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Battle Royal

By Dan Boylan

[Cover Story]

Midweek Magazine
August 7-13, 1998

"We must makepublic to the world that annexation was a non-event and therefore Hawaiiis still a kingdom. There was no treaty of annexation."

As a first-grader at Makaha Elementary School in the late 1950s, Owana Salazarcame home one day excited over the prospect of a school vacation.

"Mommy!" she said, "There's no schooltomorrow."
"Why?" asked her mother.
"Because it's Kuhio Day," she replied.
"Who was Kuhio?"
"He was Hawaii's first Delegate-to-Congress."

Helena Kalokuokamaile Keoua Wilcox Salazar quicklycorrected her daughter: "Hawaii's first Delegate-to-Congress was RobertWilcox, your great grandfather."

"I couldn't wait to get to school to telleveryone the truth," Owana remembers. "In 'show-and-tell' I stoodup in front of my classmates and told them that my great grandfather, notKuhio, was the first Delegate-to-Congress. I don't think I made the teachervery happy. It was my first recollection of standing up for my family andwho we are."

Owana and Helena Salazar took justifiable pridein their great grandfather. In 1889 Wilcox mounted an armed revolt againstthe emasculating 1887 Bayonet Constitution that had been forced on KingKalakaua by haole businessmen.

In 1895 Wilcox was in the forefront of an attemptto overthrow the haole-led, so-called Republic of Hawaii and return thedeposed Queen Liliuokalani to the throne.

Both coups failed, but in 1900 Wilcox triumphed,winning election as the Territory of Hawaii's first Delegate-to-Congressunder the banner of the Home Rule Party.

His party's name and his campaign slogan, "Hawaiifor the Hawaiians," alarmed the new Territory's haole elite. In 1902,Republican Party leaders struck a deal with Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole tomake him their standard bearer and Hawaii's second Delegate-to-Congress.

A century after her great grandfather's attemptsto defend and preserve the Hawaiian monarchy, the Princess Owana Ka'ohelelaniMahealani-rose Salazar is waging a battle of her own to resurrect the Hawaiiankingdom. This week she is in Washington, D.C., to lobby for congressionalhearings on the United States' annexation of Hawaii.

"We must make public to the world that annexationwas a non-event and therefore Hawaii is still a kingdom," says Salazar."There was no treaty of annexation. The United States can only annexby treaty, and when they tried to do so in 1897 it failed to get the requiredtwo-thirds vote in the Senate.

"In the meantime, Liliuokalani carried a petitionwith 21,000 signatures of Hawaiians against annexation. They also carrieda petition of 17,000 signatures of Hawaiians who wanted to reinstate thecrown.

"The United States cannot annex if they haveno treaty, and they had no treaty. In their debates they admitted that.Thus, everything that followed Annexation resolution -- the Organic Act,the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the Territory, statehood -- all is builton false ground and therefore has no validity.

"Nearly 20 years ago there were congressionalhearings [on Hawaiian native claims] and they catapulted the movement. We'reready for another catapult in the form of congressional hearings on thekingdom."

After 100 years of Americanization of the formerkingdom, such an assertion may sound like historio-legal nit-picking. Butin the context of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, every constitutionalargument may count -- including those that question the illegality of annexationitself. "The kingdom is still here," Salazar insists.

If that is so, the question of who is the rightfulheir to the Hawaiian throne is of far more than antiquarian interest. Foryears, most Hawaiian genealogists have recognized the claims of AbigailKawananakoa, the president of the Friends of Iolani Palace who presumes,literally, to sit on the Hawaiian throne.

Princess Owana asserts her own right to the seat.In a recent press release, she wrote: "Owana Ka'ohelelani Mahealani-roseSalazar of the House of Keoua Nui -- Father of Kings, by the Grace of God,Princess of Hawaii, is a direct descendant of Keoua Kalanikupuapa'ikalaninui,Father of Kamehameha the Great, through his eldest son Kalokuokamaile.

"Princess Owana is collateral descendant toall the Monarchs of Hawaii and is prepared to prove this as well as herancestors ranking position in the legitimate and lawful Kingdom of Hawaii.

"She is also a direct descendant of Her RoyalHighness Princess Theresa Owana Ka'ohelelani La'anui and Hawaiian PatriotRobert Kalanihiapo Wilcox, Hawaii's first Delegate-to-Congress.

"In 1844, His Majesty King Kamehameha III,in collaboration with the National Assembly in Lahaina, declared Her RoyalHighness Princess Elizabeth Keka'aniau La'anui, among other young royals,to be eligible for the throne of Hawaii.

"This enactment of the law was institutedand upheld in all subsequent constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaii. PrincessKeka'aniau's next-in-line successor was her only niece, Her Royal HighnessPrincess Theresa Owana Ka'ohelelani La'anui, great grandmother of PrincessOwana."

Central to Princess Owana's claim is an 1844 listingof 15 students of the Chiefs Children's School endorsed by Kamehameha IIIas "Princes and Chiefs eligible to be Rulers" (and five of whomdid) which included Elizabeth Keka'aniau. "All 15 are cousins, if notbrothers and sisters," says Salazar. "They're all family. We arethe royal family."

"There are two problems with Owana's claim,"says a genealogist who finds anonymity a requirement in such debates. "Elizabethhad no children. Fifty more years of royal history ensued, and by the 1880sElizabeth's descendants were no longer on anyone's list."

Genealogist Edith McKenzie says, "Owana'sancestors certainly have ranking, but theirs was not a ruling line. Everyoneon the Chiefs Children's School list was eligible to rule, but it was requiredthat those who did had to be considered and approved by the House of Nobles.Only Kamehameha IV and Emma Rooke ever were."

Salazar, in turn, curtly dismisses the Kawananakoaclaim: "I don't see any Kawananakoa in the 1844 list. David Kawananakoaand Jonah Kuhio were the nephews of Queen Kapiolani from her sister. Tosay that they would enter the line of succession would be like saying inEngland that Prince Consort Philip's nephews would become king before William."

Born in 1953, the youngest and only girl in a familyof five, Owana Salazar grew up with a sense of royal obligation: "Ourfamily discussions were about the crown lands, about Robert Wilcox, aboutPrincess Theresa going to Washington, about Princess Elizabeth going toWashington to petition Congress to survey the crown lands."

She became an accomplished musician. Salazar sangwith the Concert Glee Club at Kamehameha School. After graduating from highschool in 1971, she became a music major at the University of Hawaii. Thereshe learned slack-key guitar. After two years, she dropped out of the Universityand became an entertainer. (Five years ago she began studying steel guitarwith Jerry Byrd, the acknowledged master of the instrument. She is Byrd'sonly female graduate and probably the preeminent female steel guitaristin Hawaii.)

Salazar moved to the Big Island in 1977, performed,married twice, bore a daughter and son, divorced and returned to Oahu tolive with her mother in 1984.

In 1986 the sovereignty group Ka Lahui recognizedSalazar's mother as ali`i nui (the ranking one) "because ofthe genealogies, because she was the great grandniece of Princess Elizabeth,because she was the granddaughter of Princess Theresa, and all of the documentationthat shows that we are the Royal Family."

Before her death in 1988, Princess Helena namedOwana Kuhina nui and her son, Prince Noa as Ali`i nui KalokuokamaileIII. She informed Owana's brothers that their sister and her son would succeedher.

Two months ago, Salazar and her son withdrew themselvesfrom an exclusive relationship with Ka Lahui, arguing that "Our rightfulduty and responsibility is to avail ourselves to all of our people. My family'shereditary stewardship and sovereign powers are for all the people of Hawaii.

"My family holds the legitimate claim toall the crown lands of Hawaii," she says. "It has always beenmy family's desire to claim the lands for our people. We hoped back in '86that our claims could come forward with Ka Lahui, but they were not interested.

"They thought they should claim the land,but they cannot. The only ones who can claim the crown lands are peopleof the crown, and that's my family."

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