The Lasting Impact of Queen Ka'ahumanu's Reign on Native Hawaiians and the US in Hawaii

Queen Ka'ahumanu was a major figure in Hawaiian history, and her reign had a long-term effect on the relationship between Native Hawaiians and the United States. In 1826, Ka'ahumanu was part of the Hawaii-United States Treaty, which marked the entrance of Hawaii into global society. Before Western contact, Hawaiian culture was heavily regulated by law, with many Kānāwai dictating the relationship between cultivators or gatherers and the natural environment. Around 1400, The ʻAi Kapu (traditional religion) was brought to Hawaii, which contained kānāwai (laws) on daily behavior and interactions between different classes.

By the end of the 1770s, about a dozen chiefs had risen to the level of supreme chief. When James Cook arrived on the islands, he brought with him many deadly diseases that decimated the Hawaiian population. On his deathbed, King Kamehameha followed the example of the British monarchy and named his eldest son as heir, appointing his favorite wife as prime minister. After his death, Kamehameha II left traditional religion and Queen Ka'ahumanu drafted new laws based on the Ten Commandments.

She paid attention to the missionaries' demands that traditional Hawaiian lifestyle be suppressed, banning all traditional ways of transmitting history, including hula. Britain eventually reinstated Kamehameha III as ruler of Hawaii and began a process known as mahele to divide land between the king and chiefs. The lands held by the king were divided into his personal lands and government lands, all subject to the rights of native tenants. King Kamehameha III filled his cabinet with foreign ministers, but not everyone was pleased with the increasing influence of missionaries.

This era saw a new period of prosperity for missionary families as sugar and pineapple plantations began to emerge. With wealth came a desire for greater political control. In 1874, King Lunalilo died without leaving an heir and two members of the royal family claimed the title. A king who supported economic transformation was elected and had his sights set on Pearl Harbor. Americans established missions and built huge plantations, railroads, docks, and hotels in Hawaii.

In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by a revolt by plantation owners pressured by Ambassador John L. Stevens and an American battleship. President Cleveland opposed annexation but Hawaii was annexed in 1898 after William McKinley's inauguration. On January 16th 1893, The Security Committee asked US troops to protect Americans when they overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy by force. Queen Liliʻuokalani abdicated to save her people's lives but was denied reestablishment of her monarchy when McKinley wanted Pearl Harbor.

On August 12th 1898, The Hawaiian flag was lowered and disrespectfully crushed at a ceremony chaired by President Sanford Dole of The Republic of Hawaii. On April 30th 1900 President McKinley signed The Organic Act that turned Hawaii into a territory with Sanford Dole as its first governor. The Organic Act required all voters to be citizens 21 years or older who had resided in the territory for at least one year before they could vote and speak or read English or Hawaiian. Queen Ka'ahumanu's reign had a lasting impact on Native Hawaiians and their relationship with The United States. Her actions led to an era of economic transformation that saw an influx of American influence in Hawaii but also resulted in suppression of traditional Hawaiian culture and lifestyle.

Sue Frohlich
Sue Frohlich

Unapologetic internet ninja. Lifelong bacon specialist. Freelance travel aficionado. Internet guru. Freelance social media lover.

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