Nov 29, 2004

Ka Lahui: Hawaiian Independence Day

In the Kingdom of Hawaii, 28 November was an official holiday called Ka La Kuokoa, or Independence Day. This was the day in 1843 when England and France formally recognized Hawaii's independence.

Faced with the problem of foreign encroachment of Hawaiian territory, His Hawaiian Majesty King Kamehameha III deemed it prudent and necessary to dispatch a Hawaiian delegation to the United States and then to Europe with the power to settle alleged difficulties with nations, negotiate treaties and to ultimately secure the recognition of Hawaiian Independence by the major powers of the world. In accordance with this view, Timoteo Ha'alilio, William Richards and Sir George Simpson were commissioned as joint Ministers Plenipotentiary on April 8, 1842. Sir George Simpson, shortly thereafter, left for England, via Alaska and Siberia, while Mr. Ha'alilio and Mr. Richards departed for the United States, via Mexico, on July 8, 1842.

The Hawaiian delegation, while in the United States of America, secured the assurance of U.S. President Tyler on December 19, 1842 of its recognition of Hawaiian independence, and then proceeded to meet Sir George Simpson in Europe and secure formal recognition by Great Britain and France. On March 17, 1843, King Louis-Phillipe of France recognizes Hawaiian independence at the urging of King Leopold of Belgium, and on April 1, 1843, Lord Aberdeen on behalf of Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria, assured the Hawaiian delegation that:

"Her Majesty's Government was willing and had determined to recognize the independence of the Sandwich Islands under their present sovereign."

On November 28, 1843, at the Court of London, the British and French Governments entered into a formal agreement of the recognition of Hawaiian independence, with what is called the Anglo-Franco proclamation:

Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty the King of the French, taking into consideration the existence in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands) of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations, have thought it right to engage, reciprocally, to consider the Sandwich Islands as an Independent State, and never to take possession, neither directly or under the title of Protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.

November 28 was thereafter established as an official national holiday to celebrate the recognition of Hawaii's independence.

As a result of this recognition, the Hawaiian Kingdom entered into treaties with the major nations of the world and had established over ninety legations and consulates in multiple seaports and cities.

But in 1893, an illegal intervention into Hawaii's affairs by the U.S. resulted in a "fake revolution" against the legitimate Hawaiian government, and a puppet oligarchy set itself up with its main purpose being Hawaii's annexation to the United States. After an attempted counterrevolution in 1895, the oligarchy announced that November 28, 1895 -- a Thursday -- would not be celebrated as La Ku'oko'a. The American holiday Thanksgiving would become the official national holiday instead. Holidays are of course important aspects of a collective national identity, particularly a holiday like Independence Day, and this was essentially a way to cover up and try to destroy the history and identity of the Hawaiian national population.

At first Hawaiians protested and celebrated Ka La Ku'oko'a anyway, telling the story of the national heroes who had travelled to Europe to secure Hawaii's recognition. But over time, this history - knowledge of the holiday and how it was replaced - was almost lost, until Hawaiian language scholars in the last few years started translating Hawaiian language newspapers and uncovered the history.

Recently there has been a renewed effort to revive the celebration of Nov. 28 as Ka La Ku'oko'a - Hawaiian Independence Day, to remember that Hawaii was a fully recognized member of the world family of nations, and that's its independence is still intact under prolonged illegal occupation.