This is in loving memory of my colleague who patiently taught me so much about Hawaiian Independence and allowed me to follow his work during the protest era of the fifth anniversary of Statehood. This was his last main political effort as he began to age and the weekly action meetings at his home came to an end.
He was the doctor driver who forced people, organizations and government to recognize the cultural and political issues surrounding the poor quality of Native Hawaiian health. He led the way for the establishment of John Burns Medical Center, part of the University of Hawai`i. He was the founding Chair of Medicine and professor emeritus of medicine at UH.
Kekuni was academically excellent and extremely successful to have traveled away to study. He was accepted into esteem colleges of medicine in the USA. He served as a Medical Resident Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD in 1949. In 1954-1955, he became an instructor in pathology at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
In 1955 I was just being born in Australia and Kekuni was 30. He often told me that he had no idea of any political incorrectness at that time regarding Hawai’i as a Territory of the USA. By 1959 he too, was not dismayed over Hawaii’s admission as a state of the USA. Hawai`i went through an hysterical frenzy of happiness just as the propaganda campaign of the two main newspapers cultivated and put forward.
A little understood fact is that Lorrin P. Thurston, the son of the coupe leader of 1893 was both the published of the Honolulu Advertiser and the self-appointed Statehood Commissioner regulating the vote, amongst other things at the time. The Star Bulletin was equally propagandized.
Kekuni’s appreciation of international law and the US overthrow and occupation didn’t likely manifest until the seventies – the time when the conventional ‘history’ of Hawai’i as told by it’s enemies, was turned on its head. Many facts came to light and this period is referred to as the Hawaiian Renaissance.
I was often by Kekuni’s side at meetings at the State Capitol during 2008 and 2009, especially with regard to the controversial 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission where he denounced the celebration due to the 116 years (and counting) of Occupation of Hawai`i. The Commission replaced the word ‘celebration’ with ‘commemoration’.
The protest theme that followed the state programs around included the words ‘theft’ and ‘fake state’. It was a damp and embarrassing program in 2009 and not at all reminincent of the fever of 1959.
In 1993, one hundred years after Queen Lili’uokalani was unlawfully ousted, Kekuni convened Ka Ho‘okolokolonui Kānaka Maoli — Peoples’ International Tribunal Hawai‘i. The international panel of judges heard charges against the USA of genocide, environmental destruction and the occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
It was this year also that President Clinton signed the Apology Resolution- Public Law 103-150. The document outlines the US criminal acts including conspiring with local businessmen rebels. The US forces overthrew the Queen on January 17, 1893 by gunpoint at ‘Iolani Palace. The Apology Law asserts that Hawaiian sovereignty has never been directly or indirectly relinquished and that the social, cultural, economic and health levels of Hawaiians was severely damaged because of the overthrow one hundred years later. It calls for reparations that have yet to materialize.
Kekuni established the La Hoihoi Ea program at Thomas Square, Honolulu, held annually at the end of July. The outdoor public event pays tribute to King Kamehameha III in restoring the Kingdom. In 1843 their was an attempted occupation by the British. The Kingdom was displaced for 5 months by a rebel British Captain, George Paulet. On July 31 British Admiral Thomas superceeded Paulet, and at an historic ceremony the Union Jack was lowered and the Hawaiian flag hoisted to correct the aggression. Thomas Square is named after Admiral Thomas.
On that day in the park Kamehameha III announced the national motto:
Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono
“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”
Kamehameha then took the council of an Englishman, William Richards, a Hawaiian nobleman, Timotio Ha’alilio, and the Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson Bay Company, George Simpson. They had assisted the Monarch in the first act of a declaration of human rights in 1839. Later their work and travel missions resulted in the proclamation of the Hawaiian Constitution. National recognition was gained on November 28, 1843 through Britain and France. The date is the Hawaiian Kingdom Independence Day Holiday.
I see it throughout Hawaii’s modern history that much of the region’s esteem and credibility can be traced to cooperative, intelligent and creative work coming out of aloha and Hawaiian multiculturalism. A return to this, I believe is the path to restoration, together with identifying and ousting criminal individuals whoever they are.
It was profoundly important for me to have known Kekuni and been so close at that time. I hope I can continue to work for the ‘aina, for justice and peace, as Kekuni spent his life encourageing us all to do.
[note: I will post more photos soon and provide a link here]