La Kuokoa is not an official state holiday, but is designated as a day of remembrance on the islands.

People on the islands will be able to celebrate the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii through the first officially recognized La Kuokoa holiday. Gov. Josh Green recently signed a new bill into law acknowledging that Hawaiian Independence Day will be held annually on Nov. 28.

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“The Kingdom of Hawaii was the first non-European country whose independence was recognized by the major European powers,” Green said at the bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol.

That was followed by a mele performance from leaders in the Hawaiian community. “This has a long tradition in Hawaii, and it is a part of our Hawaiian history, our community history,” Green added.

The origins of La Kuokoa date back to 1843, when the Hawaiian Kingdom’s status of independence was formally recognized by Europe and France, followed by the United States in 1844, according to Kamehameha Schools. Through the kingdom’s diplomat Timoteo Ha‘alilio and his associate William Richards, the Anglo-Franco Proclamation was signed on this day and international powers acknowledged the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Nation.

This day is intended to symbolize the pride and identity associated with Hawaii, and is celebrated already with marches, music, pule and other cultural forms. 

In Senate Bill 731, La Kuokoa is not recognized as an official state holiday, associated with paid leave for government employees, but is designated as a day of remembrance on the islands.

A new law officially recognizes the La Kuokoa holiday, or Hawaiian Independence Day. (Blaze Lovell/Civil Beat/2019)

However, some critics called this legislative action pointless, if not counterproductive.

“I’m opposed to these resolutions. I don’t think most people would care or even notice if it’s around anyways,” said Kenneth Conklin, a Kaneohe resident and executive director of the self-created Center for Hawaiian Sovereignty Studies. “It’s like taking a fire that’s almost burnt out (within Hawaiian sovereignty movements) and getting those people all fired up again.”

Others in the community called the recognition a positive and meaningful step. 

“La Kuokoa is one of the most significant historical events that have occurred in Hawaii. Without the signing of the (Anglo-Franco) Proclamation, the Hawaii that we know and love probably would not exist,” said Adam Jansen, administrator of the state’s public archives.

“The state of Hawaii is the only government of Hawaii that has not yet recognized the historic significance of La Kuokoa. The Kingdom of Hawaii, the Republic of Hawaii, and the Territory of Hawaii all had this day on their official calendars,” Jansen added.

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In written testimony, Keith Regan, state comptroller in the Department of Accounting and General Services, said the U.S. decision to recognize the kingdom in 1844 was important.

“It made clear to the other world powers that Hawai’i was to stay whole and under its own government, able to negotiate amongst the nations of the world as equals,”. Regan said in written testimony. “Recognition of this event will provide a unique opportunity for the people of Hawaiʻi to reflect upon their history and the prominent place that Hawaiʻi has held on the world stage for over two centuries.”

Angelina Kekina Woo, a student at Kamehameha Schools Kapaalama, called the decision inspirational for young people like her.

“All around the state, Native Hawaiians are promoting cultural issues, recognizing historical events, and finding mana (spiritual energy) within each other,” she said in written testimony. “This is an important step towards recognizing our native Hawaiians and unifying our state aloha.”

Plans for the state’s official celebration of the holiday are still under discussion. The Legislature will commemorate its first state-recognized La Kuokoa in November.

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