In 1843, after temporary occupation of the government by rogue British agents, led by Lord George Paulet, Queen Victoria dispatched Admiral Richard Thomas of the British Royal Navy to take down the Union Jack and return the Hawaiian flag to its rightful spot.
Sovereignty was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom and reigning (King Kamehameha III) established the holiday with a celebration. Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (LHE) was the first National Holiday of the Hawaiian kingdom celebrated every July 31, followed by La Kuokoa (Hawaiian Independence Day) on November 28.
During this time, Kamehameha III proclaimed “Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono”. In 1959, it was adopted as the motto of the state of Hawaiʻi, translated as “The life (sovereignty) of the land is perpetuated in righteousness (justice)”. In 2018, a statue of Kamehameha III was placed in Thomas Square in Honolulu.
Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea was celebrated annually with processions, feasts, song (see Ka Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea – Bishop Museum Blog), and dance until the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 when national holidays were forbidden by occupying governments.
Born Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa, Kauikeaouli ascended the throne at just 12 years old after his brother Kamehameha II (Liholiho) died from measles. He was then given the name Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kīwalaʻō i ke kapu Kamehameha. Kamehameha III is the Hawaiian kingdom’s longest reigning monarch, from 1825-1854.
Kamehameha III ruled Hawaiʻi during a very difficult time. The native Hawaiian population was decimated by Western diseases,
- In 1840, established the public education system in Hawaiʻi. Today it is the oldest educational system west of the Mississippi and the only system established by a sovereign monarch. The literacy rate for the Hawaiian population rose to an incredible 95%.
- Established in 1843 and expanded in 1853, Kamehameha III transformed the government into a constitutional monarchy, establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii as an Independent State defined by a Constitution, specifying basic rights for the Hawaiian people, and recognized by governments of many other nations, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, the United States of America, and others.
- In 1845, moved the capital from the whaling port of Lahaina to a modernizing Honolulu, reflecting the needs of an international power.
- In 1848, enacts the Great Mahele, a controversial piece of legislation in Hawaiian history that created fee simple land ownership system, believing it would give common Hawaiian people greater control over their land in the face of encroachment from international business interests. For a variety of reasons, almost all of the land fell under control by wealthy local and international interests.
Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea Honolulu
After decades of cultural suppression, the celebration was revived in 1985 by Uncle Kekuni Blaisdell and other kānaka aloha ʻāina (patriots) to give voice to Hawaiian independence. Since then, continued grassroots efforts have established a space for independence dialogue, education on critical Hawaiian issues, and a platform for civil action.
Today, Hawaiians continue to breathe life into their sovereignty. The organization “Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea Honolulu” returns to the historic location at Thomas Square in Honolulu to mark the importance of this day. Each year two kūpuna aloha ʻāina (patriots) are honored, one living and one deceased.
Since 2005, new leadership has expanded the event beyond a one-day celebration to include community events throughout the month of July, attracting participants and followers from around the world who share the same message and spirit of this special Hawaiian independence holiday. LHE events are free, public events organized by teachers, students, activists, farmers, artists, scholars, entrepreneurs. and families.
LHE Honolulu is the longest-running, grassroots-organized Hawaiian independence event. The of goal Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea is to create free public education and cultural programming focused on Hawaiian national-level and community-level independence.
More info: La Hoihoi Ea
2023 Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea Honolulu
The annual celebration in Honolulu at Thomas Square (925 S Beretania St) will take place Sunday, July 30, 2023, from 10am – 6pm. The flag ceremony is at noon. This year’s honorees:
- Puʻuhonua Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, founder of Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo, a Hawaiian cultural village and agricultural restoration project in Waimānalo, Hawai‘i.
- Liwai Kaʻawa.