Lā 197: County Council recognizes Hawaiian Independence Day

Hawaii Tribune Herald  Published October 8, 2015 - 1:30am

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By NANCY COOK LAUER West Hawaii Today
The Hawaiian Kingdom’s most important national holiday — La Kūʻokoʻa, or Independence Day — officially was recognized Wednesday by the Hawaii County Council in a nonbinding resolution asking the state Legislature to add Nov. 28 to its list of state holidays.

Nov. 28, 1843, was the date Great Britain and France formally recognized the Hawaiian Islands as an independent state. Lā Kūʻokoʻa was celebrated openly by the Hawaiian Kingdom until 1895, two years after the 1893 overthrow, said Kale Gumapac, a Hawaiian rights activist.

The council approved Resolution 285 by an 8-0 vote, with Puna Councilman Dan Paleka absent. Three members of the nine-member council, including Paleka, have Native Hawaiian ancestry.

“This is the beginning of the reawakening of our history,” Gumapac said. “We need to restore what was erased from Hawaii schoolbooks. Worse, it was erased from kanaka memory.”

The vote wasn’t without controversy, however. Several Hawaiians in the audience declined to stand during the customary pledge to the United States flag at the beginning of the meeting. And some of their testimony was pointed.

“Aloha to the illegal County Council of the illegal fake state of Hawaii,” said Kalaniakea Wilson, beginning his testimony.

Wilson said it’s time for reparations for the Hawaiian people.

Wilson’s strong words apparently worried South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David and irked Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung. David said as a Native Hawaiian she chose to work within the system to help her people.

Chung said he found it “quite odd that we as an illegal body are being asked to send to the state Legislature, another illegal body,” a bill recognizing a Hawaiian holiday.

Chung particularly was concerned about other council members saying the recognition is a “baby step” or first step toward Native Hawaiian recognition. He said he’d support the resolution as a sign of respect for the Hawaiian people.

“As far as I’m concerned, I am a citizen of the United States,” Chung said. “If this is a baby step to a Kingdom of Hawaii trumping the United States of America, my support doesn’t go that far.”

Gumapac and Wilson are working with Hawaiian scholars to uncover details of Hawaiian history previously preserved in obscure archives.

Wilson said some of the findings reveal dark details of genocide, indoctrination and torture of natives who didn’t toe the line.

“What you have uncovered and what you are uncovering now is something that needed to be done to bring awareness to the illegal actions that were undertaken more than 100 years ago, the details, we as natives, had no knowledge of,” David said. “How it all plays out, I have no guess.”

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan defended the resolution he introduced.

“This is in no way to defile the United States at all,” Ilagan said. “This is a positive way to understand a culture by bringing it up as a holiday.”

Council Chairman Dru Kanuha, also Native Hawaiian, said the resolution is important.

“It’s a great way to educate the public and those who don’t know too much of our Hawaiian history to have an understanding of these important dates,” Kanuha said. “How it affected the people of the time and how it affects us now.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

Photo Darren Miller