Kingdom of Hawai’i

Before it was occupied by the United States in 1893, Hawai’i was a sovereign country with it own royal house, foreign policy, bank notes and stamps. In fact, it had been recognized as independent by Europeans countries for close to one hundred years. The last ruler of independent Hawai’i was a woman, queen Liliʻuokalani, 1838-1917. She was an accomplished author and the composer of “Aloha ‘Oe,” the most famous of all Hawaiian songs. She represented her country at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in London in 1887. Queen Liliʻuokalani is still revered by indigenous Hawaiians.

By the 1890s, the European occupation of all of North America was secure and the U.S. government continued its expansion across the Pacific. The Americans organized an uprising in Hawaii in 1893 and proceeded to annex the islands in 1898, the same year that they occupied the Philippines. The Hawaiian flag was lowered at the royal palace in Honolulu and the U.S. flag was raised. Hawaii became a U.S. state in 1959, following a referendum in which 93% of voters approved of statehood. As a result, the island were removed from the United Nations’ list of territories subject to decolonization. In 1993, the U.S. Congress issued an apology in which they admitted that “the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States” and that “the Native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands.”

There are today some 150,00 Hawaiians of pure indigenous ancestry and another 400,00 people who claim partial indigenous ancestry. Together they constitute about a third of the population of the islands. Native Hawaiians are over-represented among the homeless, unemployed and drug-dependent. Although there is an active independence movement, it has only limited support. A more poplar proposal is that the islands should be given a semi-sovereign status within the United States and that native Hawaiians should be recognized as an indigenous tribe. Queen Liliʻuokalani still has descendants who claim a right to the vacant throne. There are today some 42,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on the islands.

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