Many years ago I worked for Orion Pictures Corporation. I went to a lot of movie screenings – but never, before today, did I attend one as terrific as Hawaii: A Voice for Sovereignty at the American Indian Community House.
Entertainment industry movie screenings were always pretty clinical affairs. You filed into the screening room or the theater. They turned off the lights and, without comment, showed the movie. Then you left.
In contrast, the Hawaiian people from the Koani Foundation who ran this particularly screening handled it in a more enjoyable manner. It opened with a blessing chant. Then there were songs, followed by a traditional hula dancer. After that came another blessing, this time over the food we were about to eat, and then we sat down to watch the movie.
In 1993, President William Jefferson Clinton signed the Hawaiian Apology Resolution exactly one hundred years after the illegal, yes, illegal, U.S. overthrow and annexation of Hawaii. Bravo to President Clinton; the resolution is the first step in righting a whole series of outrageous wrongs that were done to the Pacific nation.
It’s not a pretty story. A cabal of non-Hawaiians conspired with the United States Minister to Hawaii, in 1893, to overthrow the government. The Minister got the United States Navy involved. Troops invaded and remained in position in front of government buildings and the Iolani Palace. This was done to intimidate the Hawaiian Royal Family. The United States Minister and his cohorts proceeded to form a “Committee of Safety,” a name that could have been invented by a propagandist. It was comprised of financiers, sugar plantation owners and American and European descendants of missionaries – and did not represent the Hawaiians. This is the group that deposed the Hawaiian monarchy. They had the audacity to form a “Provisional Government.” The United States Minister – who basically had no power over Hawaii – “recognized” the bogus “Provisional Government.”
The United States took the islands over after that.
Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani, however, never gave up her power. She didn’t want bloodshed – but she didn’t give up her throne or her country. She issued a statement on January 17, 1893, stating, “I Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, do hereby solemnly protest any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for the Kingdom.”
The nation of Hawaii was therefore never given up by its queen.
The United States government appointed one of the Doles, a rich owner of Hawaiian plantations, as its new “governor.” Ninety-five percent of Hawaiians signed a petition against annexation in 1897-1898, but it was ignored. Decent Queen Liliuokalani, who had done absolutely nothing wrong except object to the takeover of her country, wound up placed under “house arrest!”
The list of outrages perpetrated against the island kingdom continues to this day. The movie, written by Catherine Bauknight, who first found out the truth about what had been perpetrated by the U.S. in Hawaii while there on vacation, shows the desecration of Hawaiian sacred sites, toilet paper found on sacred ground, sacred bones dug up and stored in waxed paper, and more, all done in the name of real estate development and “progress.” Hawaiian land was diverted to non-Hawaiians; getting it back is often impossible. So is affording it, since Hawaii is a playground for the rich. One Hawaiian woman is living not on the land, but in her car.
There is quite a bit more; the movie is available for purchase, and it needs to be seen by as many people as possible. What was done to Hawaii is an insult to people of goodwill everywhere.
Many of the people who were running today’s lovely event are in town for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which began last week. It’s been a long time since 1893. Let’s hope the UN takes some positive action on their behalf at last.
Liliuokalani: The Queen who never gave up her throne.