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MO`OLELO OF THE KAMEHAMHEHA LEI DRAPING CEREMONY

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 1969 to Present

On Tuesday, April 15, 1969, the imposing statues of King Kamehameha I and Father Damien were unveiled in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.    The momentous event was televised in Hawai`i.  Senator Daniel K. Inouye facilitated the presentation as Master of Ceremonies.  Dignitaries in attendance were Congressman Spark Matsunaga, Mr. Myron Thompson; Administrative Assistant representing Governor John A. Burns, Mr. Ainsley Mahikoa; President of Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Mrs. Gladys Brandt; Principal of Kamehameha School for Girls, Mr. Harold Dole Mahealani (Mahina) Bailey, President of the Hawai`i State Society, Washington, D.C., Mr. Dale Noble (Music Director) and the men and women of the Kamehameha Schools Concert Glee Club.

Commissioned to create a statue of Kamehameha by the legislature of the Kingdom of Hawai`i, American sculptor Thomas R. Gould modeled the figure at his studio in Rome in 1879.  It was cast in bronze at a Paris foundry in 1880 but was lost in a shipwreck on its way to Hawai`i.  A second statue was cast from the same model and arrived safely.  It was unveiled by Hawai`i’s last king, Kalakaua in 1883 in front of the Judiciary Building in Honolulu, where it remains today.  The first statue was subsequently recovered and sent to Kohala, Kamehameha’s birthplace.  In 1912 it was placed at Kohala Court House in Kapa`au on the island of Hawai`i, in Kamehameha’s home district.

Gould depicted Kamehameha in his regal garb, including a helmet of rare feathers attached to woven plant fibers.  The gilded cloak is based on one that Kamehameha’s subjects made for the king by weaving yellow feathers of native birds into a fine mesh net.  The sandals, although not historically accurate, suggest the type of footwear that Kamehameha would have worn.  The spear in his left hand symbolizes the ability to defend oneself and one’s nation; it is also a reminder that Kamehameha ended the wars among the Hawaiian people.  His right hand is extended in a gesture of aloha, the traditional spirit of friendly greeting.

A third Kamehameha I statue was commissioned after statehood in 1959, when the new state was entitled to install two statues in the U.S. Statuary Hall in Washington DC. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, then a representative, proposed a likeness of the warrior king.  In 1965 a Hawai‘i Legislative committee approved the choice of King Kamehameha and Father Damien. The King Kamehameha statue, reproduced by Ortho R. Fairbanks and Clarence P. Curtis, became the first statue of a king, as well as the largest statue to be displayed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Saint Damien was born Joseph de Veuster, in Tremeloo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840.  Saint Damien exemplified his commitment to his special calling; serving the afflicted at Kalaupapa through his good work and deeds.  While living on Moloka`i six chapels were built by 1875.  He constructed a home for boys and later a home for girls. He bandaged wounds, made coffins, dug graves, heard confessions, and said Mass every morning.  In December 1884, Father Damien noticed severe blisters on his feet without the presence of pain. As he suspected, the disease was leprosy.  Father Damien died peacefully on April 15, 1889, on Molokai after 16 years of undaunted dedication.

On October 11, 2009, Father Damien was canonized (i.e., elevated to sainthood) by Pope Benedict XVI in a ceremony at the Vatican, thus becoming Saint Damien. 

This bronze statue is based on photographs taken of Father Damien near the end of his life, with the scars of his disease visible on his face and his right arm in a sling beneath his cloak. His broad-brimmed hat was traditionally worn by missionaries. His right hand holds a cane.

The unveiling of both statues on April 15, 1969, was accompanied by the blowing of a conch shell, a chanter, kahili bearers and the presentation of leis.  (https://www.aoc.gov/art/national-statuary-hall-collection/kamehameha-i)

The King Kamehameha I statue was moved to National Statuary Hall in June 1969.  The great weight of the bronze statue and its solid granite base (over 6 tons) makes it one of the heaviest objects in the National Statuary Hall Collection.  A major factor in its location was the need to support it safely. (Ref; www.aoc.gov – Kamehameha)

Hawai`i’s Royal Benevolent Societies; the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the `Ahahui Ka`ahumanu, the Hale O Na Ali`i O Hawai`i and the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors – Mamakakaua; education campaign on Capitol Hill; sharing `ike and mana`o about Kamehameha the Warrior King was the catalyst for a joint 2006 decision by the U.S. Architect of the Capitol and the U.S. Congress to move the Kamehameha statue from its position in Statuary Hall, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, U.S. Capitol Complex, Washington, D.C.  In 2006, a champion of Na Mea Hawai`i, spokesperson Hailama Farden skillfully outlined the hopes of Hawai`i’s Royal Benevolent Societies, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawai`i State Society of Washington, D.C., Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association – East Coast Chapter, University of Hawai`i Alumni-National Capital Region, Ke Ali`i Maka`ainana Hawaiian Civic Club of Washington, D.C. Hawaiians throughout the continent and the people of Hawai`i during an audience with the then Acting Architect of the Capitol, Dr. Alan Hantman.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Hantman conceded a prominent location for the statue however, reiterated the delicate fiscal and political nuances to be hurdled.  These efforts moved the issue of the Kamehameha statue from a “request from the citizenry” to an Office of the U.S. Architect of the Capitol agenda item supported by the U.S. Congress.

In 2007 Hailama Farden journeyed back to Washington, D.C.; just as early Ali`i had done; to meet with Dr. Barbara Wolanin, AOC Curator and Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, LEED AP, Acting Architect of the Capitol and was unanimously confirmed as permanent Architect by the United States Senate on May 12, 2010; to further define “a position of prominence”, construction deliverables, security challenges and political red-tape.  Following this meeting, an inspection tour of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center construction site, led the 31-member entourage to the prominent site proposed by the U.S. Architect of the Capitol for the King Kamehameha I statue.  The site was blessed.  We, the people wept.

In September 2008 the King Kamehameha statue was prepared for the move to Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.  Kumu Sarah Keahi; retired Hawaiian language teacher from Kamehameha Schools and a longtime Na Mea Hawai`i advocate prepared Kamehameha.  Standing in an empty Statuary Hall, a few Hawaiian community members gathered as witnesses.  A shadow of a woman wearing a papale (hat) slowly approached the group.  She was the wife of the supervisor of the packing and transport team.  Hawaiian.  Living in Virginia.  She was there to offer pule and witness on behalf of her kupuna.   Two large wooden crates and the packing and transport crew stood ready.  Standing at four feet, eleven inches, Kumu Sarah Keahi began her audience with King Kamehameha.  Dressed in mu`u mu`u, lei po`o and cape, Aunty Sarah observed ali`i protocol; presented an `oli and shared a quiet, loving pule.  With eyes fixed on Kamehameha, Aunty Sarah explained his upcoming journey from his current residence in Statuary Hall to the waiting wooden crates, transport to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, then finally to Emancipation Hall uniting the bronze statue and its solid granite base (over 6 tons) in a new home.  Witnesses stood in awe as this private audience between King and Kupuna personified aloha; King with maka`ainana.  Kamehameha was carefully tucked into the 2 crates.  It rained for three days, delaying the transport.  Three witnesses visited the newly reconstructed King Kamehameha I statue in Emancipation Hall.  A preemptive remark by our guide gave us pause, “Do not be alarmed by the smallness of the statue in the new, massive space.”  We entered Emancipation Hall.  Kamehameha stood fully upright, legs fixed and secure, back strong and straight, stern uplifted chin, neck and head.  Right arm/hand fully extended.  He was larger!  He was magnificent!  We placed a lei at Kamehameha’s feet and presented pule.

In 2009, members of the Royal Benevolent Society returned to Washington, D.C. to conclude their work specific to the movement of the Kamehameha I statue.  They met privately with the U.S. Architect of the Capitol to share aloha for his guidance, support and continued maintenance of our King.

The June 2009 Kamehameha Lei Draping ceremony; the first in Emancipation Hall; drew great excitement.  As Hawai`i State Society organizers, area hula halau, and VIPs entered the venue, a rainbow shown clearly on the floor of the Hall.  The rainbow was tracked moving slowly across the floor and onto the wall and pillars behind Kamehameha as the ceremony continued.  Chicken skin.

The 2018 ceremony theme of Mana I Ka Leo – Power of the Voice spoke to the strength and kuleana of Hawai`i’s leadership and its people on the `aina and the continent.  More than 400 attendees shared in the commemoration of the unifier King Kamehameha I, noted the celebration of the “Year of the Hawaiian”; proclaimed on February 26, 2018 by Hawai`i’s Governor David Ige and a heartfelt Tribute honoring the late Senator Daniel K. Akaka.

The Hawai`i State Society sends Mahalo Nui to Senator Brian Schatz, Senator Mazie Hirono, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for their leadership and graciousness in the planning and execution of this event.  We thank Mr. Leighton Kim Oshima; husband of Senator Hirono; and grandchildren Mehana and Kainoa for their presence and support of this ceremony.  Mahalo nui to Abraham Williams; husband of Congresswoman Gabbard for his attendance and musical accompaniment.  We mahalo all VIPs in attendance to include Hawai`i State Senate President Ron Kouchi and wife Joy, Kaua`i Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. and wife Regina, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee “Hulu” Lindsey, OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, OHA Trustee Keli`i Akina, OHA Chief Advocate Kawika Riley, OHA-DC Bureau Chief Keone Nakoa and OHA Community Engagement Specialist Hina Wong-Kalu, Marshall Islands Ambassador Gerald Zackios, Office of the Architect of the Capitol Director of Communications and Congressional Relations Mamie Bittner and AOC Special Advisor Mary Jean Pajak,  and Papa Ola Lokahi Executive Director Sheri Daniels, Tercia Ku and `Alohi Bikle.  Joining us for this special event were David Mattson; Senator Akaka’s grandson; his wife Elizabeth and daughter Catherine, Naomi and Erik Takai, parents of the late Congressman Mark Takai, Hawai`i Pacific University President John Gotanda and Vice President Sam Moku. 

Mahalo nui loa to the many hands from our community!  Mahalo Mokihana Scalph for her direction of our lei makers, Lisa Morton, Jennifer Jacky, Patti Mancini, Amy Rider, Geri Hirai, Suzanne McMenamin and Halau Nohona Hawai`i.  Mahalo as well to lei stewards Ikaika Farias and Koapaka Stewart.  Mahalo to the Hawai`i State Society Ukulele Hui.  Mahalo Glen Hirabayashi, Isaac Ho`opi`i, and Irv Queja of the Aloha Boys.  Mahalo to the conch shell blowers Tom Penland, Laurel Pfund, Philip Hildreth, Phillip Anton and Jeffrey Tucker.    Mahalo nui loa to Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association-East Coast Chapter, Punahou Alumni Association Mid-Atlantic, University of Hawai`i Alumni Association National Capital Region, Ke Ali`i Maka`ainana Hawaiian Civic Club and the Mainland Council of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Hawai`i State Society members and volunteers.  Mahalo.  Mahalo to Halau Ka`ahupuna, Halau O `Aulani, Hui O Ka Pua `Ilima, Hui Hula O na Pualani, Hula Halau O Hokuolino, Halau Nohona Hawai`i and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-Virginia for your continued support of the Kamehameha Lei Draping Ceremony.

Mahalo nui to event chanter Victoria Kamalani Garnett, Cherry Blossom Princesses Kealani Rogers, Kukana Ho`opi`i, Megan Jackson and Lilian Yang for managing VIP presentation lei.  Mahalo.  Mahalo to Art Dias for delivering a beautiful, heartfelt pule and Jo-Evan Momilani Hudoba for graciously presenting Hawai`i Pono’i.  Mahalo nui to Shirlene Kilena Ostrov for serving as Co-Mistress of Ceremony.  Mahalo nui loa to Keone Nakoa, Ben Lee Feliciano, Lusia Aveolelaeosomaiilematasau Cole and Philip Trace Ha`aheookalani Dela Cruz for your captivating introductions of our congressional speakers.

Mahalo Kakou for your many gifts; exemplifying and demonstrating the affirmative application of core values of Hawai`i Nei!

Laulima: To cooperate (working with one accord)

Lokahi:  To work together in harmony and balance

Kuleana: To take responsibility

Ho‘ihi: To respect the views of all

‘Ike: To seek knowledge to be informed

Malama: To care for our members, especially our kupuna

Na'au Pono: To nurture a deep sense of justice as we seek to uplift the conditions of Native Hawaiians

 

 

 

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