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Royal Hawaii.

It's been a century since the end of the monarchy. But royal history and landmarks are still reminders ... especially this year

STANDING IN REGAL SOLITUDE IN FRONT OF Aliiolani Hale, the seat of Hawaii's supreme court, the black and gold statue of King Kamehameha I wears the feathered cape and helmet of Hawaii's ancient rulers. It is a popular photo stop for tourists, especially on June 11, when the statue is draped with garlands of flowers. Officially, it's Kamehameha Day, but, for a growing number of Hawaiians, those flowers honor the royal heritage of the 19th-century Kingdom of Hawaii. This includes all of Hawaii's rulers, from Kamehameha I to Liliuokalani--the vanquished nation's last monarch. A hundred years ago this month, she was deposed from her throne.

As local organizations complete plans to solemnly commemorate the January 14 through 17 centennial of the monarchy's overthrow, the important events that led to the United States' annexation of Hawaii in 1898 loom ever larger in the land of aloha. At best this will be a time for reflection and for focusing overdue public attention on important native Hawaiian issues. Several native Hawaiian organizations are promising marches and demonstrations during commemoration events in Honolulu.

For any thoughtful visitor, this year is a good time to visit historic sites that offer a greater understanding of Hawaii's royal heritage (indeed, it is how we interpret Hawaii's royal past that will shape solutions for the future). The tours outlined on pages 70 and 71 offer compelling glimpses into the lives and times of Hawaii's sovereigns.

Yesterday: money, power, and Pacific politics

On January 14, 1893, Queen Liliuokalani left the government offices at Aliiolani Hale after presiding over the ceremony ending the 1892 legislative session. As the royal band played, her carriage clattered across the road to Iolani Palace, where she met with her new cabinet. Her purpose was clear: to nullify the 1887 Bayonet Constitution, which had severely limited her powers and the rights of native Hawaiians.

For Hawaii's last ruling monarch, it proved to be the wrong move, at the wrong time. The mood in Honolulu was already ugly. American interests, dominated by sugar growers and suffering from two years of economic depression, were critical of the government and advocated annexation of Hawaii to the United States.

The idea of foreign annexation wasn't a new one. English, French, Russian, and American ships and diplomats had been maneuvering for influence in the Islands practically ever since Captain James Cook had made the first Western contact in 1778.

Although Hawaii's monarchs tended to feel more comfortable with the British, from the arrival of the first American whalers in 1819 (missionaries followed a year later), Americans became the dominant foreign influence. Even royal government had a distinctly American flavor. Hawaii's first constitution--signed by Kamehameha III in 1840--was drafted with help from American advisers.

While the machinations of European and American interests in the Pacific helped keep Hawaii from being gobbled up by a single power, proximity and growing trade inexorably tilted the kingdom's economic interests toward the United States. As whaling began to decline in the 1860s, it was gradually replaced by agriculture on lands owned primarily by missionary families and Americans.

But more than any other single factor, the kingdom's fate was sealed by the rapidly declining population of native Hawaiians. Between 1877 and 1890, more than 55,000 immigrant laborers, half of them Chinese, were brought to work the sugarcane fields. The big wave of Japanese workers began in 1886. By 1890, foreign residents outnumbered Hawaiians, and foreign diseases had so ravaged native Hawaiians that they numbered fewer than 35,000--down from 400,000 estimated by one of Captain Cook's lieutenants in 1779.

Liliuokalani's people, having lost most of their land and influence to foreigners and being a minority in their own country, had little political clout left by 1893.

While the queen's cabinet advised waiting for constitutional change, the mere threat of that change was enough to move American interests to act. On January 16, more than 160 U.S. Marines landed to protect American citizens and property. The next day, a provisional government was proclaimed with Sanford B. Dole as president. To avoid bloodshed, Liliuokalani, constitutional ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii and composer of the heartrending Aloha Oe, yielded "to the superior force of the United States . . . until such time as the Government of the United States shall . . . undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands."

Even under the provisional government, Liliuokalani remained queen. But on January 16, 1895, she was arrested and imprisoned in Iolani Palace after the failure of a royalist-backed counterrevolution. That same day, she opened her Bible to Psalms, and wrote across the top of the page, "Am imprisoned in this room (the Southeast corner) by the government of the Hawaiian Republic. In the attempt of the Hawaiian people to regain what had been wrested from them by the children of the missionaries . . . and because they failed I am brought here, to stay for five years." Eight days later, the queen was forced to abdicate.

Today: money, land, and a new Hawaiian nation

The rest, as they say, is history. But as the centennial of the overthrow approaches, a growing number of native Hawaiian organizations insist that history is about to change. Questions raised--and ignored--a century ago are assuming critical importance today: Was the overthrow legal? Were the civil and human rights of native Hawaiians violated? Who really has legal rights to government lands in Hawaii?

Answers to these and other questions could profoundly affect the future of the 50th state. At stake: about 400,000 acres of federal lands (including military bases and national parks) and billions of dollars in potential reparations to native Hawaiians. These claims are in addition to the $112 million the state has already agreed to pay as partial settlement.

But perhaps the biggest and most immediate issue facing the state is sovereignty. Should native Hawaiians, like other Native Americans, have rights to self-government and to establish their own separate nation within the United States?

Clayton Hee, chairman of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), believes that change is coming. Of the $112-million settlement, he says, "For the first time in more than a hundred years, we have the economic clout to begin to level the playing field for the Hawaiian people. Suddenly we have options. What if we purchased one of Hawaii's largest banks? We could quickly begin to help Hawaiians by providing funding that they can't get now for homes and businesses."

Hee is still waiting for the governor to release the funds, but OHA isn't idle. On Hee's desk are drafts of three separate bills he is pushing Hawaii's congressional delegation to introduce in the new Congress: one that would call a constitutional convention to establish a Hawaiian nation, one that would return all federal lands--including military bases and national parks--to the Hawaiian nation and provide federal reparations of $10 billion, and one that would give native Hawaiians the right to sue the federal government for damages due to the overthrow of the kingdom.

Long live the king?

Still, a growing number of Hawaiians question OHA's direction. "This issue isn't about money; it's about land," counters Haunani-Kay Trask, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii. "We are in the process of reforming a native Hawaiian nation that has been colonized for a hundred years, and we need sovereignty to reestablish our ties with the land. The land is the essence of our people and our culture. Our right to aina (the land) is hundreds of years older than the Constitution of the United States."

Trask and others in Ka Lahui Hawaii, a group founded in 1987 and claiming some 12,000 members, aren't waiting for OHA. Ka Lahui has already formed a government of the Hawaiian Nation and is seeking control of state-managed Hawaiian Home Lands that native Hawaiians are already legally entitled to.

Ka Lahui's back-to-the-land message also reestablishes a role for Hawaiian alii (royalty). And, while several Hawaiian families claim rights to the throne, Ka Lahui Hawaii has already chosen.

Its choice is Owana Kaohelelani Salazar, a descendant of Keoua, father of Kamehameha I. She acts as kuhina nui (regent) for her son who is alii nui (paramount chief). "Alii are an essential thread in the continuity of the Hawaiian culture," she explains. "Our focus now is to preserve, nurture, and restore the values and traditions of our culture for future generations. To do that we must first know who we are and where we come from."
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Title Annotation:includes related article; Hawaii's monarchy
Author:Phillips, Jeff
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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