Council to consider Restoration Day holiday

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The Hawaii County Council will take up a nonbinding resolution Tuesday asking the state Legislature to declare July 31 “Hoihi Ea,” or Restoration Day, in recognition of the day in 1843 that independence was restored to the Kingdom of Hawaii.

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The Hawaii County Council will take up a nonbinding resolution Tuesday asking the state Legislature to declare July 31 “Hoihi Ea,” or Restoration Day, in recognition of the day in 1843 that independence was restored to the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Resolution 185 is Puna Councilman Danny Paleka’s first substantial legislation since coming into office in December. Paleka, who is half Hawaiian, said he’s been pleased by the support of the community and the council during a hearing earlier this month at the committee level.

“I think we all have a connection to this,” Paleka said. “In the time of the Hawaiian Kingdom, it was inclusive. It included all the inhabitants that were under that sovereign nation. … I think this small matter is just a step in opening the minds to people that, you know what, we can co-exist with each other on the same soil, in different countries.”

Council members were overwhelmingly in support of the resolution.

“This is the very first step,” South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David told Hawaiian advocates at the committee meeting. “As a believer in our people’s sovereignty, I think we have taken many thousands of small steps in the last several hundred years, but it’s people like you folks, and now our children, that need to carry this forward.”

David, her voice cracking with emotion, thanked her ancestors and kupuna for keeping the history alive, even while forced underground during the years of occupation. She said she regrets that she was a “child of the successful indoctrination” of Hawaiian children.

“This has to be the very beginning of something huge,” David said. “To see the children have what we never had, in learning about the alii, about who we are. As early as 1970, there was nothing in our school system about our kings and queens, about our Hawaiian history.”

The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs has been asking that holidays traditionally celebrated in the Kingdom of Hawaii also get state recognition. They also want the holiday as an official holiday, so workers get the day off to celebrate.

The county, however, doesn’t have the authority to declare official holidays unless the state also sanctions them, said Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins.

Noenoe Wong-Wilson, a Hawaii Community College associate professor and a leader in the Hawaiian Civic Club of Hilo, said many Native Hawaiians think the resolution doesn’t go far enough, but they appreciate that it’s on the table.

Even if July 31 isn’t named an official state holiday, state workers would be able to select that holiday as one of their personal-option holiday days, she said.

“During the time of King Kamehameha III … this was a special day in Hawaiian history for celebration and recognition of this important event,” Wong-Wilson said. “We believe this will assist us in bringing the recognition and celebration of this event to Hawaii Island as well as the aina.”

Restoration Day marks the day independence was restored to the Hawaiian Kingdom on July 31, 1843, after being seized and forcefully taken by Lord George Paulet, a captain of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Carysfort six months earlier. Adm. Richard Darton Thomas of the British Royal Navy on that date ordered the Union Jack removed and replaced with the Hawaiian flag, thus returning the Kingdom of Hawaii to power.

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The County Council will take up Resolution 185 at its meeting Tuesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The public can testify at 9 a.m. at that location or by videoconference from Hilo council chambers, the Kohala county facility, Waimea council office, Naalehu state office building or the Pahoa neighborhood facility.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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