Pre-Cook Foreigners in Hawai’i

In King Kalakaua’s Legends and Myths of Hawai’i, he devotes a several passages and an entire chapter (“The Iron Knife”) about possible foreigners who had visited or lived in Hawai’i before the arrival of Captain Cook.  The late king lists, for example, oral traditions recounting foreigners–Japanese and Spanish–who were shipwrecked in Hawai’i. Although this does not constitute “discovery” in the traditional sense–after all Hawai’i had been populated for more than a thousand years prior to those events and it was only under Captain Cook that the Hawaiian Islands became known to the world–the king had good reasons for believing in the possibility that those traditions might be true.  Japanese junks periodically did get shipwrecked in Hawai’i on their way to the Philippines and the island of Java. The king’s childhood friend, Denzo (伝蔵), was among five brothers and survivors of a Japanese fishing junk that was hit by a typhoon somewhere near Okinawa and ended up shipwrecked on Kaua’i in 1841. Denzo eventually moved to Honolulu  where he eventually became friends with a young David La’amea Kalakaua. Denzo’s friendship with the young Kalakaua would later influence the king’s very favorable views about the Japanese and to which Emperor Meiji would help to cultivate. Denzo would eventually adopt a Hawaiian name, marry a Hawaiian woman, and though never returning to Japan while his oldest brother . 
The Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century had for many years issued “red seal” permits allowing Japanese to trade directly with Java, the Philippines, Thailand and Mexico. Japanese traders and diplomats were known to have also traveled on Spanish Galleon ships that crisscrossed the Pacific including the famous Christopher and Cosmas, Tanaka Shosuke, and Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga in that same time period. So the Japanese had experienced trans-Pacific voyages and there were Japanese traders all over the Pacific during that early time period. That began to change slowly as the Tokugawa began to experience problems with Christian converts and Portuguese and Spanish priests until the Tokugawa finally began to issue the Sakoku (鎖国) laws forbading Japanese subjects to have direct contact or trade with the outside world because of those issues. The Tokugawa eventually permitted the Dutch to trade directly with Japan through a special leased port. The Tokugawa also allowed Japanese to trade with the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) which Japan considered their king a vassal of the feudal lords of Satsuma who in turn were vassals of the Tokugawa though China, Thailand, and other Asian kingdoms consider the Ryukyu Kingdom as independent. Thus, with Japan closing itself to the outside world it created a illicit but profitable black market for foreign goods and spices to which Japanese adventurers and traders were happy to tap into. These traders would use ambiguous political status of Okinawa as a base of such operations. So despite the Tokugawa ban and the possibility of death, there was a lot of trade activity occurring in southern Japan and Okinawa. Okinawa, like Taiwan and the Philippines, lies in the Western Pacific Typhoon Zone making situations where traders might get lost due to a typhoon and be swept by strong trade winds to Micronesia or to Hawai’i–as what happened to Denzo–not so remote.  It is therefore possible that Japanese or other Asian traders could have reached Hawai’i by accident, been shipwrecked, and survived as Denzo and his five siblings had. 

Spanish/Portuguese Morion Helmet of the 16th Century
Hawaiian mahi’ole or feather helmet from the late 18th century

Hawaiians in the P.G.

One of the topics that is often discouraged is the topic of Native Hawaiian collaboration with the  Protectorate Government (note: it should actually be called Protectorate not Provisional Government because the Provisional Government collapsed 15 days after its formation and was saved by US Minister John Stevens through his proclamation of the Protectorate Government) or P.G. and Republican governments. Hawaiian civic leaders, certain departments at UH-Manoa, and some sovereignty activists in general would prefer to not to discuss the role played by Native Hawaiians within the two de facto governments because: Firstly, many of the Hawaiian leadership today are related to those who collaborated against the Queen; Secondly, it removes the image that all Native Hawaiians were victims of the P.G. and the Republic; and, lastly, it shatters their idealized image that all Native Hawaiians are the same and therefore all Native Hawaiians heroically fought against the Dole regime.

Many did heroically fight against Dole and annexation but there are several unpleasant realities to that fact. Native Hawaiian resistance to the Dole regime was particularly strong in the rural areas and by the economically marginalized classes but among the upper class and urban areas, it was lax and in some cases collaborationist particularly in Honolulu.  Resistance was also very strong among the Chinese merchants, Japanese plantation workers, as well as liberal American and European residents. The evidence for this can be seen in the lists of arrests that were made in the aftermath of the Uprising of 1895.

On the flip side to this, the ones who were making the arrests throughout the P.G. and Republic eras were mostly Native Hawaiian policemen–all of whom were from the former Hawaiian Royal Constabulary–while the National Guard of the Republic were purposely composed of mostly illiterate Portuguese with a few Native Hawaiians officers who had previously served in the Royal Household Troop of the Queen. The 1895 Uprising actually failed because of Native Hawaiian spies under Captain Robert Waipa Parker. It was Parker’s men who arrested Joseph Nawahi in December of 1894.  The Queen in her autobiography, Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, relates that Captain Parker was one of the ones who arrested her (p267). Another part-Hawaiian Charles B. Wilson, who was a member of one of the Queen’s cabinets, was the one who asked the Queen to sign her abdication (p267) and was reporting back to Dole on the Queen’s activities (including the secret newspaper clippings) (p291). Likewise, some of those who were arrested and tortured by the Republic of Hawai’i were not just Native Hawaiian leaders like Joseph Nawahi. But those arrested included several American journalists and Europeans who supported the Queen. According to many Chinese, the burning of Chinatown by Governor Stanford Dole years after the 1893 coup was his collective punishment on the Chinese because of their support of the Queen’s government which shows you that Native Hawaiians were not the “only victims” but even many Chinese, British and Roman Catholics were also punished for their loyalty.  

A high ranking royalist who became a supporter of the P.G. and Republican government early on was Colonel Curtis ‘Iaukea. ‘Iaukea had been brought into the royal court under Kamehameha III and had served under King Kalākaua and Queen Lili’uokalani in diplomatic and administrative posts. Less than eight months after the January 17th coup, he was appointed as a Prison Inspector under Dole–the first of seven positions he would hold under the Dole regime. In his autobiography, By Royal Command, ‘Iaukea makes it appear that he held only one position throughout the Dole regime and did so out of economic necessity (p197). This is actually untrue. As mentioned before he held no less than 7 appointments and received a salary for each position. One of his positions was as a sub-agent of Public Lands (read Crown Lands) and through his position, he acquired lands in Pearl Harbor (p198) and was responsible for selling Crown Lands. 

Colonel Curtis ‘Iaukea was also the Secretary and Military Attache to Stanford Dole and went with Dole to Washington, D.C. to lobby for annexation with President McKinley in 1898. The year before that, in 1897, he was the secretary to Foreign Minister Samuel Damon and accompanied Damon to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in that year. He was therefore instrumental in putting a “Hawaiian face” to the Republic’s propaganda machine in Europe and personally assured Queen Victoria that the Republic was a legitimate government. The Queen was so upset with ‘Iaukea that she did not speak to him for 12 years (as noted in Curtis ‘Iaukea’s book, By Royal Command, p215). But by then, the Queen had to rely on ‘Iaukea because of the intense mistrust she developed towards Prince Kuhio and other “royalists”. 

A. Kunuiakea

But one of the early defectors to the P.G. side was actually Albert Kunuiakea, the illegitimate son of Kamehameha III. According to this oath of allegiance to the new government a week after the Queen was deposed and was later a member of the Constitution Convention and Legislaturer under the Republic. Before that, according to the Blount Report, pages 766-770, he was active in the imposition of the Bayonet Constitution of 1887.  He may have also coveted the presidency of the Republic of Hawai’i after Dole’s term which was to end in 1900, though Dole favored ‘Iaukea as his successor. His motives are of course very clear. Denied to the succession of the Crown because he was a bastard, Kunuiakea decided to try to become president of a new republic.  

The Constitutional Convention of 1894

Another interesting tidbit is the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic of Hawai’i. According to Curtis ‘Iaukea in his autobiography, “By Royal Command”:

Encouraged by the news brought by the Alameda that the United States Senate had ‘arraigned President Cleveland for unconstitutional behavior’ by his policy of interference in the internal affairs of Hawai’i and, at the same time mindful of the fact that Congress ‘was fixed in its opposition to’ the annexation treaty, President Dole decided a permanent form of government should be forthwith established…
The election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention had taken place in March, and convention held its first sitting on May 30th, 1894, in the court room of the Supreme Court, the former Ali’iolani Hale…The delegates consisted of 6 Native Hawaiians, 14 residents born of foreign parentage, 9 Americans, 3 British, 3 Portuguese, and 2 Germans….(p193-194)

There are several things interesting about that statement. First, it mentions that the US Senate had censored President Cleveland for the so-called “Lili’uokalani Assignment” and for “Black Week”. “Black Week” and the censorship are topics that have not yet been tackled by “Kingdom groups”. Second,  it mentions the word “elected”. The electoral database according again to ‘Iaukea was 4,000 person. These were the persons who not only swore allegiance to the new Republic but had lots of money because the property qualifications were very high for its day.  ‘Iaukea, Kunuiakea, and the Parkers were all electors under the Republic which meant they had money. Third, the mention of Native Hawaiians who were elected to the Convention which shows that some wealthy Native Hawaiians did indeed collaborate. Fourth, the mention of American, British, Portuguese and Germans. Its understood that this meant that those Americans, British, etc were still citizens of their own country but were given denizenship (temporary citizenship something akin to a Green Card in today’s language). If they had been citizens, ‘Iaukea would have included them as part of the “residents born of foreign parentage”. In any normal country, non-citizens would not have been allowed to be elected much less as delegates to a Constitutional Convention. That alone tells you how unpopular the Republic was with the majority of the population and no matter what the opinions might have been of the 6 Native Hawaiian delegates, they would have been outvoted 3 to 1. It sorted reminds me of that story of the Kanaky helping an injured Frenchman only to have the Frenchman return with his friends and voting to kick out the Kanaky. But then again, the Republic of Hawai’i never claimed to be a democracy within Hawai’i since to do so would have been laughable. However, the Republic still worried about opposition and the final Constitution (which was submitted to the Convention ready to be signed similar to how the Japanese would write the constitutions for some of their puppet states thirty years later) had to be approved yet again by  Dole’s Advisory Council.

After the approval of the Constitution, there were also several Native Hawaiians who were “elected” to the Legislature and several who served in diplomatic missions. One of them was of course ‘Iaukea. The Queen in her trial had to make it a point to forgive those who had decided to work under the Republic because of monetary constraints but at the same time reminded them that they had to work for the future of Hawai’i. 

Now having said and proven that a minority of Native Hawaiians had actively participated in the government of Dole, this does not mean that Native Hawaiians approved of this during that time (as one can see from certain articles in the Ka Leo O ka Lahui. Nor does this make the P.G. and Republic a popularly supported government. Japan set up a number of “states” during WWII–most of these were recognized by other Axis powers and even by the Soviet Union (who had fought the Japanese). All of these puppet governments utilized the native leadership of the occupied area. In the case of the Japanese, they utilized the American historical precedence of California, Texas, and Hawai’i in establishing their “states”, particularly Manchukuo (満洲国), in their deliberations in the League of Nations in 1933. The League of Nations through the Lytton Report (note: this is why its important for everyone to read world history very carefully and not just rely on lectures) determined that the “states” even though it had native politicians (Manchukuo even had the last Qing Emperor of China as its “head”), it lacked popular support and would not have been established in the first place without Japanese troops. The same situation would apply to Hawai’i as did Manchukuo.       

Japanese propaganda poster for Manchukuo from the late 1930s

But on another level, it also means that contrary to the idealized popular myth that all Native Hawaiians universally have the same values and sense of patriotism—then and now. That is why it is wrong to assume that simply because someone is Native Hawaiian, they have the same sense of aloha ‘āina as another. Hawaiian culture, nationalism and patriotism are not genetically inherited or magically transmitted through kōkō. Some Native Hawaiians have absolutely no great affection for the land of their birth and only use their kōkō when its time to claim Hawaiian Homelands, for their Kamehameha Schools application for their son or daughter, or to make themselves a voice of the oppressed therefore empowering themselves through politics.  

The Hawai’i State Capitol

The Hawai’i State Capitol: Hawaiian International or Modernist Colonial?

Architecture has long been used as a political tool. Ramses II built temples and statues of himself along the Egyptian border with Nubia (modern day Sudan) to emphasize Egyptian sovereignty and might. Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler all used architecture as a way to legitimatize their regimes. In a colonial context, architecture is used to to showcase Western ideas of civilization and governance. The British were very fond of putting up Neo-classical administrative buildings in their colonies. The Spanish exported their Baroque style to their colonies all over Latin America.

According to the official state website,, the Hawai’i State Capitol was primarily designed by John Carl Warnecke along with other two architectural firms. John Carl Warnecke was the favorite architect of Jacqueline Kennedy who utilized him in a few of her projects in Washington, D.C.  The building design was built in the “Hawaiian International” modernist style, volcanic in form and to be rather large. When the Capitol was finished in 1969, it was the tallest building in downtown Honolulu. The color schemes of the House of Representative and Senate chambers are blue and red respectively and meant to symbolize the moon and sun. The white pillars are meant to symbolize the eight islands and are capped in the form of a palm tree. The moot around the capital is meant to represent the Pacific Ocean. Outside of the “official” explanation, is the State Capitol a modernist take on colonial architecture? Are there any undertones or subtexts to the architecture of the State Capitol?

In regards to the scale of the building, one can not help but notice how the capitol dominates ‘Iolani Palace. This reminds me of another building built in the early 20th century.  When the Japanese took over Korea in 1910, the first thing they did (well, besides arresting the Korean Imperial Family and placing them under house arrest under the guise of a coup like another government did in 1893 which shows imperial powers do learn from each other) was design a new government building called the Japanese Imperial General Government Building (sometimes also referred to as the Seoul Executive Building).  They chose a modernist (for that time period) architect to design a building that would stand directly behind and tower over Gyeongbokgung Palace, the former official residence of the Korean monarchy. The Japanese specifically chose the location in order to give legitimacy to their rule by connecting it to Korea’s past while at the

The Japanese Gen. Gov. Building dominating over Gyeongbokgung Palace
The Hawai’i State Capitol dominating over ‘Iolani Palace

time the scale was meant to impress upon on-lookers that Japan dominates Korea’s future. After Korea proclaimed its independence from Japan at the end of WWII, the Japanese General Government Building was divisive symbol for decades until it was finally demolished in the late 1990s.

The Hawai’i State Capitol also seems to be making the same message as the Japanese once did. Like the Japanese General Government Building, the Hawai’i State Capitol towers over what many consider to be governing center of the Hawaiian Kingdom (although factually speaking, the real governing center was Ali’iolani Hale not ‘Iolani Palace, which was only an official residence among several other royal residences). It thus connects itself to Hawai’i’s past by its proximity while its scale over the Palace suggests one of domination and abrogation.

In regards to the color scheme, officially the blue and red colors are supposed to represent the moon and sky. But it is is interesting to note that two two colors have long been associated with the Legislature since the time of the Republic of Hawai’i. During the Kingdom era, green was associated with the Legislature because of the color of the walls. When the Provisional Government took over, they moved into ‘Iolani Palace and renamed it “the Executive Building” (well, after they began to sell off the furniture and loot the jewelry).  When they proclaimed themselves a republic, their constitution created a Senate and a House of Representatives.  The Senate met in the Throne Room of the Palace while the House met in the State Dining Room which is next to the Blue Room.  This was relatively easy since the House and Senate only consisted of 15 persons each.  When the Republic gave itself to the United States, the United States created a Territorial Government. Unlike during the time of the Republic, the new Legislature had to actually be elected and poor and middle class Hawaiians actually could vote. Due to the increased size of the House of Representatives, the House moved into the larger Throne Room (aka “The Red Chamber”) while the Senate occupied both the State Dining Room and the Blue Room. Gradually the colors red and blue became associated with each chamber    

The Legislature int he 1950s

of the Legislature and it seems it was passed onto the State Capitol. From readings about Governor George Burns, Burns was aware of history and played an important role in the design of the Capitol. The Capitol was one of his pet projects. It seems likely that architect, who had visited Hawai’i, and/or the other architectural firms involved had discussed ideas with Burns and had seen ‘Iolani Palace when it housed both the Legislature and the Governor’s Office (which was in King Kalākaua’s former bedroom).  So they likely drew inspiration for the colors from the Palace and perhaps unknowingly switched the associated the colors of each Legislative house to the time of the Republic of Hawai’i.  

This leaves one to wonder what the State Capitol really stands for. Is it a modern symbol of democracy as the Hawai’i State website claims or is it a modernist take on colonial architect meant to both connect the present regime back to its historical roots in the Republic while at the same time dominate over the very symbols of Hawaiian royal history (i.e. ‘Iolani Palace and Ali’iolani Hale)?