CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kapuna Melvin Kalahiki unveiled a portrait of King Kamehameha III at the front gate of Iolani Palace yesterday. Kalahiki is the chairman of Living Nation, or Ka poe Hawai'i, which was celebrating Hawaiian independence on the anniversary of a treaty signed by Britain and France on Nov. 28, 1843.
Hawaiian group marks 1843 treaty
A little-known accord formally established Hawaii's sovereignty
Independence Day for the Hawaiian Kingdom was celebrated yesterday by a small group of people at Iolani Palace.
The celebration, sponsored by Living Nation, a native Hawaiian sovereignty group, recognized the 163nd anniversary of La Kuokoa, Hawaiian Independence Day -- Nov. 28, 1843.
"Today is a day for celebration and recognition of how everything transpired," said Melvin Kalahiki, chairman of Living Nation.
About 50 people showed for the event, which opened with conch shell blowing around the palace and its burial ground.
The group celebrated La Kuokoa, originally observed from 1844 to 1895, when the U.S. government replaced it with Thanksgiving. The group also recognized Timoteo Haalilio, the Hawaiian delegate who helped establish Hawaii's independence in 1843.
The date of La Kuokoa signifies the day Haalilio received signatures from the French and the British declaring Hawaii a sovereign nation and making it the first non-European nation to be recognized as sovereign, according to the Web site hawaiiankingdom.org.
Kalahiki called Haalilio a national hero.
"He's one of the unsung heroes that you don't often hear about," he said.
Haalilio was dispatched by King Kamehameha III in 1842 to the United States and Europe to negotiate treaties securing Hawaii's independence.
He traveled across the United States to meet with President John Tyler, who agreed to recognize Hawaii's independence, and later to Europe, according to hawaiiankingdom.org. Haalilio also traveled with William Richards, a missionary from Hawaii.
Kekuni Blaisdell, grandson of the late Honolulu Mayor Neal Blaisdell, shared with the group how Richard's journal said Haalilio died Dec. 3, 1844, while on the ship returning to Hawaii.
An autopsy reported he died of tuberculosis, he said. He was 36.
Shad Kane, who is half Hawaiian, attended the event to learn more about La Kuokoa.
"I didn't know about it for how many years," he said. "I wasn't aware that there was an independence celebration. For me it was an interesting piece of history. I just wanted to come and learn a little more."
Mahealani Asing, a sovereignty activist, stressed the importance of retaining Hawaiian history.
"When that memory leaves, then we lose the identity of who we are."
Kapua Keliikoa-Kamai, who is part Hawaiian, said it was "outrageous" that she never learned about Hawaiian Independence Day until about two weeks ago. "It's something so significant to learn about after only 45 years."