HONOLULU (AP) — Ahead of the anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom 122 years ago, many Hawaiians are pushing for more sovereignty from the rest of the United States. Some favor a form of tribal recognition for native Hawaiians, but increasingly, the debate has been dominated by groups who want to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom and secede from the United States.
Below is a brief history of how the Pacific archipelago came to belong to the U.S. and an explanation of the debate over future of Hawaii's indigenous people.
The history of Hawaii's annexation by the U.S. still feels raw to many Hawaiians. The island chain was ruled by kings and queens until 1893. The kingdom was overthrown on Jan. 17, 1893 by a group of American businessmen with help from the U.S. military, over the protests of Hawaii's last monarch, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani. The islands were annexed by the United States five years later, and Hawaii became a state in 1959.
King Kamehameha III sought to protect the Hawaiian Kingdom from foreign dominance and sent delegates to the United States and Europe. In 1843, the United Kingdom and France recognized Hawaii's independence, and Hawaii later signed international treaties with the United States, Austria, Italy, Japan and other nations. The flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom pays homage to England and France for their early recognition of the kingdom. Its design includes elements of both European countries' flags.
After years of lobbying by advocates, the U.S. government is considering extending to Native Hawaiians the same type of tribal recognition that many American Indian tribes have had for generations. Moderates believe it's a far more realistic goal than achieving independence. But several groups are dedicated to ending what they call the occupation of Hawaii, seizing on arguments by legal scholars who say the kingdom's overthrow was illegal. Those groups have proposals including drafting a new constitution, though so far, they have not agreed on a path forward.