Joseph Nāwahī

Joseph Nāwahī, 2009

A writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, newspaper editor, and artist, Joseph Nāwahī was a Hawaiian patriot and Renaissance man. Born in Puna, Hawai‘i in 1842, he was an outstanding pupil at the Hilo Boarding School, Lahainaluna on Maui, and the Royal School in Honolulu. Elected to the legislature of the Kingdom in 1872, he represented Hilo for nine terms over the next twenty years. A trusted advisor of Lili‘uokalani during the last months of the monarchy, Nāwahī played a leading role in Hawaiian nationalist politics. He and his wife, Emma, helped to found the Hui Aloha ‘Āina political party and its newspaper Ke Aloha Aina, as they worked tirelessly and selflessly to stop annexation, and to restore Hawai‘i’s independence as a nation. His editorials and speeches are some of the most passionate and articulate expressions of faith in the Hawaiian people. Imprisoned for acts deemed “treasonous” to the government that had overthrown the monarchy in 1893, his time in jail seriously affected his health, and he died in 1896.

This documentary not only informs viewers about one of Hawai‘i’s most ardent patriots, but opens a window on those events and times that dramatically changed our history. Nāwahī’s involvement in education, politics, and journalism naturally leads to the larger story of nineteenth-century Hawaiians and their struggle to remain independent. At the same time, because the story focuses on a single participant, it shows us the larger events of history through the eyes of one centrally situated man. His life story resonates especially for Hawaiians, and people throughout the Pacific, who struggle daily for recognition, pride, and justice for their cultures. In keeping with Nāwahī’s own devotion to Hawaiian language and culture, this hour-long documentary has two versions—English and Hawaiian. Both appear on this DVD.