Free Hawaii!

Whenever the subject of Tibetan independence from China comes up, my father almost invariably says that if Americans think that China should free Tibet, then the U.S. should free Hawaii.  The first time I heard him say it, I laughed.  "But Dad," I protested, "Hawaiians don't want to be independent from the U.S."  I very soon found out that asumption was not necessarily true.

A little history about our 50th state that you may or may not know (summarized from the mighty wiki):

American missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820. In 1887, a group of primarily American and European businessmen forced King Kalakaua to sign the "Bayonet Constitution," which stripped the king of administrative authority, eliminated voting rights for Asians and essentially limited the electorate to wealthy elite Americans, Europeans and native Hawaiians.

In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani announced plans to establish a new constitution that would have replaced the "Bayonet Constitution" and restore power to the monarchy.  But a group of American and Europeans formed a Committee of Safety and seized control of government. The U.S. Government Minister summoned a company of uniformed U.S. Marines to "enforce neutrality," but what that really did was subjugate the monarchy.

With the monarchy overthrown in January 1893, it was replaced by a Provisional Government composed of members of the Committee of Safety.  Hawaii was run as a republic until it was annexed by the U.S.  The vote for statehood, therefore, was cast in large part by foreign settlers, businessmen.

In 1993, a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton, apologizing for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.


Over the years, I've subsequently learned about native Hawaiian hostility towards immigrants on the islands.  Epithets and violence directed at those seen to be invaders.  I do not mean to make it sound like native Hawaiians are not justifiably angry.  Nor to make it sound like all native Hawaiians are angry.  My point is that Hawaii is not necessarily the happy member of the Union that we paint it to be.

All of which is leading up to this news story, a native Hawaiian independence group occupying the Royal Palace in Honolulu.

The group is one of several in Hawaii that reject statehood and seek to return to the constitutional monarchy that effectively ended in 1893 when a group of politicians, businessmen and sugar planters -- aided by the U.S. minister to Hawaii -- overthrew the kingdom's government.

The monarchist groups say the kingdom was overthrown and annexed into the United States illegally.

Interestingly, this story has gotten little play, while coverage of the Tibetan resistance movement has been widespread.  If we truly believe in the right to self-determination, what does that mean?

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative