by Keokani Kipona Marciel, MS
Founder, Hui Aloha ʻĀina o Las Vegas
What do enduring Hawaiian institutions today all have in common? They each have a rich history tied to the legacy of one or more historical figures, most of whom were members of royalty having chiefly lineage. Each of these institutions was created for the people of Hawaiʻi, with particular emphasis on reversing the decline of Kānaka Maoli. Several of these institutions are for the exclusive benefit of Kānaka Maoli.
The Queen's Medical Center was founded by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho ʻIolani) in 1859. Today, it is a major healthcare provider in the State of Hawaiʻi and the chief facility for medical referrals from the Pacific Basin.
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I was founded by Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa) in 1859 to defend Hawaiian sovereignty. This society was driven underground after the haole insurgency, relying on protection by U.S. Marines, usurped the Hawaiian government in 1893, A decade later, the Royal Order was publicly restored by Prince Kūhiō, reorganized as a faith-based fraternal society with membership exclusively for Kānaka Maoli.
Kamehameha Schools were established in 1887 from the will and estate of Princess Pauahi, great-granddaughter and last direct descendant of Kamehameha the Great. Today, the institution provides K-12 education for nearly 7,000 Kānaka Maoli on Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi, and operates 31 preschools statewide. An additional 40,000 learners are reached every year through their community programs.
In 1917, Prince Kūhiō, along with John Lane, John Wise, and Noah Aluli, conceived of a Hawaiian Civic Club to offset the decline of Kānaka Maoli. In 1918, Prince Kūhiō organized the first Hawaiian Civic Club, located in Honolulu. It's mission was to provide organized leadership and educational support for Kānaka Maoli, while also preserving their cultural heritage. In 1959, having grown to 13 Hawaiian Civic Clubs on 5 islands, their first annual convention brought together 83 delegates in Honolulu. Today, the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs maintains 68 chartered clubs in 16 states. Resolutions passed at their annual convention have an influence on public policy affecting Kānaka Maoli at the State and U.S. federal levels.
In 1987, Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi (The Hawaiian Nation) was established as a grassroots initiative for self-determination by Kānaka Maoli. Mililani Trask was its first elected Kiaʻāina (Governor), and she is also recognized as the primary founder of Ka Lāhui, She is an attorney with a pedigree for politics. Ka Lāhui became famous for leading a march, estimated at 10,000 strong, to ʻIolani Palace on January 17th, 1993, to mark the centennial of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. By 1997, Ka Lāhui boasted 21,000 citizens and 33 districts throughout the archipelago.
After completing two constitutional terms as Kiaʻāina, two consecutive successors followed, before Ka Lāhui eventually phased out of existence. More than a decade later, in 2016, Ka Lāhui has begun a process of reactivation. This comeback can be attributed to nostalgia for its legacy of grassroots organization and education for Kanaka Maoli self-determination. Relatively recent in history as a Hawaiian institution, many of its founders continue to actively provide leadership in our lāhui today. The Constitution (1987) and Master Plan (1995) of Ka Lāhui remain cherished sources of guidance for Hawaiian self-determination today.
Love of Country
In 1887, Hui Kālaiʻāina (Hawaiian Political Association) was formed to support restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom Constitution of 1864. In March of 1893, less than two months after the illegal overthrow, Ka Hui Hawaiʻi Aloha ʻĀina (Hawaiian Patriotic League) was founded by Joseph Nāwahī to support Queen Liliʻuokalani and oppose annexation to the United States. Within another two months, Hui Aloha ʻĀina had 37 District Branches on 5 islands.
By 1897, Hui Aloha ʻĀina had 18,500 members, which was nearly half of the Kanaka Maoli population at that time. Within a single month that year, they collected more than 21,000 signatures opposed to annexation by the United States. Delegates from the Central Body of Hui Aloha ʻĀina, hand-delivered this "monster petition" to Washington D.C., which succeeded in defeating the annexation treaty in the U.S. Senate.
After two failed attempts to ratify an annexation treaty in the U.S. Senate, the "Admission Day" ceremony at ʻIolani Palace on June 14th, 1900, marked the beginning of illegal occupation by the United States, prolonged to the present. Less than five months later, Hui Aloha ʻĀina and Hui Kālaiʻāina merged to become the political party, Kūʻokoa Home Rula (Independent Home Rule Party).
The strategy of the Independent Home Rule Party was to regain control of the occupied Hawaiian government through electoral politics. The party succeeded in getting Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox elected to Washington D.C. as the first representative of the so-called "Territory of Hawaiʻi." In 1903, many members followed Prince Kūhiō out of the Home Rule Party, and into the Republican Party backed by the oligarchy. This split the Hawaiian vote. Eroded, the Home Rule Party continued until it was disbanded in 1912.
From 1918 to the present, albeit with a different kind of legacy, the Hawaiian Civic Clubs have largely filled the organizational vacuum left by the disappearance of permanent Hawaiian societies such as Hui Aloha ʻĀina and Hui Kālaiʻāina.
Love of Country Continued
The defeat of the annexation treaty in 1897, led by Queen Liliʻuokalani and Hui Aloha ʻĀina, represents one of the greatest feats of grassroots organization in Hawaiian history. It is no accident that the term "Aloha ʻĀina" is so ubiquitous in our Lāhui today. The legacy of Hui Aloha ʻĀina therefore lives on in the names of organizations and initiatives created since 1900, particularly since the rediscovery of the Kūʻē Petitions by Noenoe Silva in 1996.
The newly formed Aloha ʻĀina Party, founded by three members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, has until February 25th, 2016, to collect the 700+ signatures of registered voters required to register a new political party in occupied Hawaiʻi. On that same date, an ʻAha Aloha ʻĀina will be conducted on each island as a pro-independence alternative to the controversial Naʻi Aupuni ʻaha that is in progress this month. Set into motion by American laws, Naʻi Aupuni is notoriously partial toward U.S. federal recognition of Kānaka Maoli as a "Native Hawaiian Tribe" similar to the status of American Indians.
Also on the rise is a growing desire by Hawaiian patriots to bring back Hui Aloha ʻĀina itself. The virtue of this patriotic initiative lies in the refreshing alternative that it provides to the phenomenon of reinventing the wheel, which has characterized the Hawaiian movement since 1900. The seemingly exponential proliferation of new Hawaiian sovereignty groups and initiatives—which continues on a daily basis both offline and online—has become a compounding liability for our Lāhui. Consequently, there is a growing awareness of this detrimental dilution in our Lāhui, along with a sense that we are exceeding our carrying capacity for new entities aimed at the same overall objectives.
Since our lands and population are finite, so too is the number of replicated efforts that we can support for optimal effectiveness. Because of its rich history and unsurpassed legacy of grassroots organization, Hui Aloha ʻĀina is perhaps the only group capable of uniting all Hawaiian independence groups under a single banner. This may seem like a novel concept for so many in our Lāhui today, who are deeply scripted by 5 generations of perpetually reinventing the wheel. However, it is actually one of the most original ideas.
Back to the Future
We are not resigned to the instant gratification and futility of creating new groups. Having swung in that direction for more than a century, the pendulum now has more potential energy than ever to bring us back to the legacy which worked best for us to begin with. History shows us that the most durable Hawaiian institutions today are those with a rich history that is also tied to the legacies of historical figures from before our time.
The newer a group is, the more resistance it faces for widespread acceptance, and the longer it will take to be embraced by the Lāhui at large. Perhaps the time has come for our Lāhui to become more effective by placing a kapu on any further creation of new Hawaiian sovereignty groups.
Blog of the Hawaiian Patriotic League of Las Vegas, Nevada