The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai'i

The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai'i

The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai'i

The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai'i

Synopsis

In this exposé Sydney L. Iaukea ties personal memories to newly procured political information about Hawaii's crucial Territorial era. Spurred by questions surrounding intergenerational property disputes in her immediate family, she delves into Hawaii's historical archives. There she discovers the central role played by her great-great-grandfather in the politics of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Hawaii--in particular, Curtis P. Iaukea's trusted position with the Hawaiian Kingdom's last ruling monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. As Iaukea charts her ancestor's efforts to defend a culture under siege, she reveals astonishing legal and legislative maneuvers that show us how capitalism reshaped cultural relationships. She finds resonant parallels and connections between her own upbringing in Maui's housing projects, her family's penchant for hiding property, and the Hawaiian peoples' loss of their country and lands.

Excerpt

Insanity runs through my family—insanity driven by the manipulation and control of private property, as family members work against one another. Insidious in its influence, private property shadows and shapes my family’s history and contemporary existence. The hiding of land goes back generations. Among many other things, this is a story of that manipulation through my eyes. I embody all that went before, and I bring forth that narrative here. But this is not the entire story, because private property is not the definer of a genealogy that goes back to the beginning.

For Hawaiians, land, identity, and mo‘o kū‘auhau (genealogy) were all impacted by the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 and the subsequent occupation of Hawai‘i by the United States. Shifting sociopolitical structures and combative personal relationships one hundred years ago affected how ka ‘āina (the land—literally, “that which feeds”) was understood and how private property was divided. How nā kūpuna (our ancestors) navigated their political and emotional terrains still influences both our connection and disconnection with this place today, because their memory echoes in our actions. Here then is a story of the consequences of this influence, based on archival research and as relayed directly by my great-great-grandfather, Curtis Piehu Iaukea, who lived through the upheavals and now bridges the gaps of understanding by bringing the story of nā ali‘i (kings, queens, chiefs) to the forefront.

The necessary but brief historical highlights are as follows. On January 17, 1893, a group of members of the white business elite, many of whom also served in the legislature, overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom government and its . . .

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