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Lei and song fill the funeral procession for Abigail Kawānanakoa

Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa arrives at ‘Iolani Palace 012223
Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi
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HPR
Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa's casket is carried up the stairs of ‘Iolani Palace on Jan. 22, 2023.

More than 1,600 people arrived at ʻIolani Palace on Sunday to pay their respects to the late Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa.

The Campbell estate heiress, considered by some to be the last Hawaiian princess, died in December at age 96.

kawananakoa.jpg Abigail Kawānanakoa
Courtesy Friends of ʻIolani Palace
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Abigail Kawānanakoa, the so-called last Hawaiian princess whose lineage included the royal family that once ruled the islands and an Irish businessman who became one of Hawaiʻi’s largest landowners, died on Dec. 11, 2022. She was 96.

A traditional Hawaiian wailing chant was performed as Kawānanakoa's casket arrived in a black hearse at the front gates of ‘Iolani Palace, once the residency of the Hawaiian monarchy.

“Ua ha’alele ‘oe iā mākou.” You have left us, cried the chanter as the hearse proceeded up the driveway lined on both sides with members of the Hawaiian royal societies and civic clubs.

About a dozen law enforcement honor guards carried Kawānanakoa’s koa casket up the palace stairs and into the Throne Room, where members of the public could pay their respects.

"This is history happening in front of us. To be a part of that is beyond chicken skin," said Kainoa Daines, a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha.

Daines was also the first in line.

"Made me think back to all those old black and white pictures when all of our mōʻī were laid to rest and all the pomp and ceremony. We’re never going to see this again in our history, see an aliʻi of her stature laid in state, laid to rest," he said.

Kawānanakoa casket 01223
Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi
/
HPR
Veronica Gail Kawānanakoa stands with the handmade Martin & MacArthur casket at ʻIolani Palace on Jan. 22, 2023. The casket was handcrafted from a 165-year-old koa tree that fell during a 2021 storm on the Big Island.

Kawānanakoa, the Campbell estate heiress, was considered by many a princess because of her royal lineage. She was the great grand-niece of the last Hawaiian King David Kalākaua.

Members of the public came from far and wide to present gifts of lei and song to Kawānanakoa’s family. Kumu Hula Leialoha Kaʻula flew in from Aloha, Oregon just to experience this moment.

"Piha ka naʻau no ka mea ʻaʻole wau i ʻike mua i kēia. Ua ʻeha koʻu puʻuwai, ʻaʻole wau ʻike no kea aha, akā ua noʻonoʻo wau ʻaʻole kēia he mea e ʻike maoli."

Kaʻula said she was filled with emotions. While she never met Kawānanakoa, she said that as a Hawaiian, she was overcome with sadness.

Kawānanakoa died at her home in Nuʻuanu on Oʻahu on Dec. 11, 2022, with her wife Veronica Gail Kawānanakoa by her side.

Gov. Josh Green ordered U.S. and Hawaiʻi state flags to be flown at half-staff at the state Capitol and state offices through sundown Monday, Jan. 23 for her funeral services.

A private funeral service for Kawānanakoa will be held at the Royal Mausoleum at Mauna ʻAla, the burial place of Hawaiian royalty, on Monday at 1:30 p.m. The service will be live-streamed by ʻŌiwi TV on its Facebook page and oiwi.tv.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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