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The dark history of the overthrow of Hawaii - Sydney Iaukea

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On January 16th, 1895, two men arrived at Liliʻuokalani’s door, arrested her, and imprisoned her. The Missionary Party had recently seized power and now confiscated her diaries, ransacked her house, and claimed her lands. Liliʻuokalani was Hawaii’s queen and she ruled through one of the most turbulent periods of its history. Sydney Iaukea shares how the ruler fought the annexation of Hawaii.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Sydney Iaukea
  • Director Luísa M H Copetti, Hype CG
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Storyboard Artist Luísa M H Copetti
  • Animator Murilo Jardim
  • Hype Producer Taíla Soliman
  • Art Director Luísa M H Copetti
  • Sound Designer Gabriel Maia
  • Composer Gabriel Maia
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam
Additional Resources for you to Explore
“Early this morning at six got a note from Kunane (Kalakaua) saying he would like to have me go to England with the Queen.” The following week, Princess Liliʻuokalani would voyage to Great Britain for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebration with her husband John O. Dominis, Queen Kapiolani, and their royal entourages. International travel was known to the Aliʻi, and her brother King Kalākaua was the first head of state to circumnavigate the globe during his reign.

Still, her meeting with U.S. President Grover Cleveland, enroute to England, would spark a friendship that proved to be fortuitous. He withdrew the first Treaty of Annexation set forth by the Republic of Hawaiʻi to the U.S. Senate in 1893. President Cleveland also sent Congressman James Blount to Hawaiʻi to investigate the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaiʻi halted the second attempt at annexation. Approximately 38,000 signatures were carried to U.S. Congress, with over 21,000 of them entered into the Congressional record. However, the Newlands Resolution, an internal act of Congress and without the authority to cede another nation, spurred the taking of Hawaiʻi the following year. This opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty, initially recognized by the Anglo-Franco Proclamation in 1843, would bear heavily on Queen Liliʻuokalani and her people.

Following the overthrow, members of the Royal Hawaiian Band refused to sign oaths of allegiance to the Provisional Government and the song Kaulana Nā Pua (Famous Are The Flowers) tells of the struggle of ka poe i ka ‘āina (people who love their land). Uluhaimalama garden was planted by the Queen for her supporters and in resistance, as flowers played both a practical and symbolic role. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s plea to the international community, recalls her love for flowers and other aspects of her early life. She spent many hours writing hundreds of songs, because for her, “to compose was as natural to me as to breathe.”
She created an Educational Society for young girls and a women’s bank, and hosted grand galas at ʻIolani Palace for visiting heads of state. The book also tells of the darker political happenings, and The Diaries of Queen Liliʻuokalani 1885-1900 reveals the constant threats she endured from her enemies. These diaries were initially seized and used to implicate her in the counterrevolution. They were later returned to her estate after her death and turned over, at her request, to the Hawaiʻi State Archives by Colonel Curtis Piehu Iaukea, the Chair of her Trust Deed and her political attaché for many years.

Here is a video of Iaukea and Queen Liliʻuokalani walking together near the end of her life. Into the early 1900’s, Queen Liliʻuokalani faced two notable legal battles. The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawaiʻi, written by Sydney Iaukea, Ph.D., great great granddaughter of Curtis Piehu Iaukea, covers these challenges. You can find Sydney Iaukea’s website at sydneyiaukea.com for resources and talks about Queen Liliʻuokalani, and for more information about her publications.

The first of the legal battles was the Complaint, Liliuokalani vs. The United States of America, which petitioned for the revenues from the Crown Lands:

I, Liliuokalani of Hawaii...do hereby earnestly and respectfully protest against the assertion of ownership by the United States of America of the so-called Hawaiian crown lands, amounting to about one million acres and which are my property, and I especially protest against such assertion of ownership as a taking of property without due process of law and without just or other compensation.

The second legal matter involved a Bill of Complaint that attempted to break her Trust Deed. Iaukea worked to protect the Trust Deed and aide the Queen with the Crown Lands case. He served as the former Commissioner of Crown Lands under both King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani, and “E Paʻa ʻOukou (You Hold On)” was Queen Liliʻuokalani’s request for him to remain steadfast. Queen Liliʻuokalani died on November 11, 1917. She lost her case against the U.S. for the Crown Lands revenue. Her Trustees then settled the complaint and preserved the Trust in 1918, the proceeds of which still benefit destitute Hawaiian children today. But her cherished properties, her home Washington Place, was taken by the new government and used to house its governors. Her Waikiki property, Kealohilani, was also lost. Today Kealohilani is the site of hotels, but the surf break in front is still named Queens.

The complicated political narrative of Queen Liliʻuokalani still affects Hawaiians today as the interconnected relationship between Aliʻi (chiefs), ʻāina (land), makaʻainana (people), and Akua (gods) influences native identity and knowing. What occured to the Queen is felt deeply and the heartfelt love the Queen had for her people rings true in return: “My love for my homeland and my beloved people, the bones of my bones, the blood of my blood! Aloha! Aloha! Aloha!” Her life and legacy continues to inspire aloha ‘āina—love for the land and the nation— “until the very last aloha aina.” Oftentimes, the postcard image that is written onto Hawaiʻi actively silences this true memory of both the people and place. Luckily, that memory endures.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Sydney Iaukea
  • Director Luísa M H Copetti, Hype CG
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Storyboard Artist Luísa M H Copetti
  • Animator Murilo Jardim
  • Hype Producer Taíla Soliman
  • Art Director Luísa M H Copetti
  • Sound Designer Gabriel Maia
  • Composer Gabriel Maia
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam

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