Thursday, August 6, 1998
By Pat Omandam
Page One of the 19th-century document shows Kahula Laau was the first to sign, followed by other women named Dale Kahalikulu, Hiloloa Kuai, Kaimiola Keawehawaii and Anna Keawehawaii.
On the last page of the 556-page petition are the signatures of Kaui, Levi Kaumualii, W. Pialupaliihalona, Heanale Kelekona and Hanale Kelekonaopio, the last man to sign it.
In between, 21,259 other people -- mostly native and part-Hawaiians -- risked their livelihoods to publicly protest Hawaii's annexation to the United States.
But for a century, the Hui Aloha 'Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions of 1897-1898 sat in old boxes in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., forgotten by nearly everyone until researcher Noenoe Silva stumbled upon their whereabouts two years ago.
By next week, reproductions of the petitions, as well as some of the original parchment, will be on display at the Bishop Museum and the state Capitol for the Aug. 12 centennial annexation events.
Message from kupuna
For many Hawaiians, especially those advocating a restored Hawaiian nation, the petition serves as a message from their kupuna or ancestors. The pages of signatures of men and women from every island seem to beckon: You are not alone in this fight to restore a nation.
Silva, a doctorate student in political science at the University of Hawaii, said this era of American history, around the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898, has been obscure because Americans don't want to know the United States went around colonizing people and taking their countries from them.
In the case of Hawaii, she said, many kanaka maoli or Hawaiians knew there had to be a reason why others prospered while they did not. One reason may be because those who signed the petition risked their government jobs to nonnative people who supported the Republic of Hawaii that governed after the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
"All of us wonder, how did it come to be that my grandparents don't have anything?" Silva said. "And this is part of the answer to the details of how did we come to be in this state that we're in now, and just knowing the truth of how it all came to be.
"And knowing the truth that our kupuna took that action is a very powerful truth to hold onto," she said.
Guy Kaulukukui, chairman of Bishop Museum's education department, said the museum will display a copy of the petition as well as pay to exhibit a portion of the original document. The goal is to educate the public that this anti-annexation petition -- presented to the U.S. Senate in December 1897 -- helped stall Hawaii's treaty of annexation.
Instead, Congress annexed Hawaii through a joint resolution signed by President William McKinley on July 7, 1898.
Some Hawaiian groups today question the validity of the annexation because the U.S. Constitution does not allow the taking of a foreign country through a resolution.
Nevertheless, the formal transfer of power took place at Iolani Palace on Aug. 12, 1898, when the Hawaiian flag was lowered and replaced with the U.S. flag.
Kaulukukui agreed with Silva there are only a few references among American or Hawaiian historians about this petition, and another brought to Washington in 1897 that contained 17,000 signatures calling for the restoration of the monarchy. The location of the second petition, conducted by Hui Kulai'aina, remains a mystery.
Together, both petitions contained 38,269 signatures, or nearly all of the 40,000 Hawaiians who lived in Hawaii a century ago.
Despite their overwhelming opposition, Kaulukukui said Hawaiians today aren't aware their ancestors may have played significant roles in Hawaiian history. For example, a prominent descendant of one of the four delegates who took the anti-annexation petition to Washington, D.C., in 1897 had no idea his relative was involved.
"And in his case, this was only two generations removed," Kaulukukui said. "He had no idea that his relative traveled to Washington, D.C., with this document and presented it to the U.S. Senate . . . "
"I think one of the major reasons the museum is involved in this exhibit is to make sure that current and future generations never forget again," he said.
Hawaiian activist Kekuni Blaisdell said although Hawaiians were outnumbered a century ago -- they made up only 40,000 of the 90,000 population in Hawaii -- they were able to decisively oppose annexation.
"Because of that, the treaty did not pass the Senate," Blaisdell said. "But how come the U.S. took us over?"
Peter Apo, special assistant on Hawaiian affairs to Gov. Ben Cayetano, said yesterday he recently learned Hawaii's annexation was done through joint resolution and not treaty. Apo said it raises a fascinating legal point to ponder.
"I'm intrigued by the fact, technically under the federal Constitution, you cannot incorporate a foreign country by resolution," he said. "That's the law. But what does it mean?"
Petition can be seen at state Capitol, museum
Where to view the 556-page Hui Aloha 'Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions of 1897-1898:
A reproduction of the entire petition is exhibited at the Hall of Discovery at Bishop Museum.
The museum also will display parts of the original document in its Charles Reed Bishop Room. The document is on loan from the National Archives. Both exhibits will shown until Jan. 4.
A 22-panel photographic exhibit of the petition will be shown Aug. 9-16 at the state Capitol courtyard. Gov. Ben Cayetano is expected to receive the original document on behalf of the museum at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Those interested can also order a copy of the petition, compiled by Nalani Minton and Noenoe K. Silva, at these local printers:
Kinko's Copies at 2575 S. King St. Prices range from $34 to $53, depending on the paper its printed on. Call 943-0005.
The Office Spot Kaneohe, 46-028 Kawa Unit A-2. Prices range from $35 to $40. Call 233-4300.
© 1998 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
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