Thousands honor monarchy overthrow, a dark time in Hawaii’s history

One hundred and twenty five years to the day after the Hawaiian monarchy fell, I woke up on a grey morning and got dressed to see my queen. January 17, 2018 was a drizzly, chilly-by-Hawaii-standards day, when I joined thousands of other Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart at Mauna `Ala (the Royal Mausoleum) where Hawaii’s last monarch, Queen Lili`uokalani is entombed.

Her legacy would already have been marked with the distinction of her role as the Islands’ first queen, but now she’s primarily remembered for her suffering and heartbreak during the overthrow of her Hawaiian Kingdom by a group of sugar barons and capitalists, who then imprisoned her in her own home - `Iolani Palace – on January 17, 1893.

This enabled the United States to annex Hawaii, make it a territory, and in 1959, give it statehood. All those decades, her people have never forgotten the injustice. In 1993, the United States passed a Joint Resolution that recognized what happened on January 17, 1893 as "the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy."

I’m biracial- Native Hawaiian and Chinese- and was educated for six years at a school for Hawaiian children. Honoring my ancestors' last monarch, acknowledging her trauma, and thanking her for her efforts to save the Kingdom is the least I can do to respect my heritage.

An event called “Onipa`a Kakou” brought together all those with like mindset and more (separatists were a large part of the group) for an all-day gathering. It started in the morning with an opportunity to visit the tomb of the monarchs at Mauna `Ala.

There was a line, and the protocol was: remove your shoes, go into the crypt, give your offering, pay homage, then walk out backwards – up a flight of stairs – just as you would if the royals were alive. It was solemn and commanding inside, and I was humbled to be there.

I then chose to go inside the chapel on property to say a prayer, and found the place empty. It’s small but pretty inside – dark wood furniture with red carpet and red velvet kneelers.

Next, the huge crowd marched for almost two miles down to `Iolani Palace where the Royal Order of Kamehameha raised the Hawaiian flag over the palace at 10:45 a.m. – the same time it was taken down in 1893. The group then went to Lili`uokalani’s statue behind the state capitol, where various Hawaiian groups offered the queen gifts and hula performance, before going into the Capitol Rotunda for a show of unity.

It was beautiful and sacred, and the energy of the crowd was intense and palpable. There was anger mixed with sorrow, pride tinged with defiance.

To be there, to be part of it, was special. I missed the last one 25 years ago, at the centennial mark. It was a Sunday and 20,000 folks showed up for that.

What do organizers hope to get out of this? The website says, “On January 17, 2018, join us as we come together to remember our past and find our way forward. The unresolved issue of Hawaiian sovereignty is not only a Hawaiian issue - it is a Hawai‘i issue. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’"

Different participants define justice in different ways. One thing the crowd seemed united on, however, was a shared respect for Queen Lili`uokalani and a love for Hawai`i.

`Iolani Palace

`Iolani Palace

Diane Ako