WAILUA — While hundreds of people swarmed shopping centers and discount stores in search of Black Friday specials, a small group celebrated Ka La Kuokoa, Hawaiian Independence Day.
“Everyone has things to do, but I had to be here,” said Kuuleialoha Punua, who adjusted her Hawaiian flag while waiting for the moku convoy at the Hikinaakala Heiau at Lydgate Park.
The moku, or district, convoy started at MacArthur Park in Koopueo to honor Niihau and spanned the five moku on Kauai — Kona, Puna, Halelea, Napali, Koolau — before descending at the Anahola Beach Park for a paina hosted by Moku O Koolau that was geared to honor Hawaii’s history and culture.
“I am thankful — it is Thanksgiving — for my leaders, both the monarchy and alii, who started and established the government so we are here,” said Nani Rogers of Kapaa. “Hawaiians enjoy a lot of freedoms because King Kamehameha III had the foresight to protect us.”
Dan Ahuna, of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kauai, started at the first moku in Kekaha and planned to be with the convoy the rest of the way.
“It’s in their hearts and this is something I need to support,” he said.
Holidays are important aspects of a collective national identity, particularly a holiday like Independence Day, according to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.
An illegal intervention into Hawaii’s affairs in 1893 by the United States resulted in a “fake revolution” against the legitimate Hawaiian government, and a puppet oligarchy set itself up with its main purpose being Hawaii’s annexation to the United States.
Following a counter-revolution in 1895, the oligarchy announced that Nov. 28 would not be celebrated as La Kuokoa, and instead, the American holiday, Thanksgiving, would become the official national holiday.
Over time, the history — knowledge of the holiday and how it was replaced — was almost lost until Hawaiian language scholars started translating Hawaiian language newspapers and uncovered the history.
“This Ka La Kuokoa is a time of reflecting, and remembrance,” Ahuna said.
Pualiiliimaikalani Rossi-Fukino, an instructor in Hawaiian Studies at the Kauai Community College, said the day celebrates an event in 1843, when the governments of England and France officially acknowledged Hawaii’s independence.
During the reign of Kamehameha III, the Kingdom of Hawaii was under threat of foreign takeover, Rossi said. The King decided it was necessary to send three delegates to the United States, and Europe to negotiate treaties and secure the recognition of Hawaii’s independence. This task, led by overseas delegates Timoteo Haalilio, William Richards, and George Simpson, was accomplished on Nov. 28, 1843.
“It is so important that, as a people, we educate ourselves on these matters,” said Manulele Clarke, waiting to join the convoy at the Puna moku. “Hawaii is multi-facial and has multiple perspectives because of this. Everyone has their own ideas. It’s all good because it’s coming from the soul.”
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization states there recently has been a renewed effort to revive the celebration of Nov. 28 as Ka La Kuokoa, Hawaiian Independence Day, to remember that Hawaii was a fully recognized member of the world family of nations and that its independence is still intact under prolonged illegal occupation.
“People need to get used to saying ‘Ka La Kuoko,’” Rogers said. “It’s like ‘ahupuaa.’ You never used to hear people say it, now, we say it a lot.”