Saturday, January 2, 1999

The Hui Aloha 'Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions


Window to the Past

The historic documents return to
Washington soon, but while in
Hawaii they have validated a struggle

By Pat Omandam


Doctoral candidate Noenoe Silva was at Iolani Palace last summer preparing for the centennial of Hawaii's annexation to the United States when an elderly Hawaiian woman approached her.

Silva, along with Nalani Minton, a cultural practitioner and indigenous rights activist, had published a loose-bound book last July showcasing the 1897-1898 Hui Aloha 'Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions Silva found two years before at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

"One of the really most striking things that happened to me was on Aug. 11, when we were setting up at the palace," she recalled. "All the kupuna came from the different islands and they started their vigil."

By Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Bulletin
Hundred-year-old signatures of kupuna opposing the
annexation of Hawaii frame Kekoa Kahele, above, at an
August vigil here. Left, the Hawaiian flag accompanies
native Hawaiians on a march preceding the vigil marking
the centennial of Hawaii's annexation.

"This one kupuna from the Big Island came up to me, and she was clutching the book. She said, 'Now, we will never forget again. They'll never take this away from us again,'" Silva said.

After five months on display at the Bishop Museum, the nearly forgotten 21,269-signature original petition will be returned to officials of the National Archives on Monday.

Descendants of the four men who delivered the petition to Queen Liliuokalani in December 1897 -- who were in Washington, D.C., lobbying against annexation in the U.S. Senate -- will participate in the ceremonial return of the documents. They are former Hawaii Supreme Court Justice William Richardson, Moses Kalauokalani, Edwin Auld and Toni Auld Yardley and Kaoi Kaimikaua.

The Bishop Museum, with the help of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and the governor's office, arranged a temporary loan of half of the documents. The rest were deemed too fragile to leave the National Archives, said Guy Kaulukukui, Bishop Museum education department chairman.

Kaulukukui said the museum will try to get the entire original petition on permanent loan, but it will be an uphill battle, since the documents are actually the property of the U.S. Senate, which rarely loans its materials.

The last showing of the Kaulana Na Pua exhibit will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, followed by the closing program co-sponsored by the museum and the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies. Call 847-8227.


Both Silva and Minton this week said awareness of the Hui Aloha 'Aina petitions, as well as another petition brought to Washington that same year, has provided Hawaiians today with a direct link to their past, or a "window to the soul of our kupuna."

The second 1897 petition, conducted by Hui Kulai'aina, a political action group, contained 17,000 signatures of people who supported the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. The petition was also delivered to Washington, D.C., but its whereabouts remain unknown.

Nevertheless, both have had a profound political impact on the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, Minton said. Combined, the nearly 40,000 signatures represent nearly all of the Hawaiians living at the time.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
In this 1998 file photo, Noenoe Silva, left, talks with
Kehaulani Lum about the petition signed by Hawaiians
100 years ago opposing annexation to the United States.

Minton explained that the 556-page Hui Aloha 'Aina petition has shifted the feeling of victimization to a feeling of healing among many Hawaiians. There is also great respect for the actions of their kupuna to restore a nation, she said.

"It was nearly 40,000 people, which is to a number the account of how many of us were alive at the time by census ... " Minton said.

"And to pull together that much evidence in one month and get the information to the queen, who was in Washington, was a huge accomplishment of the love of our people for this aina."

Moreover, Minton contends the petitions serve as legal evidence that Hawaiians successfully defeated efforts in the U.S. Senate to annex Hawaii through a U.S. treaty. Instead, Hawaii was annexed as a territory on July 7, 1898, through a Joint Resolution of Congress, which Minton said is illegal under international law.

The formal transfer of power took place in Hawaii on Aug. 12, 1898, when the flag of the Hawaiian nation was flown for the last time over Iolani Palace. Centennial annexation events this summer were highlighted by a raising of the Hawaiian flag.

"Some people try to make these petitions seem meaningless, as if they failed, because in effect the United States has taken actions against us despite our standing against annexation," Minton said.

"The petitions overturned a treaty of annexation. There is no treaty of annexation. And the main point being ... that is not a legal process. You cannot by your own internal process annex another country, especially when the expressed will of the people, in writing, opposed it," she said.


The Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu this year nominated Silva for a statewide award for her work with the petitions. In its nomination, the club said the petitions validated the political involvement and struggle for many of them.

"Everybody's kupuna signed this paper and they all stood up for their country," Silva said.

"And so that was validating for the middle class now to come out in favor of Hawaiian self-determination or Hawaiian sovereignty."

Meanwhile, the history of the petitions is being taught to children so no one forgets them again. Kaulukukui said the exhibit, which was well received by the public, represents the museum's strongest stand on the sovereignty movement.

And it has paid off in the reactions of those who came to visit it, he said.

Recently, Kaulukukui gave a 30-minute presentation on the petitions to Kahuku High School students. Afterward, their teacher told him that none of what he said was in any history books the school used and not what he taught his pupils.

That's because this information is only now surfacing, Kaulukukui responded.

Kaulukukui said understanding of the petition is especially important for younger Hawaiians, those who will likely make big decisions about the sovereignty movement in their lifetime.

"Some form of sovereignty is a given," he said. "What it's going to be like will be up to them."

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