Kū’ē and and ‘Ike Pono: Kanaka Maoli Activism through Ka Lāhui during the Late 20th Century (By Gabby Lupola)


  1. History-Social Science Content Standards:

11.4 Students trace the rise of the United States to its role as a world power in the twentieth century

#2: Describe the Spanish-American War and U.S. expansion in the South Pacific.

11.7 Students analyze America’s participation in World War II.

11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.

#2. Discuss the significant domestic policy speeches of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton (e.g., with regard to education, civil rights, economic policy, environmental policy)

  1. Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:

-Grade 11-12 students:

2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas

4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text

9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources


Overall, the lesson plan seeks to establish an understanding of how Hawai’i became a state, the native backlash it later incited, and what motivated these events/movements to take place. As a college student reflecting on what was expected of me in my APUSH class junior year of high school, I know that the level or quantity of content is less intimidating or difficult to absorb as opposed to the conceptual frameworks and vocabulary invoked in and used to describe the movement. Rather than merely telling the timeline and expecting students to memorize, I want them to realize the importance of remembering a history often mis-told or misrepresented by a U.S.-centric narration.

I want students involved in this lesson plan to take away major problems with history, such as 1) history is told by the victors, so it will never tell the full story and 2) even in the face of full-blown adversity, movements never stop. I want the concept of a movement to be understood as a multi-faceted structure organized by a conglomeration of people that ebbs and flows with the changing of the times and a constant passing of the torch; because movements are born of the human imagination, they are never truly done, they just take on new form and are carried out by new leadership.

In this way, I want my students to use my lesson plan as a lens into the complexity of U.S.-Hawaiian relations, the U.S.’s dominant role in the Pacific, and the larger themes of resiliency tied to indigeneity and general persistence as related to a mass movement. As for what my chosen primary source speaks to, the goal is for students to understand the speeches of sister activists Haunani-Kay and Mililani Trask on the centennial anniversary of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government as a continuation of a longer history of Native Hawaiian resistance to U.S. imperial domination over their lands and a perpetual move towards sovereignty in all forms, but mostly focusing on political agency.


Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of how Hawai’i became a state, why its native inhabitants, the Kanaka Maoli, resisted such efforts and continue to do so to this day, and will be able to clearly define conceptual terms related to the movement such as sovereignty, indigeneity, (settler) colonialism, and imperialism.


a.     Who are Mililani B. Trask and Haunani-Kay Trask?

b.     What is Ka Lāhui? What does it represent for Native Hawaiians in the 90’s? What does it represent for the larger Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement?

c.     What can this primary source document of their joint speech tell us about the Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement at this moment in time?

d.     What is the relevance of it being held on the centennial anniversary of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom?

e.     What does sovereignty mean in this context?


Sovereignty (n.): the quality or state of having supreme power or authority; supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community

Indigenous (adj.): originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country; native

Imperialism (n.): the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies

Settler (n.): a person or thing that settles; a person who settles in a new country or area

Colonialism (n.): the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people; the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such control or influence

Settler Colonialism (n.): a distinct type of colonialism that functions through the replacement of indigenous populations with an invasive settler society that, over time, develops a distinctive identity and sovereignty.

Haole (n.): a foreigner; a person who is not a Native Hawaiian, especially a white person

Kanaka Maoli (n.): Native Hawaiians; also referred to as Kānaka ‘Ōiwi and Hawaiʻi Maoli

*the purpose of my glossary is to provide introductory, basic, and often underdeveloped definitions of terms the students will work to unpack in the lesson and apply to the topic*


To understand Hawai’i in a political and cultural context, we need to familiarize ourselves with its trajectory from a sovereign, autonomous nation to a colony turned state of a major world power. Before the imposition of the haole, Ancient Hawaiian society consisted of warring factions akin to the feudal system of medieval Europe, with a socio-political hierarchy composed of ali’i (the ruling class, one chief per kingdom), kahuna (priest/minister), maka’ainana (commoner class), and kauwa (lowest class). With the arrival of the British via Captain Cook in 1778, the Hawaiian Islands would forever be met with settler colonialism through means of foreign imperial interest and control. In 1810, King Kamehameha unified all of the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom; over time, Native Hawaiian rule was gradually undermined by the growth of Western influence in the form of economic expansionism. Missionaries and their descendants became powerful haole businessmen on island: “[by] monopolizing [economic control through] five major sugar corporations, referred to… as the “Big Five”.1” In 1898, Hawai’i was illegally annexed by the United States. Economic and military interests pursued by haole businessmen and supported by the mainland U.S. government facilitated the unjust overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. By deposing Queen Lili’uokalani and imprisoning her in ‘Iolani Palace, this constituted an illegal coup and wrongful, non-consensual exchange of power. In 1900, Hawai’i became a U.S. territory under the governorship of Sanford Dole, a businessman who had championed annexation since the beginning. To clearly illustrate the ties between the political and economic circumstances in Hawai’i, it’s important to note, “in 1910 [the Big Five] produced 75% of Hawaii’s major commodity, sugar. By 1933 it controlled 96%… Political power was also under the centralized control of these economic corporations.2

Although statehood was not a pressing matter post-annexation, the idea always floated around in the minds of the powerful and wealthy. As of 1930, both the Republican and Democratic parties endorsed statehood in their election platforms; its increasing support at a political level signaled the desire for security and privileges afforded to U.S. citizens for all variety of haoles, white and Asian alike. In terms of imperial interests, the U.S. had been content to keep Hawai’i as an incorporated territory for a multitude of reasons including, “the identity and loyalties of the Japanese community in Hawai’i in the event of war between Japan and the United States.3” With the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, this was put to the test. The U.S. military hoped to utilize interned men as soldiers in the war, but “by the second week of March, it was apparent that [this]… had failed. The answer was Hawai’i… The Japanese American community of Hawai’i had become the recruitment pool of last resort.4” Hawaii’s Nisei population aided in solidifying the territory’s ascendancy to statehood. In addition, WWII emphasized the importance of Hawaii’s strategic location in the Pacific in matters of defense. War also brought “ new investment, new industries, and new people to the islands from the mainland,” at the continual detriment of the Native Hawaiian population as, “ownership of real property was more concentrated in Hawai’i than in any mainland state… Only 2.5 percent of land was set aside for ownership by native Hawaiians under the provisions of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, an act designed, in its own words, “not only to put the Hawaiians back onto the land but by doing so to place them in more healthful surroundings, withdrawing them from crowded city tenements, and in this way to rehabilitate the race.5;” In fact, Hawaiians were the last in socioeconomic terms by the 1950s. At the same time, a constitutional convention was held to break the congressional stalemate over statehood; the result was the extension of governorship control and further centralization of power in a geographically decentralized island chain. Ultimately, Hawai’i was officially granted statehood in 1959. Despite this, “Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians were more likely to oppose statehood than were members of other ethnic groups… Statehood undoubtedly symbolized to some descendants of the indigenous population the total demise of traditional culture and social patterns…. Disturbed by their loss of numbers, land, and influence, some Hawaiians resisted statehood.6” Through this lesson plan, we will be primarily addressing the context of Native Hawaiians and their resistance to U.S. dominance and the settler structure present on their island in the late 20th century.


Day 1 Materials:

Can You Pass This Hard Hawaiian History Test?

Homework:Blue Hawai’i trailer

Day 2 Materials::

Timeline of U.S. and Hawaiian Relations

Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation

Homework: Ho’omauke Ea O Ka Lahui Hawai’i: The Perpetuation of the Hawaiian People by Davianna Pomaika McGregor

Day 3 Materials:

Hi’ilawe by Gabby Pahinui

Homework: The State and Indigenous Movements by Keri E. Iyall Smith

Day 4 Materials:

Haunani-Kay Trask phone conversation: “Island Issues 1990”

Ka Lahui Hawai’i: A Native Initiative for Sovereignty by Mililani B. Trask

Homework: Speeches from the Centennial of the Overthrow

Apology Resolution: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton Apologizes for the 1893 Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy on Centennial Anniversary

Day 5 Materials:

Island Style- ‘Oiwi E group song


Day 1:

  • Ask the class what they know about Hawai’i: bring in white posters (the sticky note kind) to post on the walls of classroom with these 4 questions in mind (a question per poster):
  1. What is Hawai’i famous for?
  2. Have you ever been to Hawai’i? If so, what for?
  3. Is Hawai’i a state?
  4. What are bad/negative stereotypes of Native Hawaiians and/or Pacific Islanders?

The students will walk around and anonymously put their feedback to these questions, writing on smaller, individual sticky notes and then posting them on the corresponding poster. The point of this is to gage the students’ preconceived notions and where they stand as a class on the topic.

  • After this exercise, we will have the class watch a Youtube video entitled “Can You Pass This Hard Hawaiian History Test”  by Buzzfeed
  • Organize into small groups of 4-5 people and share their experience/level of knowledge on the subject
  • Regroup into a full class and ask students what they knew beforehand and what they learned after watching the clip
  • For homework, students will be assigned to watch the trailer for the 1961 Elvis Presley film “Blue Hawaii” on Youtube; in a short one page essay response, they will describe how Hawai’i and its native people were depicted in the short clip with the lesson in mind.

Day 2:

  • Pass out the timeline of Hawaiian-U.S. relations
  • Screen Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation (length: 58 minutes); encourage students to take notes throughout the documentary
  • The assigned homework is to create a visual map, timeline, graphic and/or illustration which narrates how the Hawaiian kingdom became a territorial possession, and ultimately a state, of America. The second assignment for the night is to read “Chapter 3 Ho’omauke Ea O Ka Lahui Hawai’i: The Perpetuation of the Hawaiian People” by Davianna Pomaika McGregor in Ethnicity and Nation-building in the Pacific.

Day 3:

  • Listen to “Hi’ilawe” by Gabby Pahinui. Gain initial impressions of the students and begin discussing the importance of language to a people and culture.
  • Continue on into a brief lecture of the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 70’s: music and slack key guitar, language revitalization, cultural practices like the hula, etc. (refer to additional materials for more information on what to include in this section).
  • From there, discuss last night’s reading by cementing the importance of indigeneity in terms of land rights, cultural pride, political mobilization, etc. Provide the space for students to ask questions and their peers to answer, instead of directing the questions merely to the teacher.
  • As for homework, students will compose a glossary of at least 5 keywords in relation to the lecture and reading. They will also read “Chapter Four: The Hawaiians” in The State and Indigenous Movements by Keri E. Iyall Smith and address this prompt: Choose one quotation, no less than a sentence but no more than a paragraph, to identify key characteristics and main ideas attached to and addressed by the Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement. This will be a 1-2 page response.

Day 4:

  • Listen to Haunani-Kay Trask’s interview and conversation with a caller via Youtube and have a collective group discussion on her argument, evidence, and delivery style.
  • Popcorn read “Ka Lahui Hawai’i: A Native Initiative for Sovereignty” by Mililani B. Trask in class and have a class discussion on what significance the document has and identify key concepts and terms associated with the larger movement.
  • Allow space and time for students to address questions or concerns of the material.
  • Assigned for the next day is our primary source “Speeches from the Centennial of the Overthrow at ‘Iolani Palace” by sister activists Haunani-Kay Trask and Mililani B. Trask in Huihui: Navigating Art and Literature in the Pacific along with former President Bill Clinton’s formal apology to Native Hawaiians on the 1893 illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Require students to prepare for a socratic seminar by creating at least three questions for discussion.

Day 5:

  • Students will spend majority of the class period discussing the assigned readings in a Socratic seminar style. They will also be able to draw from other readings to support their argument and funnel a well-rounded discussion.
  • End the lesson with On the Island-’Oiwi E youtube video :-’)
  • Final homework assignment: write a 4-5 page paper on the context, importance, and legacy of the Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement.


Alexander, W. D. A Brief History of the Hawaiian People. Brief Historical Series. New York: American Book, 1900.

Bell, Roger J. Last Among Equals: Hawaiian Statehood and American Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1984.

Coffman, Tom. The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai’i. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003.

Dahre, Ulf Johansson. “The Politics of Human Rights: Indigenous Peoples and the Conflict on Collective Human Rights.” The International Journal of Human Rights vol. 12, no. 1 (2008): 41-52. doi:10.1080/13642980701725186.

Hommon, Robert J. The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Iyall Smith, Keri E. The State and Indigenous Movements. Indigenous Peoples and Politics. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Kuykendall, Ralph S, and A. Grove Day. Hawaii:A History: From Polynesian Kingdom to American Commonwealth. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1948.

Laenui, Poka (Hayden F. Burgess). “Hawaiian Statehood Revisited.” Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. Vancouver B.C.: UBC Press, 2000.

McGregor, Davianna Pomaika. “Ho’omauke Ea O Ka Lahui Hawai’i.” Ethnicity and Nation-Building in the Pacific. Tokyo: The United Nations University, 1989.

McGregor, Davianna. Nā Kua’āina: Living Hawaiian Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007.

Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter : Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi. Rev. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1999.

Walker, Isaiah Helekunihi. Waves of Resistance : Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2011.The Sons of Hawai’i. Directed by Eddie Kamae, James D Houston, Kaʻupena Wong, Gabby Pahinui, Joe Marshall, David Rogers, (Steel Guitarist), Sons of Hawaii, and Hawaiian Legacy Foundation. Produced by Myrna Kamae and Rodney A Ohtani. Performed by Eddie. Kamae, Gabby. Pahinui, Joe Marshall, David Rogers, and Null Sons of Hawaii. Hawaiian Legacy Foundation, 2004. DVD.

1Roger J. Bell, Last among Equals: Hawaiian Statehood and American Politics, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1984), 42.

2 Bell, 42-43.

3 Tom Coffman, The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai’i, (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003), 43.

4 Coffman, 91.

5Bell, 111.

6 Bell, 116.