King Akahai of Hawaii has, in an open letter to US President Barack Obama, asked that the United States to give his people “the same simple justice you so generously award yourselves and a justice you fought many wars to secure”.
He says, “Time has come to seize the moment of reconciliation and we formally inform you that we are now, who we were then: ’We are here!’”
The text of the open letter can be accessed at the Indian Country Today website of the American Indian tribes.
This is the 50th year of Hawaii’s incorporation in the United States as its 50th state.
In the late 19th century, Hawai was a kingdom ruled by Queen Liliuokalani (Picture on right). In 1893, she announced plans to establish a new constitution to replace the one established by her predecessor, King Kalakua in 1887. A “committee of safety” set up by a group of businessmen represented to the US government representative, John L. Stevens, that there might be violence against US citizens. Stevens summoned US troops from a ship and frstrated the queen’s plan to carry out reforms. He overthrew the queen and brought the kingdom under US control. He justified the action saying Britain and Canada were trying to bring the kingdom under their control. In 1898, the US government officially annexed Hawaii. In 1959, it was granted statehood.
In 1993, exactly 100 years after the takeover of Hawaii, the United States tendered a formal apology to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom.
The Apology Resolution, adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, says:
- apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893... and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination;
- expresses its commitment to acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, in order to provide a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people; and
- urges the President of the United States to also acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and to support reconciliation efforts between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people.
See the Apology Resolution
A Hawaiian sovereignty movement has been gathering momentum in the islands. Its focus is on self-determination and self-governance for Native Hawaiians.
A constitutional convention held in 1978 created an Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), a semi-autonomous entity charged with the administration of 7,300 square kilometres of royal land held in trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians. Through OHA Native Hawaiians are able to take decisions with regard to the land and collect revenue generated from it to finance programmes for their benefit.
OHA has invited the leaders of Hawaii’s self-defined governments and independence advocates to a Community Consultation Summit to be held on May 30, 2009. The stated purpose of the summit is to open communications between the Trustees and groups which seek to assert Hawaiian independence and sovereignty and work towards a consensus on some issues.