By Léo Azambuja

photo by Margy Parker

Stella Burgess, wearing a green mumu, helped to grow Prince Kuhio Celebration to two weeks from one day over the course of the last 10 years. Here, the kupuna are seen holding a talk-story session with visitors at Waiohai Beach Resort last year.

The Prince Kuhio Celebration kicks off with the Garden Isle Artisan Fair at Po‘ipu Beach Park March 15. For the next two weeks, daily events will highlight the life of the Kaua‘i native and one of Hawai‘i’s most influential policy makers in Congress.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole was born on March 26, 1872, in Po‘ipu, Kaua‘i’s South Shore. Though he died at only 50 years old, he lived a full life and left a legacy that continues to affect Native Hawaiians to this day.

About 10 years ago, Margy Parker contacted Stella Burgess to ask is she would be interested in helping to grow the celebration of Prince Kuhio’s birthday, which had been carried on for many years by the Royal Order of Kamehameha.

“She was in charge of Hawaiiana and Hawaiian culture at that time at the hotel, the Hyatt,” Parker said of Burgess.

Over the next decade, Burgess was responsible for growing the festival from one day to two weeks, and from Po‘ipu to other parts of the island, always emphasizing cultural demonstrations, according to Parker.

Burgess worked with the Po‘ipu Beach Foundation, and then the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and the County of Kaua‘i got involved, Parker said.

Burgess died in February, but the festival will keep going.

“It’s quite a legacy, really,” Parker said of Burgess.

Prince Kuhio himself, Parker said, was an icon in the Native Hawaiian community for what he fostered and for his legacy.

As children, Prince Kuhio and his brother, David Kawananakoa, were the bearers of the crown during King Kalakaua’s coronation. Growing up, Prince Kuhio, the grandson of Kaua‘i’s King Kaumuali‘i and the nephew of Queen Kapi‘olani, studied in California and in England, and spent a year in Japan after graduating.

In 1895, he was arrested for taking part in a revolution against the government that had overthrown Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893. He would spend two years in jail, and then leave for a tour around the world. He returned to Kaua‘i in 1901, and was elected to Congress in 1903, the same year he reorganized the Royal Order of Kamehameha and founded the first Hawaiian Civic Club. He was elected to Congress for 10 consecutive terms.

Prince Kuhio sponsored a bill for Hawaiian statehood in 1919, but it would take 40 years until Hawai‘i would become a state. In 1921, U.S. President Warren Harding signed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which was crafted after a bill Prince Kuhio had spearheaded to create a rehabilitation program for Native Hawaiians.

The final version of the bill that created the Hawaiian Homes Commission, however, distributed Hawaiian lands as a lease rather than fee simple, and raised the blood quantum to qualify for a lease to 50 percent from the original one-thirty-second blood quantum requirement, all against the wishes of Prince Kuhio.

He died on Jan. 7, 1922, and was buried on O‘ahu after a royal funeral.

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