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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 26, 2003

Annexation documents posted online

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Documents that look behind the scenes of the annexation of Hawai'i to the United States are now within reach of anyone with a computer mouse, thanks to efforts by University of Hawai'i librarians, Hawaiian studies scholars and volunteers to put a piece of that history online.

"The Annexation Of Hawaii: A Collection of Documents" is part of UH Hamilton Library's Digital Archive that can be viewed on the Web at http://libweb.hawaii.edu/libdept/hawaiian/annexation/annexation.html.

It includes:

  • The 1894 report on the overthrow to President Cleveland, written by U.S. Rep. James H. Blount.
  • Congressional debates on the annexation statute (the "Organic Act").
  • The anti-annexation petition signed by Hawai'i citizens.
  • Documents penned by Queen Lili'uokalani and others in protest of the overthrow.

Some minor cleanup work remains, but the team has decided it's time to put the word out to people who otherwise struggled to get copies of these documents — especially the protest petitions, said Noenoe Silva, assistant professor of political science who served as a humanities scholar for the project.

The petitions enabled researchers and those interested in Hawaiian sovereignty to search for names of family members and others on record opposing annexation.

The digital collection contains thousands of pages of documents relating to the annexation of Hawai'i, including the Blount Report. Other files include anti-annexation petitions by Hawai'i citizens.


"The petitions themselves were widely available in 1998 and well into '99," through local bookstores and some copy service outlets, she said. "It was very difficult for anybody not in Hawai'i to get ahold of them," however.

Librarian Martha Chantiny, who heads Hamilton's Desktop Network started getting grants to digitize the petition and approached both Silva and Hawaiian collections librarian Dore Minatodani about other documents to include.

"We wanted to choose documents that have relevance right now, with research and general high interest in issues surrounding the overthrow," Minatodani said.

The librarians set up the template for scanning in and formatting the documents, and other staff and volunteers helped to process the thousands of pages now online, Silva said. Handwritten pages, such as the petitions, are simply images saved in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf files), but others, such as the Blount Report are online in searchable formats.

Among those with a newfound, intimate knowledge of the text is Kevin Roddy, electronic resources librarian at Kapi'olani Community College, who scanned in almost 1,000 pages of the Blount Report. He and Silva will share some observations about the contents of the archive at a public presentation Friday (see box). And, Roddy said, not all the insights concern politics.

"The racial and sexual attitudes of the time are very much represented via the testimonies of individuals who were asked about the overthrow of the monarchy and the events that led up to it," he said. He cited the following excerpt as an example:

Presentation on documents
"There can be no doubt that the advent of foreigners in large numbers was attended by an immense increase of debased and bestial living. Ten thousand reckless seamen of the whaling fleet annually frequented these islands and used it as their great brothel. This enormously aggravated and inflamed the normal unchastity of the people. In the presence of the white hordes life became hideously brutalized."

Silva, who's done extensive research on the period, said she was most fascinated by the protests on record from people not frequently quoted in historical accounts. Among these are the statements from organizations such as Hui Aloha Aina, which had divisions for both men and women.

"When I started my research, there was this myth perpetrated in mainstream Hawaiian history books that Hawaiians didn't really do anything about the overthrow," Silva said. "They made the one 'feeble and misguided' attempt to take back the throne in 1895. The thrust of these histories is that annexation was the triumph of good government and democracy, even though it was the most undemocratic thing.

"How clearly the people of the Hui Aloha Aina and other folks talked about the development of the oligarchy, the reasons for the overthrow, the illegality of it all," she added. "It was very, very clear. They were smart, they were articulate and nobody knows who they were."

Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053.