CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A pro-sovereignty group called the Living Nation helped begin a week of events observing the 110th anniversary of the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani yesterday. In a procession from Liliuokalani's statue, Kanak Napeahi, center, held a flame that will burn during a 110-hour vigil.
A small group of native Hawaiians and their supporters gathered in front of Iolani Palace yesterday, saying there is still hope for a return to sovereignty 110 years after the overthrow of the island monarchy.
By Matt Sedensky
It marked the beginning of a week of events commemorating Jan. 17, 1893, when a group of U.S. businessmen and sugar planters forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate.
"One hundred ten years after the theft of our land and our nation, we're still here," said Lynette Cruz, speaking from a Hawaiian flag-flanked gazebo in front of the palace, the former home of the Hawaiian monarchy, which was draped in black bunting. "We are going to claim what's ours," said Cruz, co-chairwoman of the Living Nation, a group in favor of Hawaiian sovereignty.
About 30 people gathered for an opening ceremony where organizers made brief speeches, blew conches, chanted in Hawaiian and sang songs. It was a far cry from anniversary events a decade ago, when thousands crammed on palace grounds to mark the overthrow's centennial.
"This is really disappointing," said Lela Hubbard, the founder of pro-sovereignty group Na Koa Ikaika.
Organizers said they expected larger crowds as the week progressed, particularly at a rally at the state Capitol tomorrow sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Some participants said native Hawaiians have grown increasingly divided since centennial observances in 1993 put them in the spotlight.
Some support the U.S. Senate bill introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka, which would establish a mechanism for native Hawaiians to set up some form of self-government and essentially give them federal recognition on par with American Indians.
But participants in yesterday's events said that would be a paltry consolation prize.
"Independence is the only right that would correct the wrong," said Kai'opua Fyfe, head of the Koani Foundation, another pro-sovereignty group.
"All of us are totally optimistic that it could come about."
"Many people feel that it's too late for Hawaiians to have a nation," said Hubbard. "We still have hope."
A Hawaiian sovereignty vigil and march will be held this week to acknowledge the 110th anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy. Some of the events include:
>> A ceded-lands rally to be held at the state Capitol at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.
>> A march to be held from Fort Street Mall and Queen Street to Iolani Palace at 8:30 a.m. Friday. At 6 p.m. a torchlight walk from Washington Place to Iolani Palace will be held.
Meanwhile, a 110-hour vigil will be held in remembrance of the overthrow.
For more information, call event organizer Mel Kalahiki at 236-3636 or Lynette Cruz at 738-0084. The Web site is at www.livingnation.org.
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