Princess Kaʻiulani and Voting Rights

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Princess Kaʻiulani hosting a dinner in 1899 for the Newlands Resolution Hawaiian Commission which included Sanford B. Dole (former president of the Republic of Hawaiʻi and appointed Governor of the Territory of Hawaiʻʻi, R), Senators Shelby M. Cullom (R-Illinois) and John T. Morgan (D-Alabama), Representative Robert R. Hitt (R-Illinois) and former Hawaii Chief Justice and Walter F. Frear (R-HawaiiTerritory). Princess Kaʻiulani lobbied the Commission to grant US citizenship and US voting rights to Native Hawaiians because at the time, there was a debate in the US Congress whether or be placed in the same category as Native Americans (Native Americans were not considered US citizens at the time and therefore had no rights outside of the reservation). Princess Kaʻiulani fought hard for Native Hawaiians to have voting rights under the new Territory of Hawaiʻi.

Princess Kaʻiulani, Jim Bartels and ʻŌʻiwi

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 I thought I’d give a personal story about how this princess made me rethink certain aspects of Hawaiian identity including my own.

Back in 1998, I conceived to write something on her 100th death anniversary the following year for ʻŌʻiwi Native Hawaiian journal. I was already finishing a piece on King Kalākauaʻs world tour for that journal but I felt people needed to be reminded about Princess Kaʻiulani. Like many Hawaiians, I had these preconceived romanticized picture of Princess Kaʻiulani–the young woman with the hauntingly deep dark brown eyes. The editor of ʻŌʻiwi at the time, a woman of great ability who was also taken from our community too young and too soon, Mahealani Dudoit, approved the idea but she said that the piece needed to be turned in within two weeks due to editing and publication deadlines. The next day, I went up to see the great historian Jim Bartels who was curator of Washington Place at that time and told him about my piece and asked for his thoughts about the Princess. He rocked in his heels and said “Well well well. Most people think of her as a barbie doll princess. When you write this piece, I think you need to go beyond Zambucka and figure out something else about her. Something to make people think beyond the lovely portraits. When youʻre done, I want you come back and tell me what you learned about her.”

Since there was a deadline and I was juggling university classes, I was at the State Archives religiously before and after school pouring over primary sources, looking at photo albums, and going through everything the State Library had her and those who wrote about her. Princess Kaʻiulani was slightly older than I at the time when she passed away. She was in exile for almost a decade and while she enjoyed Menton, the Bailiwack of Jersey (not New Jersey but old Jersey in the UK) , and the She was about to get married to Prince Kawānanakoa. Then she died. Zambucka and others claim she died of a broken heart. But the woman I began to know was vibrant, full of life, active, and determined. I began to stumble upon early newspaper accounts of her death and how she struggled in bed for weeks and she had plans for a political career for herself. She was not just “the hope of the monarchy” but she had hope that although her Throne was stolen, she wanted to push back and do as much as she could for her people. But that sense she had of duty before self, the lāhui before self, was a deep feeling I could relate to and felt a kinship with.

Then there was her being biracial. Some people in “Celtic” circles make much of her Scottish heritage. The Princess indeed was familiar with her fatherʻs heritage but she never directly called herself part-Hawaiian nor part-Scottish. She did not consider herself “hapa”. She was the 167th generation from Papa and Wākea. Her uncle was the elected king of Hawaiʻi and her aunt was a ruling queen. But above all, she was a Hawaiian. Nowadays, Hawaiians like to say things like “Iʻm 49.3% Hawaiian” while there are non-Hawaiians who insist that “pure Hawaiians” no longer exist. For the Princess, the term hapa meant that a person was confused. You can embrace all the communities you belong to, but never forget the land that fed you. She did embrace European cultures–I mean she spoke Latin, French and German and a bit of Irish Gaelic afterall–and her Scottish heritage while she was exiled in the UK but again, she knew who she was. While communities tried to claim her as their own and people tried to tell her who she was, she tried to remain true to who she knew she was ignoring the labels and identity projections people had of her.

She also had a bit of fun at it. While she talking to a reporter who was totally ignorant of Hawaiʻi in Washington, the reporter asked how she was adjusting to the technological progress of the US such as all the lights. She responded that she was adjusting to the gas lighting of the city because in Hawaiʻi, they had electricity. Another reporter asked her a question about whether Hawaiians were cannibals like what happened to Cook, she replied that if Hawaiians were indeed cannibals, it would make sense for the US to leave Hawaiians alone, wouldnʻt it?

But she also had a deep feeling about the wrong that was committed not only as a princess but as a Hawaiian. Most people do not realize how she tried to negotiate with the Republic of Hawaiʻi that she would drop her claims to the Throne and would even endorse the Republic providing that the Republic not pursue annexation to the United States. After the Us formally took over Hawaiʻi in 1898, Princess Kaʻiulani campaigned for voting rights for Hawaiians and citizenship for not just Hawaiians but for everyone born in Hawaiʻi. People need to remember that Native Americans at that time did not have voting rights outside of the reservation and were not considered US citizens. The fear of Queen Liliʻuokalani and Princess Kaʻiulani was that the new Territory might do the same to the Hawaiians as what was being done to Native Americans. She fought against it so that every Kanaka Maoli could vote. She also understood world events and most people donʻt realize that she attended meetings in support of the independence movements in Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico while she was in New York.

I returned to Jim Bartelʻs office to report back to him what I learned three weeks later. “So young man, what did you learn about Princess Kaʻiulani” was his first words to me as I entered. I sat down and said “I learned about a new friend”. Curious, Jim Bartels smiled and asked what did I mean. I replied that “the princess was the kind of friend who could dress up and speak about the social responsibilities of government institutions in German while munching on fried fish and poi. Perhaps the titah bun came from her. She didnʻt reject being who she was, but made it her own. She wasnʻt the barbie doll princess that people imagine, but she was one of our own. She was our friend, a friend that 100 years later we still miss.” Jim Bartels nodded approvingly and said “The Peopleʻs Princess.”

Princess Ka’iulani and Evangelina Cisneros

Princess Ka’iulani and Evangelina Cisneros: The Hawai’i-Cuba Connection

Evangelina Cisneros
Princess Ka’iulani, the Heir Apparent to the Hawaiian Throne

Many people in Hawai’i are aware of the Puerto Rican connection in Hawai’i due to the immigration that occurred in the 20th century. But there is also another untold story.

At the turn of the century, Cubans mounted a sustained national revolution against Spain beginning in 1895. The Cuban as well as the Philippine national revolution the following year in 1896 received wide support from many Hawaiian Nationalists. Robert Wilcox for example spoke out in support of Cuban and Filipino nationalists several times in this period and urged Hawaiians to follow their example by throwing out the oligarchs. Wilcox was a great admirer of  José Martí and Emilio Aguinaldo. Emma Nawahi, the widow of Joseph Nawahi, also endorsed the revolutions in Cuba and in the Philippines in the Ke Aloha ‘Aina newspaper and mele (songs) were written commemorating the bravery of the revolutionaries.

In the summer of 1897 there was also a series of incidents that brought the struggle of Cuba directly with the Hawaiian struggle for regain independence from the ruling junta (the self proclaimed Republic of Hawai’i). In 1897, Princess Ka’iulani was again in the United States on her way back to Hawai’i. What was supposed to have been a short trip to New York ended up lasting several weeks as Princess Ka’iulani decided to wait to meet Prince David Kawananakoa, who was representing the Hawaiian government in exile, and the members of the Hui Kala’aina and the Hui Aloha ‘Aina (the Hawaiian Political Association and the Hawaiian Patriotic League in English) who were carrying the petitions against annexation. Princess Ka’iulani had been accused of being disloyal to her aunt and to the government-in-exile due to the actions of her father and her guardian, Theo Davies. She wanted to dispel such rumors before she landed in Hawai’i and to prove her loyalty, rumors are said that the Princess was also ready to offer her aunt her renunciation of her line in succession to the throne. She never did of course since in the end her aunt, the Queen understood that pro-annexation elements were trying to discredit the Royal Family by trying to make them fight among each other. It has always been a colonial tactic to have indigenous people fight each other while the colonizer or colonial settlers move in to “restore” law and order.  Divide et impera.

While the Princess was in New York, a major newspaper, the New York  Journal, helped a 19 year old political prisoner escape from Cuba and brought her to the United States to help put a human face to the Cuban revolution for Americans–and to sell more papers. The political prisoner, Evangelina Cosio y Cisneros, was from a landed Cuban criollos family. Her father was actively supporting the Cuban revolutionary cause and as such the Spanish authorities arrested every member of her family including her mother, sisters, and brothers. According Amy Ephron, the author of  The White Rose, which is a historical fiction based on the life of Evangelina Cisneros, Princess Ka’iulani and Evangelina Cisneros were constantly being mistaken for each other in public events and Princess Ka’iulani would sometimes jokingly play along with the confused reporters. It had gotten to the point that Princess Ka’iulani decided to meet her and so they met at Princess Ka’iulani’s hotel. A normal audience with Princess Ka’iulani would last about fifteen minutes. Cisneros and the Princess discussed issues for more than three hours.  A week later, the Princess and Cisneros would meet again in a Cuban independence club for women. The Princess would later be reported as saying in the New York Journal that Cisnero was a “real princess” due to the nobility of her character. The Princess while in New York would grace Cuban independence groups two more times and make a donation. The friendship between the two women would continue for the next two years and it was not co-incidental that the Princess would start a chapter of the Red Cross in Hawai’i to help with the Spanish-American War. 

The Princess, like Robert Wilcox and Emma Nawahi, spoke in favor of not just independence for their own people but for all people including those who were fighting in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Their passion for freedom and injustice brings in mind a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Princess Ka’iulani’s Engagement

Out of all the Hawaiian royals, she is probably the one most people understand the least because of people have a tendency to project what they want on her.  For Americans and Europeans, Princess Ka’iulani represented an exotic Barbie-doll like princess in a doomed Polynesian kingom. For Hawaiians, she had come to represent a beautiful victim of haole greed who did everything she could to save the Hawaiian people from annexation by the United States.  Lost between these two views is Victoria Ka’iulani, the young hapa woman barely out of her teens struggling with issues and problems that for the most part she could do very little about. Yes, she was beautiful. But there is more to her than her beauty.

One of the most persistent myths has been Princess Ka’iulani’s love life. Her love life was the subject of a horrible fictional novel called April of her Age and a poorly written movie Princess Kaiulani (formerly offensively titled “The Barbarian Princess”). In both works, she is made to fall in love with a Westerner. The subtle racism involved with that framing is of course that since Princess Ka’iulani was educated and beautiful, it would be natural for her to fall in love with a Westerner.  She could not possibly be involved with another Hawaiian as Hawaiian men were just simpletons. So Princess Ka’iulani was made in most of these works as having a series of relationships or flirtations with Western men despite several of her letters openly stating how she felt about love. Princess Ka’iulani loved Europe. She loved France and the isle of Jersey. But she loved Hawai’i more. So much so she that during her first year of studying, she would have dreams of being back at ‘Ainahau and would wake up crying. When she recieved news about her aunt being deposed, she began to get migraines and became increasingly thin. Like many Native Hawaiians in our diasporo, she craved the fish and poi of her homeland and like many Native Hawaiians abroad, her nationalism became increasingly deep seated. She shared many of these feelings and intimate thoughts with only three people–her “Mama Mo’i” (Queen Kapi’olani), “Koa” (Prince David Kawananakoa), and Baron Toby de Courcy.

Princess Ka’iulani first became interested in Koa when she first arrived in England. Koa was completing his studies as Princess Ka’iulani was beginning hers. He toured her around London and they began to exchange letters. In time, feelings grew. However, they had kept things underwraps because of Princess Ka’iulani’s age but also because Prince David Kawananakoa was expected to marry someone else. Then with the political problems in 1892 and 1893, the situation took a turn for the worst. However, it was public knowledge that Prince Kawananakoa and Princess Ka’iulani were going to be married at some point but the Queen needed to consent or else both of them would be removed from the line of succession. However, another problem arose. The relationship between the Queen and Princess Ka’iulani was shaky because of the relationship between Archibald Cleghorn and the Queen. Archibald Cleghorn turned on the Queen the very next day after the Provisional Government assumed power. He persistenly said in newspapers and to Lorrin Thurston that his daughter should be queen. That’s why in letters from the Queen to Princess Ka’iulani, she constantly told her niece that she was not to accept any offers for the Hawaiian throne. When Princess Ka’iulani arrived in Washington DC before the Commission of the Hawaiian Government in Exile did, it made matters even worst. The other issue the Queen probably had in mind at the time was the fact that Archibal Cleghorn owed his wealth to his late wife and his daughter and should Princess Ka’iulani marry Prince Kawananakoa and produce another heir, he would be the grandfather of the future royal family. Something that probably scared her.  

When Princess Ka’iulani achieved some popularity in the American press, the enemies of the monarchy then began to spring into action by trying to cast Princess Ka’iulani as essentially “easy” by printing engagement notices it seems every month and nearly all of them it was alleged she was engaged with a Caucasian man. This type of press no doubt hurt Princess Ka’iulani and Prince Kawananakoa. You will note however that nearly no Hawai’i paper did the same because it was a well known secret. In 1895, Princess Ka’iulani proached the subject of marriage to her aunt and her aunt responded by listing three candidates–a Japanese prince, Prince David Kawananakoa, and Prince Jonah Kalaniana’ole. The Queen knew about the relationship between the prince and the princess but being that she was caught up in the political problems of her homeland, she hoped that the Princess might put aside her feelings and marry for political expediency. This is why the Princess’ reply stated that she could have been married to a wealthy German baron but would prefer to marry for love (again hinting). On the part of Princess Ka’iulani, she probably was also trying to hint to the Queen to announce the engagement herself because her father did not have a favorable opinion of Hawaiians and Prince David Kawananakoa, despite his English accent, was still a Hawaiian. If the Queen could announce the engagement, then her father would have no choice to accept it. But alas, it seems that the subtle hints were lost on each other.       

Sometime in January of 1898, the plans became final. Informally, it was said that Prince Kawananakoa formally asked for Princess Ka’iulani’s hand in marriage on January 21 of that year–the anniversary of Queen Lili’uokalani’s ascension–on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It was announced in public in February as both parties began the task of gaining the consent of both families. Archibald Cleghorn may or may not have agreed to give his consent and the relationship between him and his daughter became quite frosty as letters have shown. Prince David Kawananakoa recieved the consent of the Queen and proceeded to gain the consent of his adopted mother, Queen Kapi’olani.

The Ka’iulani Engagement Necklace 

We know that this engagement was the real deal because of the exchange of gifts that began to arrive.  One of the engagement presents that arrived for Princess Ka’iulani was a diamond necklace from “Mama Mo’i”.  The diamond necklace was originally a gift from King Kalakaua to Queen Kapi’olani for their wedding anniversary. Princess Ka’iulani did not like heavy jewelry so she replaced the silver chain with a triple strain of pearls. After the death of Princess Ka’iulani, the necklace was returned to Prince David Kawananakoa and then inherited by his wife, Abigail Campbel Kawananakoa and then later placed under the care of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Other known engagement gifts included silverware, clothing, feathers, food, and land. One of the reasons why Princess Ka’iulani kept going to the Parker Ranch on the Big Island was to spend time with “Koa” who always accompanied her.  There is also a number of photographs of Princess Ka’iulani where “Koa” is always next to her.

The 1898 “Annexation” Protest
‘Ainahau 1898

In fact, it is claimed that her last words might have been “Koa” not “Papa” as noted in a few books. When Princess Ka’iulani passed away, it was Prince David Kawananakoa who paid for her funeral expenses. This is also one of the reasons why the Cleghorn family for the most part was not particularly welcomed at Washington Place after 1898.

Throughout their engagement, the American press continued to mount engagement notices every month. It had gotten so bad that even former pro-Republic of Hawai’i newspapers began to protest. One of the most frequent rumors was started by an American newspaper reporter named Andrew Adams who worked briefly in Hawai’i and claimed he was engaged to Princess Ka’iulani. The Hawaiian Star, an anti-monarchy newspaper that had originally employed Andrew Adams printed several apologies to Princess Ka’iulani and denounced Andrew Adams for trying to use Princess Ka’iulani to make a name for himself.

Another constantly rumored suitor was Clive Davies who is featured in the movie, Princess Ka’iulani, and whose father, Theo Davies, was pushing his business partner Archibald Cleghorn to force Princess Ka’iulani to marry Clive so that he could make claims for the Crown Lands. How Princess Ka’iulani felt for Clive is also well known. When the Princess met with Prince Kawananakoa in New York in 1893 and was reproached, she slowly began to disassociate herself from the Davies family including moving in with her former teacher in Brighton, England. When the Princess arrived back in Honolulu and found out that the Davies family were involved with the Annexation Club, she had no further contact with them and she in public scolded her father during a lu’au for betraying his adopted country.