Native History: When Hawaii Was Riding the Wave Toward Sovereignty
This Date in Native History: Hawai‘i is relearning that it’s not a state—it’s a sovereign kingdom. According to political scientist Dr. Keanu Sai, actions are slowly underway that will disassemble its illegal relationship with the United States, established when the U.S. named Hawai‘i a state on August 21, 1959. Sai and many others are leading the movement for the return of the Hawaiian Kingdom, supported by International Law.
Courses on Hawaii’s history as a kidnapped sovereign state are now mandatory at the University of Hawai‘i. Foreign nationals such as China are being advised that paying U.S. tariffs are illegal and they can demand that money back. Residents of Hawai‘i are learning they are obligated to follow Hawaiian Kingdom law and not U.S. law or taxes. They are all paying attention because it is economically advantageous to do so.
Attorney Dexter Kaiama has been presenting evidence that the State of Hawai‘i courts are illegal. He has filed war crime complaints with the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and most recently, with the Philippine government on behalf of a Filipino citizen. If the Philippine government reacts, it will be one more step towards regained sovereignty.
The history of Hawai‘i is as compelling as a best selling novel, beginning with Captain James Cook, who first put the Hawaiian Islands on the map. Even before 1800, Hawai‘i was a well-known monarchy and a popular stopping place for international traders, and by 1843, the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was recognized as a sovereign state with over 90 embassies and consulates throughout the world including Great Britain, France and the United States. Iolani Palace in Hawai‘i even had electricity and phone service before the White House in Washington, D.C.
In 1893, Chief of Police Charles Wilson became concerned that treasonous insurgents were planning to overthrow Queen Lili‘uokalani, and he initiated an investigation. Among other Americans, Sanford Dole, of Dole fruit, was investigated but none were charged when the American military landed just before their arrest.
Treason was punishable by death, and “to avoid any collision between armed forces and loss of life,” Queen Lili‘uokalani yielded her authority to the U.S. government to “undo the actions of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”
But President Benjamin Harrison, anxious to grab Hawai‘i as a protective military base for the West Coast, did not reinstate her powers. Instead, insurgent Lorrin Thurston, who would have been tried for treason in Hawai‘i, returned to Washington and introduced a treaty of cession, calling Lili‘uokalani a tyrant queen and demanding that the Hawaiian Islands be annexed.
In the nick of time, Harrison was replaced by President Grover Cleveland, who knew the Queen and responded to her protests. His investigation concluded that International Laws had been violated by the U.S. Ambassador and the troops. After negotiations with the Queen, an agreement to restore the Hawaiian government was concluded December 18, 1893.
All should have been well, but Congress refused to authorize the agreement. The insurgents hired American mercenaries, and the islands were besieged with civil unrest. When President Cleveland was replaced by President William McKinley, the move was on once again to seize Hawai‘i. McKinley illegally ignored the agreements between the Queen and Cleveland, and in 1897 McKinley signed a Treaty of Cession with the insurgents. But, according to Sai and the law, “congressional laws have no force beyond U.S. territory.”
Because the Queen and islanders filed protests with the U.S. State Department, the Senate did not ratify the treaty. But at the start of the Spanish-American War on May 4, 1898, Congressman Francis Newlands introduced a joint resolution to annex the Hawaiian Islands, citing the importance of the U.S. occupation of Guam and the Philippines.
The U.S. could not legally enforce congressional law on a foreign country, and Congressman Thomas H. Ball called the annexation “unconstitutional, unnecessary, and unwise.” Yet, McKinley signed the joint resolution into law on July 7, 1898, and Hawai‘i was occupied on August 12, 1898. Congress later passed another law creating a civilian government in 1900, and in 1959 Congress created the State of Hawaii.
In other words, the U.S. simply took Hawai‘i, and through a process of propaganda and public education, led the islanders, over time, to accept the statehood. “Imagine being kidnapped and told you were adopted, then finding out there are no adoption papers,” Sai said. “There is no treaty.”
And without a treaty, there is no State of Hawaii.