The Union Jack flies above the Hawaiian Flag just before the re-enactment of La Hoihoi Ea, or the day independence was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom, also known as Hawaiian Flag Day, at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on Tuesday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
University of Hawaii master’s degree student and National Park Service volunteer Kalaniakea Wilson, center, lowers the flags to remove the British Flag in an re-enactment of the La Hoihoi Ea, or the day independence was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom, also known as Hawaiian Flag Day, at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on Tuesday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Kaoha Wilson, 10, front, joins other participants in the re-enactment of La Hoihoi Ea, or the day independence was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom, by blowing pu ohe (bamboo trumpets) and conch shells 21 times. This symbolized the original 21-cannon salute in Honolulu Harbor that occurred July 31, 1843. This remembrance event took place at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park Tuesday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Participants re-create La Hoihoi Ea, or the day independence was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom, by blowing pu ohe (bamboo trumpets) and conch shells 21 times. This symbolized the original 21-cannon salute in Honolulu Harbor that occurred July 31, 1843. This remembrance event took place at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park Tuesday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
More than 50 people came to listen to Kalaniakea Wilson, a University of Hawaii master’s degree student and National Park Service volunteer, left, give a presentation about the Hawaiian Flag, Hawaii Motto, Hawaii Ponoi and La Hoihoi Ea, the day Independence was restored to the Kingdom of Hawaii, at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park Tuesday. (Laura Shimabuku/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Conch shells and bamboo trumpets were blown Tuesday in a joyous cacophony at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
The distinctive, deep resonating sound was produced by more than 50 National Park Service employees, volunteers, residents and visitors who formed a circle around a flagpole in the parking lot near the Hale Hookipa visitor center. Twenty-one times the group blew their instruments as Kalaniakea Wilson lowered the British and Hawaiian flags, only to then raise and fly the state’s emblem.
They were re-enacting an important moment in Hawaii’s history that’s not well-remembered, celebrating La Hoihoi Ea, the day that independence was restored 169 years ago to the Hawaiian kingdom, said Wilson, a National Park Service volunteer and University of Hawaii student finishing his master’s degree in Hawaiian Language.
For his thesis, Wilson has been examining the more than 100 Hawaiian-language newspapers, particularly those produced from 1843 to 1896. Through his research, Wilson discovered more about the state’s song and motto — knowledge he shared during the park’s four-hour-long remembrance event Tuesday.
Growing up, Wilson was told the state’s motto, “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono,” means “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” When examining each word, he noticed “Ea,” or sovereignty and independence, is not in the motto’s well-known translation. This sparked further investigation for the word “Ea” in Hawaiian-language newspapers during the monarchy era. That’s when he discovered La Hoihoi Ea, a holiday that provided a foundation for the restoration of the Hawaiian kingdom on July 31, 1843.
The holiday commemorates the day British Adm. Richard Thomas ordered the Union Jack to be removed and replaced with the Hawaiian flag. This act ended the “unauthorized” five-month military occupation by Lord George Paulet, the captain of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Carysfort. It was celebrated by more than 15,000 people with a parade and 21-cannon salute from the ships in Honolulu Harbor, Wilson said.
During his presentation, Wilson showed the audience letters printed in Hawaiian-language newspapers from Paulet and Kamehameha III. The first letter, printed Feb. 17, 1843, was a declaration of war from Paulet, who promised to “blow up the city” at 4 the next day if the king did not meet his demands, Wilson said.
Succumbing to pressure and “troubled with the problems that arrived for no reason at all,” Kamehameha III wrote a treaty ceding the kingdom to the British crown and alerting Queen Victoria of the rogue captain’s actions. In his proclamation, printed Feb. 25, 1843, Kamehameha III reassured his people he would remain king and was “in good spirits that the sovereignty of our lands will be returned and restored,” Wilson said.
Thomas — the man whom Thomas Square in Honolulu was named for — arrived from Argentina and ordered the British flags down, restoring the kingdom. It was at the end of this period of uncertainty and during a service at Thomas Square that Kamehameha III uttered the state motto, Wilson said.
Despite popular belief, “Hawaii Ponoi” isn’t the first Hawaiian national anthem. Prior to 1862, Hawaii didn’t have an original anthem. Instead, the British anthem, “God Save the King,” was adopted for stately occasions, Wilson said.
In December 1861, a Hawaiian-language newspaper publicized an anthem-writing contest, sponsored by Kamehameha IV, which specified the song had to be in Hawaiian, set to the tune of “God Save the King” and meet the January 1862 deadline. The winning entry, titled “E Ola ka Moi i ke Akua,” was composed by Prince William Lunalilo, who won $10, Wilson said.
His song was used during the last year of the reign of Kamehameha IV, and again during Lunalilo’s own reign as king in 1873. In between, Queen Liliuokalani’s composition, “He Mele Lahui Hawaii,” was used as the state’s song. “Hawaii Ponoi,” written in 1874 by King David Kalakaua, wasn’t adopted as the state anthem until 1967, Wilson said.
According to Wilson, each line and verse of “Hawaii Ponoi” has a tremendous depth of knowledge. He revealed how certain lines are reflective of the Great Mahele, a major land distribution, or lua, an ancient art of self defense and martial arts.
He shared his interpretations of the song. For instance, he translated the last verse, “E ka lahui e, O kau hana nui, E u ie,” as the king humbly requesting his people to work hard, be industrious and to strive.
Wilson claimed the line, “Nana i kou moi,” means more than just being loyal to the king; it means looking to the king, his achievements and what he left behind. He said Kalakaua has songs, poems and journals, that can be viewed through the state archives.