I NEVER THOUGHT I’D BE IN THE “BACK IN THE DAY” SECTION.
So. It’s come to this.
Earlier this week (Oct 21, 2020), the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published this photo of me campaigning in 1972. I never dreamed I’d be in a “Back In The Day” nostalgia photo.
Yes. That was the campaign jeep that I drove. Yes. That was my hairstyle. Yes. I was an elected member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives representing Kailua, Lanikai, Maunawili, Olomana, and Waimanalo. In 1968, at age 20, I was elected to the State Constitutional Convention, also from Kailua and Waimanalo.
I was put on the Hawaiian Homes Committee. It was what I learned there that made me so angry, so outraged, that I decided to run for Congress to do something about it. (The solution was federal, not state).
I learned that the Hawaiian Homestead lands, set aside by Prince Kuhio in 1922 for the homesteading of native Hawaiians, had been instead given away, leased, traded, or sold off to non-Hawaiian businesses for chump change. Hawaiians had been on the list for more than 30 years for a plot to build a house on were still on the list, or had died, but Sea Life Park had a long-term lease on the land they built the tourist attraction on for pennies. THAT prime land was Hawaiian Homestead land.
So was Hilo Airport. So was much of the prime, rich real estate on the ocean side of the highway through Waimanalo, indeed, throughout the islands.
Those lands that were supposed to be for native Hawaiians were leased and sold off, “traded” for other land (the Commission couldn’t sell it, but they could trade it (and boy, did they trade land!) for worthless land, for example, the old navy firing range — still pockmarked by unexploded ordinance — at Lualualei valley — uninhabitable).
Rich folk bought the good stuff. They own it now.
Remember Magnum? It was filmed on the Eve Anderson estate on the ocean side of the highway at the end of Waimanalo, formerly Hawaiian Homestead land that had been “traded” off by the Hawaiian Homes Commission to someone else in exchange for worthless land elsewhere. The new owner had no restriction on its sale; it went to private owners.
I’ll never forget the day when a gentleman from Molokai came to see me. He broke down in tears. The lease his farm was on was sold to a seed corn company in Iowa, 99 years for $1 a year. He lost everything. This was wrong, wrong, wrong. There were many stories like his. I vowed to do something.
I researched and found that indeed, several hundred thousands of acres were literally “missing,” ie., no longer part of Hawaiian Homelands. I spent a lot of time in the archives, comparing land transfer deeds of original homestead lands (per Kuhio) with who owned or leased them now.
It was shocking. I prepared a report and took it to Washington to ask Senator Dan Inouye and Senator Sparky Matsunaga if they would do something. How naïve I was!! Their answers: “Don’t open that can of worms.”
I took the report to a journalist named Jack Anderson. He had a young aide, Britt Hume, who condensed the report, researched to verify its accuracy. Anderson devoted a column to it. (I have to find those old clippings). Britt Hume is now, I believe, on Fox.
By the time I got back to Hawaii, the paper ran the column- — but someone in a Senator’s offices had taken my report, sent it back to Hawaii, and someone on the Homestead Commission, as I recall, had written an article rebutting Anderson’s article, which they ran, side by side.
That brush-off made me furious. I decided the solution was federal and I would run for US House against Patsy Mink (although I was too young to serve, but I thought I’d deal with that if I was elected). Two years of knocking on some 3,000 doors on all the neighbor islands and rural Oahu — and I lost by a respectable percentage.
It was during this time of knocking on doors that old kupunas, who remembered Annexation, and were still alive, told me many stories about that weekend of shame. One made me promise to someday write about his stories, and I’m actually working on book based on those old notes. I’m not Hawaiian by birth, but I still feel that Hawaii is my home, although I am here in the east, unwilling to be a 12 hour plane ride away from my grandchildren.
Besides, I made promises to these kupunas to tell their stories, and that promise I intend to keep.
It stirred up a hornet’s nest in Hawaii.
Many folks told me later that it helped light a fire under the nascent sovereignty movement, which I did — and still do — support.
Like the Native Americans, the US took the Kingdom of Hawaii, a sovereign kingdom, and it’s lands. This happened during the fever of Manifest Destiny that was sweeping the country. The cartoons of the day show an unbelievable racist bigotry and contempt for the native Hawaiians (“savages”). The US annexed Hawaii the same summer they annexed Cuba (I believe on the same day Hawaii was annexed in August, 1898) and Puerto Rico.
The war in the Philippines was still raging; Emilio Aguinaldo and his rebel force was now fighting against the US, whose side they had been on against the Spanish because the US had broken its promise to Aguinaldo. August 13, 1898 — the Battle of Manila — a day before August 14, 1898, the Day of Shame, when the Hawaiian flag was run down the pole and as the white colonists — sugar planters, land owners, descendants of the first missionaries — sang the American anthem while the Stars and Stripes were raised.
The the Royal Hawaiian Band threw down their instruments on the grass and left in protest. The US then annexed the Philippines, the Marianas, Guam, Tinian, and Rota.
I’ll go look for that old report and the old news clips and the column. It’s got to be somewhere. Who thought to keep clips like that 60 years ago? I was young, and thought I’d never be old, I’d always have the memory, and old clippings? Only old mothers and grandmothers keep those.
Never thought I’d be a BACK IN THE DAY picture. Oh, well.
Which makes me realize how much I miss Hawaii!
As I write, I’m listening to Kaulana Na Pua, the “Stone-Eater’s Song,” written in defiance to the overthrow of the Queen, in 1893, which preceded Annexation. Folks sang it in Hawaiian, and the haoles (whites) never knew it was a song of defiance, of revolution, of calling for the Kingdom of Hawaii to return.
At the time of the overthrow and annexation, there were only about 2500 haoles — whites — in the islands. There were more than 40,000 Hawaiians who signed a petition to the President to reverse the plans to annex. Political cartoons of the day show outrageous bigotry and vile racism depicting the native Hawaiians as savages and worse.
But the words ring true today. How true, how true, how true!!
Famous are the children of Hawai?i
Ever loyal to the land
When the evil-hearted messenger comes
With his greedy document of extortion
Do not fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of the civil rights of the people
We do not value
The government’s hills of money
We are satisfied with the rocks
The wondrous food of the land
We support Liliuokalani
Who has won the rights of the land
She will be crowned again.
The story is told
Of the people who love the land.