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Reclaiming Heritage: Queen Liliʻuokalani's Royal Standard Returns to Hawaiʻi

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Reclaiming Heritage

Queen Liliʻuokalani's Royal Standard Returns to Hawaiʻi

A Symbol of Sovereignty and Hope for the Hawaiian People

July 24, 2023 ceremony welcoming Queen Liliʻuokalaniʻs royal standard back into public viewing.

In a momentous event that echoes the rich history of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen Liliuokalani's royal standard has returned home to Hawaii after an astonishing 130 years in private ownership. Queen Liliʻuokalani's Royal Standard finally returns home, following the the result of the tumultuous events of the 1893 overthrow.

A beautiful ceremony was held Monday morning, July 24, 2023, at Washington Place for the return of the Queen’s standard. The estate of Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa and philanthropist Brendan Damon Ethington donated funds to ensure its return home; contributing to a sum of $60,000, the flag's homecoming is nothing short of a triumph, reigniting the flames of Native Hawaiian pride and the hope for the restoration of their self-determination and sovereignty.

The Queen and the Overthrow

Queen Liliʻuokalani.

Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Inheriting the throne in 1891 after the passing of her brother, King Kalākaua, she endeared herself to her people with her compassionate rule. However, her reign faced mounting challenges from American businessmen and sugar planters who coveted Hawaii's strategic location and rich resources.

In 1893, these interests culminated in the overthrow of the Hawaiian government, orchestrated by a group of American businessmen and their allies. The Queen was forced to abdicate, and the provisional government quickly sought annexation to the United States. The U.S. Congress ratified the Newlands Resolution, which was a wartime special joint resolution passed on July 7, 1898 during the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, to annex the so-called independent Republic of Hawaiʻi (the newly instated government created by the overthrow group). This occurred in 1898, relegating Hawaiʻi to the status of an American territory without a treaty with the Hawaiian people.

The Mysterious Journey of the Royal Standard

On the day of the overthrow, Queen Liliʻuokalani's royal standard adorned the skies above Washington Place, fluttering as a symbol of her sovereignty and the Hawaiian Kingdom's

Washington Place. Queen Liliʻuokalani at front with guard.

integrity. However, as the provisional government took control, the flag was forcefully taken down and confiscated, its fate shrouded in mystery for decades.

The flag resurfaced in 1920 when it came into the possession of Robert Benson, a Honolulu businessman and collector. For generations, Benson's family retained the royal standard, keeping it away from public view and inaccessible to its rightful heirs.

A Symbol of Hawaiian Heritage and Sovereignty

For Native Hawaiians, the royal standard is much more than a piece of cloth; it is a powerful symbol of our heritage and sovereignty. Representing the Hawaiian Kingdom's historical legitimacy, the flag embodies the spirit of Queen Liliʻuokalani and her unyielding determination in the face of adversity. As it once graced the skies above Washington Place, the flag now stands as a testament to the enduring strength of the Hawaiian people and their cultural identity.

Empowering the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement

The return of the royal standard marks a pivotal moment in the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement—a grassroots effort to restore Native Hawaiian self-determination and sovereignty. The return of the standard heralded a triumph for the movement, signifying a step forward in reclaiming our ancestral rights and embracing our distinct historical heritage.

The flag's homecoming infuses renewed hope into the hearts of many Hawaiians who have long yearned for recognition and justice. It serves as a rallying point, galvanizing individuals and communities to work towards a future where Native Hawaiians can determine their destiny on their own terms.

Preserving and Displaying History

The sacred royal standard will find a fitting home at the Hawaiʻi State Archives in Honolulu, where it will be lovingly preserved and available for public viewing. As it now graces the public eye, its symbolic importance as a historical artifact and a cherished representation of Hawaiʻi's past, present, and future will inspire generations to come.

Queen Liliʻuokalani's royal standard's return to Hawaii marks a moment of reflection and revival. It commemorates the resilience of a proud people and kindles the fire of hope for a future in which Native Hawaiians stand united with self-determination and sovereignty restored. As the flag is displayed at the Hawaiʻi State Archives, it serves as a potent reminder of the past and an emblem of the aspirations that lie ahead. May it inspire the world to honor and respect the cultural identity and heritage of the Hawaiian people as we chart our course towards a brighter tomorrow.

All historical images courtesy of The Hawaiʻi State Archives. Images of the July 24th, 2023 ceremony are credited to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA).

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