The Annual ʻOnipaʻa Peace March: Observing the Overthrow

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By Healani Sonoda-Pale

The story of the Indigenous people of Hawaiʻi is one of resilience.

Over the past 245 years, Kānaka Maoli have survived an apocalyptic decline in our population, an aggressive American missionary brainwashing agenda, the introduction of an exploitative economic system, the privatization and theft of our native lands, and the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on Jan. 17, 1893, resulting in the complete loss of Kānaka Maoli political power in our own homeland.

The overthrow was the blow that has reverberated through the decades. It was the day a small gang of Haole businessmen, with the protection of American Marines and the support of the American Minister in Hawaiʻi, declared the establishment of a “Provisional Government” forcing our beloved Queen Liliʻuokalani to yield her authority to the United States – which she did to avoid the loss of Kānaka Maoli lives.

U.S. imperial interests in the Pacific thwarted efforts to restore Queen Liliʻuokalani to power. Despite U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s acknowledgement to Congress that “a substantial wrong has been done” regarding the overthrow, and a well-organized resistance movement of Aloha ʻĀina leaders, efforts to reestablish the monarchy failed in the wake of the Spanish-American War and the violent consolidation of U.S. territorial interests in the Pacific that required Hawaiʻi as a foothold.

To reinforce and support America’s presence in Hawaiʻi, history was rewritten, and the true events of the overthrow were suppressed. Generations of Kānaka Maoli grew up believing that we gave up our kingdom for a better life under U.S. rule; but nothing could be further from the truth.

Today, we don’t have to look far to see that life under U.S. rule is not working. Depressing socioeconomic statistics, the high cost of living, and spiraling environmental degradation are all telltale signs that all is not well in our homeland. Kānaka Maoli fill Hawaiʻi’s prisons, Oʻahu’s aquifer was poisoned by the Navy, and the historic town of Lahaina was burned to ashes along with 100 innocent victims.

It’s been 131 years since the overthrow and despite decades of adversity Kānaka Maoli are still here. Our population rallied from a low of 37,000 in 1900 to 680,000 strong today. Calls for Hawaiian sovereignty and self-determination have been ongoing since the 1980s and struggles to take back control of our lands and water are on the rise.

Nine years ago, the Queen’s Court led by a Kailana Moa-Eli marked the overthrow with a peaceful march from Maunaʻala (Royal Mausoleum) to ʻIolani Palace with a handful of Aloha ʻĀina protectors. This event evolved into the annual ʻOnipaʻa Peace March with thousands of participants each year – including dozens of schools – who congregate on the palace grounds for speeches, music and education.

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, we are gathering and marching as one lāhui acknowledging and remembering the wrongs done to our kūpuna so future generations will never forget and carry the struggle forward for a livable future that is possible only through the liberation of Hawaiʻi’s Indigenous people.


For more information and to register your school or group for the ‘Onipaʻa Peace March go to kalahuihawaii.net/onipaa.