She was the first Queen to rule and the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, but Queen Lili’uokalani’s story is the story of Hawaii.
Lili’u Loloku Walania Kamakaeha was born on September 2, 1838. She was given an English name at her baptism, Lydia (which we never used in the podcast) and raised in a Hawaiian tradition called hanai, a sort of adoption, by Abner Paki and his wife, Laura Konia. Hawaii, at Lydia’s birth and for most of her life, was an independent nation, with a legislative government, a constitution, laws, a system of land ownership and Lili’u was a part of the ruling class.
Children who were in the line of succession to the throne were sent to a special Royal School run by American missionaries who had begun coming to Hawaii in the early 1800s. The kids at the school were bilingual in Hawaiian and English, but they also learned western deportment, a whole slew of academics, and how to walk the line between the two cultures. Lili’u also learned music- to play the piano, sing and write-a developed gift that she would use her whole life –writing 160 songs including the classic Hawaiian song of farewell, Aloha Oe.
When it was time for her to marry, Lili’u accepted the proposal of wealthy American, John Dominis, who had been raised in Hawaii. She moved in with him and his Mommy…er, widowed mother at their home, Washington Place. John was private secretary to a couple King Kamehamehas before he was made Governor of Oahu.
We go through the entire Kamehameha dynasty during the podcast, from the Original who unified the islands into one country, to Five who rewrote the constitution that Four had signed giving more power to non-native Hawaiians than a lot of people were comfortable with. Five died without an heir and ended the dynasty, but a new one began when Lili’u’s brother, David Kalakaua took the crown. All along the way, immigrants were slowly working their way into powerful positions in both government and in the economy of the island. King David named his sister, Lili’u his successor (and named her “Lili’uokalani” which she wasn’t very fond of.)
King David supported ties to America, which worked out well for all of the Americans that were working in his government and, over the 17 years of his reign, he would get more and more financially entangled with them.
But first he had to tour the world.
The whole world.
He left Lili’u as his regent and while he was off gallivanting she successfully dealt with one crisis after another. When he returned it was her turn to represent Hawaii on a global stage (she was at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee!)
But then things got very messy for the native Hawaiians. Not only had their population been rapidly decreasing due to illnesses brought in by immigrants, but the land ownership, the sugar plantations…the money was controlled by non-natives and they were greedy. They wanted Hawaii to be annexed by the United States and as a step toward that goal they forced King David to sign away the farm. Well, his power, anyway, making him a mere figurehead in the Hawaiian government.
And then he went and died.
Nice going, David.
Lili’uokalani became QUEEN Lili’uokalani and worked tirelessly to regain control that previous kings had let slip away, but in two short years was schemed out of her title, imprisoned, lost the government to Americans and, ultimately, Hawaii was annexed by the United States.
We, of course, go into detail in the podcast but she lived for another 20 years in “retirement” always working to keep the Hawaiian culture alive. She died on November 11, 1917 of a stroke. She was 79 years old.
Let’s end this with several versions of Aloha Oe, because we can.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen by Lili’uokalani herself is online
Iolani Palace Built by, and home of, King Kalakaua, Queen Lili’uokalani was imprisoned there and it became the provisional government headquarters. Now it’s restored and, boy howdy! it’s stunning! Make sure you click around, you can take a sort-of-tour, including the quilt she sewed while imprisoned.
Washington Place, Liliuokalani’s home (through her husband) is now the Governor’s residence, and it’s also stunning.
Indigenous Hawaiians may be able to establish and self-govern similar to sovereign Native American nations. Here is a diving board into that rabbit hole from Smithsonian Magazine , and to learn even more about it, from the people working to establish it, here is the website of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, and some information about the Constitution that is being drafted.
Set up by the the Queen herself, the Queen Lili’oukalani Trust is dedicated to the welfare of orphan and destitute Hawaiian children.
Because we take each and every opportunity to talk about the Columbian Exhibition, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, there was a Hawaii exhibit. Of course there was! If you have any interest in the history of Chicago, you should probably set aside a little time to dive into this site: Chicagology.
We did our very best in regards to pronunciation but if you’ve never given any Hawaiian words a shot, now is your chance!
Here are some resources to help bring Hawaiian culture to kids.
It’s probably a dead project…but maybe not? If you want to try and solve the mystery of Is There A Movie? start here at the official site for The Islands movie.