Honoring King Kamehameha I

June 12th, 2009
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Honoring King Kamehameha I

We'll celebrate by draping lei on his statue as we do each year on June 11, but this year's event is special. Hundreds of elders are smiling with great satisfaction. After nearly 50 years of grass roots efforts across the country, led by Hawaiian groups including the Native Hawaiian Royal Benevolent Societies, Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Hawai'i State Society of Washington, D.C.; and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawai'i Delegation -- working together with the Capitol's architect --  they have succeeded in ensuring the king's statue is in its rightful place. The six-ton bronze of Kamehameha the Great was moved to Emancipation Hall in the new U.S. Capitol’s Visitors’ Center under a skylight where he will now be seen by millions. Last Sunday this particular lei draping ceremony held special significance and it had been long awaited.

As for the meaning of lei?  It is a tribute, a greeting, a mahalo, a gesture of Aloha.  The custom was introduced by early Polynesian voyagers who traversed thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean from Tahiti to find their way to our islands.  They brought the tradition of making lei from flowers, maile (vine), leaves, shells, nuts, feathers, and the symbolic bone, teeth and human hair lei cherished by the Native Hawaiians. Then several generations later in the late 1920s lei sellers came to be.  They were initially women of Papakolea, working on the pier at Aloha Tower greeting visitors from the luxury liners coming into port. The ladies made their living on the docks in the hardest of times, picking flowers that grew along the walk down from Tantalus to the water's edge. This income was used to augment what their husbands were not able to earn during this era when Native Hawaiians were met with unabashed discrimination in their own homeland.

This clip is from the film, Paniolo O Hawaii - Cowboys of the Far West. It took nearly three years to produce because there was no definitive historical account of an all island cowboy history in Hawaii.  It's one of my favorites because it reflects the gentility and sensitive nature of the Hawaiian man.  These scenes capture some of the last great paniolo old timers (many have left us since the release of the film). Uncle Sonny Keakealani sits with the renowned songster/poet, Uncle Kindy Sproat; Andrew Kauai, Jiro Yamaguchi, Yutaka Kimura and Kimo Hoopai.  Hoss Richardson and George Kohalahala talk about Lanai and Uncle Sonny shows us the different flowers and shells made into haku lei seen on their hats as representative of different islands.  We know the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) as some of the world's finest riders and ropers, a tough group of men, working the slopes of Mauna Kea to Haleakala.  To hear them talk about going in to the forest to pick flowers and vines and spending all day weaving a single lei for a loved one -- says so much.  

So on this special day we pay tribute to Hawaii's monarch and to his people. We thank our host culture for showing us the Hawaiian way.  On Saturday in Waikiki we have the luxury of enjoying, free of charge, a magnificent floral parade with thousands of flowers and lei presented as a tribute to the great King Kamehameha I. Life is Good in Hawaii.

For more video please visit us at www.PacificNetwork.tv.

 
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One Response to “Honoring King Kamehameha I”

  1. moke young:

    Aloha,

    The existing bronzed statues of Kamehameha the Great are accented with his sinewy mass & chiseled body that remains as the benchmark for some Hawaiian's and growing up, I always wished that I had the same genes but instead was like "String Bean" of the famous Grand Old Opray.

    I got a personal image I wanted to share because my friends photo art show is gaining a full head of steam with increased popularity in Salem, MA & a powerful Hawaiian message in an art form has been born.

    Growing up in Hawai'i we were taught about staying fit through organized sports but when you saw guys like Sam Steamboat, Duke Kahanamoku, Neff Maeava and Buffalo Keaulana close & upfront you knew you had to somehow follow suit; it seemed to be the Hawaiian way?

    A recent "SurfLand" exhibition news article covering the Peabody Essex Museum, speaks of Duke Kahanamoku, his message of Aloha and through the spirit of surfers today, has finally ventured north beyond the state of New York where he held surfing clinics in Long Island helping to popularize surfing while reaching out to a community of surfers & scene in an infant stage.

    Today, Montauk, New York has been rated as a top ten Surfing Town in the USA by a recent Surfer Magazine poll that includes Paia and Haleiwa.

    I spend a lot of time writing & bragging about Hawai'i and it's famed characters & during the past few weeks find myself sharing the center stage with my friend, Joni Sternbach, presenting an artful message in the heart of New England Missionary country. During the Hawai'i missionary days many of their elders had voted to ban surfing & other cultural arts, at the same time, our success regarding writing & literacy owes much to their insistent and rigorous study regimens of the past.

    It's very hard to write and/or speak about personal achievements, at the same time, I've tried extremely hard to spread the word of the "Duke" for years and now understand that there's a huge banner outside this popular museum with both of our images & I am just blown away to say the least & especially how I wound up getting this far having never gone beyond the tenth grade in high school.

    http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/arts/x1637474475/Lets-go-surfin-now-at-the-Peabody-Essex-Museum

    http://jonisternbach.com/gallery_surfers.html?23

    I used to believe that surfing lead to bad things but now understand how important it is when you start aging; "there's wisdom in the wave" Doc Paskowitz:

    http://www.alohadoc.com

    I've always heard that King Kamehameha stood 8 foot tall in real life and someday I hope to seek that clarification & closure. I always wondered as a kid what it would be like to be blessed with all that muscle?

    Of the many statues I've captured in my view, none is more impressive but that of Abraham Lincoln at the national mall in D.C.

    It's nice to understand that King Kamehameha "The Great" admired the many wonders & traditions of this world during his reign further sharpening his mind indicating too that he also had a soft side.

    I've always admired the Paniolo and used to ride horses & covered wagons at my uncles ranch where Waimea Falls park is located & Hawai'i is set up beautifully for ranching and those things related.

    Of all the Hawaiian Cowboy songs written to date, Waiomina, has got to be the most energetic& the most exhilarating Hawaiian tune ever written in honor of the worlds finest cowboy's during the day:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiWvadr2yGU

    In 1908, Hawaii's Ikua Purdy won a highly regarded rodeo at a famed State of Wyoming Ranch while his team mate, Archie Kaaua, placed Third.

    http://www.huapala.org/Wai/Waiomina.html

    I loved seeing Ikua Purdy IV; Hana hou young man!

    The Lei is such an awesome symbol and I've seen so many vehicle rear view mirrors decorated with Lei's all across this great nation and a tradition that has gone global!

    Just when I thought I had a favorite Lei, I retract that thought because when someone puts love into Lei making, you now have the conduit to impart that true sense of Aloha; it defines that symbolic statement that will penetrate and positively influence the hardest hearts out there and when you include a warm smile & wafted aroma such as the Pikake's striking fragrance or the fine detail of a white speckled Kukui nut Lei, the experience makes for great social interactions that sometime can be eternal.

    Mahalo's for taking the time to recognize King Kamehameha and the Paniolo of today.

    It was they whom inspired me to live on a farm and did so in Westphalia, Kansas living on a 200 acre spread complete with all the animals and horses that was fun, at the same time, hard work & intense responsibility.

    I am hoping that the Paniolo will continue their rich island tradition.

    With Aloha,

    Moke Young