Although May was designated AAPI Heritage Month in 1992, September has only been designated as Hawaiian History Month since 2020! The University of Hawai’i launched it in partnership with Hawai’i Pono’i Coalition. In this post, we’ll tell you a bit more about the reasoning for September, a consolidated story of the Hawaiian Queen it celebrates, and where you can learn even more about Hawaiian History.
2020 Inaugural Hawaiian History Month: Queen Liliʻuokalani’s Birthday
Queen Lili’uokalani is a figurehead of Hawaiian History and leadership. In 2020, September was chosen for Hawaiian History month because it coincided with the Queen’s 182nd birthday: September 2nd. There are many reasons why Queen Liliʻuokalani’s birthday is so important to the Hawaiian people, and this post will give you a short overview of some of them.
The Queen’s Early Life
Queen Lili’uokalani was adopted and raised by her hanai (informally adopted) parents. Her brother, David Kalākaua, ascended to the throne in 1874. As a recognized heir to the throne by King Kamehameha III, Lili’uokalani ascended the throne on January 29th, 1891, nine days after her brother, Leileiohoku III, died.
The First and Only Queen of Hawaiʻi
Lili’uokalani was active in politics, philanthropy, and leadership long before gaining the title of Queen. She founded a bank for women called Liliʻuokalani Savings Bank, designated a section of Kakaʻako land for a leprosy hospital, and founded the Liliʻuokalani Educational society. Liliʻuokalani was a fierce advocate for her people and dedicated to projects and works, which reflected that dedication.
The Complex Political Landscape of the Overthrow
This short blog post cannot give you a complete account of the political complexities and nuances that led to a series of historical events. However, if we look at these events in the simplest terms, it was a battle for power over the Hawaiian Islands. The United States government was interested in making Hawaiʻi a state, and opinions about this were mixed. Queen Liliʻuokalani wanted to stop the United States government from taking over the Hawaiian Islands.
The United States Overthrow of Hawaiʻi
To do this, Queen Liliʻuokalani created a new Constitution which, if passed, would have given power back to Hawaiian peoples and disenfranchised native Hawaiians and Asians. The division came down to Monarchy versus Annexation, with both sides decidedly against the other. Queen Liliʻuokalani’s attempt to pass the new Constitution had made her a target of anti-monarchists. The overthrow and house arrest of Queen Liliʻuokalani took place on January 17th, 1893, just two years after the Queen took the throne. Some dissenters were hung, and many were arrested. Even after her release, the dethroned Queen fought tirelessly against the illegal annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Importance of Queen Liliʻuokalani
Queen Liliʻuokalani was the first and last female monarch to lead the Hawaiian Kingdom. She fought bravely to reestablish the power of the Hawaiian people and preserve their culture. Liliʻuokalani worked tirelessly to be a fair and just leader in her long life, up to her death in 1917 at 79. Her unlawful imprisonment marked the end of an era in Hawaiian History—Hawaiian sovereignty—which many groups are still working to return to.
Where to Learn More: Visit Iʻolani Palace
You can go on an Iʻolani palace tour to learn a fuller history. This incredible palace is where Lili’uokalani and previous Hawaiian monarchs lived and led the Hawaiian people.