Hawaii. It’s meaning harkens back to ancient times in foreign lands. To say Hawaii is a special place would be a gross understatement. It is far beyond special. Here on this tiny dot out in the Pacific Ocean we discovered a land of abundance, of multiplication, and of unprecedented hospitality. The spirit of aloha hits you from the moment you take your first breath, or in Hawaiian, your first “ha”.
Our time here began with an invitation to attend the annual reenactment of an event that took place 121 years ago in the tiny town of Hilo, not far from us, on the big island at the local Salvation Army. The year was 1897. It was a national gathering of women and some men from throughout the Hawaiian Kingdom, who came in response to a request from their Queen, Lili‘uokalani, to sign a petition opposing the annexation of Hawaii to the United States.
This was part of a well-organized and concerted effort mounted by the people of the Hawaiian Kingdom to express their wishes on the subjects of a sovereign kingdom, to remain so.
One journalist from the U.S. was in attendance that night, as hundreds came, packed into the space like sardines while hundreds more stood outside hoping to hear what was happening within. The American journalist in attendance, Miriam Michelson, a writer for a the San Francisco Call, had traveled over 2,000 miles by boat to relay to her readers first hand the desires of the people of Hawaii. The front page article, published on Sept 22nd, laid out in spectacular detail the events now being reenacted on the evening of our arrival in Honolulu.
For the last 18 years, the Hui Aloha ‘Aina o Ka Lei Maile Ali‘i has hosted this event to educate and to recreate the scene, in accordance with the account written by Michelson, as many here continue to carry the truth of Hawaii’s sovereignty deep in their hearts.
We happened upon this sacred gathering, which takes place once or twice annually, only to discover that the American woman who wrote the play “The Queen’s Women”, and who subsequently plays the role of the white American journalist Michelson, had missed her flight from the big island. This left only one white female in the room to play the part. Me.
I said yes only halfway joking, assuming it was some kind of prank they like to play on newcomers. But this was no joke. The show, as they say, must go on. So there I sat, in a room steps from the immortalized Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii, trying to familiarize myself with lines and more importantly the story of what took place here between my country and this one.
As the play began and I embraced the scene and person whom I was playing, I realized I was being given more than a front row seat into one of the most poignant moments in these Islands’ millennia of history. I was acting out the role of a woman, who 121 years ago prophetically carried out what I am now attempting to do once more. She came to hear the stories of the people and of the land that was and has continued to be, sovereign, and share those sacred truths with American listening ears.
Leading up to the re-enactment was a presentation given by Sr. Keanu Sai, which laid out the very clear and very undeniable reality of Hawaiian sovereignty. The problem, as he explained it, was not in the status of the Kingdom of Hawaii, but in the understanding of that status by the international community, namely that of the United States.
I have provided a link below to Dr. Sai’s presentation for anyone wanting to dive into the nitty gritty of this information as he and others who have devoted their lives to revealing this truth have so thoroughly presented it.
But to give my own brief synopsis, it seems that the U.S. illegally annexed a sovereign nation which it did not have the jurisdiction to do, and that the U.S. enacted in the words of then U.S. president Grover Cleveland, an act of war which resulted in a military occupation that continues to this day. No treaty agreeing to annexation was ever signed by the Hawaiian Kingdom, making Hawaii’s annexation into statehood essentially null and void.
I know, shocker right?
The implications are vast and heartbreaking on many sides, but this is the truth we have uncovered on this leg of our journey, and there is no sugarcoating it. The United States violated international law and is undeniably officially still at war with the Kingdom of Hawaii through its military occupation.
The really painful piece of this puzzle is the fact that Hawaiians have lost so much of their true cultural identity, language and practices because America came into the country and within two generations, implemented an indoctrination program of children through the public school systems using a piece of propaganda designed to “Americanize” the people of Hawaii, that in many ways utterly destroyed them. One could also argue that it was our occupation of Hawaii that made it the target of the military strikes onPearl Harbor, 77 years ago this week.
Today the situation is clear and yet very confusing, especially to those living in Hawaii. There is a palpable fear among non-indigenous Hawaiians of losing land titles, fear of losing a military stronghold in what continues to be a highly strategic location in the Pacific, and fear that going back to its existence as a sovereign state would result in Hawaii’s removal of what is now a very international community working and living across all eight islands. But despite the messy nature of undoing what has been done, the facts on this one are crystal clear. Hawaii is not really our 50th state.