top of page

Drawing from our Kūpuna: What Would Queen Liliʻuokalani Do?

There is a saying, “I ka wā ma mua, i ka wā ma hope,” which means the future is in the past. Here at Pua Mohala when we hear these words, it reminds us to look at the stories of our people, to tap into historical context, to acknowledge ʻike kūpuna or ancestral knowledge in order to draw conclusions on how we should face modern times.

Liliʻuokalani Trust developed a hashtag #wwqld (What Would Queen Liliʻuokalani Do?) and it got us thinking, what would she have done with this current pandemic? Fortunately, she recorded her life in her diaries and books for us to draw direct correlations from.

In an recent workshop, Quaran-TEEN: Coping with COVID 19, we used the book, Hawaiʻiʻs Story by Hawaiʻi Queen, to draw from and apply the experiences of our moʻi, Liliʻuokalani, to help us cope with the current pandemic. While the circumstances are very different and the historical context more drastic, we felt that we could draw strength and wisdom from examples of our Queenʻs life to help us better handle our current circumstances. Even in much sorrow and angst, Liliʻuokalani showed such strength that she forever remains an inspiration.

At first, we can look at this most simply. What would our Queen have done for herself? As most good leaders know, you must take care of yourself so you may be able to offer your very best to your people.

Focus on Passions:

"Hours of which it is not yet in place to speak, which I might have found long and lonely, passed quickly and cheerfully by, occupied and soothed by the statement of my thoughts in music." | Hawaiʻiʻs Story by Hawaiʻiʻs Queen

Throughout her life, Liliʻuokalani found peace and joy through her musical compositions. She composed some of her most famous mele during her imprisonment, like “Aloha ʻOe.” This reminds and encourages us to use this time to fulfill our own passions. Whether we pick up an old hobby again or cultivate a new one, good and beauty can still exist even in difficult situations.

Keeping a Routine:

“Every morning we rise, we arrange our room, and then we have our devotion… Then after breakfast and for the rest of the day we occupied in sewing, fancy work… or composing music” | The Diaries of Queen Liliʻuokalani

Even in imprisonment, Liliʻuokalani and her companions developed a routine. They occupied their time and our Queen found pleasure in the simple things. We now know that routines create structure in our lives, which reduces anxiety and provides stability. This leads to better stress levels and improved mental health. All of us can benefit from a positive state of mind.

These are but a few things Liliʻuokalani did to stay mentally and physically strong during her time of imprisonment. Most importantly, we need to look at how Liliʻuokalani took care of our lāhui.


“Be this as it may, it is certainly happier for me to reflect to-day that there is not a drop of the blood of my subject, friends, or foes, upon my soul.” | Hawaiʻiʻs Story by Hawaiʻiʻs Queen

Liliʻuokalani valued the lives of her people above her own life and her own freedom. She continued to advocate for the freedom of Hawaiʻi through diplomatic means until her death in 1917. Liliʻu led through unprecedented times and often people refer to this current pandemic as unprecedented times as well. Whether you are leading an organization or your own family, you can draw strength from her example. Leadership is about aloha. As in the words of PIlahi Paki, aloha means to be kind, unified, pleasant, humble, and patient. We must continue to build connections and be vulnerable. Even in a correction, we can express aloha.


“It had been impressed upon me that only by its execution could the lives of those dear to me, those beloved by the people of Hawaiʻi, be saved, and the shedding of blood be averted.” | Hawaiʻiʻs Story by Hawaiʻiʻs Queen

Even though Liliʻuokalani was facing the most trying and heartbreaking time of her life, she still remained devoted to her people. From the room of imprisonment and confinement, she still contributed to the great cause, which was the health and well being of her people. In 1983 during her imprisonment, Hawaiʻi faced another epidemic, Liliʻuokalani offered her home in Waikīkī as a place for the people to receive medical care. It goes to show that even with her limited ability to be physically present, she still contributed to the benefit of her people. This is a fine example that we can all do our own small part to help others get through this pandemic. Whether thatʻs supporting a local small business or simply washing your hands and social distancing, we all have our part to play in putting others before ourselves.

So we leave you with this thought, what would Queen Liliʻukalani Do? Hopefully she inspires you to look at things a little differently as she did with us.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page