Iolani Palace
Photo: Emily Metcalf

By Jere Krischel

(Celebrating the Hawaiian Revolution of January 17, 1893)

The recent candidacy of Keli’i Akina for OHA has presented a novel challenge to the very premise of the institution. On the one hand, you have the existing race-based, patronage and power model that OHA has been running for years, and on the other, you have a Hawaiian based service model, where all Hawaiians, regardless of ancestry, are stakeholders in the institution and served by it – “OHA for Everyone”. As a Hawaiian who doesn’t have pre-1778 ancestry, born and raised in the islands, with family of all ethnicities imaginable, Akina’s progressive view has been particularly appealing.

In that spirit, let us take a critical look at the most recent “Ka Wai Ola” magazine from OHA. A glossy, slick mailer that comes out every month, this news outlet for OHA demonstrates over and over again the inherent racism of their patronage politics, and a chronically dishonest accounting of Hawaiian history. The most depressing part, though, is that they obviously see this kind of racism as justifiable, or even benign, and in doing so, they perpetuate a mentality of victimhood, hatred and dependency.

Preferring monarchy to democracy

On page 7, Jon Osorio mentions the idea of “indigenous people’s rights” in the context of the Kingdom of Hawaii – without understanding that even the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, it was declared that all people were “of one blood”. Such an omission, from a UH professor no less, is an indictment of the rigor with which we hire college faculty. The fact of the matter is that we are all indigenous to this earth, and this was clearly recognized by the noble King Kamehameha III, who granted the first constitution to the multi-racial people of Hawaii. Treating 20th century Filipino immigrants different than 14th century Tahitian immigrants (who invaded and conquered the first 10th century Marquesan immigrants) is both offensive and pernicious.

Osorio also amusingly talks about the Kingdom as if it was egalitarian and blind to socioeconomic class, even though it wasn’t until annexation that property requirements for voting were eliminated. Even the most ardent of royalists, including those who took up arms in defense of the monarchy, such as Robert Wilcox, eventually saw annexation and the Organic Act of 1900 as a massive step forward for the rights of native Hawaiians, especially the poorest of them.

Whitewashing the Queen

On page 8, Ke ‘haunani Abad presents a whitewashed and sanitized version of history that simply cannot stand up to any scrutiny. One might think for a moment that such historical revisionism could simply be an

Iolani Palace
Photo: Emily Metcalf

unintentional mistake, but the lies put forth by Abad are so egregious they simply cannot be excused.

Starting with the description of 1891, the falsehoods begin. While Liliuokalani claimed that she had been petitioned to change the 1887 Constitution (which she swore an oath to uphold), no evidence of any such petitions has ever existed. Furthermore, the voting rights restricted by the 1887 Constitution were those of asians, who were lower on the social totem pole than both whites and native Hawaiians until well into the 1950s. The sly implication that the 1887 Constitution was somehow a slight against native Hawaiians is clever tactic, but patently false.

The misdirections continue in 1892, where Abad claims that the queen had no opposition from her cabinet regarding her plans to abrogate the constitution she swore an oath to – technically true, but false in spirit. Yes, in 1892, when the queen mused about changing the constitution, her cabinet dully nodded their heads, and said nothing. But on January 14, 1893, when the queen threatened to actually implement her crazy idea of unilaterally changing the constitution, they rigorously opposed her. This late game opposition infuriated the queen so much, that she threatened the lives of her own cabinet, who then rushed in a panic to their political enemies (who would later form the Committee of Safety).

Abad follows this lie up with her description of 1/14/1893, claiming that the Committee of Safety was a pre-planned ruse, rather than a reaction to the fear of her own cabinet. While certainly her political enemies took the opportunity to depose the queen when it was offered, and continued on their course even when the queen had apologized to her cabinet for the death threats and they went back to her side, it was undoubtedly a sincere response to what they saw as Liliuokalani’s misrule.

On the same page, Francine Murray has a large inset, where she builds upon the lies of Abad and the Queen herself. The biggest whopper is the claim that she yielded to the United States under protest. It was a clever bit of fiction that she hoped to leverage into reinstatement, but it fails to convince once you realize that she never delivered her surrender document to the United States minister. Her reign was under threat by the Committee of Safety, and her “surrender under protest” was in fact delivered to the Committee of Safety. She could’ve claimed she was surrendering to a cheese sandwich under protest, but the fact of the matter is that her surrender was to her local political enemies, not the US peacekeepers who remained scrupulously neutral during the entire affair.

Although her fiction did manage to convince her friend Grover Cleveland to push for her return to the throne, when Cleveland tried to impose his will on the Provisional Government late in 1893, they flatly refused his demands. Had the US actually been in control of the Provisional Government, as the queen pretended in her surrender document, Cleveland’s order would have been accepted and she would have been put back on the throne. Luckily for the forces of democracy and equality, that didn’t happen.

Another notable mention for misdirection is Francine Murray’s bit about the “Crown Lands”. These lands were found to be, under Kingdom law, the property of the entire multi-racial public of Hawaii, not any given monarch. The ex-Queen’s attempt to make a personal claim to those lands was without merit, and frankly, the race-based claims on the public lands of Hawaii (the “Returned Lands” once known as the “Ceded Lands”), are similarly without redeeming quality.

The worst offense from Francine Murray’s article though, is the omission of Liliuokalani’s change of heart. A beautiful tale of acceptance and redemption, it is too little known by the people of Hawaii. The Queen, along with other notable royalists, fought for the return of the Kingdom for many years, and even took up arms against the sovereign and internationally recognized Republic of Hawaii. But they all had a massive change of heart as the promise of full democracy with the Organic Act of 1900 approached. In her diary of September 2, 1900, the queen wrote:

“Tho’ for a moment (the overthrow) cost me a pang of pain for my people, it was only momentary, for the present has a hope for the future of my people.”

One can only hope that the neo-royalists of OHA can learn to embrace equality and democracy the way the ex-Queen did.

She was my queen too

On page 9, Kaipoleimanu Ka‘awaloa comments on Liliuokalani, stating, “She showed me the importance of putting one’s people first, putting the Native Hawaiian people before anything.”

But hey, wasn’t the Kingdom of Hawaii multi-racial? Is the implication here that Liliuokalani didn’t care about asians? Were her people the entire Kingdom of Hawaii, or only those with a special bloodline? When she avoided contesting her overthrow, wasn’t she also protecting the Japanese, Chinese, and European subjects of the Kingdom?

Now, maybe the Queen was a racist against asians – there’s little historical evidence for that, but anti-asian sentiment in Hawaii was very real in the 1800s and early 1900s. But should we be celebrating the idea of someone putting a certain race before anything? If Neil Abercrombie was putting white people before anything, would that be seen as a virtue?

Stop eating carbohydrates

While not related to Hawaiian history or OHA racism, on page 12 Claire Ku‘uleilani Hughes talks about a topic near and dear to my heart – health. Hughes mentions some of the first contacts between Europeans and native Hawaiians, with reference to just how robust and healthy native Hawaiians were when they first met Europeans. Well, there is a reason – they didn’t eat a lot of carbohydrates.

Wherever the western explorers went, they brought refined carbohydrates – sugar, flour – that are clearly the causes of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. The sad fact of the matter is that many “indigenous” populations who moved from traditional diets to high-carb western diets have suffered horribly in terms of health. This is certainly true of native Hawaiians.

For those interested in a wonderful documentary on the subject, please see http://www.mybigfatdiet.net/

A nation for me, but not for thee

On page 14-15, Treena Shapiro covers the 2012 Investiture of the Board of Trustees for OHA, and sadly, it’s filled with more victimhood mentality. Starting with the very first mention of “ceded” lands (which, fun fact, were returned to the multi-racial public of Hawaii in 1959 with statehood), the article shows OHA’s complete lack of shame in pursuing a race-based nation, presumably led by the OHA Ali’i, with no civil protections against the abuse of their power.

Kamana‘opono Crabbe is quoted as saying, “what is good for kanaka, for Native Hawaiians, is good for Hawai‘i as a whole”. Yet how is draining the State of Hawaii budget of money for say, public education, and funneling it to an organization like OHA which rewards its friends with lavish grants based on race, good for Hawaii as a whole? Imagine Brian Schatz claiming, “what is good for whites, is good for Hawaii as a whole!” The idea that racism in favor of one bloodline is somehow benign, nay, beneficial to all the other races being excluded is shameful.

Even Nainoa Thompson’s talk on Eddie Aikau, who died because of the race-based claims made on the 1978 Hokule’a voyage (filling it with people of the proper race, rather than with people of the proper skill set for a long voyage), was a lesson left unlearned. Nainoa’s father, Pinky Thompson, was observed confronting race-based attitudes at the Polynesian Voyaging Society, claiming, “I’m American first.” That kind of noble virtue, that of equality, and color-blind vision, is something that is obviously invisible to the current OHA.

A call for racism

On page 16, Colette Y. Machado’s speech is printed, verbatim, and it is a sad sight to see. The vicious racism exhibited without shame is shocking, when she praises the Kana‘iolowalu slogan, “Unrelinquished – Undeterred – and Unified to Rebuild the Hawaiian Nation”. She forgets that the Kingdom of Hawaii was multi-racial from its very inception. She forgets that both the Queen and Prince Kuhio became patriotic Americans, with Kuhio even serving as our Territorial Representative to Congress. She forgets that Prince Kuhio fought for statehood, not a return to the Kingdom.

Starting up an organization to determine proper bloodline, and then creating a “nation” separate from the multi-racial State of Hawaii, and then talk about being “unified” is laughable. These would-be Kings and Queens of the Neo-Kingdom of Hawaii are doing nothing less than dividing Hawaiians from other Hawaiians.

Particularly offensive is Machado’s reference to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which, fun fact, had founders who included the Micronesian Mau Pialug and a the haole Ben Finney. The PVS, and Hokule’a, were multi-racial endeavors, and are the pride of all Hawaiians, not just those with the proper ancestry.

Messages of discord

Towards the back of the magazine, we get to the Trustee Messages section, where much of the familiar historical lies and blatant racism are continued. On page 22, Peter Apo slanders the US peacekeepers who landed during the Hawaiian Revolution of 1893, asserting that they were prepared to fight against the Queen. With strict orders to remain neutral in the conflict, one could blame the US peacekeepers for not fighting in defense of a friendly nation against the Honolulu Rifles and the Committee of Safety, but there was never any threat from any US peacekeeper against any Kingdom soldier, period.

Apo makes no bones about his desire to divide Hawaiians up into “natives” and “non-natives”, and create a separate race-based nation for his specially selected subjects. As he talks about a four legged stool for nation building, with citizenry, culture, economic base, and political recognition, one might reasonably believe that we’ve already got all of those things – a citizenry of the State of Hawaii, which has its own unique culture, economic base, and international recognition as a co-equal member of the United States. But that’s not enough.

Apo wants to have his new nation choose its citizenry. He wants to be able to exclude those who don’t have the proper bloodline…or those who do have the proper bloodline but are otherwise “undesirable”.

How can someone fool themselves into thinking such racial division is a good thing?

On page 24, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey continues with similar lies about the US peacekeepers, and spends time talking about how to be democratic in deciding the future of the proposed OHA Nation. But how can you be democratic when before anyone votes, you give them a blood test for ancestry? She claims she wants an “inclusive process”, but first she wants to exclude the vast majority of Hawaiians from any say.

Happy Hawaiian Revolution Day!

For now, we still have a internationally recognized, sovereign State of Hawaii. It has problems, and the threat of a race-based government, and an OHA that is not for everyone, are certainly some of the biggest ones facing it. But thanks to the decisive action of the Committee of Safety, the eventual wisdom of the patriotic Americans Liliuokalani and Kuhio, and the millions who worked so hard to create a unified State of Hawaii, we have a chance to fight off the harbingers of racial division.

It’s hard work, but it’s worth doing. Happy new year, everyone, and Happy Hawaiian Revolution Day!

Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.

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