Hawaiians Pay Homage to King Kamehameha I at the Capitol (photos)

A large audience attended the annual King Kamehameha I Hawaiian Draping Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center Emancipation Hall on Sunday, May 22. The event, which featured live music, group singing and traditional hula dancing, was sponsored by the Hawai’i States Society of Washington D.C. The event also honored Saint Damien, whose statue represents the State of Hawai`i in the U.S. Capitol. Among the speakers were members of the Hawaiian Congressional delegation, including Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono. Rep. Mark Takai, who is battling illness, was represented by members of his family.

Nainoa Thompson, navigator for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, was a featured speaker. He is best known as the first Hawaiian to practice the ancient Polynesian art of navigation since the 14th century, having navigated two double-hulled canoes (the Hokule‘a and the Hawai‘iloa) from Hawai?i to other island nations in Polynesia without the aid of western instruments. The annual event usually takes place on Kamehameha Day on June 11, but was moved up to take advantage of the visit by Thompson and his crew in D.C.

Under his rule, King Kamehameha I (1758-1819) unified all of the islands of Hawaii by 1810. The statue, by American sculptor Thomas R. Gould, depicts Kamehameha in his regal garb, including a helmet of rare feathers attached to woven plant fibers. His right hand is extended in a gesture of aloha, the traditional spirit of friendly greeting. A procession of elected officials, hula h?laus (schools of Hawaiian culture) and Hawaiian civic groups from across the nation draped the right arm of the statue with meticulously prepared leis of flowers.

View our photos of the King Kamehameha I Hawaiian Draping Ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below. (All photos by Jeff Malet.)

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