Tag Archives: Umi Perkins

Occupation redux

In the (proposed) 1899 Hague Regulations, the basic premise of the law of occupation was stated:

The country invaded submits to the law of the invader; that is a fact; that is might; but we should not legalize the exercise of this power in advance, and admit that might makes right (Beernaert in Benvenisti, 2012, 90).

In the fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) (which was crafted to with the “aim of imposing on occupants ʻa heavy burden”) (Benvenisti, 2012, 97), the norm was codified that the occupant (occupier) must take three considerations into account: “itʻs own security interests, the interests of the ousted government, and those of the local population, which may be different from the interest of their legitimate government” (Benvenisti, 2012, 69).

First Geneva Convention, 1864

The norms of GCIV were formed in the context of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, which created an expectation that during occupation the occupying military and the civilian population could be kept at a distance from each other and even co-exist relatively harmoniously (Benvenisti, 2012, 70). As for changes to law, they were to be kept at an absolute minimum, but were allowable for the purpose of making occupation practicable and functional on the ground. Benvenisti (2012, 90) notes that the rule that changes to law are only when “absolutely necessary … has no meaning” because the occupant is never absolutely prevented from complying to local law.

Article 43 of the GCIV was a mandate to “restore and ensure public order and civil life” – this came to be seen as an “incomplete instruction to the occupant” because of the conflicts of interest between occupant and the ousted government (Benvenisti, 2012, 71).

Changes to the law of occupation also continued as human rights became more of a concern to the international community. As this occurred, actual occupants began to seek to avoid the responsibilities of occupation by “purport[ing] to annex or establish[ing] puppet states or governments, rely[ing] on ʻinvitations’ from indigenous governments [the Soviet/Russian formula]” and other means (Benvenisti, 2012, 72).

But as is often pointed out, these means are not legitimate as GCIV states “the benefits [or applicability] of the [Geneva] Convention shall not be affected … by any annexation … of the whole or part of the occupied territory.” In short, the occupant retained the duty to fulfill its obligations under the law of occupation (GCIV in Benvenisti, 2012, 73).

As with all legal documents and doctrines, however, it is “impossible to read the drafting history of the GCIV without paying close attention to the diverse concerns of the different state representatives” (Benvenisti, 2012, 98). That is to say, it is contingent on the conditions of the time and context in which it was crafted.


As it developed in the twentieth century, the human rights regime came to decenter the law of occupation’s emphasis on the agency of states as the only actors. People came to play a role in international law, under which previously only states were subjects. In the occupation of Iraq, for example, Amnesty International pushed for changes in Iraqi law – normally in contravention of the law of occupation – for the purpose of the protection of human rights. Occupation was in this case seen as an opportunity to improve conditions for the citizens of the occupied state (a rare, but quite possible scenario). Sharia law was in this case seen as “incompatible” with GCIV rights (Benvenisti, 2012, 103).


Keanu Sai has used the “doctrine of necessity” as a justification for forming the Acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom; the necessity of an “organ” to speak on behalf of the occupied state, in other words, necessitated the creation of a “government” whose legitimacy would otherwise be highly questionable. Benvenisti notes this doctrine as a “recognized justification for legislation by the occupant,” but noted that it does not apply to the civil and criminal laws of the occupied state: “the penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force,” (Benvenisti, 2012, 96) ostensibly to prevent draconian trials and execution of resisters against the occupation. However, it is also recognized that the occupant would be “prevented from respecting the laws in force” in the rare case that they “conflicted with its obligations under international law, especially [the GCIV] (brackets original)” (Benvenisti, 2012, 102).


Sai also notes that Debellatio, or conquest, while seen as a legitimate form for the transfer of sovereignty, was essentially outlawed in the Americas – by the United States and some of the recognized sovereigns in South America – because they feared their former colonial overlords would re-conquer them. This, in his view, was the purpose of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. As Jay Sexton notes in his book  The Monroe Doctrine, “American statesmen exploited fears of foreign intervention in order to mobilize political support” (Sexton, 2011, 12). Sexton also notes how the Tyler Doctrine (actually proclaimed in 1842 by secretary of state Daniel Webster) “effectively extended the 1823 message  [the Monroe Doctrine] to Hawaiʻi” (Sexton, 2011, 112). As a result, the United States does not recognize debellatio – conquest – as a legitimate form of transferring sovereignty. This quells any argument that even though there was no conquest of the Hawaiian Kingdom, “there would be.”


The occupant is allowed to collect taxes, “as far as is possible, in accordance with the rules of assessment and incidence in force … to defray the expenses of the administration of the occupied territory” (Benvenisti, 2012, 81). In other words, the occupant should not, as was seen in the film The Last Emperor, make the occupied “pay for its own occupation” as the Japanese ambassador says to the Emperor of Manchuria (Manchukuo). The occupant is also bound by the general rules regarding property of usufruct – the use of land without destroying it (Benvenisti, 2012, 77). This is relevant to the U.S. presence in Hawaiʻi as evidenced by the more than one hundred Superfund sites at Pearl Harbor alone.


My own understanding of the law of occupation is that it strictly prohibits the “overwhelming” of the nationals of the occupied state with settlers from the occupying state, as was done by Russia to Estonia and other Baltic states. Benvenisti treads very lightly here, noting only that settlement need only avoid “impinging on the rights” of the citizens of the occupied state. It is possible (though I donʻt mean to hastily accuse him) that his status as an Israeli influences this light treatment of settlers, and he does mention Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the very short section on this topic (Benvenisti, 2012, 106-107).


Filed under Globalization, Hawaiian history, intellect, law, Uncategorized

Legal Pluralism

When I was a boarder at Lahainaluna, one thing that was very clear to me, even at age 14, was that there were multiple layers of rules, depending on who was present. If the Principal was there, no one could wear shoes in the dorm. If only the Dorm Counselors were there, then upperclassmen could wear their shoes. But if it was only boarders, another set of rules applied that was not entirely different from The Lord of the Flies. But these were indeed rules, not anarchy, and they demanded, and were concerned with, respect and obedience.

Scholars in critical legal studies have described the legal systems of some locales as “plural,” i.e., more than one system exists simultaneously in a single area. Sally Engle Merry, a major scholar in this area, notes “different systems of law intersect within fields of power relationships linked to conceptions of race [and] nationalism” (Merry, 2000, 18).  Often these rule systems consist of tribal laws that are superimposed by colonial or national laws.

Hawaiʻi has a legally plural system, but not in the way that other places do. Here, the laws of the Kingdom remain largely intact, while “overwritten” by those of the State of Hawaiʻi. But the State considers Kingdom law to be its common law, and any law that is not expressly changed by the legislature remains in place.

But law in Hawaiʻi is plural in yet another way: many laws that are quite “liberal” toward Hawaiians (my work focuses on native tenant, or kuleana, rights) remain on the books, but are not followed. So there is the written law and that law that is understood to be the “real” (though not official) law of Hawaiʻi. This pluralism may in fact sometimes be merely a failure to follow law; a disregard of law in favor of power. At other times, it is a contest over which [form of] law will be followed.


Filed under law

The Burden of Proof

The arguments for occupation and the illegality of annexation seem to be going mainstream, at least in Hawaiʻi. Keanu Sai was on the front page of the Star Advertiser, and on Hawai’i Public Radio in the same week. Journalists, while still somewhat dubious of the arguments, also appear to be noticing the establishment’s lack of a credible defense of the status quo. When asked on Hawaiʻi News Now whether the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi still exists, Governor Abercrombie simply stated, “the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi does not exist,” but provided no support for his claim. He did essentially the same thing in a letter to the Secretary of Interior, skimming over the history of annexation in a way my 11th grade students would be embarrassed to do.

At the same time, the burden of proof seems (rightly, it seems) to be on Keanu Sai and his allies to show the veracity of their claims. This is where the burden should be placed in terms of logic: the logical fallacy onus probandi* holds that “the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim, not on the person who denies (or questions the claim).” So, again, it seems that the burden here is correctly placed. However, in international  law, when it comes to a state (nation-state or country) the burden of proof lies on the party that denies the existence of the state, the Hawaiian Kingdom in this case. This could be called the doctrine of presumption. As International law professor and Permanent Court of Arbitration (World Court) judge James Crawford states:

There is a strong presumption that the State continues to exist, with its rights and obligations, despite revolutionary changes in government, or despite a period in which there is no, or no effective, government. Belligerent occupation does not affect the continuity of the State, even where there exists no government claiming to represent the occupied State.

It seems to me that international law takes precedence in this case. Here logic and international law appear to be at odds, but this is only because the argument for the continued existence of the Kingdom is the surprising one. We must be vigilant in our arguments, because, in my view, this issue will be resolved in discourse. There are other fallacies; for example I have fallen myself for the Argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam) – assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false. Because the “establishment” cannot satisfactorily explain away the claims that Sai and others bring up, does not automatically make those claims true.

*from Latin “onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat”


Filed under Hawaiian history, Mooolelo, sovereignty, Uncategorized

Law and Power

The fundamental disconnect among Hawaiians today is that between law and power. As I noted in Sovereignty and Mental Models, “one side [the independence movement] sees law as the driving force behind Hawaiʻi’s ʻlimits and opportunities,’ the other [Fed rec] sees only power.” What is needed is an analysis that bridges these two ways of looking at our political reality. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek offers one such analysis. He uses film as a gauge of the state of contemporary political ideology, but in doing so, shows our relationship with our respective governments – whether democratic or totalitarian.* He often uses films that appear to have liberal themes to show underlying, conservative, anti-democratic “micro-textures.”

Slavoj Zizek

Zizek shows that embedded in ostensible democratic narratives are fascist or totalitarian undercurrents. In relation to even our most democratic governments – those with free media, checks and balances, etc. – we hear (and have a sublimated desire to hear) the message that our governments “do what [they] like.” 

This was seen in the armed police at the (ostensibly democratic) hearings of the Department of Interior on Oʻahu this week. It is seen in the passive acceptance of the governments violations of its own law at the Federal (some say we are in a post-constitutional era) and State levels. Dismissals of the legal arguments of sovereignty activists and scholars are tantamount to saying that our society is not run by the rule of law.

Using the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, Zizek shows that we all have “fascist dreams.” It is as if we have a public and a private life in our own minds – a sublimated consciousness that we hide even from ourselves. For Hawaiians, our tradition is not one of democracy, so it takes conscious effort to become process-oriented. This is a worthy effort, otherwise we unconsciously  take on the attitude of Lorrin Thurston, who said in the formation of the Republic of Hawaiʻi, “we will shut out from participation all those who are not with us.” By bringing these subconscious tendencies to our own awareness, we can consciously decide which path to take for ourselves and the nation: one of law or of pure power.

* Films Zizek analyses include The Sound of Music and Titanic.


Filed under sovereignty, Uncategorized

The Psychology of Mālama ʻĀina

He ali’i ka ‘āina, he kauwā ke kanaka.

The land is a chief, people are its servants.

My students and former students know (or should know) that mālama ʻāina is more than merely “care for the land.” It is that, but ʻāina, for one thing, is not “land,” but arable land. I was corrected by Walter Ritte at the ʻĀina Forum – he said ʻāina is not land. I’d say ʻāina is not real estate. It is not the sand of the beaches – we distinguish ʻone hānau (the sands of one’s birth) from ʻāina hānau (the land of one’s birth). To some, it is specifically the deep, fertile lands of the loʻi kalo.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 6.08.19 AM

Walter Ritte and myself at the ʻĀina Forum. click here for video


How do chiefs practice mālama ʻāina when they don’t usually work the land personally? (There are exceptions, mainly among the lower-ranking chiefs). Mālama ʻāina for chiefs is the maintenance of the reciprocal relationship with the makaʻāinana (those ma  ka ʻāina – on the land). Chiefs care for the makaʻāinana, providing administration that ensures enough food for all under their rule, while makaʻāinana provide labor. Those chiefs who did not fulfill this kuleana – maintaining pono – were summarily killed or exiled.

The standard ethic today in social relations is also one of reciprocity. We provide taxes and expect government services in return. But part of the difficulty of the ethic of mālama ʻāina today, is that we are asked to think about those with whom there is no direct reciprocal relationship: the unborn. This requires a different kind of consciousness, one in which maximizing one’s own self-interest (the capitalist assumption) is replaced by thought of others – those who may want to share a resource, or are not alive yet to ask. This requires a degree of trust that those others will also not exploit the resource. And yet solutions are being found to this “tragedy of the commons” – the situation in which commonly-held, unowned resources are bound to be exploited. And these solutions so not require trust, but cooperative action. Elinor Ostrom shows in Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (1990) that, contrary to popular sentiment, commons are governable. Indeed, the Hawaiian kapu system did precisely this.

The West has only recently woken up to this kind of thinking. The environmental movement is usually dated to Rachael Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, in which we are asked to imagine a spring without the sounds of birds and bees. Today bee colonies are widely known to be collapsing, and 75% of Hawaiʻi’s bird species are either extinct or endangered.

The environmental crisis is coming to be recognized not as a problem of resources or their distribution, but of consciousness. In Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The 11th Hour, one of the commentators says “inside, outside,” – what we think on the inside projects out and creates the world we experience. If our minds are toxic, so is our world.

Deborah Winter and Susan Koger’s The Psychology of Environmental Problems (2004) looks at these issues from the various fields within psychology; Freudian, Social, Behavioral, Physiological, Cognitive and Holistic psychologies. They find problems from each of these perspectives. People “use denial to reduce fear and anxiety, perhaps even more so as the risks are closer.” The local effects of environmental issues are “not readily noticeable, so rewards and costs are not directly experienced.” Our nervous systems “are not wired to pick up small effects [even on our own health] over a long period of time, [and] the long delay between exposure and health outcomes reduces our ability to notice the physiological impacts at a local level.” Finally, we miscalculate the risks of death from rare and common causes, making us “less likely to pay attention to local [environmental] risks that are at play everyday” (Winter and Koger, 230). But most importantly they also point out very obvious fact that few want to acknowledge, that “Western civilization is unsustainable” Winter and Koger, xiv):

Living in Europe, Deborah immensely enjoyed many pinnacles of human civilization: the music, the art, the ballet, the cathedrals, the cuisine, and the ambiance of urban sophistication. But as glorious and magnificent as human civilization is, Western civilization is not sustainable. In Germany and northern Europe, it is easier to see the ugly ramifications of too many people and too much pollution, where trees in the Black forest are dying from automobile pollution from the autobahn, no wilderness exists anymore, and an entire river can die. In the United States, unsustainable patterns are less obvious because there is more space per person. But we are not far behind our European friends.

An entirely new – green – civilization is implicated by this stark observation, which means new ways of thinking and forms of education. My view of the role of Hawaiian educators is that we are perpetually trying to make our students, who are immersed in the most narcissistic culture ever devised, understand the concept of kākou, that we’re all in this together. On the other hand, they have much more environmental consciousness than the generation that is now in power. So there’s hope. But this raising of consciousness is a central task as my generation takes over and prepares to hand power to the next. “Consciousness raising” may sound like an abstract term, but there are discrete ways of working on this that transcend anything that’s currently done in our (mostly secular) school systems. I’ve written and spoken elsewhere of these methods, which have implications larger even than the environment.

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Filed under Environment, ʻĀina, Globalization, Uncategorized

Sovereignty and Mental Models

When Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO (Kapouhana) Kamanaʻopono Crabbe wrote his letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry asking what risks OHA might be incurring under international law, his framework for understanding, as well as that of the opposing Trustees, were examples of mental models.

OHA CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe

Crabbe’s questions were:

First, does the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a sovereign independent State, continue to exist as a subject of international law?

Second, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist, do the sole-executive agreements bind the United States today?

Third, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, what effect would such a conclusion have on United States domestic legislation, such as the Hawai‘i Statehood Act, 73 Stat. 4, and Act 195?

Fourth, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, have the members of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, Trustees and staff of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs incurred criminal liability under international law?

Chairperson Collette Machado’s response in the form of a letter stated that Crabbe does not understand the extent to which the US will hold on to Hawaiʻi – ostensibly for military purposes. But she offered no evidence of this “fact,” which in reality was not a fact at all, but a belief.

In The Power of Impossible Thinking, authors Yoram Wind and Colin Crook (2006, 5) note that:

Almost every aspect of our lives is shaped in some way by how we make sense of the world. Our thinking and our actions are affected by the mental models we hold. These models define our limits or open our opportunities. Despite their power and pervasiveness, these models are usually virtually invisible to us.  We don’t realize they are there at all.

What we have in the OHA crisis is a conflict of mental models. One side sees law as the driving force behind Hawaiʻi’s “limits and opportunities,” the other sees only power. According to Wind and Crook (2006, 9), we are awash with sensory data all the time, and are only able to make sense of the world by “choosing to ignore some of the external world.”

Clearly the majority of Trustees, like the majority of Americans, choose to ignore international law. But perhaps Crabbe’s side (and I’ve made my allegiance to this side quite clear) ignores power to some extent. Keanu Sai’s  Hawaiian Kingdom blog published a post asking “were these rhetorical questions?” This post explained the legal basis for asking the questions, but did not address the strategy behind Crabbe’s action. Perhaps this is intentional, but an explanation of strategy, in addition to the legal case might make Crabbe’s position more compelling.

By exposing the mental models both sides hold, people may be better able to make informed, rather than reflexive, decisions on their positions regarding Hawaiʻi’s present and future political status. Wind and Crook (2006, 52) point out that age is a decisive factor in openness to new ideas, and we see this in sovereignty politics, with older Hawaiians understandably wanting to see something in their lifetime. This is not to say that the young are entirely better positioned – their very openness makes them more prone to fads.

In The Race for Nationhood, I posited that these two sides (independence and Federal recognition) were racing to see their model implemented, but I came to think this is a race for the meaning of nationhood. In this race for meaning we need to be aware of how our own minds free or deceive us.


Filed under sovereignty, Uncategorized

Kamehameha’s Unification – for Kamehameha Day 2014


Kamehameha came of age under the rule and tutelage of King Kalaniʻōpuʻu. Following Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s death, there were certain ceremonies pertaining to the funeral and the transition of power. An ‘awa drinking drinking ceremony, for example, led to an altercation between the heir Kīwalaʻō and Kekūhaupi‘o who claimed that his chief, Kamehameha, had been insulted by Kīwalaʻō, who passed the ʻawa chewed by Kamehameha on to his aikane. Kekūhaupiʻo exclaimed “The chief has insulted us! Your brother did not chew the ʻawa for a commoner, but for you, the chief” (Kamakau, 1992, 119). The two sailed to Keʻei to avoid further conflict.

Portrait of Kamehameha I, ca. 1800

Key ali‘i involved in ensuing land division were Kīwala‘ō, Keawema‘uhili, Keōuakuahu‘ula, Kamehameha, Ke‘eaumoku and three other Kona chiefs. In reaction to the land division Keō uakuahu‘ula, who had only received the Ka ‘u district, his home district, prepared for battle because, as the son of Kalaniopuʻu and half brother of Kīwalaʻō he felt entitled to fertile agricultural lands (see Kamakau, 1992, p. 120 for Keouaʻs remarks on the land division). Keawemaʻuhili advised Kīwalaʻō not to give Kamehameha a significant amount of land, claiming, “this is not according to your father’s command. He [Kamehameha] has the god and his old lands as was commanded. You are chief over the island, I am under you, and the chiefs under us. So was your father’s command” (Kamakau, 1992, p. 119). This caused the other chiefs to rebel against the new political order. Ke‘eaumoku and three other chiefs from Kona aligned with Kamehameha, claiming that the division was “unjust,” and that they were “impoverished” by this division (Kamakau, 1992, p. 119).

In the battle of Moku‘ohai, Kīwala‘o was killed by Ke‘eaumoku while trying to save Ke‘eaumoku’s niho palaoa (whale tooth necklace that is a royal pendant) (Kamakau, 1992, 121). Ka‘ü forces cut down niu (coconut trees) at Keʻei, a challenge to the existing power structure and a “sign of war (Kamakau, 1992, p. 120). According to Kamakau, “ the coconut tree was a man … with his head buried underground, and his penis and testicles above ground (Kamakau, 1992, p. 120). There were at this point three aupuni (governments) on Hawai‘i Island:

One was led by Keawema‘uhili, Who had been captured, but allowed to escape, and whose strongholdor wahi pa‘a was Hilo, Keōuakuahu‘ula whose wahi pa‘a was Ka‘ü, and Kamehameha whose wahi pa‘a were Kohala and Kona because of the Kona uncles.

Two major battles on Hawai‘i led to an indecisive result, and the island remained as three aupuni (governments).

Kamehameha stepped back from war and focused on taking care of his aupuni – increasing its capacity for food production and thus for waging war. Challenges he faced included environmental limitations, large populations and supporting a large warrior force.

Accomplishments in overcoming these challenges included irrigation of kula lands, and the building of canoe ramps, which allowed for the launching of Kamehameha’s massive fleet of 800 pelelu canoes from the rocky coasts of West Hawai’i.

Meanwhile on O‘ahu, a conflict between Kahekili’s protégé Kahāhana and the priest Ka‘ō pulupulu was coming to a head. Kahekili prepared to launch an attack and asked for assistance from Kamehameha but received it instead from Keawema‘uhili and Keō uakuahu‘ula. With their assistance Kahekili captured O‘ahu.


Kuykendall (1938) lists the foreign ships to arrive in Hawaii, and also the Hawaiians who left on ships, noting that the first Hawaiian to leave Hawaii on a foreign ship was a woman, who was hired as a maid for the wife of a ship captain. La Perouse was third. Simon Metcalf took revenge on Hawaiians who had stolen a ship and killed one of his sailors, resulting in the Olowalu massacre, in which between fifty and one hundred Hawaiians were lured into paddling their canoes to one side of his ship, and then opened fire on them. Metcalf had earlier whipped Kameʻeiamoku with a rope for a minor/petty infraction, and Kameʻeiamoku vowed revenge on the next foreign ship, which coincidentally was the Fair American a sloop/schooner captained by Metcalf’s son. All of the crew was killed except one – Isaac Davis. John Young was taken from the Eleanor at the same time and both became trusted advisors to Kamehameha.

close-up of the Fair American at Kepūwahaʻula, the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Gun

Other violent incidents occurred, but according to Kuykendall, the relations between Hawaiians and foreigners were generally good.


In 1790, the ship Eleanor arrived at Maui. Some Hawaiians stole the ship’s longboat, and in revenge, the British massacred many Hawaiians at Olowalu, near Lahaina, Maui (Kamakau, 1992, 146). One result of this event was that Kamehameha gained Western advisors and trainers in John Young and Isaac Davis. The two British foreigners became aikane, or favorites, of Kamehameha, John Young marrying Kamehameha’s daughter. Kamehameha also received from this exchange the cannon that became so valued it was given the name Lopaka.


Before unifying Hawai‘i Kamehameha moved on Maui, a campaign culminating in the Battle of Kepaniwai (the damming of the waters) at Iao valley.

His opponent was Kalaniküpule who was the son of Kahekili, and he had as an ally Keawema‘uhili, the ali‘i nui of Hilo. This battle did not lead to unification, but has gone down in Hawaiian history for two reasons.

One notable event was Kamehameha’s rousing speech:

I mua e nā pō ki‘i. E inu i ka wai ‘awa‘awa. ‘A‘ohe hope e ho‘i mai ai

Go forward my dear younger brothers. Drink of the bitter waters.

There is no turning back.

One significant outcome of this speech is that it became the origin of Kamehameha Schools’ motto Imua Kamehameha. The second reason this battle is notable is that it was the first time the cannon “Lopaka” was used. This cannon caused “a great slaughter” (Kamakau, 1992) and introduces the question of Kamehamehaʻs reliance on Western technology.

Iao needle, Iao valley, Maui

The result of Kepaniwai was that Kamehameha gained temporary control of Maui. Kalaniküpule fled to O‘ahu, and Kahekili received aid from Ka‘eokülani to take back Maui. While Kamehameha was on Maui Keōuakuahu‘ula attacked Kohala and Hamakua and killed Keawema‘uhili. On Moloka‘i at the time Kamehameha said “Alas! While I have been seeking new children my first born have been abandoned!”

After one last indecisive battle with Keō uakuahu‘ula, Keō ua and Kamehameha retreated. While Keō ua was traveling through ‘Ōla‘a the volcano erupted killing one-third of Keoua’s army. The footprints of some of his soldiers can still be seen in the lava. This event may have been interpreted as the goddess Pele’s favoring of Kamehameha, but it certainly affected Keoua’s ability to wage war, and influenced his next decision.

Kamehameha focused in the meantime on cultivating his and his nation’s relationship with the gods. He consulted a prophet from Kaua‘i named Kapoukahi, asking what was required in order to unite Hawai‘i Island. The prophet responded that he need to build a house for his god, i.e., a heiau for Kuka‘ilimoku. This heiau was called Pu‘ukohola, and was built at Kawaihae, Kohala. The work of building this heiau was seen as being so important that Kamehameha did not exempt himself from the work of carrying stones. He had his brother, Keli‘imaika‘i maintain the kapu for their family. When Keli‘imaika‘i tried to carry a stone, Kamehameha took it from him and threw it into the sea.

Construction of Puʻukoholā heiau by Herb Kane

For the dedication of Pu‘ukoholā Kamehameha invited Keōuakuahu‘ula to come to Kawaihae, ostensibly to co-rule. Keō ua agreed to go to Kawaihae knowing that he was going to be sacrificed. The loss of one-third of his army meant certain defeat, and his acquiescence was a means of saving his Ka ‘u people from slaughter. Keoua stopped, however, at Luahinewai on his way to Kawaihae. At this pond he performed the ritual called “death of uli,” which consisted of “cut[ting] off the end of his penis (umuʻo)” (Kamakau, 1992, p. This was a final act of defiance toward Kamehameha in that it would make his body an imperfect sacrifice and therefore make Kamehameha’s unification imperfect.

Keoua arrived at Pu‘ukohola and his entourage sailed into the bay. When Keoua jumped off his canoe, Ke‘eaumoku immediately tried to killed him with a spear. This was to prevent a face-to-face meeting between Kamehameha and Keoua. According to Kamakau “Kamehameha might not have killed him, for he loved Keoua.” Nearly all the Ka‘u chiefs were killed. Thus, by 1791 Hawai‘i Island was completely under the control of Kamehameha.


Kamehameha was then forced to consider one of his actions from years before. When he was a young chief he was sailing along the coast of Puna. Kamehameha called out to some fishermen feigning that he wanted to speak with them. They fled, knowing that the six-and-a-half foot tall chief wanted them as sacrifices. Chasing them, Kamehameha foot became stuck in the lava rock, and the fishermen hit him over the head with a paddle. Reflecting on this, Kamehameha realized that his actions constituted an abuse of power. As mo‘i of Hawai‘i Island, he wanted to protect his subjects from such abuses by chiefs. He declared Kānāwai Māmalahoe, the law of the splintered paddle. This law proclaimed:

“Let the old men go and lie by the roadside, let the old women go and lie by the roadside, let the children go and lie by the roadside and no one shall harm them.”[2]

Artistʻs impression of the encounter that led to Kanawai Mamalahoe, by Herb Kane

This law meant that while travelling, people were not to be attacked, but were to be fed and housed. This was his way of granting the people of Hawai‘i security and freedom; security from the abuses of chiefs, and freedom of movement.

Kahekili died at the age of 87 in Waikiki, one of the prizes of his conquests. His son Kalaniküpule and Ka‘eokülani engaged in a battle in which Ka‘eokūlani died. Kalanikūpule then controlled O‘ahu and Nā Hono a Pi‘ilani – Maui, Lana’i, Moloka‘i and Kaho‘olawe.

Kamehameha next prepared to attack O‘ahu. In 1795, Kamehameha launched the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Nu‘uanu. Kamehameha’s fleet landed and attacked Lahaina and burned all the houses, then moved on to Moloka‘i, where the final planning meeting was held. An advisor named Ka‘iana, a Hawaiian [ali‘i] who had sailed on Western ships reaching China at one point, was excluded from the meeting. Taking this as an omen that he was to be killed, he defected with the 3,500 soldiers he commanded and joined Kalanikupule.

Kahekili had anticipated this attack years earlier. He quizzed his chiefs on where they thought Kamehameha would approach. One advisor thought that Kamehameha’s strategy would be to land at Waikiki and Leahi (Diamond Head). Kahekili said that this was the correct answer. Kamehameha did indeed land at Waikiki across a three mile stretch of beach. Kalanikupule did not oppose this landing.

Kamehameha’s army camped at Leahi (Diamond Head) for three days, and then began marching toward Nu’uanu. The first battle began at Kawananakoa, at the mouth of Nu’uanu valley. Battles continued up the East side of the valley. Ka’iana died in one of these battles. Kamehameha sent his soldiers with cannons up the East rim of the valley, firing down on the O’ahu troops. Kamehameha’s forces pushed Kalanikupule’s army up toward the Nu’uanu pali (cliff). The story is often told that Kamehameha “pushed them (O’ahu soldiers) over the pali,” but many of the O’ahu soldiers may have jumped over the pali, rather than being conquered by Hawai’i’s army.

Kamehameha was now in control of all the islands except Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. He regained Maui by virtue of its belonging previously to Kalanikupule.

Kamehameha next launched an attack on Kaua‘i, but encountered a storm and returned to O‘ahu. He took yet another step back to focus on his new, large aupuni, working to restore O‘ahu’s productivity. Kamehameha’s second attempt to take Kaua‘i in 1804 was stopped by the ma‘i ‘oku‘u, an outbreak of either cholera or bubonic plague. Kamehameha caught this disease, but survived. One who did not survive, however, was Ke‘eaumoku. On his deathbed, Ke‘eaumoku warned Kamehameha that the only threat to his rule was from his own daughter, Kamehameha’s wife Ka‘ahumanu.

Despite two failed attacks on Kaua‘i, by 1810 Ka‘eokulani’s son Kaumuali‘i felt he could not evade the impending takeover of his kingdom, and agreed to meet Kamehameha at Honolulu Harbor.


“Ke alo I luna, ai’ole ke alo i lalo?” Kaumualiʻi asked “Here I am; is it face up or face down?” The new King dismissed Kaumuali’i’s acknowledgement of Kamehameha’s superiority, and Kaumualiʻi continued: “This is my gift at our meeting: the land of Kauaʻi, its chiefs, its men great and small” (Kamakau, 1992, 196). Kamehameha replied that he would not accept the offer, but requested that “if our young chief [Liholiho] makes you a visit, be pleased to receive him.” (Tresgakis, 1973, 285).

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Hiki Nō: PBS Student-Produced News Segment on the New Version of Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen

A few weeks back, my National History Day bound students and I were featured on Hiki Nō, the student-produced news program on PBS Hawaiʻi. The episode included a feature on the new version of Liliʻuokalani’s book, annotated by David Forbes. I probably overstate the differences in the new version, but the point is it goes a little deeper into the history and hopefully will stimulate more people to read her powerful book. The segment on Kamehameha begins at 17:00.

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June 12, 2014 · 4:45 am

The State of History

On May 4th at the Hawaiʻi Book and Music Festival I was on a panel, with three other Hawaiian history scholars, which focused on the use of sources in historical research. It asked the very pertinent questions:

What Are the Indispensible Resources for Hawaiian History?What are the existing must-read publications for those working in Hawaiian history, or simply interested in it? What important new resources will we have access to soon? What do Hawaiian-language sources offer those who can read them? Just how much are we really missing by not having access?

And concluded:

The four panelists are all currently conducting research into diverse nineteenth and twentieth century Hawaiian cultural and historical topics, and will share their own experience of finding their way through the whole range of materials, good and bad, now publicly available, and also how they deal with the inevitable gaps they encounter.

My remarks began with a stark assessment of the state of Hawaiian history as a field. I pointed out that there have only ever been three (or possibly four) people ever employed specifically as Hawaiian historians at a “research 1” university – Pauline King, Noelani Arista and John Rosa (one might count Ralph Kuykendall, M.A., but one would do so at oneʻs own peril). I stated that this is only true if one takes such disciplinary boundaries seriously – which I do and donʻt (such boundaries have significance, but so too do interdisciplinary studies). Rosa’s position had to be specially created by the State Legislature – thatʻs my point; it’s not automatic that there are Hawaiian historians.

Prof. John Rosa

As I mentioned in my debate with Ian Lind, it was confided to me that King was hired to “do in” Hawaiian history – she produced no original publications in her long career. Ronald Williams was the first PhD to graduate from a program specifically focusing on Hawaiian history (this is partly because they had only recently hired Arista and Rosa to supervise such a program). Of course there are those with history degrees who teach in Hawaiian Studies. Jonathan Osorio, who was the moderator of the program approached me afterward and said “you know that Lilikalā [Kameʻeleihiwa], Kanalu Young and myself all have history degrees and consider ourselves historians?” And of course I did know that, but the fact that he included the late Kanalu Young on the list only underscores my point. Add them and we have six, one deceased. And there are others, such as political scientists Keanu Sai or Noenoe Silva, who said in a class once “Iʻm not a historian but I may as well be.” But we are talking about a dozen scholars at best, compared to tens of thousands of scholars in US history, for example.

What this means is Hawaiian history as a field is, as I perhaps controversially stated, that is both in its infancy and is an amateur undertaking. It is only recently becoming professionalized as a field. The vast majority of books on Hawaiian history are written by amateurs and/or outsiders with little grasp of the nuances stemming from the dominance and suppression of the Territorial period. While the professional historians can only do what they are capable of given the slow pace of publication and constraints of academia, the effect in the community is that there is little “trickle down” of good research into the lower levels. With so few top-level researchers, there truly is nothing but a trickle of new historical perspectives. And in this case it truly is a top-down situation. Amateurs cannot be expected to devote the time and resources to study that are available to a professional historian.

The result is graduates who go on to high positions in government and the corporate sector who exhibit very shaky understandings of how we got where we are as a society. Many become interested in, even passionate about history as adults (by which time it’s too late), but in school it is, as portrayed in the film History Boys, “just one bloody thing after another.”

There is an infrastructure of knowledge, a “house of intellect” as Jacques Barzun called it, and reasons why we know what we know. We canʻt take this house for granted – the Lahainaluna scholars knew this, as did Kauikeaouli, who said “he aupuni palapala koʻu” [mine is a kingdom of learning]. This vision was invested in, as we still reap its rewards a century and a half later. There seems to be – across the board, not just in Hawaiʻi – a nonchalant squandering of the gains made over history in labor rights, environmental protections, civil liberties, and social justice by a generation of profit-seekers who ignore or are ignorant of history. These people, in whom most power is invested, imperil us all with their proclivity to proverbially “repeat history.” We must demand that history not be completely over shadowed by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields in the name of “twenty-first century” skills, if we want that century to be better than the last.

UPDATE: Arnie Saiki had this response on the Statehood Hawaiʻi Facebook page, which raises very valid counterarguments and gives me a chance to clarify my position:

I think there are a lot of people who do contribute to the growing canon of Hawaiian history, and follow well disciplined methodologies, as well as pave the way for methodologies that speak to cultural, linguistic, customary practice.

What … strikes me about Hawaiian history is just how much work has been done for a place that boasts a little more than a million people. Although I have not done a full accounting of library catalogs, it seems that there is more historical work produced on Hawaiian history than most states. Granted there is likely a political reason as to why that is, an element that sought to make Hawaii “knowable” to colonial settlers, but it seems that in regard to Hawaii, everything that was recordable was recorded, and it is relatively easy to access. 

Its very true that there is a fascination with Hawaiian history that does not exist in other states – a fact evidenced by a Facebook group I started called Mooolelo: Hawaiian History, which grew to 500 members within a couple of months. But it’s important to remember that this is a national history, and should thus be compared to other national histories (I think of New Zealand, for example), than to other states. In the case of New Zealand, a close look at the historical work there shows a depth that Hawaiʻi could only envy. This is in a country that, while larger than Hawaiʻi, has the same population as the average US state.


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Kuleana: A Genealogy of Native Tenant Rights

This is a presentation of my dissertation research on Hawaiian land tenure from my Hawaiʻi Politics course.


April 29, 2014 · 11:12 pm