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This week’s Kūkahekahe column celebrates the life and legacy of Liliʻuokalani, sister of King Kalākaua and the hānai sister of KS founder Ke Aliʻi Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Photo courtesy of Hawaiʻi State Archives.

Kūkahekahe: Queen Liliʻuokalani

Aug. 31, 2021

  • Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group

This year marks the 183rd birthday of Liliʻuokalani. To celebrate, the Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī Coalition is hosting five weeks of virtual events throughout the month of September; be sure to check them out!

Lydia Lili‘u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha was born on September 2, 1838 to Analea Keohokālole and Caesar Kapaʻakea. Immediately after her birth, Liliʻu was hānai by the aliʻi Laura Konia and Abner Pākī.  This made Liliʻu  a younger sister to our founder, Bernice Pauahi. She attended the Chiefs Children’s School and later married John Owen Dominis on September 16, 1862.

Liliʻuokalani was an extraordinary musician and prolific composer. She and her siblings David Kalākaua, Miriam Likelike, and William Pitt Leleiōhoku were affectionately known as “Nā Lani ‘Ehā” (The Royal Four).

Lili‘u was named heir to the throne on April 11, 1877 by her elder brother King Kalākaua following the death of their brother Leleiōhoku. He asked that she add to her name the reference, “of the heavens/of the chiefs,” Liliʻuokalani, so that her status as crown princess was recognized. She became queen upon his tragic death in San Francisco and was sworn in as queen on January 29, 1891.

Liliʻuokalani ruled during a time of intense change in Hawaiʻi. She immediately began working with trusted advisors like Joseph Nāwahī and William Pūnohu White to draft a constitution to restore the powers of the monarchy that had been severely diminished by the 1887 “Bayonet” Constitution.  A coup removed her from the throne on January 17, 1893 with the support of the U.S. military. She temporarily yielded her authority, remaining steadfast and lodging formal protests to the United States Government. Hawaiʻi was declared a Republic in 1894. Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in ʻIolani Palace on January 16, 1895 after she was falsely accused of being complicit in an attempted counterrevolution. It was then that Liliʻu abdicated her throne, under duress and with the desire to avoid the threatened hanging of conspirators.

While she was imprisoned, supporters would deliver flowers daily from Uluhaimalama, a beautiful and patriotic garden planted at ʻAuwaiolimu, Pauoa for the queen. At a time when Hawaiians were prohibited from gathering and unbeknownst to her jailors, members of the lāhui would wrap their flowers with daily newspapers, tucking in letters of mahalo and aloha to their queen.

Once released from prison in 1896, Liliʻuokalani traveled to Washington DC to continue fighting for the restoration of the throne. When Hawaiʻi was annexed by the United States in 1898 and in the years after, Liliʻuokalani turned her efforts towards ensuring care for her people.

Liliʻuokalani passed away on November 11, 1917; she was laid to rest in the Kalākaua Crypt at Maunaʻala.  Through her will, she established a trust in 1909 to benefit orphan and destitute children, with preference given to those of Hawaiian ancestry: Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center formed in 1946 to carry out the mission of the Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust.

From organizing petition drives across the Pae ʻĀina to defiantly incorporating Hae Hawaiʻi into quilt designs, many people of Hawaiʻi sought to remain steadfast in their support of the Kingdom and the queen. Beloved by her people, she continued to be referred to as mōʻī and celebrations of her birth continued into the territorial years. Queen Liliʻuokalani’s motto was “E ʻonipaʻa i ka ʻimi naʻauao" (Be steadfast in the seeking of knowledge). Given her leadership during some of the most challenging events facing the Kingdom and its peoples, it is often shortened to “onipaʻa,” to stand firm. A short article published in the February 8, 1893 edition of the Hawaii Holomua affirmed, “O ke aloha o ka lāhui ua onipaʻa” (the love of the nation is firm).

liliuokalani, kūkahekahe

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