Opinion: Statehood is not a celebration for all Hawaiians

By Jessica Luthi

Recently, Hawaii had its 50th anniversary of statehood. But for some, there was no cause for celebration. The issues surrounding statehood, annexation and overthrow have been very controversial. As a kanaka, or native Hawaiian, it’s difficult to take a stand for or against these issues because of the severe distortion of what actually happened.

In 1893, Queen Lili’uokalani was overthrown by members of the Committee of Safety, a group of American and European men led by Lorrin Thurston. The committee’s goal was to impose a new government in Hawaii.

Proponents believe Thurston had his own political agenda, but opposition believed the monarch failed to obey the laws all citizens had to obey. No one knows for sure. In 1896, President William McKinley was voted into office and signed a resolution in 1898 annexing Hawaii, which, as a result, became a state on June 27, 1959.

During the overthrow, President Grover Cleveland, a good friend of the queen, refused to annex Hawaii. He even urged the provisional government to reinstate the monarch, but Sanford B. Dole, the so-called president of the islands, refused. The Blount Report found the Committee of Safety guilty of illegally overthrowing the crown. The document’s objectivity has been questioned by opponents to sovereignty because of the friendship between President Cleveland and Queen Lili’uokalani’. Whether Thurston and his group of conspirators really overthrew the monarch illegally has yet to be solidly proven.

The legality of how Hawaii was annexed has also been questioned by many Hawaiians. Even after nearly 38,000 people signed the “Ku’e Petitions” in protest, the United States government pushed through the Newland Resolution, which annexed Hawaii.

Opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty claims there was a treaty between the Republic of Hawaii and the U.S., but this is simply not so because the so called treaty was actually a resolution. No treaty was ever accepted by the people of Hawaii, making the annexation of Hawaii a grievous error for the United States.

Nearly 60 years passed before Hawaii became the 50th state of the union. Proponents of sovereignty for the Hawaiian people have suggested its statehood was illegal. Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell — a major player of the Kanaka Maoli sovereignty movement — believes these acts were crimes committed against the Hawaiian people. “It’s a violation of international law,” Blaisdell said on the Aug. 27 showing of the PBS program “Hawaii’s Insight.”

But was it really the responsibility of the U.S. to inform the people of Hawaii they have been “colonized,” as the opposition to statehood has put it? Absolutely not. The Hawaiian people have let themselves become poor, claiming they were oppressed into poverty. Being a kanaka myself, I’m not saying that I’m unsympathetic to Kanaka Maolis or the plight of the Hawaiian people, but I believe this is nothing but an excuse.

While I have some misgivings about Hawaii’s statehood, I cannot deny it helped improve the conditions on the islands. I agree that acts leading up to the overthrow were inappropriate and shady, but the Hawaiian people need to move on. Why rehash the past?

In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the Apology Resolution, which is a milestone for many Hawaiian people. It solidified the Kanaka Maoli’s claims that the U.S. government overthrew their queen. In all truth, was it really the U.S. who overthrew the queen? No, it was not. The U.S. only took responsibility because of pressure from the sovereignty movement.

The Hawaiian people are split about the nature of statehood because of the validity of claims from both proponents and the opposition. Statehood, however, has been good for them. Many poor families live on welfare, social security, and other U.S. programs.

We simply cannot go back. Let’s not think about past wrongs, but about how we can move forward as a unified people, as a unified state and as a unified country.

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