History of the Struggle to Achieve Statehood

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The History of the Struggle to Achieve Statehood, and Current Challenges

(c) Copyright 2002 - 2005 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


The status of Hawai’i as a State within the United States has become surprisingly controversial in the past few years. Hawai'i's struggle to achieve Statehood spanned 110 years, from a proposal by King Kamehameha III in 1849 until the achievement of Statehood in 1959. The vote in the 1959 plebiscite was 94% in favor of Statehood. But now some Hawaiian sovereignty activists seek to rip the 50th star off the flag, claiming it never should have been put there. They question the legality of the revolution of 1893 that overthrew the monarchy, the annexation of 1898 that made Hawai'i a U.S. territory, and the Statehood vote of 1959. This webpage provides a timeline of the progress toward Statehood from 1849-1959. It provides excerpts of newspaper articles describing the Great Statehood Petition of 1954 containing 120,000 signatures, and an update on what has become of that petition. It provides newspaper articles documenting the refusal by government authorities to fly the U.S. flag over the former capitol building of the Territory and State of Hawai'i where it flew for 70 years, because Hawaiian activists now regard 'Iolani Palace as their capitol of a still-living Kingdom of Hawai'i. This webpage provides text and commentary on a resolution that passed the Hawai'i State Senate in 2001 calling upon the United Nations to hold an internationally supervised plebiscite offering independence to Hawai'i, and an opposing resolution offered in 2002 and 2003 to affirm Hawai'i's pride in being the 50th state (it died in committee without a hearing in 2002, and it had a committee hearing in 2003 but was then postponed indefinitely and thereby killed without a vote).

Hawai'i's Great Statehood Petition

Click here for a major webpage about Hawai’i’s Great Statehood Petition of February 1954 -- 120,000 signatures gathered in 2 weeks on a petition for statehood for Hawai'i. A huge roll of newsprint was unrolled for a block in downtown Honolulu for people to sign the petition. Two weeks later a sendoff celebration was held at ‘Iolani Palace including chants, hula, kahili, and torch bearers before sending the 250 pound petition to Congress. Quotes are provided from 1954 newspaper articles, and photo captions, describing the events of those two weeks. Information is provided about what has happened to the petition and where it is stored today. The contents of one signature page are provided including 32 names and addresses.

Resolution challenging the statehood of Hawai'i and asking for United Nations intervention in Hawai'i to supervise an independence plebiscite


Some Hawaiian sovereignty activists believe that Hawai'i still remains, or should once again become, an independent nation. They argue that the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 was illegal and resulted from an armed invasion by the United States. They say the Republic of Hawai'i from 1894-1898 was an illegal government; and some say it was a U.S. puppet regime. They say the annexation of 1898 was illegal both because the Republic (which offered to be annexed) was not a legitimate government and because the U.S. used joint resolution rather than treaty ratification as the method of annexation. Thus, they say, the Territory of Hawai'i from 1898 to 1959 was not legitimate. Furthermore, they say the Statehood vote of 1959 whereby the citizens of Hawai'i voted 94% in favor of Statehood was illegal under international law because it failed to offer the option of independence, and also because it allowed people other than Native Hawaiians to vote in the plebiscite. Ethnic nationalist Hawaiian independence activists like to say: "Last star on, first star off!" indicating their hope that the last star to go onto the American flag will be the first star to be ripped off the flag.

Text of HCR59


A resolution passed the Hawai'i State Senate in 2001 calling for Congress and the United Nations to revisit the Statehood vote of 1959. The clear implication of that resolution is that Hawai’i might not legitimately be a state. The United Nations is asked to intervene, to hold a plebiscite offering the option of independence. The text of that resolution is provided, so that readers of this website can see the absurd extent of "political correctness" as politicians bend over backwards to be nice to the sovereignty activists. What the resolution does not say, but any sovereignty activist will gleefully proclaim, is that under their view of international law, the only people who would be eligible to vote in such a plebiscite would be ethnic Hawaiians (and perhaps a handful of others whose ancestors were naturalized subjects of the Kingdom, as long as they did not commit “treason” by supporting the overthrow of the monarchy).


Hawai’i has an annual holiday celebrated in mid-August to commemorate the day when President Eisenhower officially proclaimed that Hawai’i was the 50th State (August 21, 1959). The holiday was originally known as Admission Day, but in 2001 the Legislature changed its name to Statehood Day. In recent years, the holiday has gone largely unobserved, except as a paid holiday for state employees. But the admission of Hawai'i to Statehood in 1959 was a great victory joyously celebrated following decades of effort by both political parties and all ethnic groups. Schoolchildren throughout America know that Hawai'i is the 50th state. Hawai'i was the last state to be admitted to the Union, which happened in 1959.

Nearly everyone in Hawai’i is proud to be American, including most ethnic Hawaiians. There has been a great upsurge of American patriotism among the people of Hawai'i following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, including prominent displaying of the American flag. But some ethnic nationalist independence activists have made it politically incorrect to celebrate our status as the 50th state, and have made it politically incorrect to fly the U.S. flag on some public buildings or to show American patriotism in some public parks. These sovereignty activists are raising questions regarding whether Hawai’i is a state, or should continue to be one. Partly in response to that, a resolution to revive an active celebration of the Statehood Day holiday was introduced in both chambers of the Hawai’i State Legislature in 2002.

The Statehood Day Celebration resolution, and a Statehood Day message from Governor Cayetano in August 2002, are highly controversial. They SHOULD NOT be controversial, but in the political environment of Hawai’i today, they are.

Here is an appeal published in 2002 to encourage Hawai’i’s people to support the Statehood Day Celebration resolution and to oppose the independence resolution. In 2003 there was no independence resolution to be opposed, so perhaps progress has been made.


Text of HR11 and SR22 - 2002


In 2002 a Statehood Day Celebration resolution was introduced in both the House and Senate.

Here is the text of the resolution HR11 and SR22 from 2002. It briefly reviews the long history of Hawai’i’s struggle to become a state. It urges the Governor to organize a vigorous celebration of the already existing Statehood Day holiday (formerly known as Admission Day). The celebration should include significant events on the grounds of the ‘Iolani Palace museum. This building was the Capitol of the Territory of Hawai’i and the State of Hawai’i where the U.S. flag flew proudly for 70 years until the new Capitol building was completed next door in 1968. The old Capitol building, now a museum of the Hawaiian Kingdom period, was the focal point for the achievement of Statehood in 1959.

During the Legislative session of 2002, the resolution to celebrate Hawai’i’s statehood caused great anxiety among the Legislators. No hearing was ever held on it in either the House or Senate. Legislators feared that a vote in favor of the resolution would cause trouble for them with ethnic Hawaiian activists, while a vote against it would cause troube with voters who feel patriotic toward America (especially after the September 11 terrorist attack). The Speaker of the House and Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs jointly wrote a new “politically correct” Statehood Day resolution which substantially weakened the original one. To see the toothless politically correct attempted compromise (which never got a hearing) and the political story behind it, see: http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/houseleaderstatehoodreso2002hcr180hr129.html

In 2002 all versions of the Statehood Day Celebration resolution died in committee in both the House and Senate, without ever having a hearing.

In 2003 the Statehood Day Celebration resolution was introduced only in the Senate, as both a Senate Resolution and also a Senate Concurrent Resolution that could travel to the House after being passed by the Senate. Both versions of the resolution had the support of 14 out of the 25 Senators, who showed their support by signing their names to it: ADUJA, HOGUE, IGE, SLOM, TRIMBLE, HOOSER, SAKAMOTO, KAWAMOTO, KOKUBUN, Bunda, Espero, Fukunaga, Inouye, Chun-Oakland. The resolution had a Senate committee hearing but encountered opposing testimony from Hawaiian sovereignty independence activists who argued that Hawai’i is not legitimately a state. A committee vote was deferred to the following week. But behind the scenes, an ethnic Hawaiian Senator who agrees with the sovereignty activists let it be known he did not like the resolution, and as a result the committee indefinitely deferred a vote and thereby killed the resolution without needing to have any officially recorded vote.

The text below is for SR144, the Senate Resolution introduced in 2003. It is nearly identical with the resolution introduced in 2002. http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/statehoodreso2003sr144.html


On August 16, 2002, Governor Benjamin Cayetano of the State of Hawai’i issued an official message in celebration of the state holiday now known as Statehood Day (formerly Admission Day). The Governor’s message is a strong affirmation of Hawai’i’s patriotism toward the United States, our pride in being the 50th state, and our enduring commitment to unity, equality, and aloha for all. For Governor Cayetano’s message, see: http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/statehdgovmsg081602.html

On August 15, 2003 Governor Lingle had her first opportunity to issue a Statehood Day message. It is interesting that Governor Lingle's rambling message dwells on a foreigner's speech telling Americans why they should be proud to be Americans, rather than directly telling our own people of Hawai'i in her own words why we should celebrate our status as a state. Governor Lingle mentioned "equality" only once, and did not mention "unity" or "aloha" at all. Perhaps that's because she strongly favors and actively lobbies for the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, and realizes that legislation establishing a race-based government to protect racially exclusionary benefits is not consistent with equality, unity, or aloha for all. Governor Cayetano's message on August 16, 2002 (click on link above) was much stronger, more personal, and considerably shorter and to the point. Here is Governor Lingle’s message of August 15, 2003: http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/statehdgovmsg081503.html

Hawai'i Statehood Day 2005

Hawaii Statehood Day 2005 -- No Celebration on Any Island, But An Anti-Statehood Attempted Rally on Maui


Three controversies erupted in Honolulu following the terrorist attack on New York and Washington of September 11, 2001.

(1) A reporter from a small town in Washington State happened to be on vacation in Waikiki at that time, and published a newspaper article in her home town saying that the people of Hawai’i weren’t showing much patriotism and weren’t flying the U.S. flag very much. Her article drew an outpouring of outrage and anger from citizens of Hawai’i who defended our American patriotism.

(2) The director of a mental health clinic in Wai’anae refused to allow his employees to display the American flag on the clinic building. He claimed his refusal is based on a policy of the clinic to avoid displaying political or religious symbols which might cause distress to mental health patients; but in reality that director is a well-known Hawaiian ethnic nationalist independence activist who considers the U.S. to be illegally occupying Hawai’i. His public comment, that he believes many residents of Wai’anae do not feel allegiance to the U.S., caused an uproar of outraged indignation in the newspapers and on radio talk shows.

(3) The director of the ‘Iolani Palace museum decided to fly the U.S. flag there for a period of 30 days, in a show of support for the victims of the terrorism of September 11. She was severely criticized by Hawaiian sovereignty activists. The director apologized to the sovereignty activists for flying the U.S. flag there; and her apology drew outraged protests from patriotic Americans who think nobody should ever apologize for flying the U.S. flag on a public building. The governor vowed to fly it there every day, despite its absence from that building for more than 30 years. But in the end the Governor quietly backed down and the U.S. flag will never fly there again unless the patriotic people of Hawai’i demand it. The excuse is that ‘Iolani Palace is a period-piece museum and should maintain the appearance it had during the Kingdom period. The real reason for not flying the U.S. flag at the Palace is that the sovereignty activists regard the Palace as their capitol of a still-living Kingdom of Hawai’i, and have convinced the liberal politicians that ethnic Hawaiians would have their feelings hurt by flying the U.S. flag there and would see it as an insult to their reverence for their heritage.

All three of the above controversies illustrate the need for the patriotic majority of Hawai’i’s people of all ethnicities to step forward and assert our patriotism more visibly, including an annual celebration of Statehood Day. For further details about the three controversies described above, see: http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/hawpatriotpost911.html