Sydney Lehua Iaukea

OHA Alana Pavilion
Saturday May 5, 2:00 pm
Sydney L. Iaukea will present her book, The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai’i

University of California Press; November 2011
Paperback, 224 pages; #24.95
Hardcover, 224 pages; $60.00

The book: In this exposé Sydney L. Iaukea ties personal memories to newly procured political information about Hawai`i’s crucial Territorial era. Spurred by questions surrounding intergenerational property disputes in her immediate family, she delves into Hawai`i’s historical archives. There she discovers the central role played by her great-great-grandfather in the politics of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Hawai`i—in particular, Curtis P. Iaukea’s trusted position with the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last ruling monarch, Queen Lili`uokalani. As Iaukea charts her ancestor’s efforts to defend a culture under siege, she reveals astonishing legal and legislative maneuvers that show us how capitalism reshaped cultural relationships. She finds resonant parallels and connections between her own upbringing in Maui’s housing projects, her family’s penchant for hiding property, and the Hawaiian peoples’ loss of their country and lands.


“The sensibility and lyricism shared by author and ancestor permeate the former’s intimate experience of her own rich, storied heritage, and inform their mutual desire to illuminate history and right wrongs.”

Ka Wai Ola

“Cross-cutting between territorial and contemporary Hawaii, Sydney Lehua Iaukea’s brilliant memoir/ historical expose provides a gripping and revelatory read, endowed with all the trappings of romance, melodrama and ghost story.”

Honolulu Weekly

The Queen and I will be a very important contribution to historical and political literature on early twentieth century Hawai’i. But through its intensely personal narrative, it could have an even greater impact on the way people look at history. Sydney Iaukea weaves archival information into a story about a well-known historical figure while demonstrating the impact of these archival voices on herself. In this way she binds herself to her ancestor and allows him to speak through her, showing how an ancient value can be a new methodology for Native writers in indigenous studies.”

—Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo’ole Osorio, author of Dismembering Lahui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887

“Raised in Maui’s housing projects, Sydney Iaukea discovers as an adult that she is the direct descendent of Curtis P. Iaukea, a prominent statesman and trusted adviser to Queen Lili’uokalani, the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last ruling monarch. In this courageous work, she documents her dual quest to recover her lost lineage and her ancestor’s historical importance. Revealing the continuity between public and private, personal and historical, Sydney Iaukea’s compelling narrative brings her readers face-to-face with Lili’uokalani during the tragic days of her overthrow.”

—Mary Palevsky, author of Atomic Fragments: A Daughter’s Questions

“For those of us born and raised in Hawai’i, Sydney Iaukea’s work sheds light on a period of time about which we still know too little, the overthrow of Hawai’i’s sovereign government and its forcible annexation to the U.S. This is a compelling narrative, driven by the mystery of a girl growing up poor, unaware of her distinguished lineage. How could this disconnect have occurred? Through the exploration of memories embedded in the landscape, Iaukea ultimately links displacement, dispossession, and familial strife to Hawai’i’s troubled history with the U.S. Iaukea is to be commended for her honest and open heart.”

—Matthew M. Hamabata, Executive Director, The Kohala Center

Sydney Iaukea discusses how archival research, maps, and land titles allowed her to map both personal and political histories in Hawaiʻi. Her journey through archival records, and personal moments spent in reflection, is documented in the Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawaiʻi. This talk focuses on her discovery of an unprocessed Iaukea collection at the Hawaiʻi State Archives, and the subsequent accidental discovery of yet more documents at the First District Court, Oʻahu. Through tracking her own moʻo kūʻauhau, revelations of larger socio-political narratives of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Territory of Hawaiʻi were revealed in ways that seemed anything but accidental.

Center for Biography Brown Bag Series at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Read an interview with Iaukea by Ty Hutchinson here.

Sydney Lehua Iaukea is from the island of Maui. She is an author, educator, and ocean enthusiast. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science, specializing in Hawaiʻi Politics, and currently works as the Hawaiian Studies Program Manager for the Department of Education. Her academic work intersects with her personal life because she researches and writes about her great great grandfather, Curtis Piehu Iaukea, the Hawaiian Kingdom representative on which The Queen and I is based.


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