College of Arts and Sciences


Theology and Religious Studies

Faculty Mentor

Ali Mian

Faculty Editor

Katherine Koppelman

Student Editor

Jessica DeWitt


The song “Aloha ‘Oe” is celebrated throughout the nation of Hawai’i as a representation of traditional Hawaiian culture, written over a century ago by the last reigning monarch of the islands, Queen Lili’uokalani. Though the song was initially composed as a mele ho’oipoipo (love song), over the years it has been socially, politically, and culturally redefined by Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) into a song of melancholic farewell between the Queen and her kingdom, and the people with their land. Why did “Aloha ‘Oe” experience an upsurge in popularity after each of the exercises of colonial power over Hawai’i, regardless of Lili’uokalani’s insistence that the composition is a love song? I seek to explore the history of native Hawaiian resistance towards colonial U.S. forces as well as present-day resistance of ongoing settler colonialism through the framework of analyzing Queen Lili’uokalani’s composition, “Aloha ‘Oe.” I argue that the resignification of this song is a reaction against colonial forces erasing the sovereign rights of Lili’uokalani in and beyond Hawai’i, and artists who continue to perform “Aloha ‘Oe” today sustain resistance in the form of Native counter-hegemonies. Through my interdisciplinary and constructivist approach, focusing on primary source literature and music as well as secondary sources of Hawaiian cultural history, I will demonstrate that the legacy of this song as it continues to resonate today in performance art represents the continual resistance to and denial of colonization.