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The Independence
Struggle Of Hawai’i

By Amy Marsh

08 December, 2005

Families forced from their military ordnance left to explode near schools and homes, maiming or killing the occasional civilian...huge Stryker vehicles rolling relentlessly over a fragile landscape as the United States imposes an alien, imperialist government that brings oppression, genocide and ecological destruction to the local population and environment...

Iraq? A’ole! No! These are current conditions in the so-called “state” of Hawai’i. Visitors to Hawai’i, and those who settle there from the mainland, often remain blissfully unaware of the true history of this place. Or if they begin to hear a bit about it, consider the American occupation as a “done deal” and go about their business.

The worst public health statistics in the region...the lowest education level...the highest incarceration rate...the most poverty...the most children in foster care...the most people without homes...families and communities torn apart by drugs imported by organized crime...

Typical inhabitants of any American inner city? Nope! They are the original inhabitants of “America’s Vacation Paradise:” they are the “kanaka maoli,” the Native Hawaiians.

A small country with a vibrant spiritual culture forcibly overthrown by a superpower bent on conquest for military and economic reasons...the people forced to assimilate foreign ways contrary to their basic values, denied access to their culture, history and even their language...a Diaspora of exiles...a struggle for de-occupation and the re-establishment of their government and sovereign status...

Tibet in 1959? Guess again. It’s the Kingdom of Hawai’i, which was a modern constitutional monarchy and declared neutral nation engaged in treaty relationships with over fifty other countries — violently seized in 1893; illegally annexed by the United States through a domestic resolution; forced into “statehood” in 1959 in violation of United Nations rules... Given an “apology” for all this by the Clinton administration in 1993...

A bit of history: on January 17, 1893, Queen Lili`uokalani was forced from her throne by American businessmen and business-minded missionary sons, with the help of John L. Stevens, the American Minister to the Hawaiian Kingdom, and the American navy. The overthrow was violent, unjustified, insulting, and in complete violation of international law. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison apparently gave unofficial encouragement to the conspirators in 1892 and after the overthrow he presented their annexation petition to the U.S. Senate. But incoming President Grover Cleveland was appalled. He withdrew the petition before the Senate could act, called for an investigation, and issued a powerful statement to reinstate the queen and the rightful government. But the treasonous provisional government refused to comply. President Cleveland was also opposed by powerful interests within the United States who were loathe to part with their juicy prize.

In 1897, approximately 21,000 Hawaiians — more than half the adult Hawaiian population — signed and presented a petition protesting annexation to the United States. Congress ignored them. Despite the petition evidence to the contrary, it was far more lucrative for Congress to accept the assurances of missionary lobbyists who claimed the Hawaiians were eager for annexation.

This “Ku’e Petition” of resistance to annexation — 556 pages long, and possibly one of the most significant documents of protest in American, as well as Hawaiian, history — was buried deeply in the U.S. National Archives until it was found by Noenoe Silva in 1998, over a hundred years later. The discovery of the petition, and the exhibition of this document by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, had an enormous impact on the kanaka maoli, who searched the pages eagerly for the names of their grandparents and great-grandparents. As Silva puts it, “The petition, inscribed with the names of everyone’s kupuna, gave people permission from their ancestors to participate in the quest for national sovereignty. More important, it affirmed for them that their kupuna had not stood by idly, apathetically, while their nation was taken from them.”

Now, not every Native Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian is a sovereignty activist working toward restoration of the kingdom. Many have adjusted to colonization and consider themselves Americans. At most, they may be supporters of the dangerous Akaka bill, thinking to preserve Hawaiian “entitlements” through a federal recognition process that will turn them into the equivalent of American Indians.

But there are many others who recognize the bill for what it is — a way to finalize the land grab of the Kingdom and take title of contested kanaka maoli lands once and for all — and who are vigorously opposed to the bill. They do not consider themselves “American” and continue to insist upon being recognized as subjects of the Kingdom. As one man put it to me, when I asked him about his livelihood, “I work for the Queen.” In other words, he has devoted the rest of his life to the restoration of his country. He is not alone.

It is easy for people from the mainland to ignore or dismiss the history of Hawai'i, yet the illegal occupation of Hawai'i continues to have a huge detrimental effect on the people, the environment and the culture. The struggle for Hawaiian independence is a long standing, bitterly fought cause which deserves wider recognition and support from the rest of the world. Free Hawai'i, now.

Note: Portions of this article were originally published in Slingshot, Berkeley, CA, Fall 2005.









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