#97 in the Moʻolelo series
When I gave a talk in the ʻIolani Palace Speaker Series (on Native Tenant Rights), they sent me a thank you card on which was an image of a bouquet of flowers wrapped in newspaper. The story of Liliʻu’s imprisonment and the correspondence she had with her many supporters through the Hawaiian language newspapers has become well-known.
I’m not sure how well-known it is that these were censored newspapers and the only way to send messages through them was through kaona – the hidden meanings that would evade the censors of the Republic of Hawaiʻi. These censors could speak Hawaiian but could not comprehend Hawaiian kaona. (This story came to my attention from my dissertation advisor Noenoe Silva).
My young students know, before they get to me, that Liliʻu was imprisoned in the Palace. They don’t know that it was for eight months, nor that she was then placed under house arrest at Washington Place and then confined to the island of Oʻahu for a year. So it was not until December 1896 that she was able to travel and take her cause to Washington, D.C. to file a protest with the US Department of State.
Beamer (2014) connects her imprisonment with her translation of Kumulipo (which, incidentally – and I thought, appropriately – the first post in this Moʻolelo series), as if her way of coping with the trauma of the loss of her nation was to resort to tradition. In the same way, perhaps coincidentally (perhaps not), one Hawaiian language newspaper published the story of Pele and Hiʻiaka on the day of the overthrow, as if tradition would carry the lāhui through what they must have known as troubling times.
The video below is a promo of The Trial of Liliʻuokalani by the Hilo Community Players: