Hawaiians march for sovereignty
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JULY 5, 2000

A small group of about 30 Native Hawaiians and Hawaiian supporters held a solemn protest march on Independence Day in Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution.

Adorned with traditional Hawaiian kikepas, or sashes, the group marched to the site of the Boston Tea Party, where American colonists masqueraded as Indians over 200 years ago and dumped tea into the harbor in order to protest rule without representation.

On the same ship used in 1773, the group made a similar statement of independence. Butch Kekahu, president of the Koani Foundation and primary organizer of the event, ceremonially tossed leis made out of ti leaves into the harbor as the names of the 11 Hawaiian islands were recited in an oli, or chant.

The event called attention to a history familiar to many in Indian Country; one filled with broken treaties, land takings, and lack of education by the general public. Along with the Aloha March 2000, a protest march to be held in Washington, DC, in August, event organizers hope to educate Americans about the history of Hawaii.

In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown by American businessmen with the support of the United States military. On a tour which took her from Boston to Washington, DC, Liliuokalani called on the international community to force the US into obeying its several treaties with her nation.

Over 98 percent of Native Hawaiians also signed a petition against US expansion. Despite the opposition, nation of Hawaii became an annexed territory of the United States with a simple vote of Congress in 1898, eventually becoming a state in 1959.

An important acknowledgment of the Hawaiian saga came in 1993, when Congress passed the Apology Resolution which recognized the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination. President Clinton apologized for the illegal overthrow.

Kekahu links the overthrow and the loss of the Hawaiian nation to many problems faced by the Native Hawaiian population, who number about 220,000 out of Hawaii's 1.1 million.

"We're the poorest people in all of the United States, the worst off in every category: education, social, economic, incarceration, and health," says Kekahu. "When a group of people have their nation taken away, they have nowhere to turn."

These days, Native Hawaiians are turning to each other to regroup their nation, hoping to regain some of their lost land base, and debating various models of sovereignty. A new Hawaiian nation could take the form of an independent sovereign or a sovereign status similar to Indian nations in the 48 states.

Whatever the form the nation would take, Kekahu hopes the Hawaiian ohana, or family, will grow.

"We need to incorporate every nationality and encourage non-Hawaiians to become part of our nation," says Kekahu. "We all need to take care of one another."

Related Stories:
Sovereignty protests aim to educate (The Talking Circle 7/3)

Relevant Links:
Aloha March 2000:
The Ti Plant, by the Nation of Hawaii:
The Nation of Hawaii:
More on Rice v. Cayetano:
News, history, and more, by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:
Hawaii's Last Queen, by PBS: