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The Daily Telegraph is the biggest selling quality newspaper in the UK and this story will have potentially been seen by approximately 2.5m readers. Note that a recent poll has not been done to measure the support for independence, but it is likely significantly higher than a few thousand.

Defiant Hawaiian unfurls the flag of freedom

Daily Telegraph
By Francis Harris in Hawaii
(Filed: 15/07/2006)

The Stars and Stripes with the 1816 Hawaiian flag
The Stars and Stripes with the 1816 Hawaiian flag

The Stars and Stripes is nowhere to be seen. Among the neat bungalows beneath the steep green mountains of Ko'olau only the flags of the Hawaiian state are on display. They are all upside down.

"It is the international maritime signal of distress," said Bumpy Kanahele, who has devoted much of his life to a seemingly quixotic quest for independence from the United States. "It's saying, 'We're in trouble.' "

A Royal Navy officer working with the Hawaiian king is said to have come up with the design in 1816, placing the Union flag in a prominent position and arguing that the stripes were an acknowledgment of America's role in the islands.

Mr Kanahele, wearing a T-shirt reading "Hawaiian by birth" on the front and "American by force" on the back, is the inspiration behind the beautifully situated village. Mauka is a patch of 45 acres where Hawaii's original inhabitants hold sway and Washington's writ has little force.

Here, among banana and coconut trees and blood red hibiscus, 100 people live a life in contemptuous rejection of the American dream.

"This is not America," Mr Kanahele said. "That is 3,000 miles away."

He has some grounds for complaint. In 1893, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani was deposed in a coup organised by Stanford [sic] Dole, an American pineapple magnate, and supported by US marines. Five years later the islands were annexed.

On the coup's anniversary in 1993, America formally apologised "for the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii … and the deprivation of the rights of native Hawaiians to self-determination".

Mr Kanahele said that was an admission that the US was illegally occupying Hawaii.

But nurturing a grievance is one thing; overturning decades of history is another. Asked whether Hawaii really could recover its independence, Mr Kanahele affected a breezy confidence: "Oh yeah," he said. "It is inevitable; it could happen within three to five years." At the moment, it seems a remote dream. America treasures its strategic Pacific island state and the hard-line independence movement probably numbers only a few thousand.

Native Hawaiians, even generously defined, number only 20 per cent of the state's 1.2 million population while, on the beaches of Waikiki, smiling Hawaiian girls are everywhere in the company of white American boys. Mixed marriages are commonplace.

However, there are grounds for hope among those seeking independence or a measure of self-government. Opinion polls show that almost two thirds of residents believe that native Hawaiians should be given special status akin to that offered to America's 500 Indian tribes. Many supported an attempt last month by the Hawaiian senator, Daniel Akaka, to create a new native authority, a government within a government for native issues.

The Bill was blocked by a minority of Republican senators using the filibuster technique, but the idea is proving hard to kill. Mr Akaka and many other senators have promised to try again.

Opponents argue that the Hawaiian sovereignty movement strikes at the heart of American democracy: the idea that everyone is equal before the law. They point out that 93 per cent of Hawaiians voted to become America's 50th state in 1959.

William Burgess, a lawyer who founded the anti-sovereignty movement Aloha for All, said: "Sovereignty means that native Hawaiians would be the supreme, absolute rulers of the islands and everyone else would be subservient to them."

The Wall Street Journal decried the plans as "race-based government" and the Right-wing Heritage Foundation think-tank suggested that native Hawaiians were so blended with American society as to be almost non-existent as a distinct group.

Mr Kanahele rejected the race argument. "We never knew what race was until these guys came," he said.

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