Celebrating The Prince Of The People

Aunty Stella Burgess

A day to remember the many contributions of Kaua’i-born Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole returns to Koloa

Commemorating the “Prince of the People,” eight days of festivities will begin this week throughout the island in celebration of the life of Kaua’i-born Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole.

“For the people of Kaua’i, Prince Kuhio is a great gentleman,” says Stella Burgess, Grand Hyatt Kaua’i Resort and Spa director of Hawaiian culture and community relations. “He was a monarch for the people.”

From March 19 to 27, visitors and kama’aina alike are invited to partake in the many activities Prince Kuhio once held in esteem, such as canoe racing, music and boxing.

“All the different days are different aspects of his life,” says Burgess.

Several of the events will take place at the Grand Hyatt and are free of charge, including ukulele lessons and performances by Tsunami Taiko drummers and Na Kane o Keoneloa Kane Halau.

Prior to Hurricane Iniki, Kaua’i residents formally celebrated Prince Kuhio Day, recognized in honor of his birthday, March 26. But since then, the official commemoration ceased.

“We needed to have Prince Kuhio back in Koloa,” says Burgess, who was instrumental in the return of the tribute to the Garden Isle.

A descendant of King Kaumuali’i, Prince Kuhio grew up on Oahu and was educated in England. And although he moved away after becoming discouraged by the overthrow of the kingdom, he returned because of his desire to help his people, says Burgess. And he felt the best way he could do so was by serving in Congress.

Kahelekomo family members will demonstrate the use of poi (kalo) March 26 at the Prince Kuhio celebration

While serving, Prince Kuhio was responsible for developing the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, which designated land for native inhabitants.

What most people do not recognize is that he was determined to help every Hawaiian no matter what their percentage of ancient ancestry was. However, his suggestion was vetoed until regulations settled with at least 50 percent Hawaiian genealogy.

“Everybody thought that was his fault, but they don’t know the whole history,” says Burgess, who is of Hawaiian ancestry and whose ancestors arrived on

Kaua’i around 1410. “Without him, Hawaiians wouldn’t have had anything. He fought for us. He actually did strive to save his people.”

The prince also created the Hawaiian Civic Club during the early 1900s because he was determined to keep the ancient culture alive.

“We were forgetting our own culture, we were forgetting who we were,” says Burgess, who has worked at the Grand Hyatt since 1999. “He was hoping the civic clubs would bring back the memories of the ali’i and what they did and what they didn’t do for their people.”

Events like the Prince Kuhio Celebration also are meant to carry on the culture.

Folks will have many opportunities to absorb the ancient heritage by learning the “Wisdom of the Kupuna” from the ‘Olelo No’eau (Hawaiian proverbs), attending “A Royal Dinner and Hawaiian Fashion Contest” or even visiting a heiau.

“There will be so many different experiences, there has to be something that everybody likes,” says Burgess.

“For kama’aina, I want to make them feel like they can walk in through the front door of resorts, that they don’t think that they always have to walk through the back door,” says Burgess. “For the visitors, I want them to be able to talk to people who love their culture, who can share who and what they are for the right reasons. This will be the experience of a lifetime for our kama’aina and our visitors to both learn something they didn’t know, because every day is a learning experience.”

Visit princekuhio.wetpaint.com or contact Burgess at burgess@hyatt.com or 240-6369 for more information.

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