Celebrating Princess Pauahi’s legacy through her values

Dec. 14, 2022

As an organization whose mission is to serve Hawaiians, it is only fitting that we do so in Hawaiian ways – respecting the culture, values and traditions of our beloved founder Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop.

As members of the Kamehameha ‘ohana it is our kuleana to encourage one another to cultivate Nohona Hawai‘i – a Hawaiian way of life – in all that we do. We can start with living by the values embodied by our princess.

Mālama – To care for
Princess Pauahi lived mālama with her heart and soul. There is a story recorded by her pastor, The Reverend Henry Parker of Kawaiaha‘o Church, that illustrates the caring person that she was.

One day, Reverend Parker heard that one of the church’s kūpuna was ill and went to pay her a visit. When he arrived at the woman’s home, the princess was already there, cooking and tending to her. She had not sent her servants, money or food. Instead she was lovingly caring for the woman herself. This was our princess.

She reached out to all of her people regardless of background or social status. Knowing this about her character, we can understand her greatest act of mālama – leaving a legacy of education that would restore pride and hope in her people.

Kuleana – Responsibility
The value of kuleana was deeply embedded in Ke Ali‘i Pauahi’s view of the world and her role in life. Her kuleana was not just that of an ali‘i and leader, but one of a wife, teacher, hostess, family caregiver and steward of her ancestral lands.

With her myriad of responsibilities, she still took the time to be a good listener and communicator with her people. She was an ali‘i actively engaged with her people. She counseled them regularly in the most humble of ways – seated under her favorite tamarind tree in front of her home. She found this an effective way to stay in touch with the citizenry and to get an understanding of the challenges they faced. In this way, she was able to provide for their needs as best as she could.

Ha‘aha‘a – Humility
One of Ke Ali‘i Pauahi’s most honorable attributes was her humility. She was kind and humble. With as much kuleana as she had, she never pushed people aside when they asked for her time. She was always gracious, and never made others feel like they were intruding.

Princess Pauahi did not want recognition or glory for the good things she did – knowing that she helped others was gratifying enough. She believed that it was her kuleana as alaka‘i to help others succeed. In this way, she would also succeed.

Aloha – Love
The act of aloha is inherent in ho‘okipa, or hospitality. Aloha, in its deeper sense, can also refer to sacrifice, selflessness and enduring suffering so that others might benefit.

Princess Pauahi was the consummate hostess – welcoming family, friends and dignitaries into her home with warmth, grace and generosity. In fact, Hale‘ākala, her family home, was known as the most hospitable place in Honolulu, because she always knew how to make others feel at home. She loved entertaining her guests. And if the mood struck her, she would even charm them with her beautiful singing voice.

Ke Ali‘i Pauahi embodied aloha in even the most dire of circumstances. In 1883, she fell ill. In the following year she traveled to San Francisco for medical care. She was diagnosed with breast cancer which was surgically removed. Despite her great deal of pain and recommendations that she rest, the princess wanted to return to Honolulu to do more for her people.

‘Ike pono – Doing what is right
Ke Ali‘i Pauahi led by the value of ‘ike pono. She knew when a situation was not pono and was not afraid to do something about it. Once the situation was resolved, events could move forward without hindrance.

Perhaps Princess Pauahi’s most memorable act of ‘ike pono was when she refused the crown that was offered to her by King Kamehameha the fifth on his deathbed. Many ali‘i would have gladly accepted the crown, but our princess knew in her heart that being queen was not pono for her. If she were queen, she would not be able to care for her people in the close and personal manner which she preferred. So she respectfully declined.

Upon her passing, Kahu J. A. Cruzan of Fort Street Church called her the last and best of the Kamehamehas. He said that by refusing to rule her people, she did something even better – she served them. His words proved to be prophetic.

Mālama, kuleana, ha‘aha‘a, aloha and ‘ike pono – these values were embraced by our princess. They will continue to manifest themselves everywhere as we promote and proliferate Nohona Hawai‘i throughout our lives.

Mālama, aloha, kuleana, ha‘aha‘a and ‘ike pono were among the values personified by our founder Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Pākī Bishop. In commemoration of Founder’s Day, Dec. 19, we share some mo‘olelo that paint a picture of how our princess embodied these values.