He aupuni palapala ko‘u – Mine is a kingdom of literacy.
As the motto suggests, Kauikeaouli – who would become Kamehameha III, Mō‘ī o Ke Aupuni ‘o Hawai‘i (ruler of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i) – believed in literacy and education among his people. In the 1800s, the literacy rate among Native Hawaiians was 98 percent.
Community members and Kamehameha Schools staff came together on March 15 to commemorate the birth of Kauikeaouli with a tribute at Keauhou Bay, where he was born in 1814. The ceremony was led by The Daughters of Hawai‘i, a group founded in 1903 dedicated to “perpetuating the memory and spirit of old Hawai‘i and of historic events.”
The celebration continued the next evening at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay with a free ‘aha mele (concert) and marketplace showcasing ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and promoting literacy. Proceeds from the concert benefitted Ke Kula ‘O ‘Ehunuikaimalino, a Hawaiian language immersion school in West Hawai‘i.
During his reign, Kauikeaouli established a school system that integrated Hawaiian language and culture into Western education. The schools were so successful that at the end of his 30-year reign in 1854, Hawai‘i was one of the most literate nations in the world. Kauikeaouli also created Hawai‘i’s first constitution in 1840, and, in response to a temporary takeover of the kingdom in 1843, created a system for private land ownership called the Great Māhele.
“Kauikeaouli was a progressive ali‘i who placed great value on the importance of education – so much so that his government provided free public education for all children,” said KS West Hawai‘i Regional Director Kaimana Barcarse. “With this event, we honor his foresight and wisdom and the role he played in working to lift all of Hawai‘i. We look forward to a major milestone next year with the 20th anniversary of this festival.”