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A monarchy in limbo

Hawaii's royalty, overthrown illegally, may try for a comeback

The Vancouver Sun
Saturday, September 13, 1997

by Ian Mulgrew

Don Ho may have to stop calling himself the ``King of Hawaii'' because there soon could be a real one.

Three years ago, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the so-called ``apology law,'' a joint congressional resolution formally apologizing to native Hawaiians for the illegal overthrow of their kingdom at the end of the last century.

The Republic of Hawaii`i with Sanford B. Dole as president was proclaimed on July 4, 1894. It was recognized immediately by the U.S. government and later annexed through a joint resolution of the U. S. Congress in 1898 during the presidency of William McKinley.

``The kingdom was never lawfully terminated, therefore the kingdom still exists or should be restored,'' international law specialist Francis Anthony Boyle, of the University of Illinois, said in a telephone interview.

``Precisely who is the monarch, that's another issue - I don't know. There are descendants of the monarchy and some of them have made personal claims to be the legitimate monarch, but I'm not in a position to evaluate their claims one way or another.''

The issue here, Boyle emphasized, is the U.S. Congress has admitted they illegally overthrew the kingdom in violation of at least three different treaties the U.S. was party to at the time.

In the event native Hawaiians declare independence, which they now have a right to do under international law, Boyle said they could restore their monarchy, although that could prove tricky.

Lydia Lili`uokalani, the last sovereign Queen of Hawai'i, died in 1917.

But she maintained throughout her life that Hawaiian sovereignty is inherent and cannot be taken away by force.

Lili`uokalani evoked loyalty and sympathy from all native Hawaiians, but she died childless and the royal line now is a tangle.

Today, some in Hawaii want to go back to the monarchy, others don't.

``The critical point is the distinction between a state and a government,'' Boyle said. ``Their argument about the state, the kingdom of Hawaii, is correct - it was never validly terminated by the U.S. government. But assuming they regain their independence, what kind of government they want is for them to decide.''

Estimates of the number of native Hawaiians in the state's population of just over one-million vary from just 12 per cent to 20 per cent of the total.

Dennis Kanahele is head of the ``nation of Hawaii,'' the self-proclaimed independent government.

Once an advocate of confrontation with the authorities, Kanahele says he now believes in the power of persuasion: ``We just have to have patience, and we have to educate each other, and we have to be concerned about the non-Hawaiians as well as our own people as we develop this process.''

But time may be running out.

Of the number of people who choose to identify themselves as native Hawaiian, only six-thousand or so are pure-blooded. One scientist has projected that the Hawaiians as a distinct people will disappear by the year 2040.

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