The Hawaiian Coat of Arms

First of all, the following is a collection of information regarding the Hawaiian Coat of Arms. Brook Kapukuniahi Parker has collected this information over a lifetime of study, through old Hawaiian history books and through various Kupuna (Elders). It’s organized in a simple Q&A format to help the reader. It also details the history and meaning of this historic Hawaiian symbol. 
This post covers the following points:
  • Who created the Hawaiian Coat of Arms?
    • It explains why and how it came about. It includes those involved and where the original designs came from.
  • What is the meaning of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms?
    • We learn what each element means. As a result, you will learn to appreciate the Coat of Arms even more.
  • What does the Hawaiian State Motto ‘Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono mean?
    • Learn the makings of our Hawaii State motto and learn it’s rich beginnings.
  • What is the artist connection to the Hawaiian Coat of Arms?
    • We find out Brook Kapukuniahi Parker’s connection to the Coat of Arms. Also, how it ties him to his mission to preserve Hawaiian culture for the next generation to carry on.
  • Did the original Hawaiian Coat of Arms design stay the same?
    • Details what happened after to the Coat of Arms over the following years.
The original Coat of Arms serves as the inspiration for Brook’s own painting of the Coat of Arms. This painting is also found in the Gallery. Above all, his love for Hawaiian history makes him a lifetime student of Native Hawaiian Art. 

Who Created the Hawaiian Coat of Arms?

King Kamehameha III drafted the first constitution of Hawai’i in 1840. The Hawaiian Coat of Arms came into existence by Rev. William Richards and Timoteo Ha’alilio. Richards was the king’s advisor and Ha’alilio a High Chief. They went to America, France, and Great Britain in 1842 to negotiate treaties. Most noteworthy, these treaties would guarantee the continued independence of Hawai’i.
The king gave them the task of searching for a royal seal or crest design. The delegation consulted with professionals in Brussels and Paris. Chief Ha’alilio suggested the design they settled on. They created this design in October of 1843. They met with Mr. King, the “Portcullis” (keeper of Heraldic records). He hailed from the Heralds College in London, England.
The original rendering done by the College’s staff artist was certainly crude. Even more, this was due to the artist lack of understanding of Hawaiian symbols. They didn’t know what they looked like. Most in part to only having verbal descriptions to go by. Once back in Hawai’i the arms rendering would go through several changes. The King and the Hawaiian legislature adopted it in 1849.

What is the meaning of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms? 

Proper heraldic terms will be used to describe the Hawaiian Coat of arms. The shield was also considered from the bearer’s point of view or position. In medieval times a knight’s shield right side is his “Dexter” side in heraldic terms. His left side is his “Sinister” side. The dexter side could also represent one’s paternal ancestry and first born child. The sinister side represents the maternal lines.
The quartered shield bears red, white and blue stripes. This is because they represent the eight inhabited islands. Two pulo’ulo’u (sacred kapu sticks) warn commoners of the sacred areas where the ancient ali’i resided. They are on a yellow field representing the royal color of chief capes.
Another important element is the green flag named “puela” (An ancient flag atop the mast of chief double-hulled canoes). This “puela” rested on a diagonal cross of two “hoe” (canoe paddles). They lay on a field of green.
The external ornaments of the design have a draped “ahu’ula” (feathered cape). Most prominent are the crown and two supporters. They are Kame’eiamoku, and Kamanawa. The twins are uncles and trusted advisors to Kamehameha the Great.
Kame’eiamoku holds the Kahili or feathered staff and Kamanawa holds the ‘ihe” or spear. The ornamented crown contains eight “kalo” (taro leaves). It represents the eight inhabited islands.

What does the Hawaiian motto ” ‘Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono ” mean?

The motto is ‘Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.’
It means, ” The life of the land is perpetuated by righteousness”.  
The motto alludes to King Kamehameha III speech on Feb. 25, 1843. In this speech, he applauds the efforts of Admiral Richard Darton Thomas. In effect, he returned the sovereignty back to its rightful owners, the Hawaiians.
This was due to Captain Lord George Paulet seeking to cede Hawaii to Great Britain. All of this was due to British Consul Richard Charlton. Therefore he claimed there were political abuses against British citizens in the islands. After consideration, the Admiral saw no need to keep the Hawaiian Islands. Soon after he made the return of the Kingdom back to it’s rightful King.
The King replied as follows:
” ‘I have given away the life of the land. I have hope that the life of the land will be restored when my conduct is justified.’ It very naturally alludes to the righteousness of the British government, in returning the Island to their legal sovereign, to the righteousness of the Hawaiian which secured the restoration, and to the general principle, that it is only by righteousness that national existence is preserved. “

Did the original Hawaiian Coat of Arms design stay the same?

The coat of arms has had many modifications during the years. Most of the changes occurred during the reign of King David Kalakaua. Kalakaua’s version remained unchanged until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. Kalakaua influenced the return of ancient dance and customs. More information about Kalakaua can be found on the Merrie Monarch Festival website. This is the basis for the present Seal of the State of Hawaii.
(sidenote: Merrie Monarch commissioned Brook to paint the Merrie Monarch Festival posters for 2016 & 2017)

What is the artist connection to the Hawaiian Coat of Arms?

The artist expresses “creative license” here in this representation of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms. Similarly, he only wishes to show his love for Hawaiian history with this piece. The royal twins were younger brothers of Brook’s 4th generation great-grandmother Kailaupule. 
The detailed regalia of their day adorns the twins. No two ahu’ula, large or small were alike. The older twin Kame’eiamoku is on the “Dexter” side holding a “newa” or stone club. Similarly, his brother Kamanawa on the “Sinister” side is holding a “lei-o-mano” shark tooth weapon. 
Brook hopes he can inspire the next generation to continue to love, appreciate, and live the Hawaiian Culture. He paints to tell the stories not told.


In conclusion, the Hawaiian Coat of Arms stands today as a symbol of pride, unity, and joy. As a result, the Native Hawaiian community is stronger. Consequently, the symbols take a new meaning with each generation. As a result, they tie old and new generations together. 
Hence, this connection creates an identity that is undeniably Hawaiian. In conclusion, each Hawaiian in a way has a direct connection to the Coat of Arms. Their bond grows closer to the Motto.
The artist own painting of the beautiful Hawaiian Coat of Arms is in the Gallery


What does the Hawaiian Coat of Arms mean to you? Comment Below!

Featured here is our ‘Mug of Aloha I” with the Hawaiian Coat of Arms printed on it. It also includes a detailed history alongside. It is the first in a series of Mugs available for sale, Buy Now!
mugs-of-aloha-i-hawaiian-coat-of-arms-back mugs-of-aloha-i-hawaiian-coat-of-arms-front

3 Replies to “The Hawaiian Coat of Arms”

  1. Aloha, mahalo nui loa for your extensive explanation of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms! This is a really important part of Hawaiian and Hawaii history that not many people know.

  2. Hi Parkers

    Been researching to find the correct name of the kahili and paddle shield, came across this, it’s by far the best coat of arms design I have seen yet. Thank you for putting the history up for this! We hope your ohana is doing well, healthy and staying safe! As always sending blessings your way.

    The Billabers
    Humble Roots Fam

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