Return to the Hawaiian Independence Home Page, the News Articles Index, or the Political Prisoner page

Original treaties steal show at Kanahele trial

But judge won't let jury see them

The Honolulu Advertiser
Friday, October 20, 1995, page A3

By Mark Matsunaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two dozen priceless treaties between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii left the air conditioned safety of the state Archives for the first time in almost a century yesterday to make a brief appearance in federal court.

Bound in fancy cloth covers, the documents were written in the late 1800s in elegant cursive with quill pens on parchment now yellowed with age. The writing is legible, and many signatures are accompanied by wax seals.

The treaties concern mutual friendship, commerce, navigation and postal agreements between the two countries.

They were subpoenaed by Hayden Aluli, attorney for Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, head of the self-proclaimed Nation of Hawaii, who's on trial for harboring a fugitive.

"Usually, people are content with certified copies of the treaties," said state Archivist Jolyn Tamura.

But Aluli said he wanted the originals because "they're living treasures of our Hawaii history and the best evidence to be presented to the jury.

"Part of Bumpy's educational theater is to take these issues and make them alive. ...These agreements were made by our ancestors, nation to nation. They were still alive in 1893 (when the kingdom was overthrown), and Bumpy's case wants to breath new life into them."

But U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor declined to let Aluli have Tamura testify and show the treaties to the jury.

The judge has tried to confine Kanahele's trial to the specifics of the charges. She ruled from the outset that it will not turn into a "mini-trial" on Kanahele's contention that the federal and state governments are illegally occupying the Islands.

Gillmor has said the sovereignty issue is a matter for her, not the jury, to decide in this case.

Kanahele is charged with harboring federal fugitive Nathan Brown and thwarting two attempts to arrest Brown in 1994. Gordon Kaaihue, head of the nation's "peace force," is a co-defendant on one charge.

Testimony yesterday, the fourth day of the trial, came from two defense witnesses who gave accounts of the night of Jan. 27, 1994, when police stopped a car containing Brown.

But the center of attention was the treaties.

"It's the first time -- at least in modern times -- that they've been exhibited outside our buildings," said Tamura.

The documents are believed to have been in the archives since the facility was established in 1905 on the Iolani Palace grounds, except for one that was put on display in a 1992 exhibit, Tamura said.

Tamura said she was nervous about the risk of damaging the fragile papers, "but on the other hand, the whole purpose (of the archives) is public access."

Aluli arranged for members of Kanahele's nation to drive Tamura the three blocks to the Federal Building and provide security. "We were very, very careful," Aluli said.

While he didn't get to show them to the jury, he said, "We're excited that we were able to get them out and walk them around town.... I don't know if it's mana (spiritual force that Hawaiians believe rests in all things), but I was really moved when I saw them."

Judge Gillmor said she'd be happy to look at copies of the treaties, rather than risk damaging the originals.

Note: Access the text of these treaties

Return to the Hawaiian Independence Home Page, the News Articles Index, or the Political Prisoner page