The Thanksgiving holiday is well-known for its sentimental moments of family bonding, copious amounts of food, and––most importantly––gratitude for whatever comes to mind. But before the tradition has long been celebrated throughout the vast American landscape, one state has had its very own national holiday observed annually on November 28th––Hawaii. It was on that day, in 1843, when Hawaii was formally recognized as a self-ruling nation by the potent countries of France and Britain. The day has since been celebrated as “Independence Day” (or, in Hawaiian language, “La Ku’oko’a”) and, as result of this recognition, it permitted the Hawaiian Kingdom to communicate and establish strong relationships with major nations of the world.
As of recent news, there has been a renewed effort to legitimize the celebration and remember that Hawaii’s sovereignty is still intact via prolonged illegal occupation. The controversy of this illicit control lies in a US intervention into Hawaii’s affairs, leading towards a simulated, “puppet oligarchy” revolution against the legitimate Hawaiian government. The puppet oligarchy was organized with malicious intent to annex Hawaii to the United States, enabling the oligarchy to disregard Hawaii’s Independence Day as an official celebration in 1895 (“Ka Lahui: Hawaiian Independence Day.”, UNPO, 29 November 2004). The American holiday known as Thanksgiving would instead take its place, igniting heated dispute considering that holidays––especially holidays like Independence day––are principal components of national identity. Essentially, this was an attempt to eradicate the history and recognition of the Hawaiian population. In fact, following the annexation, officials prohibited the practice of Native Hawaiian culture and the teaching of Hawaiian language for decades, though––in 1993––president Bill Clinton officially apologized for the overthrow (“Why Some Native Hawaiians Want to Declare Independence from the U.S.”, Spinter News, 9 March 2016).
At first, Native Hawaiians protested against this discriminatory jurisdiction, celebrating Ka La Ku’oko’a regardless and telling the stories of many national heroes who had secured Hawaii’s recognition. However, gradually the holiday’s history was nearly lost. That was until Hawaiian language scholars began transcribing newspapers written in Native Hawaiian and revealing the state’s invaluable history over the past few years.
Today, many activists support the notion of a sovereign Hawaiian nation and believe that it would expiate the malpractice of the past. Although, it is not exclusively about history. Native Hawaiians involve a disproportionate quantity of the state’s homeless and incarcerated population and are more susceptible to health risks like diabetes and heart disease. Furthermore, studies have repeatedly shown that indigenous groups that possess their own governments and decision-making power correlates with higher socioeconomic degree.
Other activists argue that a federally-recognized government, such as a Native American tribe, would be insufficient. A vocal minority of Native Hawaiians assert that only full autonomy from the U.S. would atone for the colonial past, and even desire for Hawaii to return back to the days of pre-colonization and the monarchy (“Why Some Native Hawaiians Want to Declare Independence from the U.S.”, Spinter News, 9 March 2016).
“Ka Lahui: Hawaiian Independence Day.” UNPO, UNPO, 29 Nov. 2004.
Bussewitz, Cathy. “Native Hawaiians Debate Best Path to Sovereignty.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 16 Jan. 2015.
“Before Thanksgiving, There Was Hawaiian Independence Day | Kamehameha School.” KSBE, KSBE, 28 Nov. 2016.
Tolan, Casey. “Why Some Native Hawaiians Want to Declare Independence from the U.S.” Splinter, Splinternews.com, 9 Mar. 2016.