo Aliʻi no 1855-1857. I ka makahiki 1855, ua hoʻokohu ʻia ʻo ia i kiaʻāina no ka mokupuni ʻo Hawaiʻi, e like me kona makuakāne, ʻo Mataio Kekūanāoʻa, kai noho kiaʻāina no Oʻahu ma nā makahiki 1839–1864. Ua kākau ʻia no Keʻelikōlani, “He Alii aloha no ia i na makaainana o kona Mokupuni, [oiai] e noho Kiaaina ana,” (Ka Hae Hawaii, 8 Iune 1859). E ka mea heluhelu, nui ka naʻauao a me ka mana o kēia wahine, a ua aloha nui ʻia ʻo ia e ka lāhui.
He mana aliʻi kahiko ko Keʻelikōlani. I ka mahina ʻo Nowemapa o ka makahiki 1880, hū ka pele ma Mauna Loa. ʻIke ʻia ka wena o ka pele i ka pō. I ka mahina ʻo Malaki 1881, nome ihola ka pele a ma uka pono o ke kaona ʻo Hilo, a ua kau ka weli o nā kanaka a pau. Koi aku lākou iā Keʻelikōlani nāna e hoʻopakele. A laila, ua haʻalele ʻo ia iā Honolulu no Hilo i ka mahina ʻo Iulai. Ua hoʻāumoe ʻo ia ma ka hale lole ma kahi o ka puʻu ʻo Puʻuhonu, kokoke i ke kahena pele (Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, 22 Aukake, 1881). Ma ke kakahiaka o ka lā 7 o Aukake, hele ʻo ia i kahi o ka pele, a oli ʻo ia me ka hāʻawi i nā hoʻokupu no Pele. Ma laila nō i kū ai ke ʻā pele, a ua hoʻopakele ʻia ke kaona ʻo Hilo.
Ua makeʻe nui ʻo Keʻelikōlani i kona mau ʻāina, ʻaʻole ʻo ia i kūʻai wale aku; he hoʻolimalima wale nō kāna hana. ʻO ia kekahi kumu i mau ai kona waiwai. Eia nō naʻe, nui kona lokomaikaʻi i kona ʻohana aloha ma ka hoʻoili aku i kona mau ʻāina; Hāʻawi ʻia ʻo ʻĀinahau ma Waikīkī iā Kaʻiulani, kāna keiki papakema. A, ua aloha nui ʻo Keʻelikōlani iā Pauahi, kona hoahānau, a he pilina hemo ʻole ko lāua. I kona hala ʻana ma ka lā 24 o Mei, makahiki 1883, ua hoʻoili ʻo ia i kona mau waiwai a pau loa iā Pauahi. Mai ia manawa, ʻo kēia mau ʻāina ka hapanui loa o ka hoʻoilina aliʻi o Ke Kula ʻo Kamehameha.
I kēia lā, ua maopopo leʻa ka mana a me ke aloha o Keʻelikōlani, a mahalo nui kākou iā ia no kona kūpaʻa ʻana i ka nohona Hawaiʻi, ka ʻike, a me ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. He meʻe aloha nui ʻia nō ʻo Keʻelikōlani.
Greetings, language friends of these beloved islands of Hawaiʻi! Hawaiian language month continues: it is a time when ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi can be heard throughout our homeland. This month, we thank the heroes, those individuals who have cared for, strengthened, and promoted the Hawaiian language for future generations. Perhaps you are familiar with Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa. She is indeed a Hawaiian language hero!
The 1800s was a time of change for Hawaiʻi and the entire world. However, Keʻelikōlani was a staunch supporter of traditional knowledge. She could speak, write, and read in English but chose to speak only in Hawaiian; individuals who didn’t speak Hawaiian needed translators to communicate with her.
She was appointed to the Privy Council of Kamehameha III (1847) and the House of Nobles for 1855-1857. In 1855, she was appointed governor of Hawaiʻi Island, like her father, Mataiao Kekūanāoʻa, who served as governor of Oʻahu (1839–1864). It was written, “She is indeed a benevolent chief to the people of her island, who is governor,” (Ka Hae Hawaii, June 8, 1859). Dear reader, great indeed was the wisdom and power of this woman, and she was greatly loved by the people.
Keʻelikōlani embodied the power of the ancient chiefs. In November of 1880, Mauna Loa erupted. The red glow of lava was seen at night. By March 1881, the lava crept directly above Hilo Town, and the people were terrified. They urged Keʻelikōlani to intervene and save them. So, she left Honolulu for Hilo in July. She spent nights in a tent beneath Puʻuhonu Hill, close to the flow (Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, August 22, 1881). On the morning of August 7, she went to the site of the lava, and chanted and placed offerings to Pele. It was there indeed that the lava stopped and the town of Hilo was saved.
Keʻelikōlani greatly prized her lands and didn’t sell them; only leasing them. This was one reason for her continued wealth. Furthermore, her generosity in giving lands to her beloved family was great. ʻĀinahau in Waikīkī was bequeathed to Kaʻiulani, her godchild. Keʻelikōlani loved Pauahi, her cousin, and they had a very close relationship. When she passed away on May 24, 1883, Keʻelikōlani willed her entire estate to Pauahi. Since that time, these lands have come to represent the vast majority of the chiefly legacy of Kamehameha Schools.
Today, we truly understand the power and love of Keʻelikōlani, and we are thankful to her for her steadfastness in Hawaiian ways of living, Hawaiian knowledge, and Hawaiian language.
Keʻelikōlani is truly a beloved hero.
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