The following commentary by Naomi Nakamura is from Fight Back! News:
One hundred ten years ago, on July 7, 1898, the United States annexed Hawai’i as part of its push towards empire. The same year the United States fought a war with Spain to seize the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
Until 1893, Hawai’i was an independent nation, whose government was recognized around the world, including by the United States. But in 1893, the U.S.-backed American plantation owners and missionaries overthrew the Hawai’ian government. In 1897, the vast majority of the Hawai’ian people signed a mass petition against being annexed by the United States. The next year, in 1898, the United States annexed Hawai’i anyway, taking control against the wishes of the Hawai’ian people.
Under U.S. colonial rule, native Hawai’ians suffered from poverty and oppression, as their land and culture was stripped away. The export-oriented sugar plantation economy was consolidated and Hawai’i was used as a key military staging ground in the Pacific for U.S. military intervention in Asia. In 1959, Hawai’i was made a U.S. state, following a referendum that allowed thousands of U.S. military personnel to vote, and which did not include the option of independence. As a state, Hawai’i has continued to be a major U.S. military center and the tourist industry, largely based on the sale of Native Hawai’ian culture as a commodity, has become the mainstay of the Hawai’ian economy.
In April of 2008, a group of leaders of the Hawai’ian sovereignty movement wrote an “open letter to the U.S. left,” asking for support for self-determination for the Hawai’ian Nation. This is in the context of legislation in the U.S. Congress (the Akaka Bill) that would be a setback for the Hawai’ian independence movement. The letter says that the bill is being promoted by the Hawai’ian corporate and political elite under the guise of ‘racial justice.’ But the bill would actually give up the Hawaiian Nation’s historic legal claims to independence, recognizing only Native Hawai’ians as an indigenous people.
At the end of April, native Hawaiian activists took control of the historic Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu, demanding sovereignty for Hawai’i. The Iolani Palace was the residence of Hawai’ian royalty who headed Kingdom of Hawai’i before its overthrow in 1893. The protesters left before being arrested, but assured that they would return and continue the struggle. This action again brought attention to the cause of the Hawai’ian Nation.