By Healani Sonoda-Pale
For the past few years, there has been an effort at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature to designate Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea a recognized state holiday in Hawaiʻi.
A national holiday of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea celebrated the restoration of the kingdom’s sovereignty on July 31, 1843, after a five-month-long British occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.
This year, the state legislature passed House Bill 2475, which Gov. David Ige signed into law as Act 082 on July 18. It establishes July 31 as “Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea” which means “Sovereignty Restoration Day.”
Act 082 brings Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea on par with other honorific days like Lei Day and Buddha Day.
Although it is still not a recognized state holiday, this recognition is nevertheless a step forward toward helping to expand the political consciousness of both Kānaka Maoli and the public on the true history of an independent Hawaiian Nation.
First celebrated in 1843, this Hawaiian Kingdom holiday was all but forgotten for decades until it was revived by a handful of Aloha ʻĀina led by Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell in 1986 at Thomas Square.
July 31, 1843, was the day that Admiral Richard Thomas of the British government ordered the Union Jack lowered and the Hawaiian Kingdom flag raised at the Honolulu park that was later named in his honor. On that victorious day, King Kamehameha III proclaimed, “Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono,” which translates as the “sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea was celebrated both here and abroad for half a century until the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893. The theft of our lands, suppression of our history, and the criminalization of our language followed. Erasure of our identity and proud history was a necessary part of the American assimilation of Kānaka Maoli and the continued occupation of our islands.
Today, we have Kānaka Maoli leaders like Dr. Noelani Goodyear-Kaōpua, Lynette Cruz, and Imai Winchester to thank for elevating the status of this Hawaiian holiday which serves to increase the visibility of the plight of Aloha ʻĀina in our struggle for self-determination, sovereignty, and the return of our lands.
Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea has now become a month-long celebration. Communities both here on Oʻahu and the neighbor islands celebrate the restoration of our Nation’s sovereignty in 1843 with the intention to one day attain justice for Hawaiʻi’s Native people.
OHA Board Chair Lindsey’s Statement on Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea
“At the state capitol [on July 18], Gov. David Ige held a commemorative bill presentation marking the passage of HB2475, which designates July 31 of each year as a special day of observance in honor of Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, or Sovereignty Restoration Day.
“In 1843, Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea commemorated the reinstatement of the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom after the British ambassador and a British Navy captain illegally seized control of the nation. It was King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III who established this first national holiday of the Hawaiian Kingdom following the return of the government by the United Kingdom, proclaiming “Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono – the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” which would become the motto of the monarchy and, in 1959, the official motto of the State of Hawaiʻi.
“Each year, this proclamation will present an exceptional opportunity to inform all of Hawaiʻi, and especially our future generations, of the important and unique history of our islands. It has been said that only by remembering our past can we breathe ea – sovereignty and independence – into our future. Mahalo to the ʻŌiwi who advocated for this designation, to Rep. Mark Nakashima for introducing this bill, to our state legislators, and to Gov. Ige for signing it into law and for recognizing the importance of King Kamehameha III’s established holiday in a days-long celebration following the rightful return of Hawaiʻi’s sovereign government by the United Kingdom.”