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Joseph Nāwahī (January 13, 1842 - September 14, 1896) also known as Joseph Kahoʻoluhi Nāwahī and as Joseph Kahoʻoluhi Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu was a native Hawaiian legislator, lawyer, newspaper publisher, and painter.


Joseph Nāwahī was born January 13, 1842 at Kaimū, in the Puna district of Hawaiʻi Island. His parents were Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu and Keaweolalo.[1] As a young man, he was educated in Protestant mission schools such as the Hilo Boarding School, the Royal School, and Lāhaināluna School. He later became a member of the Hawaiian legislature, serving for 20 years (1872–1892), and was a member of the cabinet of Queen Liliʻuokalani, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1892[2] and was vice president, later elected president of the Liberal Party. He was one of the electors who made Lunalilo king in 1873. He was also one of the six electors that voted for Queen Emma in 1874 and was affiliated with the Queen Emma Party that followed the Queen's defeat in the election. He was also the President of the Hawaiian Patriotic League and opposed the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Nāwahī operated Ke Aloha Aina, a Hawaiian language newspaper. In December 1894, a search warrant was served on his Kapālama home looking for "sundry arms and ammunition." Although nothing was found, Nāwahī was arrested for treason and bail was set at 10,000 dollars. He spent nearly three months in jail until being bailed out and it is believed that this is where he caught the tuberculosis that would later take his life.

His first marriage ended in divorce.[1] He married secondly Emma ʻAima Aiʻi in Hilo on February 17, 1881.[3] He had three children with his second wife including sons Albert Kahiwahiwa Nāwahī and Alexander Kaʻeʻeokalani Nāwahī and currently has descendants living to this day.[1] He was a self-taught artist and was the first Native Hawaiian to become an accomplished painter in the Western style. Only five or six of his paintings are known to exist.[4]


Today, a Hawaiian language immersion school is named in his honor is in Keaʻau, in the Puna district on the island of Hawaiʻi. Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu educates students from grades K-12 in the Hawaiian language.[5] In 1999, this school was one of two that graduated the first high school classes to have been educated entirely in the Hawaiian language in a century. In 2008 a crater on the planet Mercury was named for him.[6]

His painting of Hilo Bay discovered in 1984 was donated in 2007 to Kamehameha Schools.[4] A documentary film titled "Biography Hawaiʻi: Joseph Nāwahī" was produced in 2008 based on his life.[7] The premiere was on June 25, 2009 on PBS Hawaii.[8] The title role was played by Professor Kalena Silva of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and partially filmed at the Lyman House.[9]
Edith Kawelohea McKinzie, Ishmael W. Stagner (1986). Hawaiian Genealogies: Extracted from Hawaiian Language Newspapers 2. University of Hawaii Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-939154-37-4.
"Office Record of Nawahi, Joseph". Digital Archives. State of Hawaii. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
Hawaiʻi State Archives (2006). "Records of Hawaiʻi island marriages (1832-1910)". Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
Wanda Adams (January 14, 2007). "Rare painting by 'Hawaiian Ben Franklin'". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
Crystal Kua (February 10, 2000). "Keaau: An Education town Four new schools give post-sugar-era residents a rekindled sense of pride". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-10-05. |section= ignored (help)
Helen Altonn (November 23, 2008). "Heavenly honor bestowed on Nawahi". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
"OHA awards $426,000 in grants". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. December 25, 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
T. Ilihia Gionson (June 2009). "Joseph Nāwahī documentary to premiere June 25". Ka Wai Ola Loa (Newsletter of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs). Retrieved 2009-10-02.

"Free movie features a real Hawaiian patriot". Big Island Weekly. September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-02.

Forbes, David W., "Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawaii and its People, 1778–1941", Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1992.
Severson, Don R., "Finding Paradise, Island Art in Private Collections", University of Hawaii Press, 2002, 85–87.
Sheldon, John G. M., and Puakea Nogelmeier (1988). The Biography of Joseph K. Nawahi. Translation of Ka buke moolelo o Hon. Joseph K. Nawahi. Translated from the Hawaiian with an introduction by Marvin Puakea Nogelmeier. Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society.

External links

Joseph Nawahi biography
Book mentioning Joseph Nawahi

Artist, USA


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