New monument honors the life of Alice Kaehukai Shaw Kaae
LAHAINA – The Waiola Church Cemetery, located on the border of the Waine’e and Waiokama ahupua’a in the moku of Lahaina, is the resting place of the renowned, revered and obscure of Old Lahaina.
In the makai Olowalu corner is the modest gravesite of “Beloved Mother, Alice K.S. Kaae, Aug. 31, 1867, Apr. 16, 1956.”
That is, until last week Tuesday (Jan. 16). In a solemn and enlightening ceremony, a six-and-a-half-foot black granite monument was installed to honor the commanding presence of this influential woman of Hawaiian heritage, Alice Kaehukai Shaw Kaae.
Resurrecting the emerging story of her life from obscurity is Apela Colorado, Ph.D., executive director of the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN) Team. By her side is Keola Levann Tadashi Sequeira, one of the founding members of Friends of Moku’ula.
Colorado shared what she calls the “first draft” historical narrative of Alice’s journey at a presentation program on Tuesday morning before an intimate group of family members, donors, dignitaries and guests.
Her genealogy was observed in the commemorative program.
Her mother was Lahela Kuahu’ula Nalehu Maelenopuhihiwa Kaliponi Kauhiokapu, born in Lahaina in 1832.
Lahela’s mother was Kaheana, and Lahela’s father was Nalehu Kuahu’ula.
Her father, Patrick Pia Shaw, was also born in Lahaina in 1832. Patrick’s mother was Kikookoo Kauapanikalani of Lahaina. His father, William, had sailed to the islands from Ireland.
Alice was a direct descendent of Alapai Nui of Hawai’i Island.
Born on Molokai, she was the tenth of 12 siblings.
Her father and grandfather were governors of Molokai under the reign of King Kamehameha V (Lot). As young girls, Alice and her sister, Mary Ann, were “hanai’d” by the King and accompanied him to Iolani Palace in Honolulu until his death in 1872.
In 1873, the six-year-old Alice moved to Honokowai with her sister; and, subsequently, both relocated to the Shaw family home in Waiokama, Lahaina.
A period of cultural upheaval, she navigated the choppy waters of two opposing worlds. In a prophetic statement, she wrote: “I am glad that I am Hawaiian, and that I have lived as the missionaries and the Ali’i taught us to live. I am proud of the Hawaiian people and their past, but I am afraid for the future of Hawaii Nei This is Hawaii. Let us keep it Hawaii. As we stand here by the tombs of the Ali’i at Waine’e, remember these things which I have told you.”
Well-educated, she shared the wisdom of her ancestors and the knowledge she gained through western education.
During her elementary school years, she attended a government school, the Lahaina Union Free School, situated in the Hale Aloha building off Luakini Street.
Continuing her education, she transferred to the Kawaiahao Seminary on Oahu, followed by her attendance to Queen Lili’uokalani as a lady-in-waiting at Iolani Palace.
In 1900, Alice married William Kaae, a well-respected Maui County clerk, serving in that position for 36 years. Together they raised two sons, Patrick and William, until his passing in 1938. She “hanai’d” a number of children and raised her grandchildren.
“Alice,” Colorado wrote in the program, “maintained a powerful presence in the Lahaina community, even after the overthrow (1893).”
“In 1895, Alice moved to Mokuhinia at a time when things were changing for the monarch,” Colorado explained.
“King Kamehameha gave that to her family,” Colorado continued, “and her mother and father designated her as the Kahu of Mokuhinia.”
The wetland Loko o Mokuhinia surrounded the inland island of Moku’ula, the site that was home to the high chiefs of Pi’ilani since the 16th century and a royal residence for the Kamehameha line in the 19th century.
Her cultural influence in Lahaina is remembered today.
“She was a matriarch in the Hawaiian Civic Club; and she taught Inez Ashdown the history of many of the sacred places of Maui,” Colorado said.
“Through her role as Kahu of Mokuhinia,” she continued to impart traditional Hawaiian values, including teaching hula to John Lake, from age five, “by the spring in front of her house.”
She signed the Anti-Annexation petition of 1897.
“We know,” Colorado advised, “she spoke on behalf of women’s rights.”
She made an unsuccessful bid for state office during an era when women’s names were rare on the ballot.
An important part of her legacy was the renaming of the Waiola Church (formerly Waine’e Church), and she deeded “the gift of land for the graveyard,” Colorado said.
Kupuna shared their memories with Colorado.
“In this room, there are people who knew Alice when they were children. Those of you who knew her and talked with me about her can attest that she was always wearing black. Why? Because the ladies-in-waiting wore black and black is a sacred color. It keeps evil from passing through,” she commented.
This memory was also shared with Colorado: “Alice walking through town with a ko’oko’o (staff), the traditional assertion of sacred law-aloha.”
She died in 1956.
Colorado reminded the intimate gathering that it took the support and cooperation of an entire village to restore this history: Bank of Hawaii, Bill and Maria Weber, Clear Stream Monuments, Lahaina Restoration Foundation, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Na Hoaloha Ekolu, Robert Ruyle and WISN Paka fund.
“We were happy to support the project – these stories need to be told,” Michael Moore told the Lahaina News.
“So grateful to Apela for making this happen before Alice’s story was lost.”
Ponder these poignant words penned by Alice and shared by Colorado: “Some people think the Ancestral Spirits and the Gods and Mo’o have departed from these islands. Perhaps these people do not know the good secrets of Aloha, Land of Mokuhinia.”