Good morning and welcome to July, 2008. Since we are talking Hawaii today I thought we’d go tropical and head over to Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu. Sunset Beach is one of the classic spots where the big boys flock to in the wintertime. Along with Pipeline (“The Pipe”) and Waimea Bay, it is where the Triple Crown of Surfing is held. However, at this time of year, except for a rare swell, the waves break as gently as a summer’s breeze and that’s when yours truly heads over there for a little rest, relaxation and a variety of plate lunches.
All these photos were taken from the area (Mother’s Beach) where the locals hang out and where I will be parking myself in August. The water temperature is around 80 degrees, the trade winds blow in the afternoon and the beach is always open. The flowers smell like perfume from heaven and the fruit is sweeter than candy. It’s the summer school course I never mind repeating-Tropical Paradise 101.
But there is trouble in paradise. Surrounded by royal guards and tourists who can’t find the North Shore, Her Majesty Mahealani Kahau and her government ministers hold court every day in a tent outside the palace of Hawaii’s last monarch, passing laws, slicing and dicing pineapple, papaya and coconuts and discussing how to secure reparations for the Native Hawaiian people.
Kahau and her followers are members of the self-proclaimed Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which is devoted to restoring the Hawaiian monarchy overthrown in 1893. Nearly two months ago, while tourists cruised Wakiki Beach, they stormed the gates of the old Iolani Palace, and they have politely occupied the grounds ever since, operating like a government-in-exile while selling maps of the star’s houses on the island of Oahu.
“We’re here to assume and resume what is already ours and what has always been ours,” said Kahau, who is a descendant of Hawaii’s last king and was elected “head of state” by the group. Unlike my montra, “If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.”
The Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which was founded seven years ago and claims 1,000 followers, uses its own license plates, recipes for rice and macaroni salad and maintains its own judicial system. In recent years, members have voted to dissolve the state of Hawaii, its land titles, welfare programs, public schools and surf shops. They also claim the right to confiscate all bank assets in Hawaii.
The organization’s actions do not carry the force of law, and the state has mostly taken a hands-off approach. It has not confiscated any of the license plates, for example, or arrested anyone for using them. However, they have seized some mangos and bananas from the group that were suspiciously overripe .
Hawaii has about 200,000 Native Hawaiians out of a population of 1.3 million. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government is just one of several native organizations that claim sovereignty over the islands, tapping into a strong sense among Native Hawaiians that they were wronged by history. I’m not a historian and have never played one on TV but I think they’ve got a pretty good case.
More than a century ago, a group of sugar planters, wind surfers and other businessmen, most of them Americans, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy with the support of U.S. military forces. Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned at the ornate Iolani Palace, built in 1882 by her brother, King David Kalakaua. Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a state in 1959.
“We are definitely trying to correct a wrong that we feel has been done to us as a people,” said Hawaiian Kingdom Government spokesman Orrin Kupau. On April 30, members of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government stormed onto the palace grounds in the heart of Honolulu and shut the gates behind them, leading to a few tense hours before they finally reopened the entrance so tourists could take pictures, buy postcards and “Give Us Our Damn Island Back” bumper stickers.
Every day, Kahau and about a dozen of her government officials meet in the tent for guava juice and sweet rolls. Every evening, they fold up their tent and go home to watch reruns of “Hawaii Five-O” and “Magnum P.I.”, returning in the morning. State officials have largely ignored them, and police have made no “Book em, Dano” arrests. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government has said it has no intention of resorting to violence.
Every week, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government obtains a public-assembly permit that allows it to occupy the grounds of the palace, a museum, a shaved ice stand and a popular tourist attraction next door to the state Capitol. As far as the state is concerned, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government is treated the same as any other group that wants to conduct activities on public ground and secede from the United States, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “As long as they comply with the permit conditions, they may continue to request permits to meet,” she said.
Those conditions prohibit the Hawaiian Kingdom Government from interfering with access to the palace, harassing pedestrians, collecting money, posting banners, hang gliding, sail boarding, Zodiac rafting or entering several government buildings. It is unclear how the organization’s members intend to oust the state government. They also want reparations in the form of housing, low-cost health care, cash and macadamia nut farms. The kingdom slapped a $7 trillion fine on the Hawaii state government in 2007. So far, no payout from Uncle Sam.
That’s the island report. We’ll take Friday off for the 4th of July but come back with something fresh and exciting on Monday. So enjoy the holiday weekend and maybe for a moment think about what we are celebrating besides the birth of fireworks. Enjoy the beach, mahalo and I’m out of here.