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Hawai'i State Seal & Motto

Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono

The life (sovereignty) of the land is
perpetuated in (by) righteousness

Hawaii State Seal

The motto was adopted by the Kingdom of Hawai'i in 1843.   The words were used in an address by Kamehameha III at ceremonies following the return of his kingdom from the British.   An English sea captain (Paulet) had, in effect, ceded Hawai'i to England, claiming large debts owed by the Hawaiian nobility.  He was acting a bit beyond his authority, and Admiral Richard Thomas was dispatched to return sovereignty of the islands to the King.  Thomas Square in Honolulu is named for the Admiral.

palace003.jpg (80644 bytes)The seal of the state of Hawai'i hangs from the mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the ocean) entrances to the state capitol, and is patterned after the royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, shown here at 'Iolani Palace.   

From the March/April 1979 issue of Aloha Magazine on the 20th anniversary of statehood, the symbolism of the seal is described:

  • 1959 represents the date of statehood.
  • The rising sun replaces the royal crown and Maltese cross of the original coat of arms, and signifies the birth of a new state.
  • King Kamehameha the Great and Goddess of Liberty holding the Hawaiian flag replace the two warriors on the royal coat of arms.
  • The quartered design of the heraldic shield is retained from the coat of arms.
  • The four stripes of the Hawaiian flag in each of the first and fourth quarters represent the eight islands.
  • Puloulou, or tabu ball and stick, in the second and third quarters was carried before the king and placed before the door of his home, signifying his authority and power.  Here, it is a symbol of the authority and power of government.
  • The star represents the fiftieth star added to the national flag when Hawaii became a state.
  • The phoenix, symbol of death and resurrection, symbolizes the change from the monarchy to a freer democratic form of government.
  • The eight taro leaves, flanked by banana foliage and maidenhair fern are typical Hawaiian flora.  Taro was the staff of life and had great religious significance.
  • The state motto "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono", "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" is retained from the royal coat of arms.

Also See: Photo Tour of the State Capitol | History of Hawai'i     

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