Violence and threats of violence in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement


BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — A scholarly lecture in Hilo on Sunday August 22 was disrupted by Hawaiian sovereignty activists. Ironically, the lecture focused on Islamist violence and raised the question whether Hawaiian sovereignty activists might become radicalized in the same way as the Islamists. The Hawaiian activists didn’t like the topic or the facts being reported. Sovereignty activists have behaved in similar ways at other public events as documented later; including threats of bodily harm to schoolchildren and to adults at an attempted Statehood Day celebration.

Despite modern efforts to portray Queen Liliuokalani as a non-violent resister comparable to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the fact is that she instigated actual violence, resulting in numerous deaths, in 1889 and 1895. In 1893 she also vindictively insisted she would execute (reportedly by beheading) the leaders of the revolution of 1893 even though the U.S. representative who wanted to negotiate with President Dole to reinstate her monarchy told her very clearly that such insistence on bloodthirsty vengeance would mean he could not continue to support her reinstatement.

Dr. Thomas A. Curtis is Professor of Sociology and Chairman of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. On Sunday he gave the monthly lecture to the Conservative Forum for Hawaii in a meeting announced well ahead of time and open to the public. The speech, entitled “Home-Grown Terrorism,” was a report on recent findings in his long-term research on violence and terrorism in politics.

Dr. Curtis’ described in detail how Islamist terrorism in America and Spain has been perpetrated by ordinary local citizens of those countries who became radicalized as teenagers or young adults. He specifically discussed the issue whether Hawaiian sovereignty activists are likely to become radicalized through the same psychological mechanisms and social peer pressure as the Islamists, and whether the Hawaiian activists might use violence to achieve their political goal of sovereignty. He said his research includes “1-on-1 surveys of members of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement, in which his research showed 94% were non-violent. That left 6% who could be.”

Hostile comments interrupted him during his presentation. Increasingly angry disruptions during the followup discussion period forced a premature end to the event. An understandably intimidated Dr. Curtis later said he will continue his research but will no longer give public presentations about his findings. Interruptions during a scholarly speech, and constant angry harassment and shouting during a discussion period, are threats of violence whose effect is to intimidate the speaker and silence freedom of expression. When threats of violence force actual changes of behavior including premature ending of the discussion and self-censorship of future speaking engagements, the threats are, in fact, actual violence. It’s ironic that what happened at Dr. Curtis’ lecture was illustrative of his subject matter.

The Big Island Chronicle of August 23, 2010 has a 1200-word news report describing what happened, written by Dr. Ed Gutteling, an orthopedic surgeon who is Vice President of the Conservative Forum For Hawaii and an eyewitness to what happened. Dr. Gutteling writes that during the discussion period “a series of apparent Hawaiian Sovereignty supporters dominated the discourse very loudly, with growing audible anger. One asked why he did not include several western figures from Hawaiian history as terrorists. Another stood and rubbed an American flag on display, and shouted “this is terrorism,” indicating the US flag. Another [former OHA trustee and current independence activist Moanikeala Akaka] ranted for several minutes how she had spent 40 years working for Hawaiian Sovereignty and never come across any supporter advocating violence. She claimed only peaceful civil disobedience as her methods, in the spirit of Ghandi and with aloha, and accused Dr. Curtis of being an Agent Provocateur …” For the full report in Big Island Chronicle see

A less detailed news report about the event was published in the Hilo Herald-Tribune of August 23. See

The Hawaiian islands were formed millions of years ago in the fiery violence of volcanic eruptions, still ongoing in limited form on Hawaii Island. The sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawaii was also established through extraordinary violence which included centuries of warfare and religious/political human sacrifice. The violence reached its peak with Kamehameha The Great’s use of modern weapons of mass destruction (guns and cannon) against enemies armed with clubs and spears.

Even after the Kingdom was firmly established there were occasional periods of sovereignty-related deadly violence, most notably in 1819 (Battle of Kuamo’o), and 1874 (rioting after Kalakaua’s election as King)

Queen Liliuokalani, today’s poster girl for non-violence in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, is put forward on a pedestal alongside Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi because she gave up without a fight in 1893. But she actually was a conspirator in two bloody political revolts using guns and bombs in which men died, in 1889 (Wilcox attempt to overthrow Kalakaua) and 1895 (Wilcox attempt to overthrow the Republic). Her bloodthirsty demands for revenge by beheading following the revolution of 1893 caused a U.S. diplomat acting as would-be mediator to back away from efforts to restore her to the throne. The Wilcox attempted counter-revolution of 1895 included a cache of guns and bombs which Liliuokalani had allowed to be hidden in the flower bed of her private home (Washington Place), even as she signed commissions appointing the cabinet ministers for the new government she planned to form. She was tried and convicted of that crime, and spent several months “imprisoned” in a huge room in ‘Iolani Palace (with full-time maidservant and plenty of hobby supplies for composing music and sewing a political quilt).

A major webpage is entitled “Violence and threats of violence to push demands for Hawaiian sovereignty — past, present, and future”. See

That webpage includes detailed, well documented subpages including Liliuokalani’s actual instigation of violence; threats of violence against schoolchildren and adults at an attempted Statehood Day celebration in 2006; threats of violence against an anti-sovereignty course at UH in 2002 that caused the course to be cancelled; threats of violence if the Akaka bill does not pass made by “Reverend” Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell and by Rod Ferreira (leader in three major ethnic Hawaiian institutions); actual anti-haole violence in school resulting in a federal consent decree and reported, along with other incidents, by the Southern Poverty Law Center in an article excusing anti-haole violence because of historical grievances; and many others.

Some anti-haole violence is merely “normal” racism; but some of it is motivated by real or imagined historical grievances regarding sovereignty which are constantly trumpeted in the schools, the media, and the political activism in pushing the Akaka bill. A recently published book displays how historical falsehoods are used to poison the minds and hearts of schoolchildren, thus building racial hatred and perhaps eventual violence: The book is “Ka Puuwai Hamama — Volunteer Spirit” by Kim Hunter, and a detailed review of it refuting the falsehoods is at

For discussion of the “big picture” see the book “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State” at