Every year on March 26 in the State of Hawaii we celebrate the birthday of Prince Kuhio. But who are we celebrating?  He was known as a fascinating, internationally educated, charming, passionate man who spent the majority of his life serving his people – who he loved deeply. But it is the detail of his efforts and his hearts desires for his people that places him in such a position of reference and admiration.

Early beginnings

Born to the sister of Queen Kapi’olani, Esther Kino`iki Ke-kaulike and David Ka-hale-pouli Pi`ikoi, on March 26, 1871, Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi was adopted by his aunt, Queen Kapi’olani after the death of his parents and was declared a Prince by King Kalaukaua. Prince Kuhio Day is celebrated on his birthday.

Preparing for a life of service

prince-kuhio-1Educated in Honolulu, California and England he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He was known for his smile and charm and from a young age was affectionately called “Prince Cupid”.

Groomed from an early age to be King, he found himself without a kingdom when he was only 22 years old. After an aborted attempt to restore the Kingdom through a revolution, Prince Kuhio and his wife, Elizabeth Kahanu Kalanianaʻole left Hawaii and traveled the world for a few years.

Finally reconciled to the new future of the islands of Hawaii and his people, the “Prince of the People” as he became known returned to his beloved islands and began to shape the future that we know today.

“Over and over the prince became aware that neither congressional colleagues nor federal bureaucrats knew much about Hawaii. So he dedicated himself to educating American administrators about the islands.”      Source: https://history.house.gov/People/Detail/16079

photograph of Prince Kuhio celebration where Hawaiians honor the Prince by laying massive fresh flower leis on a monument honoring his birth.. photo courtesy of Aloha-Hawaii

Every year, flowers are placed on a monument erected at the birthplace of Prince Kuhio. Photo courtesy of Aloha Hawaii

The heart of a leader

The first Native Hawaiian and only member of Congress born as royalty, Prince Jonah Kuhio served 10 terms, almost 20 years in the Senate.

Forty years before Hawaii became a state he drafted the first Hawaii Statehood Act. He moved the hearts of the entire Senate when he spoke of the plight of his people and their dwindling numbers, loss of their land and the fear of losing their culture.


prince-kuhio-3Among other accomplishments, he was able to push through legislation for Hawaiian Homelands, set up the current county system, reorganize the Royal Order of King Kamehameha I, was the founder of the Hawaiian Civic Club and dedicate his life to the betterment of his people.

The love of the people for Prince Kuhio is shown in the many public places and schools that bear his name.

While the Hawaiians did not achieve the independence he originally fought for as a kingdom, they have independence and freedom that allow them to continue to grow as a Hawaiian people, perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and continue the Hawaiian legacy that Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi, the Prince of the People, spent his life serving.

Susan Noanoa 

Author’s Bio
me2Susan Kunz is a long time resident of Laie. Originally from Samoa, she has had a long love affair with Hawaiian food with Lomi Lomi Salmon being one of her favorites. She has worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center for many years, recently leaving to branch out into online marketing, and enjoys spending time with her husband, her children and her adorable grandchildren. “‘Ohana (family) is everything to me!”