Born on March 26, 1871, Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana'ole was prince of the reigning House of Kalākaua when the Kingdom of Hawai'i was overthrown in 1893.
Prince Kūhiō was raised in Koloa on the island of Kaua'i, and attended the Royal School on O'ahu, originally called the Chief's Children School. He studied for four years at St. Matthew's College in California, the Royal Agricultural College in England, and then eventually graduated from a business school also in England.
Upon the assumption of the Kalākaua dynasty to the throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1884, a proclamation ending the Kamehameha Dynasty also declared Kūhiō a royal prince. King David Kalākaua, also Kūhiō's uncle, then appointed him to a seat in the royal Cabinet administering the Department of the Interior. However, American businessmen overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. A year later, Kūhiō and brother Kawananakoa joined other native Hawaiians in an attempt to restore the monarchy. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Prince Kūhiō was sentenced to a year in prison while others were executed for treason against the republic. After getting out of prison, Kūhiō left Hawaii and traveled in South Africa for a few years, vowing never to return to a Hawai'i that appeared inhospitable to Hawaiians. During his time away from home, he joined the British Army to fight in the Boer War.
After returning home, Hawai'i had already been annexed as territory of the United States. Had the Hawaiian monarchy continued, Prince Kūhiō probably would have become King of Hawai'i upon the death of Queen Lili'uokalani. Instead, he was elected as Hawaii's congressional delegate for 10 consecutive terms.
Kūhiō was often called Ke Ali'i Maka'āinana (Prince of the People), and is well known for his efforts to preserve and strengthen the Hawaiian people. While a delegate of Congress, he spearheaded the effort in the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act that provides lands for native Hawaiians to homestead. Prince Kūhiō was also known for restoring the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and founding the Hawaiian Civic Club movement.
Prince Kūhiō served in congress from 1903 till his death in 1922. His body was laid to rest with the rest of his royal family at the Royal Mausoleum in Nu'uanu on O'ahu.
A new statue honoring Prince Kūhiō was dedicated in 2002. The statue is slightly larger than life-size, and is located in Waikiki. Artist Sean K.L. Browne said that building the statue was of great significance for him because he was raised on Hawaiian Home Lands.
The territorial Legislature passed a resolution in 1949, establishing March 26 as a territorial holiday in honor of Prince Kūhiō.