LIHUE — The Filipino American National Historical Society is diving into the past on the 95th anniversary of the 1924 Hanapepe Massacre, hoping to unearth what led to the battle and how it could have been prevented.
The battle involved striking Filipino plantation workers from the Makaweli Plantation in Hanapepe and Kauai sheriffs, which left 16 workers and four sheriffs dead.
Hawaii chapter Kauai Chairperson Michael Miranda has been working with his team for about a year to understand the event.
“There were so many accounts of what happened and how it happened, right after 1924. We may never get the true story, since those involved were killed, deported or arrested, and many who survived have since passed,” Miranda said.
“The most consistent account of September 9th that we have found so far is that the striking workers were accused of kidnapping or assaulting two workers who crossed the picket line. With tensions already high, a loud noise that may or may not have been gunfire triggered the fighting,” he said.
”Language barriers and the strong anti-union sentiment of the 1920s made it even more difficult for both sides to diffuse the situation.”
Building on past research and literature, the group looks to analyze what led to the battle, how it could have been prevented, and its legacy. The FANHS-HI Chapter Kauai contingent includes Miranda, Catherine Lo, Karl Lo, Raymond Catania, Fern Holland and Dale Shimomura.
The team hopes to cap their research by locating the true resting places of the sheriffs and plantation workers killed, and placing proper markers on their graves.
“The Hanapepe Massacre already has a monument in the public park near the Hanapepe fire station,” Miranda said. “But marking the graves, we feel, would bring clossure for the descendants of those who passed in this incident. It would also be a symbol of the early struggles in breaking down cultural barriers and the importance of us learning to coexist today.”
The group will be presenting their research at the FANHS biennial conference next summer in Waikiki.
The idea to launch deeper research into the event sparked from an oral history project by Kauai man Chad Taniguchi, who interviewed witnesses in 1977 while studying at University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Miranda also studied the event while going to UH Manoa.
“For me, the Hanapepe Massacre was not part of any history class in public schools. I was a junior at UH Manoa when I finally learned about the Hanapepe Massacre. Our team is relying on data that’s been out there, but the dots have not been connected. Any information that people think can be useful is welcome,” Miranda said.
The mission of the FANHS is to promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino Americans in the United States.