No cause for celebration

For some, statehood no cause for celebration

By Michael Levine – The Garden Island
Published: Friday, August 21, 2009 2:10 AM HST

LIHU‘E – Fifty years ago, Hawai‘i became a state, and the people rejoiced.

Well, not everybody.

A half-century after becoming de-facto citizens of America’s 50th state, some Hawaiians still believe joining the union was a poor decision, arguing it was illegal and has undermined Hawai‘i’s rich cultural heritage.

“I’m against Hawai‘i commemorating statehood because I don’t know why anybody would commemorate lie and theft,” said lifetime Kapa‘a resident Puanani Rogers. “History will tell the true story of the lies of annexation and the lies of statehood. They were all done illegally and people have been hoodwinked by the state … about their so-called ownership of our ‘aina and our nation.”

A number of kanakas reached by The Garden Island this week argued that statehood is based on lies, and said educating Hawai‘i’s youth about the true nature of the Islands’ history is key to preserving the local culture.

“I really encourage them (young people) to get involved in speaking up and voicing their opinions and start thinking that they have broader horizons than just being servants,” said Aunty Louise Sausen, a Ha‘ena resident. “Go to school, study, we need a lot of people. If we’re going to be in this government, we need to infiltrate the government with people.

“The children are our future so they should really study and become lawyers, doctors, different fields than just the tourism field,” she said. “That’s what they end up and that’s as far as they go.”

Mike Grace, a self-described “Native Hawaiian musician and fisherman” who has lived in Anahola for a quarter century, said statehood was a “forced choice” and that Hawaiians didn’t know what they were getting themselves into 50 years ago, when he was 12 years old.

“I love my country just like they love their country,” Grace said. “I wasn’t born in America, I was born in Hawai‘i.”

Healani Trembath, a 73-year-old Lihu‘e resident who was born in Hawai‘i but left for a large chunk of her life to travel the world as a “haole” before coming home, said she only remembers a party on Admission Day, but now believes Hawaiians have become “low on the totem pole.”

“The Queen says we’re still a country, and we are, but we don’t have leaders,” Trembath said Thursday. “Kupuna are quiet-minded but they do know what their birthright is. They need leaders, but we don’t have them because everybody is fighting against themselves.”

For today, at least, some of that infighting could be directed out toward the state and federal governments, common enemies to various splintered groups in favor of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Protesters have announced plans to march along Honolulu’s streets today, sharing Hawaiian chants and demonstrating in support of Hawaiian independence outside a conference at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

Kaua‘i will see similar dissent, with the Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice, Reinstated Hawaiian Government and Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi joining together to spearhead a “Fake Statehood” rally to be held this afternoon at various points around Lihu‘e.

According to Rogers, one of the event’s coordinators, protesters are being asked to wear black and meet at the airport intersection at noon for a sign-holding demonstration. The group will move over to the old county building for a pot-luck picnic lunch and kukakuka at 1 or 1:30 p.m., then move back to the airport intersection at around 4 p.m.

Mahelani Sylva, a Lihu‘e resident who hosts the Na Leo Hawaiian Issues radio show on KKCR on Saturday afternoons, said the issue is personal to her because her grandmother was forced to leave Hawai‘i in the 1940s for speaking out against American occupation and educating Native Hawaiians about their land rights.

“Justice hasn’t been done here on this island for 117 years. There is no justice here. There is no truth here,” Sylva said Thursday afternoon. “So those of us who value truth and justice will stand tomorrow for a free island maybe in the future, and I really hope it’ll be in my grandchildren’s day.

“We are celebrating, but we’re celebrating the unity and freedom of our country,” Sylva said, referring not to America, but to Hawai‘i.

Others echoed Sylva’s upbeat tone, expressing optimism and hope for a future free from what Sausen described as “suppression, oppression and depression” at the hands of American invaders.

“Our Hawaiian nation still exists,” Rogers said. “Nobody can ever shake that truth out of us, not ever.”

• Michael Levine, assistant news editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or


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