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Ma Hope Ho'i Ma Mua

Senate Apology

Length - 9:41

ESTHER KIAAINA: My name is Esther Kiaaina and in 1993, I was a legislative aide for Senator Daniel Akaka in Washington. And my primary issue areas were native Hawaiian issues, the U.S. territories and indigenous rights.

One of most significant events that happened while I was working for Senator Akaka was the passage of the apology resolution in 1993.


OCTOBER 27, 1993

SENATE CLERK: A joint resolution to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893, overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and to offer an apology to native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i.

DANIEL AKAKA: Mr. President, few Americans know that the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was a highly organized, civilized, and sovereign nation from the unification of the Hawaiian Islands under King Kamehameha I in 1810 until the overthrow of its last monarch in 1893.

Few Americans appreciate that for nearly 70 years, between 1826 and 1893, the United States recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government, and entered into treaties and conventions with the Hawaiian monarchs to govern commerce and navigation.

Americans do not understand that, without the active support and intervention by U.S. diplomatic and military representatives, the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani on January 17, 1893, would have failed for lack of popular support and insufficient arms.

Finally, few Americans know that, in a message to Congress on December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland described the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i as, and I quote, "an act of war committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States without the authority of Congress," unquote. And he acknowledged that by such acts, the government of a peaceful and friendly people was overthrown.

S J Res. 19 acknowledges the historic significance of the January 17, 1893, overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. It offers an apology to the native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i with participation of citizens and agents of the United States.

The resolution would also provide the proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the native Hawaiians.

Mr. President, the Federal Government must also begin the healing process. Not until our Nation understands the significance of the events surrounding the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i will American people appreciate the meaning of the Native Hawaiian rights movement, which grows each day.

The PRESIDING OFFICER: Who yields time? The Senator from Washington is recognized.

SLADE GORTON: Mr. President. My distinguished friend, the junior Senator from Hawai‘i, made no mention in his opening speech of what these ramifications were or of how this reconciliation was to take place.

Many members of the Native Hawaiian community in the State however have done exactly that.

A small minority, The Lost Angeles Times says, advocates total independence, in effect the re- creation of the old kingdom.

This coup took place more than 100 years ago. No one is alive who played any role in it. No one is alive, perhaps there are a couple of centenarians who may have been babies when it took place. This is a different time and a different generation.

In no realistic way can we apologize for the acts by people over whom we had no responsibility and with whom we shared no life whatsoever.

I know that the two Senators of Hawai‘i do not agree with the radicals who wish independence as a result, but the logical consequences of this resolution would be independence. That is the only way that the clock can ever truly be turned back.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Kerrey): The senator from Hawai‘i.

DANIEL INOUYE: Mr. President, a century ago, a company of uniformed U.S. Marines and two companies of U.S. sailors landed on the shores of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i at the behest of the Minister of the United States of America, Mr. Stevens, and by so doing, assisted a handful of American and European businessmen, the pillars of society, in an illegal overthrow of the kingdom, a kingdom which was then internationally recognized by treaty by the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany, exchange of ambassadors

The overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani on January 17, 100 years ago, Mr. President, was not supported by the people of Hawai‘i.

It was an illegal act committed in violation of the constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, and most importantly, it was an act which was supported without proper authorization by agents and representatives of this country.

Obviously, we cannot change history. We are not here to change history. But we can acknowledge responsibility. And so I say to my colleagues, I think the time has come. A hundred years has been long enough. All we have to say is "We're sorry."

The PRESIDING OFFICER: Are there any other senators wishing to vote? If not, the yeas is 65, the nays is 34, the joint resolution's agreed to under previous order. The preamble of the resolution's agreed to.

ESTHER KIAAINA: The apology resolution leveled the playing field. So for the first time, number one, the United States, with the president's signature admitted the role of the U.S. in the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani.

Number two, it committed itself to a reconciliation process, which, in lieu of redress, which should not be determined by the federal government, is ongoing. And that is what we have here today.

And I think that it's clear that apart from federal programs, reconciliation cannot begin without a substantive discussion on political status and the return of ceded lands.

KEANU SAI: Now, if I read to you the apology, the acknowledgment. "The congress, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i." So common sense tells you if it's illegal, then it must have been legal before it became illegal. So legal-wise, you're talking Kingdom of Hawai'i. OK, as a country now. Government.

...."acknowledges the historical significance of this event, which resulted in the suppression of the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people." Is that correct? Inherent sovereignty of the Hawaiian people.

But it's not sovereignty, Hawaiians are not inherently sovereign. Hawaiians have inherent rights, vested rights. The government, the body politic, is that sovereignty.

And then "Congress expresses its commitment to acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, in order to provide a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people." Is that correct?

No. It's the United States and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. The Native Hawaiian people are part of that country. You also have non-natives that are part of this country, right?

FRANCIS BOYLE: This law is styled as an apology, and one might say that yes, an apology is certainly here and it is long overdue. but it is not enough. When a government commits a severe violation of international law, as happened here, it should not simply apologize and then walk away. Damages are required, reparations, and in extraordinary circumstances, restitution, that is, to return the situation to what it was before the violation.

Ma Hope Ho'i Ma Mua