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Hawaiian History Comes Alive in "Theft of a Nation"

Wikimedia Commons

Fourth of July festivities are set for tomorrow across the island chain to celebrate America’s 242nd birthday. On the grounds of the ‘Iolani Palace in Honolulu, one group is commemorating another July Fourth with a dramatic re-enactment of an event in Hawaiian history that took place a little more than a century ago. HPR’s Ku?uwehi Hiraishi has this story.

The date is July 4. The year, 1894. More than a year has passed since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and members of the self-proclaimed Provisional Government are gathered at ‘Iolani Palace to discuss the future of Hawai’i. Re-enactment organizer Lynette Cruz sets the scene.

Credit Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
On July 4, 1894, Sanford B. Dole was proclaimed President of the Republic of Hawai?i, a little over a year following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

"So these guys are walking down from the top landing of the Palace front steps and they’re talking about proclaiming themselves to be the Republic of Hawai?i because they are the ruling class. Sort of like God said. Part of the manifest destiny is that they are meant to lead. So I’m pretty sure that people are not going to be all that happy to hear it but you know, that’s what happened," says Cruz.

The historical re-enactment “Theft of a Nation” is being held tomorrow in Honolulu. Cruz’ group Sacred Times, Sacred Places has been promoting historical and cultural activities on ?Iolani Palace grounds since the early 90s.

"These things get forgotten unless we don’t do something and we wanted to have an alternative for people who didn’t want to go to Kailua for an American celebration and parade kind of thing," says Cruz, "We have our own history and it’s a good way to celebrate our people and what really happened on that day."

Credit Wikimedia Commons
Queen Lili?uokalani was the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, which was overthrown on January 17, 1893.

For native Hawaiians in particular the re-enactment can be a therapeutic experience.

"People in struggle. We have a lot of anger. It starts out with a lot of anger and yelling and screaming and protesting. The reenactment is one of those opportunities to get our history straight and identify, if we’re going to be pissed, who exactly is it we’re angry at? And then what is it we can do to get past that and build something?" says Cruz.

The re-enactment is free and open to the public. It begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. near the front steps of the ‘Iolani Palace. 

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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