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Hawaiʻi's oldest royal society gathers to honor Queen Kaʻahumanu

The members of ʻAhahui Ka’ahumanu, or the Ka’ahumanu Society, attended a ceremony on March 17 to honor Queen Ka’ahumanu, the first wife of King Kamehameha the Great.

It was held at Mauna ʻAla, the Honolulu cemetery where many of the Hawaiian monarchs have been laid to rest.

Dressed in their traditional black muʻu and hats, the women gathered at the queen’s crypt with offerings of flowers, mele and hula. The members are said to wear black to mark a time of loss of so many Hawaiians.

Her birthday lands on March 17. That's St. Patrick’s Day but Hawaiians also remember the day as the birthday of King Kamehameha III. A separate ceremony was held at Thomas Square where a statue stands in his honor.

The Ka’ahumanu Society at ʻIolani Palace.
Catherine Cruz
The Ka’ahumanu Society at ʻIolani Palace.

The Ka’ahumanu Society historically has worked to help the elderly and the ill. They are the only society to care for a cemetery in Kapālama, named for the queen who converted to Christianity — the Kaʻahumanu Society Cemetery.

The Conversation talked to Pauline Namuʻo, the society’s president, to learn more about their mission.

"ʻAhahui Ka’ahumanu is a Royal Benevolent Society established in 1864 to help the Hawaiian people during that time, and it's been carried on since that time. Our core mission is to help members and to honor our aliʻi," she said.

Newcomers must be Hawaiian women at least 18 years old and sponsored by a current member.

"We've been successful in recruiting many young Hawaiian women who speak the language — which we want to do, want to help perpetuate the language — and are very aware of the culture," Namuʻo said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 28, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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