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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2004

Hawaiians mark restoration day

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

At shortly before noon yesterday 75 Hawaiian nationals, or Kanaka Maoli, and their supporters, joined hands and formed a circle around a flagpole in Honolulu's Thomas Square. The group watched quietly as a United States flag was lowered and replaced with the flag of Hawai'i.

Members of the Ka Pa Kanaenae 'O Kaua'i Iki perform hula as part of the Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea ceremony held at Thomas Square yesterday seeking restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. The holiday marks Britain's recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty on July 31, 1843.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

The brief ceremony was the high point of the Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day, a Hawaiian holiday that dates back to the days of the monarchy.

"The importance of this ceremony is that it represents the continuity of our people," said Kihei Soli Niheu, one of those who stood in the circle. "It is important that we as people continue in our responsibility to provide a foundation for the restoration of our government."

The government Niheu referred to the Hawaiian kingdom before it was overthrown in 1893.

But the incident that yesterday's ceremony commemorates occurred on July 31, 1843, when British Adm. Richard Thomas — for whom Thomas Square was named — ordered the Union Jack removed and replaced with the Hawaiian kingdom flag.

Rick Uweloa mixes 'awa root and water for a ceremonial offering during yesterday's Sovereignty Restoration Day gathering at Thomas Square. The ceremony's cultural and political activities highlighted Hawaiian calls for an end to U.S. control of the Islands.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

In the presence of King Kamehameha III, the moment brought to an end five months of military occupation by Britain's Lord George Paulet and replaced it with Britain's recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Largely unobserved for years, the holiday was revived in 1985 and has been an annual celebration at Thomas Square as a reminder of the push for Hawaiian independence. These days, though, the observation is aimed at what the Kanaka Maoli regard as an armed invasion and military takeover of Hawai'i.

"We are recalling that historical event that occurred right here in 1843 and applying it to today," said Kekuni Blaisdell, who was instrumental in reviving the holiday. "We're calling upon the United States government to withdraw from its illegal occupation of our homelands."

Since Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea was reinstated, the United States government has officially apologized for the takeover of Hawai'i in 1893. That came in a joint resolution signed by Congress in 1993 that recognized, among other things, that the takeover resulted in "the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination."

Pomaikaiokalani Kinney, a member of the Hawaiian Political Action Consul of Hawai'i was among the 75 Kanaka Maoli and supporters who took part in yesterday's Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea ceremony at Thomas Square.

Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

Students from the University of Hawai'i's School of Law helped organize the celebration. According to student Kanale Sadowski, through the help of friends, two other Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea ceremonies were held simultaneously yesterday — one in London and the other on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island.

Yesterday's six-hour event in Thomas Square was low-key yet jubilant and included hula, chanting and speeches by Hawaiian elders. But signs of protest were posted to make sure the message got across: "Deoccupy," "Return Stolen Lands," " 'Act of War' Since 1893."

Many present emphasized the importance of seeking self-determination through peaceful means. Speaker Kanohowailuku Koko said the drive for self-determination would eventually prevail because the Hawaiian people have truth on their side.

"Truth bears no fear," he said. "You can never add to it. You can never take away from it. It will always be what it is."

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.