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University of Hawai?i Recognizes Students' Affiliation with Hawaiian Kingdom

University of Hawai'i

It’s Hawaiian Independence Day tomorrow. November 28th marks the day in 1843 when Great Britain and France formally recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as independent. Fast forward to today…college students across the island chain are seeking that same recognition. HPR’s Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi reports.

For most college-bound students who are United States citizens, answering questions about citizenship on your college application is fairly simple. But for students at Hawai?i Community College or HCC in Hilo, Hawai?i, checking that box was a big deal.

Credit University of Hawai'i
University of Hawai'i
Aerial of University of Hawai'i at Manoa Campus.

“They didn’t feel comfortable registering for school and having to check the American citizenship box, says Ku’ulei Kanahele, a Hawaiian language instructor at HCC.

She also sits on the P?ko?a Council, a University of Hawai?i system-wide organization promoting access and success for Native Hawaiian students.

“Being an American citizen is hard for a lot of native Hawaiians because of feeling like second-class citizens in our own ??ina, in our own home,” says Kanahele, “So they came to the Council to express that. They wanted to designate themselves as citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”

Credit Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Raising American Flag at United States Annexation Ceremony at ?Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii. The American marines performing the ceremony are from the USS Philadelphia.

See, for many native Hawaiians, American colonization began with the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. Since then, the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands have struggled with a loss of land, language, and a sense of what it means to be a native Hawaiian.

“For some students I think it’s continuing to allow America to hold that dominance over their identity,” says Kanahele.

Hilo students made their case and their cause made its way up the chain of command in the UH system. Partner Akiona, a Hawaiian Studies major in his second year at Kapi?olani Community College in Kaimuk? learned about the form at the beginning of his Fall semester.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Partner Akiona (standing) discusses the Declaration of Affiliation form with his classmates at Kapi'olani Community College.

“When I saw the form at KCC, I talked to students at UH Manoa, and students at UH Manoa had no idea this form existed,” says Akiona.

According to UH spokesman Dan Meizenzahl, the form was first made available in May of this year to all students in the UH system, upon request. So far, 17 students have declared their affiliation to the Hawaiian Kingdom. But there is some concern that such an affiliation could be met with political retribution particularly when it comes to financial aid.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Kingdom of Hawai'i Declaration Form

“Because for a lot of our native Hawaiian students, they need the scholarship to go to school,” says Kanahele.

Meizenzahl confirmed this form does not equate to any declaration of citizenship, which would relegate students to “international student” status and have an impact on financial aid. Instead is simply a form of expression. Akiona is currently working on his form.

“I know a lot of people within the UH system are not much aware of it much less the weight that it holds for students as well as institutions but overall, as of right now, I believe it’s a good thing, it’s a step in the right direction,” says Akiona.

A step in the direction of lending further credibility to the restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom, which for some native Hawaiians was never relinquished.

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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