The Five Most Important Dates in Hawaiian History

I always try to help my students remember things – one way is by selecting the most important facts and dates for each period of history. This is my personal view of which dates are most important and these are obviously debatable, so Iʻve included an alternate 5 dates for those who may find this quite basic:

5. 1848 – the Māhele was the start of private property, a system which continues until today. All titles in Hawaiʻi trace back to this “Domesday Book” – the Buke Mahele listed all lands by name (it was done without maps). Incidentally, 1848 was the year of revolutions in Europe and the year the Communist Manifesto was published.

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Kahuna Nui Hewahewa overseeing the destruction of heiau after the abolition of ʻaikapu, December, 1819. Painting by Brooke Parker

4. 1819 – Some would hold this date, the year of the fall of the kapu system (the ʻaikapu) as the most important date in Hawaiian history. It is in some ways an under-appreciated and dramatic period of the last stand of the Hawaiian religion at the Battle of Kuamoʻo, where Kekuaokalani, guardian of the war god Kū, died in the hail of musket fire. 1819 was also the year of the death of Kamehameha I. In December, a group of missionaries was also boarding a ship in Boston on their way here.

3. 1843 – Two events were occurring simultaneously in this year: the recognition of Hawaiʻi’s sovereignty by Britain, France and the United States, and the notorious Paulet Affair, in which this same sovereignty was threatened and the Kingdom temporarily overthrown. Herman Melville happened to be there, and was not impressed with Hawaiian celebrations when sovereignty was returned in July by Admiral Thomas.

2. 1778 – This scarcely needs explanation. Cook’s arrival may not have been the first foreign contact, but his marine chronometer ensure that it wouldnʻt be the last. Dozens of ships arrived in the next 15 years once Hawaiʻi was no longer a needle in a haystack for Western navigators. They brought cargo, disease, and later Christianity.

1. 1893 – Most cultures have a defining moment – the 1979 revolution in Iran, the 1789 revolution in France. For Hawaiians, it’s still 1893, the overthrow – that date that continually gets revisited, reanalyzed, and for which the question “what if?” is continually asked. The question is, which day is most important? Is it January 17th, when Queen Liliʻuokalani ceded her authority under protest? Or was is January 16th, when the US Marines landed, marking under international law the illegal intervention of the US in the domestic affairs of an allied sovereign state? 1893 is also inextricably linked to 1898, the date of “annexation.”

THE ALTERNATE 5

5. 1909 – Relatively unknown is that the date for land claims was extended for konohiki until a decade after annexation. This date shows that the deadline on land claims – held to be Feb 14, 1848 – was a soft one indeed. It also shows beyond doubt that the land tenure system established in the Kingdom was the same one in the Territory and State, a fact that suggests its architects knew what they were doing.

4. ca. 1350 – Kalaunuiohua nearly did what Kamehameha has become legendary for: uniting the islands. He conquered all the islands, but was captured on the shores of Kauaʻi – adding to Kauaʻi’s claim of being the only island never conquered militarily. He showed it could be done.

3. 1874 – the non-judicial foreclosure law may have contributed more to Hawaiian alienation from land than the Māhele/Kuleana Act or any other single event (see Robert Stauffer’s Kahana: How the Land was Lost). This was also the year Kalākaua defeated Queen Emma in the legislative election for monarch. One canʻt help wondering how history would have gone if the British-focused Emma had taken the throne.

2. 1783 – the conquest of Oʻahu by Kahekili showed his skill as a tactician and politician – his protege Kahahana (still a teenager at the time) was like a wedge which Kahekili could use to get a foothold on Oʻahu. Kamehameha later was able to conquer this large, unified area, rather than battling for each district or island.

1. 1835 – the founding of Ladd and Co. in Koloa, Kauaʻi began the sugar industry, and led to all the changes in Hawaiian government: the Bayonet constitution, overthrow, annexation and even statehood were all responses to tariffs on sugar. More broadly, the wealth generated symbolizes the rise of foreign dominance in Hawaiʻi which continues today.

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The “Ceded” Lands Trust: a Contested History

This post is an update of an older one as the “Ceded” lands have come to the forefront with the Ching (and now Case) nomination, and the Mauna Kea controversy.

Because of his work for pro-development interests, the confirmation hearings for Carleton Ching have been among the most contentious in recent years. Testimony was nine-to-one against Ching, so people seem to have a clear sense of a conflict of interest in his appointment. But what exactly does this trust, the so-called “ceded lands,” consist of? It makes sense to look back at how these lands came under the control of the DLNR, and abuses that may have taken place in the past, in order to better assess who might be a suitable steward for these lands.
The “Ceded” lands are the combined government and Crown lands (the monarch’s private lands) originally divided during the Māhele of 1848, comprising about one and a half million acres. The word ceded is often put in quotes because the term means “transferred, typically by treaty,” and as there was no treaty of annexation, the very existence of “ceded” lands is questionable. These lands were taken by the government of the Republic of Hawai‘i (the formalized version of the overthrow-created Provisional Government), then transferred to the US government upon annexation. Many have pointed out that the State has never made in inventory of these lands, nor kept track of which were originally public and which private.
Confiscation of the ceded lands by the US Federal government began immediately after annexation. On September 28, 1899, an executive order issued by President McKinley suspended any transactions pertaining to the public lands of Hawai‘i by the Republic of Hawai‘i. This was after annexation but before the Organic Act that created the territorial government. It was in response to a report recommending that the current sites of Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter on the island of Oʻahu be obtained through condemnation procedures. Five such executive orders were issued between 1898 and 1900 securing land for military purposes, and, according to the dissenting report of the 1983 Native Hawaiians Study Commission, “the military has made extensive use of Hawai‘i’s public lands ever since.”
In 1900, the Organic Act, which contained the provision that ceded the lands to the territorial government and charged it with their maintenance and management. In 1921, just under 200,000 acres were carved out of these lands, creating the Hawaiian Home Lands trust. These were some of the poorest agricultural lands out of the ceded lands, as sugar growers and ranchers retained the prime public lands. When Hawai‘i became a state in 1959, these lands were again transferred to the newly created state government. The Federal government “set aside” 287, 078 acres of public lands, of which 60,000 acres were used by the military. An additional 28,000 acres were obtained in fee through purchase or condemnation. 117,000 acres were held under permits and licenses. 87,000 of these acres were retained by the military, while 30,000 of these acres were obtained through leases of $1 for each lease for 65 years.
Upon statehood in 1959, the 5(f) provision in the Statehood Act named five purposes for the ceded lands, including the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians. The proportion of revenue from these lands to be conveyed to Hawaiians was disputed in court for decades. Originally set at twenty percent, then struck down, a settlement for neglected payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was reached with the transfer of Kakaʻako Makai. Abuses of the ceded and Hawaiian Home Lands abounded. Included in this acreage is Mākua valley, used since World War II as a live fire military training area. The Hawai‘i state government has withdrawn 13,000 acres from the Hawaiian Homes trust through Governor’s Executive Orders (GEOs), primarily for game reserves, forest conservation, military, airports, and public services.
Title to the ceded lands, and Crown lands in particular, is a more contentious issue. Supreme court cases in 1864 and 1910 made the private Crown lands look more like public lands, reinforcing the government’s claim to them. As UH law professor Jon Van Dyke points out, however, in his book Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawaiʻi, these lands have several potential breaks in the chain of title, which create a strong Hawaiian claim to these lands. Van Dyke recommends that they become the basis of a Hawaiian governing entity, presumably created by the ʻaha, or Native Hawaiian Convention.
Then there is the issue of title to the Hawaiian Kingdom government lands, acquired from a government that President Grover Cleveland described as owing its existence to the armed intervention of the United States. In real estate law, it is never what you claim to own, but what the previous owner can prove they owned, that is the basis for determining title. This seriously weakens the State’s claim, as the Federal government twice – in 1893 and 1993 with the apology resolution – denied the legitimacy of the Provisional Government, and by extension, the Republic of Hawaiʻi, the source of its title. Environmentalists’ concern over the management of these lands is justified because it is a trust that at one level is held for all citizens in perpetuity. At another level, Hawaiian concern over the use of, and title to, these lands is as much legal as it is moral.

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Two Poems by Ryan Oishi: Prayer for Surf and Wal-Mart, A Love Poem

Prayer for Surf

Lord, by your divine grace, may the surf be epic tomorrow

the way Guy Hagi said on the surf report last night

but not too epic, Lord, head high or smaller please, otherwise I no can handle

Lord, may there be no sharks in the water,

cruising in da surf,

but if get, Lord, please surround me with other surfers

just in case of one shark attack

except of course Lord, if all da surfers are Hawaiian, or part-Hawaiian, cause a guy

wen tell me that sharks no attack Hawaiians,

(Hawaiians eat fish/ eat Hawaiians/ eat/ fish eat Hawaiians—I heard that

somewhere too, Lord)

but Lord, not too many surfers, please, or else going be like one H-1 traffic jam, all

back up, or more worse,

like Canoes, ho dat place is dangerous,

remember, last summer, Lord, my friend, the skeg wen split his thigh open,

all the way to the bone,

could see the nerves and da fat tissue and everyting spilling out, blood everywhere,

guaranteed had sharks, Lord.

Lord, in that case, maybe couple surfers then,

like da time had da sewage spill after the 40 days of rain and couple

people wen make cause dey wen catch the flesh-eating disease, no not

leprosy Lord, (blessed be Father Damien)

ho the rain was biblical Lord, you must have been piss off for try and

drown us.

But remember, Lord, had only me and this other guy,

Lance I tink his name was,

and e-veryting was perfeck,

had choke waves, no more nobody,

just me and Lance

and not too much wind—

ho, Lord, I caught so much waves I could barely lift my arms afterwards

Lord, may the water not be too cold tomorrow morning

may I wake up early so I can surf dawn patrol

may I not forget the sunblock this time

or da wax

may I not be mistaken for a Japanese tourist.

Lord, tell Fate Yanagi I love her.

May I not be on-call tomorrow at the PK, otherwise I no can go

but hopefully, may I work the day after that so I can pay my car insurance

Lord, May Rasta Jap not be present tomorrow, da guy one asshole,

he take all da waves that fucka, even the shitty ones,

and no share with nobody—

at least he get one shitty car, probably no more car insurance.

Thank you, Lord.

Lord, in your divine wisdom, may they build more luxury condos

along Ala Moana—

no can see da mountains anymore, but da buildings so tall

they block da wind

and da sunsets looks so beautiful in green tinted windows.

Wal-Mart, A Love Poem

Something there is that doesn’t love a Wal-Mart.

But the Korean bars are closing, my love,

and tonight raw Ahn nyeongs make me cry—

What thoughts of you tonight, my love—

florescent lights illuminate the spoils of empire

and rows of refrigerated milk that will spoil in a week.

What t-shirts and what push-up bras! Micronesians by the telephones,

Koreans by the golf clubs.

My love, flowered skirts are searching for a micro-phone[i]

and now they are by the micro-waves,

they are coming in waves,

they are smiling and waving, “Eh, howzit! Mogethin. How you?”

My love, before the milk expires

sail with me down this lovely fleet of aisles.

God is love and love is an unyielding Tide® that cleanses

or at least Crest® toothpaste.

It’s as valuable as Ivory® or a Goldfish®, and more refined than

a Chicken-of-the-Sea®.

My love, in 1 Corinthians it says love is as rich as a Mayonnaise jar.

(I believe them).

It is as round as a Goodyear®,

as refreshing as a Mountain Dew®.

Love is Glad© in its own Milky Way®, a Juicy Fruit®, a Starburst®-ing in an open mouth.

Love is bread, yes that’s it, love is bread, and we have arrived at the Love’s® bread which is the body of Jesus risen.

My love, not even Wal-Mart can contain my love for you.

Amen.

My love, when did shelves grow taller then men?

And when did valleys learn to shed their shadows?

My love, as we walk through these valleys

only the dead can keep their shadows in such a well-lit place

(but not their names).

My love, don’t be afraid,

they’ve packed the bones away in a Matson container, my cousin Melvin has seen shadows on his graveyard-shift.[ii]

They are the shadows of workers carrying sandalwood on callous backs.

They are the shadows of the ruling class with shopping carts

full of teak furniture and expensive silk,

MADE IN CHINA by other workers with callous backs.[iii]

My love, let’s pay for it all in picculs and Mastercards.

(Thaddeus that bark has put us twelve years in debt).

I hereby declare this bread and mayonnaise the Sandwich Aisles!

(and these golf clubs the Sand-wedge Aisles!)

Let’s take down the bicycles and ride them in circles until we’re out of breath and eat sugar straight from the boxes

and empty the rest into one giant mountain until the sugar is in our blood,
my love, the sugar it’s already in our blood

it’s been there for four generations, where’s the mosquito repellent?

My love, look, it’s starting to rain.

It’s raining from the ceiling or maybe from the white florescent lights that swallow shadows.

It’s raining, it’s raining,

the sugar mountain is dissolving

and now people are saying they saw the eye of the hurricane

starting in the Vision Center.

My love, the t.v.’s are all saying it’s a Category 5.

There’s no where for the rain to go.

It’s rising at our ankles now—here take this umbrella—

When it reaches our waist, put on these snorkels and fins

use these loaves of Love’s© bread as flotation devices,

hold your breath, prepare for the worst.

My love, a big wave has come

and large fishes from the dark ocean have come

which we have never seen before,

and when they see the small fishes they will eat us up.[iv]

My love, Walmart has conquered Kaua‘i![v]

I have heard the eternal footman Snicker® while tourists consume

Hawaiian Hosts© by the box-full.

My love, the kolea are circling overhead,

George Helm is drowning in aisle nine-teen.

My love, my cousin Melvin doesn’t know how to swim.

Why must they drive down prices on his back?

Why won’t they let him Unionize?[vi]

My love, stock up on Charmins® and rice

and prepare to Strike!

The Band in the Band-aid will not fix their signatures

they are eating rocks and singing.

My love, Labor gave birth to every car battery.

I’ve brought a mango seed in my pocket, here, we’ll plant it in aisle nine-teen beside George Helm’s hallowed body

and all the mangoes will be free.

My love, a man goes to Walmart to buy the things he can afford,

and though a great wave comes

there is infinite hope in the stars upon your cheek:

the Big Dipper is spilling out stars across your neck,

it points true to Polaris.

My love, there is Hokule‘a, and there six degrees above your waist,

the Southern Cross crucified.

My love, even in the darkest hour

when every compass has sunk to the bottom of the sea

when the eye of the hurricane makes it difficult for us to see,

with you I will never be lost.

We have all entered through these doors:

“Aloooha,
welcome to Walmart!”

My love, which is more—

the names of stars, or all the dead,

or all the things in a Wal-Mart store?

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Ryan Oishi teaches English at the Kamehameha Schools. A graduate of Punahou and the University of Southern California, he received a Master of Fine Arts from UH Månoa. His poetry, including these two poems, has been published in Tinfish, and he wrote a chapter in The Value of Hawai’i 2.

[i] Under the Compact of Free Associations Micronesians aren’t allowed to vote, and thus lack a political voice in Hawai‘i.

[ii] During construction, 42 sets of human remains were unearthed from the Wal-mart site. Wal-mart’s spokesperson Cynthia Lin told the AP that Wal-Mart was treating the Hawaiian remains with respect by placing them “in an air-conditioned, darkened trailer in a secure location on the site.”

[iii] The sandalwood trade was Hawai’i’s first full-blown incorporation into the global market place. Maka‘ainana were sent into the mountains to retrieve sandalwood to pay for luxury items imported by the ali‘i. According to Kamakau: “It was through sandalwood that slavery replaced freedom to the people. Natives were treated like cattle. Up and down the treacherous mountain trails they toiled, loges and sandalwood strapped to their sweating shoulders. Men and women actually became deformed due to the tremendous weight of the logs on their backs.” (Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, p. 51). These workers were referred to as “kua leho,” or “callous backs.” (Kelly, Social Processes v.35).

[iv] David Malo’s famous prophecy, made in a letter to Kauikeaouli’s kuhina nui, in 1837.

[v] Kamehameha, uniter of the islands, was unable to conquer Kaua‘i. A Wal-mart was built in Lihue in the mid 90’s.

[vi] In the past, Walmart has provided “A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free,” which lists warning signs that workers might be organizing. The “Toolbox” gives managers a hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize.

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The Ten Most Pervasive Myths about Hawaiian History

10. Hawaiian women in the Kingdom could not vote, so the constitution, and the country, was sexist

While it’s technically true the women couldn’t vote, this needs to be put into context: Lunalilo was thinking of universal suffrage in the early 1870s, but did not live long enough to achieve it (he did achieve universal male suffrage). Had he lived longer, Hawaiʻi may have been the first country to grant women the right to vote, because the official first country to do so was New Zealand in 1893! So, yes, women couldnʻt vote in the 1870s and 1880s – they couldnʻt vote anywhere in the world! In fact, women in the Hawaiʻi legislature (House of Nobles) could vote as early as 1840 – this is calmly reported in the main Hawaiian history textbook as if itʻs not a big deal, but it means that one might be able to argue that Hawaiʻi was, in fact, the first country to allow women (certain women) to vote.

9. Missionaries overthrew Hawaiʻi

Anyone who knows their Hawaiian history well at all knows this isnʻt true – not technically. None of the leaders of the overthrow were themselves missionaries. They were the sons and grandsons of missionaries, and often called the “Mission boys” – the “boys” of the missionaries – and colloquially “missionaries.” But none of them were actually missionaries because that wasnʻt the thing to do in their generation – they all became businessmen in sugar and related industries. The only exception was Hiram Bingham’s son, who became a missionary, but went to the South Pacific, and had no involvement with the overthrow. A related misconception (among those who have only a cursory knowledge of Hawaiian history) is that missionaries helped abolish the kapu system. Since they were climbing aboard a ship in Boston harbor when that happened, it’s impossible for them to have done so.

8. Hawaiians did not resist the overthrow or annexation

OK, this one is pretty well known to be false by now, but itʻs worth remembering that in the 1980s, Haunani-Kay Trask had to defend the idea of Hawaiian resistance, and could only refer to the lyrics of “Kaulana nā Pua” in support of the idea. Now, with the Kūʻē petitions, we see that not only did Hawaiian resist, they resisted nonviolently and violently (with the Wilcox rebellion). In other words, Hawaiians did everything possible to prevent annexation.

Aloha Betrayed by Noenoe Silva depicts the gathering of the petitions against annexation

Aloha Betrayed by Noenoe Silva depicts the gathering of the petitions against annexation

7. Kalākaua was powerless after the 1887 Bayonet Constitution.

Historian Ronald Williams Jr. has uncovered strenuous debates between Kalākaua and the legislature in which he pushes hard for returning power to the throne – quite a different King from the one commonly portrayed as a broken man.

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

6. The 1893 overthrow was “US-backed”

Louis “Buzzy” Agard has found evidence that the US planned the overthrow ahead of time. Agard found an encoded message (and then found the key!) from the State Department telling the USS Boston to attack ports in Hawaiʻi, ending in Honolulu. That makes it a straight-up US overthrow.

5. Kamehameha V was a despot

According to A. Grove Day in History Makers of Hawaii:

[Lot Kapuaiwa] believed that the example of his grandfather, KAMEHAMEHA I, gave him the right to lead the people personally, and favored a stronger form of monarchy that verged on despotism.

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 7.56.18 AM

This description comes partly from the period, when in 1864 “it appeared that a new constitution could not be agreed on, he declared that the Constitution of 1852 should be replaced by one he wrote himself” (Day, 1984, 70). But the power to do that was in the old constitution, and if one looks at the new Constitution, that power is absent. In other words, Lot had reduced his own power rather than increasing it. Members of the legislature thanked him afterward.

4. Pauahi was the last of the high-born Kamehamehas

The last of the high-born Kamehamehas was Albert Kūnuiakea, son of Kamehameha III. Albert seemed to be a persona non grata since he was “illegitimate” as the son of Kauikeaouli and Jane Lahilahi Young. This made him Queen Emma’s cousin, and the black sheep of that family. He was literally “the man would be be king,” that is, if the missionaries hadnʻt brought the notion of illegitimacy with them.

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 - 1901)

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 – 1901)

Think about it: he could have been Kamehameha IV, rather than Alexander Liholiho, and Albert lived into the twentieth century. So the son of Kamehameha III could have been king for 40 years by the time of the overthrow, making such an event much less likely. He is buried at Mauna Ala, recognition that he was a royal in the 20th century.

There are also many other descendants of Kamehameha – see the book Kamehameha’s Children Today.

3. Hawaiians lost their land in the Māhele

My own research, as well as that of Donovan Preza, Robert Stauffer and Keanu Sai, shows that Hawaiians co-created the “Western-modelled” land tenure system along with advisors, and that many Hawaiians learned the system, and had land (this is why Kamehameha V’s property requirement for voting is not as bad as it might look otherwise). Stuffer shows that they lost land mainly due to foreclosure after 1874 due to the non-judicial foreclosure law, which eliminated judicial oversight. Preza (The Empirical Writes Back, 2010) shows that the Māhele was a “necessary but not sufficient” condition for land dispossession. My research (Kuleana: A Genealogy of Native Tenant Rights, 2013) suggests that the land tenure system embedded Hawaiian rights in land rather than alienation Hawaiians from it.

2. A great majority of Hawaiʻi residents supported Statehood in 1959

Ron Williams wrote that Lamar Alexander, in 2006, expressed the commonly held view: “In 1959,94 percent of Hawaiians reaffirmed that commitment to become Americans by voting to become a State” (Williams, 2). He also shows that, while it may be true that the vast majority of Hawaiʻi residents who voted supported Statehood in 1959, only 132,000 people actually voted for Statehood – about one-fifth of the population at the time (20.7% to be precise). This is a far cry from 94%.

(See Williams, ʻOnipaʻa ka ʻOiaʻiʻo: The Truth is Steadfast)

Dean Saranillio also tracked anti-Statehood sentiment in his dissertation (Michigan, 2009) Seeing Conquest, noting that Kamokila Campbell had opposed statehood and in fact become a kind of mouthpiece for those who opposed it, but feared for the loss of their jobs or other repercussions. Campbell, who was part of the Kawananakoa family and became famous for saying “I am Hawaiʻi,” opposed “forfeiting the rights of natives of these islands for a thimbleful of votes” in Congress.

1. Annexation

That it happened. Without a treaty. Legally or illegally. This isnʻt as widespread these days as the others, but whatʻs at stake is obviously much, much greater than with the others. Those who say there was an “illegal annexation” neglect the fact that annexation is precisely the legal aspect of a conquest, thus it’s an oxymoron. Those who point to Supreme Court decisions neglect the fact (as I said in my debate with Ian Lind) that there were two countries involved, and one country’s court, no matter how supreme, simply does not have a say in the legality of their action – it is an international issue. Those who say international law does not exist fail to consider what other countries think when its understandings are violated (as with Iraq in 2003): could we be next? Whatʻs to stop the US or China from taking us over if there are no rules? That’s why these international norms are in place. China, in fact, seems to be on to the US occupation – in 2011, they said “we could claim Hawaiʻi,” to which then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded “weʻll prove we own it,” showing that she understood it was a challenge to the US occupation, not a threat to simply invade.

While some misconceptions have more impact than others, the cumulative effect of these, and many other myths (when combined with a plain and complete ignorance of Hawaiian history on the part of many) is to distort courses of action and decision-making processes. This is true even, and perhaps especially, among Hawaiians themselves.

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The Five Most Pervasive Myths about Hawaiian History

In this post, I start with the five most egregious misconceptions about Hawaiian history (some are admittedly debatable) – Iʻll be expanding it to ten in the next couple of days.

5. Kalākaua was powerless after the 1887 Bayonet Constitution.

Historian Ronald Williams Jr. has uncovered strenuous debates between Kalākaua and the legislature in which he pushes hard for returning power to the throne – quite a different King from the one commonly portrayed as a broken man.

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

4. The 1893 overthrow was “US-backed”

Louis “Buzzy” Agard has found evidence that the US planned the overthrow ahead of time. Agard found an encoded message (and then found the key!) from the State Department telling the USS Boston to attack ports in Hawaiʻi, ending in Honolulu. That makes it a straight-up US overthrow.

3. Kamehameha V was a despot

According to A. Grove Day in History Makers of Hawaii:

[Lot Kapuaiwa] believed that the example of his grandfather, KAMEHAMEHA I, gave him the right to lead the people personally, and favored a stronger form of monarchy that verged on despotism.

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 7.56.18 AM

This description comes partly from the period, when in 1864 “it appeared that a new constitution could not be agreed on, he declared that the Constitution of 1852 should be replaced by one he wrote himself” (Day, 1984, 70). But the power to do that was in the old constitution, and if one looks at the new Constitution, that power is absent. In other words, Lot had reduced his own power rather than increasing it. Members of the legislature thanked him afterward.

2. Pauahi was the last of the high-born Kamehamehas

The last of the high-born Kamehamehas was Albert Kūnuiakea, son of Kamehameha III. Albert seemed to be a persona non grata since he was “illegitimate” as the son of Kauikeaouli and Jane Lahilahi Young. This made him Queen Emma’s cousin, and the black sheep of that family. He was literally “the man would be be king,” that is, if the missionaries hadnʻt brought the notion of illegitimacy with them.

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 - 1901)

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 – 1901)

Think about it: he could have been Kamehameha IV, rather than Alexander Liholiho, and Albert lived into the twentieth century. So the son of Kamehameha III could have been king for 40 years by the time of the overthrow, making such an event much less likely. He is buried at Mauna Ala, recognition that he was a royal in the 20th century.

There are also many other descendants of Kamehameha – see the book Kamehameha’s Children Today.

1. Annexation

That it happened. Without a treaty. Legally or illegally. This isnʻt as widespread these days as the others, but whatʻs at stake is obviously much, much greater than with the others. Those who say there was an “illegal annexation” neglect the fact that annexation is precisely the legal aspect of a conquest, thus it’s an oxymoron. Those who point to Supreme Court decisions neglect the fact (as I said in my debate with Ian Lind) that there were two countries involved, and one country’s court, no matter how supreme, simply does not have a say in the legality of their action – it is an international issue. Those who say international law does not exist fail to consider what other countries think when its understandings are violated (as with Iraq in 2003): could we be next? Whatʻs to stop the US or China from taking us over if there are no rules? That’s why these international norms are in place. China, in fact, seems to be on to the US occupation – in 2011, they said “we could claim Hawaiʻi,” to which then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded “weʻll prove we own it,” showing that she understood it was a challenge to the US occupation, not a threat to simply invade.

While some misconceptions have more impact than others, the cumulative effect of these, and many other myths (when combined with a plain and complete ignorance of Hawaiian history on the part of many) is to distort courses of action and decision-making processes. This is true even, and perhaps especially, among Hawaiians themselves.

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Reflective Practice #5: History Day

If you havenʻt heard of National History Day (NHD), think of it like science fair, but for history. There are NHD competitions in all the US states and territories, and even foreign US military bases. Hawaiʻi’s History Day program is considered one of the stronger competitions, with students placing high at the National competition most years. Right now the district fairs are happening – Honolulu district History Day was last week. I first competed in NHD in 2004, but there was a long learning curve for me – NHD has its own criteria for which projects move on to the state and national competitions.

This yearʻs NHD theme is "Leadership and Legacy in History"

This yearʻs NHD theme is “Leadership and Legacy in History”

Kamehameha has been an up-and-coming school over the past few years, made up of a core team of teachers including myself. We gained ground on perennial NHD powerhouses Mililani and Kahuku. Last year, KS-Kapālama won first place at state in four of the five categories (research papers, documentary videos, websites and exhibits – the final category is performance) This year, we had our fourth school-level fair with about 300 projects entered. Of these, 40 moved on to the Honolulu District fair. At the fair, Kamehameha took 10 of the 15 available slots to move on to Hawaiʻi History Day (states) – two of those were my students.

History Day is fairly brutal competitively, with many excellent projects left behind as they move up through the rounds. But the skills that are learned along the way, we feel, make it well worth the effort. Students prepare a 20-source annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and gain a level of expertise on their topics that few ever reach. They gain skills in graphic design, computer applications such as Adobe Illustrator, video production skills, acting  and writing. One of the judges at the Honolulu fair on Saturday said she couldnʻt wait to get the NHD students in her classes as they were “light years” beyond the average college freshman in terms of research skills, whether they made it to states or not. If you have a child in 4th to 12th grade, consider having them do a History Day project – the benefits are long-lasting. The future depends on citizens with a strong grasp on history, regardless of the fields they enter. As one of my former NHD students, now in college, stated:

In the two years I participated in History Day, it prepared me for the intensive college research I am currently doing. It takes a lot of detail and attention to formulate a project that encompasses a lot of information into a concise, coherent, and complete argument.

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The State of Hawaiʻi – Part 4: The State without History

This is part four of a series of articles I’ve been drafting for my students in Hawai’i Politics and other courses. Part one deals with rail and other issues andpart two with race and the Democratic machine. The third installment looked at the psychology of development. This fourth installment examines the problems with the transmission of history in books and schools.

In the recently-published book Captive Paradise by James L. Haley, the author essentially brags that he consulted no Hawaiian historians or Hawaiian language sources because doing so would simply be “political correctness.” He claims that English language sources are adequate.

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An independent scholar published by St. Martin’s press (a major publishing house), Haley launched another assault on Hawaiʻi’s history from outside, along with Julia Flynn Siler’s Lost Kingdom. Lost Kingdom was not as blatantly anti-historiography, but contained mistakes, which the author admitted (confusing Liholiho and Alexander Liholiho). One problem was that after four years of research, the author and her research assistant failed to even come across the argument that Hawaiʻi was illegally annexed. It makes one wonder what universe they live in (certainly not the umiverse;). As Makana Risser Chai wrote on Amazon and the umiverse in her review of Siler’s book:

The author gives two sentences to the petitions against annexation sent by tens of thousands of Hawaiians. She makes no mention that as a result of this and other opposition, the treaty of annexation was defeated on February 27, 1898, when only 46 senators voted in favor. She states (284), “a joint resolution on annexation passed Congress with a simple majority,” without noting that annexation, under the U. S. Constitution, cannot take place by resolution. It was a procedural move by Republicans who could not get the two-thirds majority they needed for a treaty.

The worst failing of this book is that it makes the fascinating history of Hawai`i a dry, boring read. If you want to read an accurate, entertaining introduction to this particular part of Hawaiian history, I highly recommend Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes.

Locally, things are not much better, as I’ve repeatedly written. Think of the process of becoming a Hawaiian history teacher in the public schools: you have to pass the Praxis test, which is 40% history (no Hawaiian history) and 60% a wide variety of other social sciences. The chances that someone will know all this and have a deep understanding of Hawaiian history is quite unlikely, though by no means impossible. At the very least, it would take time – a lot of it. And given that the average teacher leaves the profession within five years, those left with a deep understanding of Hawaiian history are quite rare indeed. According to a DOE teacher I know who reviewed the new version of their textbook, the book reflects little, or none of the scholarship from the past 25 years.

This trickles up to politicians with very little understanding of Hawaiʻi’s history. For this reason I support the effort to train politicians in Hawaiian culture. I’ve also suggested to historians that a committee be formed that would give a stamp of credibility to works on Hawaiian history. This would be voluntary, but not  having the stamp could eventually throw such works into question

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