by Keokani Kipona Marciel, MS
Founder, Hui Aloha ʻĀina o Las Vegas
People in the Hawaiian movement today are increasingly identifying themselves as “patriots.” The term for “patriot” in the Hawaiian language is aloha ʻāina. The popularity of this term traces back to Ka Hui Hawaiʻi Aloha ʻĀina (Hawaiian Patriotic League), founded by one of the most storied patriots in Hawaiian history, Joseph Nāwahī, less than two months after the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government in 1893.
Within two months of its debut, Hui Aloha ʻĀina (shortened version of its full name) had 37 District Branches on 5 islands, and a Central Body in Honolulu with at least 31 elected officers. In 1897, with a membership of about 18,500, Hui Aloha ʻĀina amassed more than 21,000 signatures on a petition opposed to annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States. Upon the arrival of this “Kūʻē Petition” in Washington D.C., on December 6th, 1897, 58 out of the 90 U.S. Senators were in favor of ratifying the annexation treaty, introduced by the puppet regime of insurgents that usurped the Hawaiian Kingdom government.
By February 27th, 1898, the number of U.S. Senators in support of the annexation treaty had dropped to 46, which was short of the 60 votes needed for a two-thirds supermajority, as required by the U.S. Constitution to ratify a treaty. Knowing that they did not have enough votes, the U.S. Senate did not even take a vote on the proposed annexation treaty. It is because of this heroic effort of Hui Aloha ʻĀina that the United States, to this day, does not have an annexation treaty to substantiate its claim to Hawaiian sovereignty.
Consistent with the notorious suppression of Hawaiian culture and history by foreigners, it wasn’t until 1996 that the anti-annexation petition of 1897 surfaced in the U.S. National Archives. Since then, Hui Aloha ʻĀina and the Kūʻē Petitions have become household names beloved by our Lāhui, contributing to a resurgence of Hawaiian national identity being experienced today.
Recent years have also seen the emergence of Hawaiian history that has been locked away in Hawaiian language newspapers. Rediscovered on June 23rd, 2014, the Constitution of the Hawaiian Patriotic League was printed in both Hawaiian and English, in Leo o ka Lāhui, on March 22nd, 1893. Hidden from us for 121 years, this historical document is barely beginning to filter its way through our Lāhui today.
The 1893 constitution of Hui Aloha ʻĀina is so relevant to Hawaiian patriots today, that many of us would like to be organized under that constitution again. Its second article reads:
The object of this Association is to preserve and maintain, by all legal and peaceful means and measures, the Independent Autonomy of the Islands of Hawaii nei; and, if the preservation of our Independence be rendered impossible, our object shall then be to exert all peaceful and legal efforts to secure for the Hawaiian People and Citizens the continuance of their Civil Rights.
This epiphany has catalyzed the formation of Hui Aloha ʻĀina o Las Vegas—Hawaiian Patriotic League of Las Vegas. The first organizational meeting of this local hui was held on January 9th, 2016, and a committee has been formed to draft its bylaws. Announced simultaneously to the Lāhui on social media, Hawaiian patriots back home are already inspired by this aloha ʻāina initiative from Las Vegas:
The pieces are all here. Let's put this Hui back together and get off this sinking pirate ship.
—William Chang, Hāna, Maui
Let's not reinvent the wheel people...I would jump on this. I wanna know who organized this Hui? Anybody wanna take the lead in Kapolei? Nanakuli? Kealoha Kahunaʻāina Iona
—Shannon Denning, Mākaha, Oʻahu
Love of country is the essence of patriotism. Hawaiians have just as much right to love of country as any other people in the world. Indentification as a Hawaiian patriot is a postive expression of love toward the country of the Hawaiian Islands. Rediscovering this identity allows Hawaiian people to dissociate from inaccurate labels such as “activist,” “nationalist,” “protester,” or “sovereignty group,” which have plagued our Lāhui for decades.
The term aloha ʻāina, or “Hawaiian patriot,” is preferrable to the term “Hawaiian national,” because the latter implies someone who is seeking nationhood. Ever since the Hawaiian Kingdom formally entered the Family of Nations on November 28th, 1843, the continuity of its sovereignty and independence as a State has been presumed under international law.
In 1993, the United States formally acknowledged that it does not have a claim to Hawaiian sovereignty by way of treaty, plebiscite, or referendum. In fact, the only official claim that the United States has ever made to Hawaiian sovereignty is by its joint resolution of 1898, known as the “Newlands Resolution.” In 1988, however, the U.S. Department of State, through its Office of Legal Counsel, failed to verify the constitutionality of annexation by joint resolution.
Hui Aloha ʻĀina is a feat of grassroots organization that is unsurpassed in Hawaiian history. This association was disbanded in 1900, when it merged with Hui Kalaiʻāina to become Kūʻokoa Home Rula (Independent Home Rule Party). However, its legacy is so beloved, and its constitution so compelling, that there is growing interest in reviving this important institution today.
If our Lāhui today had the grassroots infrastucture that Hui Aloha ʻĀina provided us from 1893 to 1900, we could have already had an ʻaha by now, free from co-optation and judicial interference by the occupier. Consider that we sent a petition with more than 21,000 signatures to Washington D.C. in 1897, which defeated the annexation treaty. The petition succeeded without being initiated by an American law (Act 195), without funding from OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs), without a “Native Hawaiian” roll commission (Kanaʻiolowalu) appointed by an American governor (Neil Abercrombie), without a committee (Naʻi Aupuni) appointed by OHA, without outsourcing to an American company (Elections-America), and without rulemaking by the DOI (U.S. Department of Interior).
We can return to our grassroots today.
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