Tag Archives: Kalakaua

Stevenson in the Pacific

This is the continuation of the long-delayed “In Hawaiʻi” series, which includes posts on Mark Twain, Herman Melville and John Coltrane. I called this one Stevenson in the Pacific because Sāmoa features so centrally in his story.

When I was nine years old, I visited Sāmoa (then called Western Sāmoa) on the way to Tonga. My family was at the Tusitala Hotel, and in the lobby was a picture of Robert Louis Stevenson that has always stayed with me in memory. Tusitala was a Samoan name for Stevenson, meaning “teller of tales.” The hotel was in Apia, below his hillside home of Vailima – five waters. (We visited another great writer in Apia, Albert Wendt.)  Vailima was described by the great writer Henry Adams:

a two-story Irish shanty with steps outside to the upper floor and a galvanized iron roof … squalor like a railroad navvy’s board hut …

And so was Stevenson himself:

…a man so thin and emaciated that he looked like a bundle of sticks in a bag, with a head and eyes morbidly intelligent and restless…

robert_louis_stevenson_c

Stevenson painted by John Singer Sargent

Stevenson sought a climate that would restore him to the health damaged from cold British winters, but I always wondered why he chose Sāmoa, as Pago Pago is, to this day, the most humid place I’ve ever been.

Thinking myself an adventurous nine-year old in 1981, I marveled at Stevenson adventuring to what was at the time an incredibly remote place. This was, in fact, what attracted him; he had considered living in Hawaiʻi:

Honolulu’s good – very good … but this seems more savage

I fancied myself following in his footsteps, moving to Tonga, but looking back, more likely, it was his stepson Lloyd’s footsteps I was following. I was familiar with his novels Kidnapped and Treasure Island, and of course Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, and saw the difference between them and Sāmoa, a testament to his versatility. It was perhaps the insights in Jeckyll and Hyde, of “man’s” dual nature that gave him the ability to accept, then embrace Polynesian people and culture. The Biographer Rice said of his arrival in Sāmoa:

…at first … he is extremely nervous about their menacing appearance. ʻThere could be nothing more natural than these apprehensions’ he wrote for The Sun, ʻnor anything more groundless.’

(Rice, 1974, 109)

He was a vocal critic of Victorian hypocrisy, and “was not afraid to live as he wished,” marrying a woman ten years older than he who was probably part African American.

Stevenson took four trips with his family to the Pacific, and two to Hawaiʻi at auspicious moments; one before (1889) and one immediately after the overthrow of the monarchy (September 1893). And unlike other Europeans, Stevenson was a royalist and his sympathy was with the Queen. Upon landing in Honolulu he went directly to her and expressed his sympathies. He had already written at length about colonial activities in Sāmoa, criticizing Western powers right at the moment that Germany and the US were dividing Sāmoa in two.

On his first trip, Stevenson became friends with Kalākaua and Princess Liliʻuokalani. He also met another famous writer of his age who had visited Hawaiʻi, Mark Twain. He wrote to Twain from Sāmoa as it descended into civil war:

I wish you could see my ʻsimple and sunny haven’ now; war has broken out…

But his closest association was with his fellow Scot Archibald Cleghorn and, famously, his daughter Princess Kaʻiulani. He wrote to a friend, “how I love the Polynesian!” and seemed particularly fascinated that one of them, heir presumptive to the throne, was an Edinburgh Scot, like himself, on her “worse half.” The poem he wrote her before she left for an English education is fairly well-known:

Forth from her land to mine she goes,

The island maid, the island rose,

Light of heart and bright of face:

The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here in Souther sun,

Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,

And I, in her dear banyan shade,

Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away

Shall glitter with unwonted day,

And cast for once their tempests by

To smile in Kaiulani’s eye.

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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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The Greatest Hawaiian Thinkers of All Time

I began to compile a list of the greatest Hawaiian thinkers of all time, but began to see my own biases coming through, so decided to put the question to a vote. So based on votes in groups on Facebook (Mooolelo: Hawaiian History being the main one, which has 1500 members), I’ve tallied the votes for the greatest Hawaiian thinkers of all time. A few caveats are necessarily stated here: the differences in votes were small because so many received votes, I didnʻt enforce the strict definition of “thinker” that Will Durant did to narrow down his list, and as one commenter noted, makaʻāinana and kauwa who built the nation remain nameless, but should be recognized. The vote seems to reflect Hawaiians’ emphasis on impact and action rather than abstraction. With those caveats aside, here’s your view of the greatest Hawaiian thinkers:

1. Mary Kawena Pukui

Author or co-author of the Hawaiian-English dictionaryOlelo Noeau, Hawaiian Planters, Nānā i ke Kumu, and other seminal texts, Pukui was researcher at Bishop Museum for 50 years and the foremost authority on Hawaiian culture.

Pukui

1. Joseph Nawahī

One of the most educated Hawaiians of the Kingdom period, Nawahī attended Hilo Boarding School, Lahainaluna and the Royal School (or Royal School of Kanehoa), edited newspapers, ran political parties, ran for office (successfully) and taught himself law. He is remembered as one of, if not the most significant Hawaiian patriot.

Nawahī

3. George Helm

The first martyr of the Hawaiian movement, Helm is known for his revolutionary actions, but he spent a lot of time in the Hawaiian collection studying culture to inform this action.

Hoʻohoʻi Hou – book on George Helm by Rodney Morales

4. Haunani-Kay Trask

Known worldwide among Indigenous activists and leftists, she was also Islander of the Year according to Honolulu Magazine in 1996. Trask’s status as a firebrand for sovereignty obscured the fact that she has been one of the most productive and accomplished of all Hawaiian scholars.

Trask

4. Kaleikoa Kaeo

Contemporary orator extraordinaire, Kaeo has been a force for Hawaiian “conscientization.” He often cites revolutionary leaders such as Steven Biko as a way of decolonizing the Kanaka mind.

Kaeo

4. Umi-a-Liloa

7. Liliʻuokalani

7. Herb Kane

7. David Malo

The author of Mooolelo Hawaii (Hawaiian Antiquities), Malo would have been first on my list, despite criticisms that he had the “zeal of the newly converted” Christian, apt to condemn aspects of Hawaiian culture. Malo was critically positioned: living early enough to be able to interview kupuna from before Cook, and recently enough to preserve pre-Cook Hawaiian cultural ways on paper.

7. Kalākaua

7. Kauikeaouli

7. Malia Craver

13. Joseph Poepoe

13. Mililani Trask

13. Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole

13. John K. Lake

13. Kepelino

13. George Kanahele

13. John Wise

13. Maʻilikūkahi

Others receiving votes:

Kamehameha I, Henry Papa Auwae, Samuel Kamakau, Nona Beamer, Kihei Da Silva, Hoapili, Ismael Stagner, James Kaulia, Moses Nakuina, Mataio Kekuanaoʻa, Iolani Luahine, Manookalanipō, John Dominis Holt, Edith McKenzie, Steven Haleʻole, Stephen Desha, Keanu Sai, Noenoe Silva, Puhipau, Jonathan K. Osorio, Peter Apo

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Press Release: Hawaiian Kingdom Deposits Instrument of Accession to the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York

Hawaiians have had dealings with the UN for many years, but what is important about this development, similar to the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration proceedings in 1999-2001, is that this filing was accepted under the provision reserved for “non-[UN] member states” – i.e., reserved for states. This is the status that Palestine was granted a few weeks ago by vote of the general assembly, and is de facto recognition of sovereign status. Disclaimer: this is how it was described to me with ample evidence of the veracity of the statements. Sai was interviewed on South-South News in October, a United Nation’s news outlet, and I have given a presentation at TEDx Mānoa regarding this issue.

For Immediate Release – December 10, 2012
Contact: David Keanu Sai, Ph.D.

E-mail: interiorhk@hawaiiankingdom.org

David Keanu Sai, Ph.D.

NEW YORK, December 10, 2012 — This afternoon the Ambassador-at-large and Agent for the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, H.E. David Keanu Sai, Ph.D., filed with the United Nations Secretary General in New York an instrument of accession acceding to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is a permanent and independent tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, that prosecutes individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC only prosecutes individuals and not States.

The instrument of accession was deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General in accordance with Article 125(3) of the ICC Rome Statute, which provides, “This Statute shall be open to accession by all States. Instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.” The instrument of accession was received and acknowledged by Mrs. Bernadette Mutirende of the United Nations Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs, at 380 Madison Avenue, New York.

By acceeding to the ICC Rome Statute, the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a State, accepted the exercise of the ICC’s jurisdiction over war crimes committed within its territory by its own nationals as well as war crimes committed by nationals of States that are not State Parties to the ICC Rome Statute, such as the United States of America. According to Article 13 of the ICC Rome Statute, the Court may exercise its jurisdiction if a situation is referred to the ICC’s Prosecutor by the Hawaiian Kingdom who is now a State Party by accession.

The current situation in the Hawaiian Islands arises out of the prolonged and illegal occupation of the entire territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States of America since the Spanish-American War on August 12, 1898, and the failure on the part of the United States of America to establish a direct system of administering the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The United States disguised its occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom as if a treaty of cession annexed the Hawaiian Islands. There is no treaty.

On August 10, 2012 a Protest and Demand of the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, being a non-Member State of the United Nations, was deposited with the President of the United Nations General Assembly pursuant to Article 35(2) of the United Nations Charter. The Protest and Demand was acknowledged and received by Mrs. Hanifa Mezoui, Ph.D., Special Coordinator, Third Committee and Civil Society, Office of the President of the Sixty-Sixth Session of the General Assembly.

Hanifa Mezoui, Ph.D. – Office of the President of the General Assembly, United Nations

Individuals of the State of Hawai‘i government who have committed a war crimehave been reported to the United States Pacific Command and the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, for deliberately denying a fair and regular trial to Defendants, irrespective of nationality, and with the Hawaiian Kingdom’s accession to the jurisdiction of the ICC, these alleged war criminals will now come under the prosecutorial authority of the Prosecutor of the ICC.

Regarding the occupation of Hawaiian territory, the ICC is authorized under the Rome Statute to prosecute individuals for:

• war crime of destruction and appropriation of property;

• war crime of denying a fair trial;

• war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of persons to another State;

• war crime of unlawful confinement;

• the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies;

• war crime of destroying protected objects dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments;

• war crime of destroying or seizing the property of the Occupied State;

• war crime of compelling participation in military operations;

• war crime of outrages upon personal dignity;

• war crime of displacing civilians.

H.E. David Keanu Sai, Ph.D. represented the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in arbitral proceedings before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, (119 International Law Reports 566), at The Hague, Netherlands, and also did an interview with South-South News, a news agencey of the United Nations, regarding the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

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King David Kalākaua – on his 176th birthday

In Honolulu stands ʻIolani Palace, built by King David Kalākaua in 1882, and which remains a symbol of the Hawaiian nation for many Hawaiians today. David La’amea Kalākaua was born on November 16, 1836 near Puowaina, which today we call Punchbowl.  The name Kalākaua meant “the day of battle.” He was the son of Chief Caesar Kapa’akea and Chiefess Analeʻa Keohokālole but was the hānai son of High Chiefess Ha’aheo who was the governor of Maui. He was not of the Kamehameha line, but descended from Keaweaheulu, a Kona chief who was an advisor to Kamehameha. Later in life Kalakaua published his genealogy in his election campaigns for monarch.

In his youth David Kalākaua spent the early part of his childhood in Lāhaina, Maui.  Later he traveled to the island of Oahu to attend the chiefs children school, also known as the Royal School, where he attended for nine years. At the age of 14 Kalākaua started military training and by the age of 16 he was commissioned as a captain in the Hawaiian Army.  After this Kalākaua served in many important government positions including Army Major on Kamehameha IV’s staff but his last job before becoming King of the Hawaiian Kingdom was a clerk in the Kingdoms Land Office. (Allen 1994)

Kalakaua’s election was a contentious one. He was running for the second time, this time against the greatly admired Queen Dowager Emma. Her supporters had formed the first political party in Hawai’i, the “Emmaites,” whose motto was “Hawaii for Hawaiians” (Osorio, 2002, p. 162). While Emma was viewed as pro-British due to her English heritage, Kalakaua was seen as more pro-American and pro-business. For this reason he had support in the legislature, and won the election of 1874 by a vote of 39 to 6. There was no popular vote as it was not required by the constitution. Emma’s supporters rioted, storming the courthouse and attacking Hawaiian legislators who had voted for Kalakaua (Osorio, 2002, p. 156). British and American troops from ships in the Honolulu harbor were called on to quell the riot.

As with the previous election, the issue of genealogy was an important one. Emma was descended from Kamehameha’s brother Keliʻimaika’i, and his advisor John Young, which meant she was one-quarter English (Osorio, 2002, p. 152). Kalakaua used the newspapers to show that his genealogy was as exalted as Kamehameha’s – he was not a Kamehameha , but descended from Kekaulike, who was Kamehameha’s ancestor. His great-grandfathers were the “Kona uncles” from Kamehameha’s  wars of unification, Keaweaheulu and Kameʻeiamoku (Osorio, 2002, p. 150). The fact that he was not actually a Kamehameha seemed to work against him, and Kalākaua was an unpopular victor. Thus, his reign began on an auspicious note, and did not cease to be controversial.

King David Kalākaua was married to Kapiolani who was the grand daughter of the high ranking Ali’i nui of Kauai, Kaumuali’i.  Kapi’olani was very concerned with the health and welfare of her Hawaiian people.  She came up with a royal motto during Kalākaua’s reign, she called it “Hoʻoulu Lāhui,” or “Increase the Nation.”  Because of her efforts to rejuvenate the well being of the Hawaiian people Kalākaua decided to dedicate a large parcel of royal land that was found in Waikīkī in her honor, today it is known as Kapi’olani Park.  King Kalākaua and Kapi‘olani’s efforts helped preserve many of the cultural practices Hawaiians have today.  During Kalākauas reign they both dedicated time to practice Hawaiian mele, hula, and many other cultural practices. Which in turn encouraged many other Hawaiian to do the same.  (Allen 1994)

The continued overriding concern during the reign of Kalakaua was the threat of an imperialist takeover. War ships of imperialist countries were nearly always present in Honolulu Harbor. In 1887, Kalākaua wrote of his people:

Within a century they have dwindled from four hundred thousand healthy and happy children of nature, without care and without want, to a little more than a tenth of that number of landless, hopeless victims to the greed and vices of civilization … Year by year their footprints will grow more dim along the sands of their reef-sheltered shores, and fainter and fainter will come their simple songs from the shadows of the palms, until finally their voices will be heard no more for ever (Kalākaua, 1888, 64-65, quoted in Nordyke, 1989, 27).

Kalākaua’s view of Hawaiian population decline is supported by data. The population of full-blooded Hawaiians decreased as a percentage of the total by nearly fifty percent during roughly the period of Kalākaua’s reign, from 86% in 1872 to 38% in 1890 (Schmitt, 1968, 74). In [pure numbers], full-blooded Hawaiians declined from 49,000 to 34,400 over that period (Schmitt, 1968, 74). The population of part-Hawaiians, however, was steadily increasing – from 4.4 to 6.9 percent during the same period. The non-Hawaiian population grew, as a percentage of the total, from 9.4% to 54.9% over the same period of 1872 to 1890 (Schmitt, 1968, 74). The total population grew from nearly 57,000 to 89,000 during this period mainly due to immigration for plantation work (Schmitt, 1968, 70). The first Chinese laborers had arrived in 1852, and the first Japanese laborers in 1868.

By 1880 there were fifty-four sugar plantations covering over 22,000 acres (Maclennan, 1997, 98 – 101). One technology connected to sugar and other agricultural industries was railways. Though the first railroad services were short tracks in 1857 and 1858, the first railroad with passenger service was The Kahului & Wailuku Railroad in 1879. The Oahu Rail and Land Company provided extensive rail service on Oʻahu from 1889 until 1947 (Schmitt, 1995, 64).

These changes were facilitated by the 1876 reciprocity treaty with the US. The reciprocity treaty included a number of stipulations.   mutual free trade, Hawaii not being able to sign similar agreements with others, and Hawaii not being able to sell of lease lands or harbors to others were among the stipulations of the treaty.

According to Kuykendall, the effects of the 1876 reciprocity treaty were as follows:  “In 1875 Hawaii exported twenty-five million pounds of sugar; fifteen years later, the amount was more than two hundred and fifty million pounds…and thereafter [Hawai‘i] doubled its tonnage of sugar shipments every ten years.”

The economic effects of the 1876 reciprocity treaty included increased sugar production, which lead to increased tax revenues and ultimately lead stimulated the overall economy, and increased infrastructure development resulted from the reciprocity treaty.  This treaty also facilitated other government efforts, such as the building of ʻIolani Palace.

The reciprocity treaty affected the environment by diverting water from the windward side to the leeward side.  This, in return, altered windward and leeward environments.  Waiahole ditch, trail, and bridge were built because of the treaty in order to insure steady source of irrigation water at an affordable price allowing for growth of diversified agriculture in Central and Leeward Oahu

Socio-cultural effects were also felt as a result of the reciprocity treaty.  Living subsistence lifestyles became more difficult.  More Hawaiians started working on plantations.  Increased immigration, multi-cultural context, and national pride were also felt.

Political effects were seen after the signing of the reciprocity treaty of 1876.  The treaty restricted sovereign prerogatives.  The signing of this treaty tied Hawai’i to the US.  It increased the power of businessmen and improved Hawai’i’s image abroad.

On his trip to the U.S. he ventured to see President Ulysses S. Grant in order to persuade him and United States Congress to adopt a “Reciprocity Treaty.”  Besides traveling the world he also was a supporter of new technology.  King Kalākaua made plans to build a new palace. In 1881 ‘Iolani Palace opened – it cost nearly three hundred sixty thousand dollars.  The palace eventually was one of the first buildings to have telephones and electric lighting.  (Allen 1994)

The United States was reluctant to renew the reciprocity treaty because US sugar growers were protesting.  The treaty needed a greater incentive: the Pearl Harbor clause.  While sugar growers desperately wanted to renew the reciprocity treaty at any cost  Kalākaua would not include the Pearl Harbor clause.  The sugar grower’s solution was to sign over Pearl Harbor without the king’s approval and make Kalākaua a mere puppet king. While Kalākaua had many strengths, he was also vulnerable. One of Kalākaua’s strengths was that he promoted a vigorous economy. He also promoted the political autonomy and recognition of Hawai‘I and the Hawaiian cultural renaissance. Kalākaua went through a time with a vigorous economy. This included the Reciprocity Treaty of 1876 and the 1881 World trip during which he helped to secure laborers from Portugal and Japan. Kalakaua’s trip around the world took him to San Francisco, Japan, where he met with the emperor and discussed a Pacific confederation, Siam (Thailand), Malaysia, Burma, India, Egypt, where he was inducted into the Egyptian order of freemasons, Naples and Rome in Italy, where he had an audience with the pope, Austria, Portugal, London, New York, Boston, New Bedford, Chicago, Omaha, Ogden, and finally back to San Francisco and Hawai’i. The trip took about nine months. In Portugal and Japan he secured laborers for the sugar plantations.

The position of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s autonomy and reputation benefited from Kalākaua’s efforts. He helped establish diplomatic relations with nations worldwide, including several treaties. He opposed the cession of Pearl Harbor and had built ‘Iolani Palace and Ali‘iolani Hale.  In Hawaiʻi, a Hawaiian cultural renaissance occurred during Kalākaua’s reign. He fostered the preservation of traditions such as hula, mele, hīmeni, mo‘olelo (stories and history), wahi pana (famous places), mo‘okū ‘auhau (genealogies), and lā‘au lapa‘au (medical practices). Kalakaua and Walter Murray Gibson became heavily indebted in Claus Spreckles. Spreckles, who was called “the uncrowned king of Hawai’i,” held more than half the national debt (Zambucka, 1983, 106).

Walter Murray Gibson was accused of being involved in the sale of public offices, exemptions to Hansen’s disease (known then as Leprosy) patients, an opium scandal, and elaborate plans for a Pacific empire. The actions of Kalākaua’s associates sparked questions from his constituents, and led to attacks in the press, but whether these “scandals” ever occurred is debatable. Osorio (2002, p. 184) states that “most of the charges were never proven.”

The Hawaiian League was a secret group of foreigners connected to the sugar industry. Their oath of allegiance included the statement “I do solemnly promise… that I will keep secret the existence and purpose of this League to protect the white community of this Kingdom” (Thurston 1936, 608).

In 1887, numerous “scandals” became public, the Reform Party sent petitions and wrotes letters to the newspaper and the Gibson cabinet resigned. The Hawaiian League said that the resignations were not enough.  Their supporters then wrote, “The King must be prepared to take his own proper place, and to be content to reign without ruling” (Kuykendall 1967, 358). The Hawaiian League called for a “public meeting” where the attendees “unanimously” called for Kalākaua to meet their demands, Kalākaua agreed and on July 1, 1887 he appointed a Reform Party cabinet. With the Honolulu Rifles surrounding the palace area, the Cabinet presented Kalākaua with the Bayonet Constitution.

The Bayonet Constitution stipulated that the Cabinet and Legislature could override the king and Europeans, Americans, and Hawaiians could vote if they met property and income requirements and if they pledged allegiance to the Bayonet Constitution. With the Bayonet Constitution in place, the Reform party cabinet signed the renewed reciprocity treaty with the Pearl Harbor clause. This event came to mar Kalākaua’s reign, which, at seventeen years, was the second-longest of any monarch.

Kalākaua was successful in many of his goals, such as renewing Hawaiian cultural practices and modernizing Hawaiʻi, but whether these goals were compatible remains an open question. The Bayonet constitution appears to have set the stage for the 1893 overthrow. He was visionary, cultivating a new generation of Hawaiian leaders through his study abroad program, but perhaps not as mindful of what was occurring immediately before him. His last words, “Tell my people I tried,” seem to sum up his reign – good intentions and poor results.

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The State of Hawaiʻi – Part 1

A few days ago, Hawaiʻi celebrated, or failed to celebrate, the fifty-third anniversary of Statehood. The seeming apathy that perennially surrounds this not-so-holy holiday provides a gauge on the political climate in the islands. Most people now know that the history behind statehood, annexation and overthrow is so contested that silence is a better response than engagement. I even find myself avoiding engagement on these topics in some situations.

Overall, there a few issues which come to forefront in the public consciousness today. In this post, I provide my reading of these front-burner issues as an overview of Hawaiʻi’s political landscape. The first, and probably foremost issue is surprisingly limited in scope in terms of the  proportion of people it affects: rail. I say limited – of course the tax burden is massive, but it only applies to Oʻahu, and the project only benefits West Oʻahu, but it dominates headlines in our statewide newspaper like few issues have in the past 20 years.

RAIL

Thereʻs no shortage of views on rail. The project revived the political career of one of most unpopular politicians in recent times, Ben Cayetano (though his tell-all book probably helped build sympathy for his record as Governor). The public has proved fairly fickle on the topic of rail, voting for the project in 2008, then voting in a plurality for the otherwise unpopular, single-issue Cayetano this month. Geography played a key role in the original vote, as the districts rail was to serve voted for the project and Windward and East Honolulu, and even Waianae voting against it (though Nanakuli voted for it). This breakdown shows the distribution of the population is heavily concentrated in the West suburbs -home of the nation’s worst traffic.

The plan for rail is something that few have probably looked at closely. The route snakes through Honolulu on Halekauila street next to the Federal Court house, and ends upstairs at Ala Moana. The station will be suspended above the bus terminal and will likely cause at least a year or two of massive disruptions at that terminal. The other end of the project is even crazier – it ends in the middle of an empty field in Kapolei. When they spoke of rail-based development, they weren’t kidding – they meant from scratch.

The fight over the development of (or paving over of) Hoʻopili farmland was basically a done deal by the time of the Land Use Commission’s (LUC) vote. The lone dissenter in that vote noted that Hoʻopili constituted a third of farmland on Oʻahu. On a side note, the approval of Koa Ridge the same week moved our island far in the direction of having no open space between Honolulu and (practically) the North Shore. UH West Oʻahu’s campus opening this week at least would bring population to the Kapolei area, as will Hawaiian Homes development adjoining the campus. But probably the thing that will be the most unpopular will be the development of the Pearlridge to Kapolei segment first, which will cause it to run empty for years while the “first” (or what should be first) segment is built from Pearlridge to Ala Moana. This plan is politically smart, however, in the most cynical sense, in that it locks the taxpayers into committing to the entire project, and avoids the project being stopped at Pearlridge as voters begin to resent the costs.

All of this makes it sound as if I’m anti-rail, but that’s not exactly the case. Unlike others, I don’t believe that people will continue to drive as they now do, because oil prices will almost certainly skyrocket to $9 – $15 per gallon. Rail will then look attractive, and possibly (though it’s hard to imagine) like a good deal in retrospect. Honolulu is actually a city in which it makes sense to have a mass transit system – itʻs long and thin, crammed between the ocean and mountains, snaking from downtown to Pearl City, before opening up in the central plain. But this geography would have been as well served by a bus rapid transit system, which Mayor Jeremy Harris proposed, no one noticed, and Mufi Hanneman killed. The costs would have been a fraction of rail’s cost, but would include a lost auto lane in each direction – a small cost that people, foolishly in my view, are unwilling to pay.

EDUCATION

Always present on the political agenda, always given lip service, but never put in the hands of capable people, is the public school system. The voting away of the public’s right (by the public) to select the Board of Education (BOE) was a mind-boggling use of the democratic process – we (though not I) used our very empowerment to disempower ourselves. It’s true that the candidates were weak, and maybe it would have worked out if the Governor would select authentic experts  to the new appointed board, rather than the business-oriented members that now sit on the BOE.

It’s too early to say exactly what the effect of the new board will be, but the programs already in motion have put incredible strain on the schools – some of which, but probably not all of which, they need. Apart from the BOE, the DOE’s organizational chart is so hierarchical that it takes a pamphlet (or something more like a small book) to merely display it. As an outsider, it’s difficult to say what exactly the effect of these layers is, but it’s clear that the gap between policy-makers (especially  on the federal level) and students in the classroom is a large one. In my years of observing the DOE from inside and out, many of the unnoticed aspects of institutional culture are where the problems lie: the relation between teachers (many of whom are brought in to fill in because of the high turnover of teachers), home life, and societal culture (how many people are actually reading these days?) are all factors that remain unmeasured for the most part, and contribute as much to student performance as teaching methodology.

The furloughs were a hot topic a couple of years ago, and Lingle’s campaign for Senate will hinge on the public perception of this decision. She was lucky, because test results actually went up that year, but public outrage was high and she was protected by being in her second term. My view is that history will look more kindly on her – she was being consistent, every department took a cut with no exceptions, but the public may still feel that their children’s schools should have been an exception.

POLITICS (I.E., POLITICIANS)

One political observer said to me recently that today’s local politicians have “no vision.” I think this is true, and it may be a result of the times. I mean that in two ways. On the one hand, few seem able to predict even the near future at this historical moment. Even fundamental assumptions such as the dominance of tourism, can’t be taken from granted as global warming threatens our beaches, and hotel executives pay no attention to the phenomenon. I’m no fan of Lingle, but at least she executed an agenda for developing an infrastructure for electric cars, the result of which we see at Kahala mall and Pearlridge in the free charging stations.

Today’s politicians, by contrast, are a cult of appearance and personality. Take Tulsi Gabbard’s stunning defeat of Mufi Hanneman. The only explanation is that the public soured of his egomania (though the singing probably didn’t help), and their attention was grabbed by her striking looks and mildly interesting backstory. Gabbard grew up in a political family and so it’s no wonder she’s good at it, but where’s the vision? Caldwell seems cut from the same cloth. Mazie is as entrenched in the status quo as it’s possible to be. Until we actually look  for leaders with vision, instead of just letting ourselves be distracted by them (on the side of the road mainly), we won’t find a John Burns, a Tom Gill or even a Jeremy Harris in this or the next election.

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Making Sense of the Ceded Lands: A Historical Assessment

This article was published in the Hawaiʻi Independent during the US Supreme Court case regarding the ceded lands in 2009. Iʻm posting it here because there is no link to it on the Independent website:

A recent Honolulu Advertiser article stated that the State’s title to Hawaiʻi’s ceded lands was not in dispute in the current struggle over those lands. In her State of the State address, governor Linda Lingle said that the case was not over the State’s right to sell ceded lands, but over the title to such lands. Many assert that Hawaiians’ claim to the ceded lands is merely moral, not legal. Who is right? In this article I review the history of the ceded lands and make the case that, contrary to Lingle’s claim, Hawaiians have a legal claim to these lands.

The “Ceded” lands are the combined government and Crown (the monarch’s private) lands originally divided during the Māhele of 1848. The word ceded is often put in quotes because the term means “transferred, typically by treaty” – 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 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, negotiations are ongoing over a settlement for neglected payments to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. 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, however, 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 Akaka bill.

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.

The State of Hawaiʻi may in fact have eminent domain, the right to confiscate lands, but they arenʻt claiming to have gained title through eminent domain. Unlike Britain and other countries, in US law, the government does not have any special rights as a land owner other than eminent domain, which, incidentally is not in the US constitution, but only asserted by the supreme court. Thus, the State’s assertion of title to the ceded lands is necessarily through their transfer from the Republic of Hawaiʻi. A final note: in Hawaiian Kingdom land law (which essentially continued after the overthrow, otherwise Kamehameha Schools and the Big Five wouldn’t own their land), the government did have special rights – called dominium – and all makaʻāinana were part of the government where land rights were concerned. These “native tenant rights,” at least theoretically, still exist today, and allow native Hawaiians to divide out the interest (or rights) and claim parcels out of government or private lands. They are not, as is commonly believed, gathering rights, but the right to a fee-simple parcel of land. This means no one owns their land absolutely as all original land titles contain the provision “ua koe ke kuleana o na kanaka” – reserving the rights of native tenants. So Lingle is right that this case is about title to ceded lands, she is wrong about who holds that title. The Hawaiian claim to the ceded lands is as much legal as it is moral.

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