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Marchers lift torch to invite change on Hawaii centennial

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
August 8, 1998

By Pat Omandam, Star-Bulletin

There are two things Gay Sousa wants to do in the Ke Kukui 'A torch walk around Oahu: Carry the Hawaiian flag or the torch.

Sousa early Saturday achieved half her goal when she joined the midnight first leg of the 128.5-mile march carrying the Hawaiian flag from Mauna'ala, or the Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu, to Kamehameha Highway in Pearl City.

This evening, the Kailua resident plans to rejoin the procession in the Waianae district at Kahe Beach Park, hoping to carry the torch somewhere along the stretch from Kahe Point to Kaena Point.

Like other participants in the seven-district Ke Kukui 'A, as well as in the simultaneous Aloha March in Washington, D.C., the events reaffirm her belief in "the proper authority of the Hawaiian islands" -- namely, the Hawaiian people.

About 250 people at 11:48 p.m. yesterday gathered under a full moon on the darkened and solemn grounds of Mauna'ala to witness a torch-lighting ceremony by John Keola Lake and a dozen members of the cultural group Na Koa, which handled the protocol.

The mixed crowd of kupuna, young families, couples and teen-agers listened as Lake chanted in honor of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua. Part of the chant asked Kalakaua to lift the kapu, or ban, on daylight torch ceremonies which were restricted during his reign, so that the torch walk can be done, said Umi Sai, vice president of the Hawaiian Patriotic League, organizers of the 3-1/2-day march.

Sai said fire is symbolic of change, cleansing and rejuvenation, and is an appropriate way to begin the centennial events tied to Hawaii's annexation to the United States on Aug. 12, 1898. Many Hawaiians contend Hawaii's annexation was illegal.

"One of the reasons we wanted to do this (walk around Oahu) is because a lot of the negative -- and as we say 'hewa' -- that happened, happened here on this island," league member Kaui Goodhue said. "So this fire will be taken around to burn away the old, so that the new can come in."

Marcher Earl Kawa'a added: "Hawaiians are making a political statement. It is not based on emotions, but based on facts."

Those include two large petitions signed by nearly all the members of the Hawaiian population in 1897-1898 that opposed the annexation and called for the restoration of the monarchy.

A Hawaiian delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1897 led by Queen Liliuokalani successfully stalled a treaty of annexation in the U.S. Senate.

But many believe mounting pressure from the Spanish-American War for a secure Pacific harbor for the American military prompted Congress to pass a joint resolution to annex Hawaii. President William McKinley signed the resolution into law on July 7, 1898.

Nation of Hawaii leader Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele yesterday said that the public, government officials and the news media need to accept the truth about Hawaii's annexation.

"You know, the bottom line is that there was no treaty at all, and that was what this protest (petition) was all about," Kanahele said.

"A lot of people in the past 20, 30 years have been fighting for the same thing, but it's just that the truth is coming out," he said.

To honor the efforts of their ancestors to stop annexation, members of the centennial observance group Hawaii Loa Kulike Kakou started their own petition drive yesterday, with committee chairman Mel Kalahiki the first to sign.

Kalahiki last night left the procession at Nuuanu Avenue and Nimitz Highway to rest before another busy day. The group, which numbered nearly 100 after it left Mauna'ala at midnight, dwindled to 25 people at 2 a.m. after a brief stop at Carl's Jr., a fast-food hamburger store on Nimitz Highway near Sand Island Access Road.

At 5:45 a.m., a dozen people walked in single file on Kamehameha Highway on the far sidewalk fronting the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center, the torch kept head-high.

The seven-district procession is expected to pass through the Ewa district today and enter the Waianae district at 6:30 p.m. It is expected to round Kaena Point at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and remain on the North Shore's Waialua district for the rest of the day.

Organizers estimate the torch will reach Sunset Beach at 7:45 p.m. tomorrow and Waikane Valley Road at 12:30 a.m. Monday. It is scheduled to pass Makapuu Beach Park at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and reach the Waikiki Aquarium at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

The march is expected to end 6:15 p.m. Tuesday with ceremonies at Iolani Palace.

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