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The myth of the shredded Hawaiian flag -- a false claim that the Hawaiian flag removed from Iolani Palace on annexation day August 12, 1898 was cut up into pieces distributed to the annexationists as souvenirs of their victory over the Hawaiian people


(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


ORDER OF TOPICS:

WHY THE FALSE STORY OF THE SHREDDED HAWAIIAN FLAG IS IMPORTANT

THE FALSE STORY OF THE SHREDDED HAWAIIAN FLAG -- HOW THE STORY GOT STARTED, WHAT IT SAYS, AND EVIDENCE THAT IT IS WIDESPREAD (INCLUDING SENATOR AKAKA TELLING THE FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE IN 1990 AND SENATOR INOUYE TELLING THE FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE IN 1993)

EVIDENCE THAT THE STORY IS FALSE

SOME HAWAIIAN SOVEREIGNTY ACTIVISTS CHOOSE TO PERPETUATE THIS STORY, KNOWING IT IS FALSE, JUST TO STIR UP ANGER OVER ALLEGED HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES (actual dialogue among sovereignty activists during the annexation's centennial commemoration in 1998)


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WHY THE FALSE STORY OF THE SHREDDED HAWAIIAN FLAG IS IMPORTANT

Hawaiian sovereignty activists enjoyed a period of great activism from January 1993 through August 1998. Centennial protest marches and re-enactments mirrored the historical upheavals of the period from the overthrow of the monarchy on January17, 1893 through the annexation of Hawai'i to the United States on August 12, 1898. The centennial was a time of amazing historical revisionism and blatant falsehood, as sovereignty activists tried to stir up resentment and anger for alleged historical grievances. This time period was a great opportunity for the activists to build their movement by using centennial publicity to recruit new followers among both ethnic Hawaiians and sympathetic political leftists of no native ancestry.

One vicious falsehood revived with a vengeance during this period was the claim that Hawaiian language had been declared illegal by the government of the Republic of Hawai'i; and that the law banning the language had continued throughout the Territorial period and even into the Statehood period. That falsehood has been thoroughly discredited by extensive research available at:
http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/hawlangillegal.html

Another vicious falsehood is a story about what happened to the Hawaiian flag at the time of annexation.

It is true that on August 12, 1898, a ceremony was held at 'Iolani Palace celebrating the annexation of Hawai'i to the United States and formally transferring power. During that ceremony the Hawaiian flag atop 'Iolani Palace was lowered and replaced by the American flag.

The falsehood claims that the Hawaiian flag was then cut up into little pieces, or perhaps strips, which were passed out to the leaders of the overthrow and annexation as souvenirs of their victory. The falsehood is further amplified by a claim that those pieces of the flag have been passed down as family heirlooms, and that Thurston Twigg-Smith, a living grandson of revolutionary leader Lorrin A. Thurston, has his grandfather's piece of the flag in his personal possession.

The story about the flag being cut into souvenir pieces is completely false, as will be shown below. Such a story has an obvious purpose -- to inflame the anger of ethnic Hawaiians today by portraying the annexationists as hateful, despicable people who desecrated a beloved symbol of the monarchy right before the eyes of the Hawaiian people to humiliate them. The story also is a personal attack on the character of Thurston Twigg-Smith, who continues in his grandfather's footsteps, opposing race-based government handouts and opposing efforts to create a race-based government in Hawai'i today. The story creates sympathy for ethnic Hawaiians, and places them on a moral pedestal for refraining from violence in the face of such outrageous provocation, both in 1898 and also today.

Like all Hawaiian sovereignty myths, this falsehood is attention-grabbing and easy to assert in just a sentence or two which can be repeated over and over again until the general population comes to believe it. This falsehood, like the other ones, is difficult and time consumung to disprove, and the details of disproving it seem dull and uninteresting. That's why some Hawaiian sovereignty activists said that even though the claim of the shredded flag is false, the claim should be asserted anyway because of its propaganda value.


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THE FALSE STORY OF THE SHREDDED HAWAIIAN FLAG -- HOW THE STORY GOT STARTED, WHAT IT SAYS, AND EVIDENCE THAT IT IS WIDESPREAD (INCLUDING SENATOR AKAKA TELLING THE FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE IN 1990 AND SENATOR INOUYE TELLING THE FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE IN 1993)

The falsehood about the shredded Hawaiian flag apparently got started in the 1950s when a local Honolulu writer included the lie in one of her many short-story mixtures of fact and fiction. James Michener included it in his fiction novel "Hawaii" published in 1959. The story was included in the Public Broadcast System's video about the overthrow and annexation nationally televised in 1997. The video was accompanied by lesson plans for teachers, including one that focused on teaching this lie to children throughout America as though it were a fact. In summer 2000, as Senator Inouye was starting his propaganda campaign to pass the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, he was reported to be personally spreading the lie. This lie can now be found on many internet websites. Everything stated in this paragraph is the truth, and will be documented in this section of this webpage, immediately below.

Thurston Twigg-Smith, grandson of a leader of the 1893 revolution, wrote a book "Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter?" published in 1998. The entire book (including some important historical photographs) can be downloaded from Mr. Twigg-Smith's website at:
http://www.hawaiimatters.com
or by clicking on this link:
http://www.hawaiimatters.com/book/HawnSov.pdf

Mr. Twigg-Smith tells the story this way, describing what the story said and also providing some information on how widespread it is.

page 319:
"Fiction: The 1997 Public Television video, Hawai'i's Last Queen, included an emotional episode that said the Hawaiian Flag taken down at Annexation was "cut up into little ribbons by the missionaries and given to their children as souvenirs of what they had done to the Hawaiians."
Fact: There is no historical record of any such incident. The producers of the video knew no Hawaiian historian had ever mentioned such an act and knew this fable first appeared in the 1950s as an item written by a newspaper columnist known for her often fictitious tales of old Hawai'i. [Note from Ken Conklin: Mr. Twigg-Smith is probably referring to Clarice B. Taylor, some of whose fanciful mixtures of truth and fiction published in the Advertiser were later collected in the book "Little Tales All About Hawai'i." However, the flag-shredding story does not seem to be included in that book.] They used it anyway, telling this writer that it captured the spirit of the Annexation period. H.J. Bartels, curator of 'Iolani Palace and sympathetic in a rational way to sovereignty issues, believes this flag incident is fictional. He suggests it may have sprung from an item in the August 5, 1898, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, page 1, column 3. The item related that a commercial firm had approached President Dole with the idea of raising and lowering the flags on a colorful ribbon-like lanyard that then could be cut into pieces and sold as souvenirs. There is no report this was ever done but the Dole family in the 1970s sold to antique dealer Robert Van Dyke a piece of cloth resembling this description, which may have been the lanyard sample shown to President Dole. At any rate, there were no missionaries alive at the time of Annexation and the four missionary descendants who were involved in leadership of the Revolution and the Provisional Government—Castle, Dole, Smith and Thurston, all attorneys—certainly didn't spend their time cutting up Hawaiian flags.

Later, on page 321, while disposing of another scurrilous falsehood (regarding an alleged assassination attempt against the ex-Queen by Thurston), again quotes Bartels,

[Twigg-Smith page 321]:
""It was just a rumor," notes Bartels. "We left it in because it caught the state of mind of the times." Interestingly, that's about what the producer of Hawai'i's Last Queen said to me in a letter about the flag-cutting incident: "It may not be true, but we think it catches the flavor of the period." In other words, what's wrong with a little baloney if it makes the stew taste better?"

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By the late 1950s the flag-shredding story had become sufficiently widespread that James Michener included it in his FICTION novel "Hawaii." Here's a quote from James Michener, "Hawaii" 1959, Chapter IV, "From the Starving Village", page 704, describing the ceremony of annexation at 'Iolani Palace on August 12, 1898:

"But when the ceremonies were ended, a most shameful thing occurred, and to Malama it would always epitomize the indecency by which her nation had been destroyed. As the Hawaiian flag fell, an American caught it and, before he could be stopped, whisked it away to the palace cellar where, with a pair of long shears, he cut the emblem into strips and began passing them out as souvenirs of the day. One was jammed into Micah's hand and he looked down to see what it was, but his eyes were so strained from writing letters on behalf of Hawaii that he could not easily discern what he held, and imprudently he raised it aloft. Then he saw that it contained fragments of the eight stripes symbolizing the islands of Hawaii and a corner of the field, and he realized what a disgraceful thing had been done to this proud flag. Hastily he crumpled it lest his wife see and be further offended, but as he pushed the torn cloth into his pocket he heard from behind a cry of pain, and he turned to see that his wife had at last been forced to cover her face in shame."

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SENATOR DAN AKAKA TOLD THE FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE ON JULY 31, 1990 TO COMMEMORATE "HAWAIIAN FLAG DAY." For those who may not know, July 31 was a national holiday of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, "Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea" (sovereignty restoration day), commemorating the return of sovereignty from Britain to Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III after a rogue British naval captain had seized control for several months. The fact that Senator Inouye made a point of commemorating this date indicates his double-entendre subtle leanings in favor of the Hawaiian sovereignty independence movement.

HAWAII COMMEMORATES ITS FLAG (Senate - July 31, 1990)
** From the Congressional record for the Senate, on that date **

[Page: S11232]

Mr. AKAKA. Mr. President, it gives me great pleasure today to join the people of my home State of Hawaii in saluting the Hawaiian flag. Today, July 31, marks Hawaiian Flag Day, or `La Hae Hawai'i'.

The Hawaiian flag, also known as the Kamehameha flag, flies proudly as a living symbol of a people and their beloved land. It is the only flag which has flown over a royal kingdom, an American territory, and finally, in 1959, a full-fledged State in our Union.

Mr. President, look at the flag and you will immediately notice the Union Jack of the United Kingdom in its upper left-hand corner, which stands as a tribute to the important role the British played in Hawaii's early history. The flag also has eight stripes representing the eight major islands in the Hawaiian chain.

The Hawaiian flag also symbolizes a once sovereign nation which was overthrown by business leaders in 1893. It was at this time that the Hawaiian flag was lowered, cut into pieces, and given to the crowd as souvenirs. The American flag was then raised in its place and it was not until Hawaii become a U.S. territory that the Hawaiian flag officially flew again, now as a companion to the American flag. In 1959, it most proudly stood as a banner for the newest State of the Union.

** Note from Ken Conklin: immediately following the overthrow of the monarchy on January 17, 1893, the new Provisional Government asked the United States diplomatic representative to order the small number of U.S. military personnel in the islands to serve as a security force to maintain order in the streets as a U.S. protectorate; however, the new U.S. President Grover Cleveland demanded the Provisional Government to restore the ex-queen to the throne; and removed the protectorate after Hawai'i President Sanford B. Dole refused. The nation of Hawai'i remained an independent nation until annexation in 1898, and its flag remained the Hawaiian flag. So, Akaka is lying twice -- first the lie about the cut-up flag; and then the lie about the Hawaiian flag not flying again until 1898. Senator Akaka can't even tell the lie correctly -- the usual telling of the lie places the shredded flag event at annexation in 1898, not the overthrow of 1893. **

Mr. President, a special ceremony honoring Hawaii's historic flag will take place today at Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, a heiau which was built by Kamehameha I, at Kawaihae on the Island of Hawaii . I wish to point out that Pu'ukohola Heiau is, by law, one of only three designated sites where the Hawaiian flag may fly independently of any other national or State banner. The other locations are the 'Iolani Palace and Mauna'ala Royal Mausoleum in Nuuanu, Oahu.

The Hawaiian flag flies smartly today, much as it has for many decades and much as it will for many more, as a guardian and witness to the fascinating history of a people and a land called Hawaii .

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SENATOR DAN INOUYE HAS REPEATED THE FALSEHOOD ABOUT THE SHREDDED FLAG MANY TIMES, OVER A PERIOD OF MANY YEARS. HE TOLD THIS FALSEHOOD ON THE FLOOR OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE IN 1993 TO TRY TO GET SYMPATHY AND VOTES FOR THE APOLOGY BILL. HE TOLD IT AGAIN IN 2000 TO GET SYMPATHY AND SUPPORT FOR THE NEWLY INTRODUCED AKAKA BILL. But Senator Inouye made mistakes even in the telling of the falsehood! In 1993 on the Senate floor, he said the shredding of the Hawaiian flag occurred at the time of the overthrow in January 1893 (but the usual myth says it was at the time of annexation in August 1898), and he says the monarchy was overthrown by only 12 people (there were 13 members of the Committee of Safety). In 2000 Senator Inouye at least gave a correct statement of the myth, placing the event at annexation in 1898. Both quotes follow.

The Congressional Record containing this excerpt can be found on the Library of Congress website for the 103rd Congress by going to
http://thomas.loc.gov/home/r103query.html
and then in the "Word/Phrase" search box, put in any distinctive portion of the excerpt, such as "This so-called revolution that overthrew of our Queen was engineered by 12 men"
The discussion between Senators Inouye and Gorton is so important to Hawaiian independence activists that they have copied the entire discussion, including this excerpt, on their "Nation of Hawai'i" website on this webpage:
http://www.hawaii-nation.org/congrec-senate.html
Congressional Record -- Senate
Wednesday, October 27, 1993
103rd Cong. 1st Sess.
139 Cong Rec S 14477
REFERENCE: Vol. 139 No. 147

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE OVERTHROW OF THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM
** excerpt**

Before I close, Mr. President, just a few footnotes in history, and this might give one a better picture of what happened. This so-called revolution that overthrew of our Queen was engineered by 12 men, leaders of the business community, owners of great sugar plantations and shipping companies. They called themselves the Committee of Safety. On that fateful day when the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii was lowered over Iolani Palace and the American flag went up, it is reported that one of the Committee of Safety remarked to the others: "This is a glorious day. We need something to remind us of this auspicious moment." So someone is reported to have suggested, "Why don't we cut that flag in 12 parts; each of us take a piece, a piece of the action?"

And that is what happened. It is said that one piece remains today, the last remaining piece of the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

I think that would give you an idea of the attitude of the Americans who were residing there at that time. It is not an attitude that we would condone today. We would not raise that attitude with accolades. Why not recognize it for what it was?

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In July 2000 U.S. Senator Dan Inouye was personally spreading the lie about the shredded flag. Inouye was busy in the Senate just getting started on the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill (which also contains numerous falsehoods). He repeated the shredded-flag lie as fact while talking with a local reporter in Honolulu.

http://starbulletin.com/2000/07/18/editorial/smyser.html
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Tuesday, July 18, 2000
Hawaii's World
By A.A. Smyser ** excerpts **

"No one has the potential for more effective arm-twisting and persuasion than Hawaii's powerful, fourth-most-senior member of the Senate, Daniel K. Inouye. He told me in a recent extended interview that he will work harder for this than for any other legislation in his 37-plus years in the Senate. The Democratic political sweep in Hawaii in 1954 put Inouye into the territorial House of Representatives. The former throne room in Iolani Palace was its meeting place. He refused to join presiding officers in operating from the raised replicas of the thrones.

It was a desecration, he says, as was the Aug.12, 1898, act of cutting into memento pieces the Hawaiian flag that was lowered from the palace at the U.S. annexation ceremonies. It should have been preserved for a museum, he says. The 1893 revolutionaries also tried to suppress the Hawaiian language and hula."

http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/14/features/stuffs.html
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, August 14, 2000

The local urban legend about the mutilation of the Hawaiian flag has a life of its own. It was repeated as gospel recently by none other than Sen. Dan Inouye, who should know better.

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In 1997, just in time for the 1998 centennial of annexation, WGBH (PBS in Boston) produced a nationally broadcast "documentary" entitled "Hawaii's Last Queen" hosted by the golden-voiced David McCullough. This hour-long "documentary" was the centerpiece of a PBS webpage that included a transcript of the TV show plus numerous lesson plans for school teachers, based on the show. The PBS webpage for the production is at:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hawaii/
and the transcript is on a subpage at:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/hawaii/hawaiitrans.html

"Major funding for this series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers. Corporate funding is provided by Scotts/Miracle-Gro."

At 51 and a half minutes into the program, the transcript has Malcolm Chun reporting as follows:

"Malcolm Chun: On the actual day of annexation, the queen shuttered herself at Washington Place, surrounded by her court, by the princes, by her ladies in waiting, and they had a solemn picture taken. On the other side at 'Iolani Palace, there were sharpshooters pointed out. There was still tension in the air that something might happen. But when the Hawaiian flag was lowered, it was said that it was cut into small little, two to three inch ribbons and given out a tokens of remembrance to the sons and daughters of the missionary families, so that they could keep those as little tokens of their great victory over the Hawaiian kingdom and the end of the tyranny of the Hawaiian monarchy."

The lesson plan offered to teachers says:

http://videoindex.pbs.org/program/all_chapters.jsp?item_id=7962

Chapter 13

With the Spanish American War in 1898, the need for Hawaii is evident. President McKinley decides to annex it. On August 12, 1898 President Dole yields to the U.S. The American flag is raised over the Palace. The Hawaiian flag is cut into pieces and given away to the children of the missionaries as tokens of their victory. The disposed Queen Lili'uokalani would live for another 20 years. Her death at age 79 was marked by strange events in nature.

Standards Correlation:Yes
Historical Period: 1890 AD-1920 AD
Academic Areas: American History; Government/Politics; Sociology; Sociology
Grades: ; 7-9; 10-12; College/Adult
Chapter Begin: 50:15
Chapter End: 53:30
Start Time Topic Description
50:27 Annexation of Hawaii Spanish-American War and
50:27 Hawaii annexation of
51:31 Chun, Malcolm on annexation of Hawaii
52:24 Lili'uokalani death of

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Here are some contents of some of the internet webpages produced by a Google search using these key words in various combinations: Hawaiian flag, cut, shredded, annexation, 1898

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"Uncle Charlie," the Rev. Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., is sometimes also called the Rev. Al Sharpton of Hawai'i. Maxwell, like Sharpton, demands racial reparations in the present for racial grievances from a distant past. He (ab)uses a position of trust within his ethnic community, and a title indicating spirituality, to try to extort concessions from others. He calls himself "Reverend" although he is not ordained and has never had a church or organized congregation. He operates a tightly controlled internet bulletin board where he answers questions about Hawaiian culture and politics. Here is one example where he tells an innocent schoolchild the lie of the shredded flag:
http://www.moolelo.com/talkstory/messages/2842.html

I have recently been searching for help on a research paper. Any help that anyone could provide would be fantastic.
I am doing it on the roles that Liliuokalani played in order to prevent the annexation of Hawaii.
Thanks for all your help
Jessica

Aloha Jessica.
The role that Queen Liliuokalani played was very dramatic and hurtful to her and her people. Just think that a small group of business men who were mostly decendants of the first missionaries(Thurstons, Twiggs, Smith, Baldwins, Castles, Cooks etc.,formed an alience and planned her overthrow. They were friendly to the commissioner of the United States J. L Stevens, who used the powers of the United States to force the surrender of the Kingdom with armed troops at Iolani Palace. The Queen yielded to the United States and after President Cleveland sent down M. S. Blount to investigate what happened. He took down the American Flag and replaced the Hawaiian Flag. The Provisional Government consisting of the haole business men told the United States that they did not have jurisdiction on Hawaiian soil and with the help of "crooked" Congrassmen and Senators Annexated Hawaii to the United States. 16 White people signed the Treaty of Annexation in 1898 and when they took down the Hawaiian Flag for the last time, they cut it in 16 pieces and gave it to the people that signed the "illigal" treated. Please check my webpage about the law which President Clinton signed called the "Appoligy Law for the illigal Annexation of Hawaii" Hope I have helped. Uncle Charlie [note from Ken Conklin: I have no idea where the figure of "16 pieces" came from. This is the only time I have found that specific number mentioned.]

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http://www.geocities.com/sereneartistry/Flag.html

This painting was inspired by a historical event that changed the history of Hawaii forever ...... the overthrow of the hereditary monarchy of Hawaii, of Queen Lili'uokalani, an unfamiliar story to most Americans today. When I heard about the terrible wrong that was done to the Hawaiian nation and the flag it enraged me and broke my heart. I thought to myself........it would be wonderful if all of the pieces of the Hawaiian flag were returned to the Hawaiian people and were stitched back together. This I know is very unlikely so this painting is my way of attempting to put the pieces back to together symbolically. I know that this can never change what happened but maybe it can be a start.

On August 12, 1898, in a grand ceremony, President Dole formally yielded the sovereignity and public property of theHawaiian islands to the United States. The stars and stripes was slowly raised over 'Iolani Palace. And the Hawaiian flag was brought down for the last time. But fewHawaiians would witness the ceremony. Most spent the day at home, behind closed blinds. On the actual day of annexation, the queen shuttered herself at Washington Place, surrounded by her court, by the princes, by her ladies in waiting, and they had a solemn picture taken. On the other side at 'Iolani Palace, there were sharpshooters pointed out. There was still tension in the air that something might happen. But when the Hawaiian flag was lowered, it was said that it was cut into small little, two to three inch ribbons and given out as tokens of remembrance to the sons and daughters of the missionary families, so that they could keep those as little tokens of their great victory over the Hawaiian kingdom and the end of the tyranny of the Hawaiian monarchy. Queen Lili'uokalani would live for another twenty years as an American citizen in the U.S. Territory of Hawaii. By the time of her death at the age of seventy-nine, she had become the embodiment of the kingdom itself--and of its loss. For weeks after her funeral, strange events were recorded in the islands. Volcanoes erupted and the seas turned an odd hue, from the sudden appearance of a multitude of red fish. It was as if the elements recognized that the kingdom was no more.

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http://www.worldfreeinternet.net/archive/arc10.htm

President McKinley, who appointed the future-President Taft to the post of governor of the Phillipines, gave his assent to a Congressional resolution to annex the Hawaiian state, and on 12 August, 1898, "President" Dole surrendered the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Republic to the United States. When the Hawaiian flag was lowered, it was immediately cut into small pieces and given to the children of the missionaries as a souvenir of their victory over the Hawaiian Kingdom. To the native Hawaiians, it was a day of mourning.


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EVIDENCE THAT THE STORY IS FALSE

John "Butch" Kekahu was well-known in the community for leading two "Aloha March on Washington" events in 1998 and 2000. Butch was an advocate of Hawaiian independence, and he opposed the Akaka bill. Although he welcomed people from all factions to join him in his Aloha Marches, his opposition to the Akaka bill did cause some of the bill's supporters to stay home rather than participate in the year 2000 march.

One incident involving Butch is especially interesting, and produced a page 1 photograph and accompanying story in the Sunday Advertiser of August 2, 1998. Unfortunately that was before the Advertiser began its internet website archives, so anyone wishing to verify the following information must go to the microfilm archives maintained by the Advertiser and by the Hawai'i Public Library.

The August 2, 1998 Sunday Advertiser had a front-page photo whose caption states, "Allen Hoof, left, and John 'Butch' Kekahu examine the Hawaiian flag that was replaced at Iolani Palace 100 years ago by the U.S. flag." In the accompanying article, on page A-3, it says, "John 'Butch' Kekahu, a Hawaiian rights activist from Kauai who happened to be in the archives, instead [instead of looking at the preserved U.S. flag which had been hoisted on annexation day] focused on the Hawaiian flag that came down from the palace at 11:46 a.m. in 1898. It was so tattered Hoof didn't want to unfold it any more from the acid-free roll it hangs on [ in the archives ] ..."

And so, although he may not have intended to do so, Butch Kekahu put to rest that scurrilous historical lie about the Hawaiian flag being ripped to shreds at the 1898 annexation and pieces being passed out as souvenirs to the 1893 revolutionaries.

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http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/14/features/stuffs.html
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, August 14, 2000

[Caption for photo at start of this story: The Hawaiian flag that was flown above Iolani Palace during the 1893 coup is locked in a vault at Hawaii State Archives, contrary to stories of its destruction.]

Mutilation of Hawaiian flag a myth

by Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

The local urban legend about the mutilation of the Hawaiian flag has a life of its own. It was repeated as gospel recently by none other than Sen. Dan Inouye, who should know better.

Since this weekend was the anniversary of annexation by the United States, let's shake this particular eyewash.

The Hawaiian flag, complete with the British union jack in the corner and the stripes reflecting the United States, was created to show both powers how friendly -- and neutral! -- Hawaii was during the War of 1812.

When the U.S. annexed Hawaii on Aug. 12, 1898 -- gotta load coal on our warships somewhere, boys -- there was a formal ceremony at Iolani Palace where the Hawaiian flag was lowered and the stars 'n' bars run up. Here's a picture of a Yankee sailor atop the Palace getting ready to lower the Hawaiian flag. It is not known if this is the same flag that flew over the Palace during the 1893 coup, but it likely is.

According to Inouye and certain sovereigntists, the palace's Hawaiian flag was enthusiastically cut up for souvenirs by the Americans and ceased to exist. It should have been preserved for a museum, Inouye complained to the Star-Bulletin's Bud Smyser last month.

It was, sort of. At least it was never cut up. It rests today in the vault of the Hawaii State Archives. It's complete and in one piece. Archivist Luella Kurkjian says it's too fragile to be taken out but the flag was certainly preserved for history.

It's not on display anywhere because Hawaii has no Hawaiian history museums. Maybe Inouye can pork-barrel us one, hey?

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http://starbulletin.com/2000/09/11/features/stuffs.html
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 11, 2000

Flagging down answers

This week, we're back to Hawaiian flags that made history -- and what happened to them.

To update an earlier urban legend, there was a particularly vicious rumor that the Hawaiian flag that was lowered from Iolani Palace on Admission Day in 1898 was cut up for souvenirs, a whopper repeated recently by Sen. Dan Inouye. The flag is actually safely stored in the State Archives.

The basis for that myth, as it turns out, is likely James Michener's novel "Hawaii," which noted that the flag was cut into strips. A fiction!

Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

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** While doing research in October 2008 regarding the Admission Day (Statehood Day) holiday in 1959, Ken Conklin came across the following newspaper article which might explain how the myth of the shredded flag got started. Apparently there was a halyard (rope) used to hoist the American flag on Annexation Day 1898, and pieces of that halyard were indeed given to some of the participants later on. But note that this true story concerns a rope used to hoist a flag, not the flag itself; and it concerns the American flag, not the Hawaiian flag. Nevertheless, perhaps this is the origin of the scurrilous myth that the Hawaiian flag was cut up into pieces which were distributed as souvenirs.

Honolulu Advertiser, Saturday August 22, 1959, page A4

Annexation Flag-Raiser Back for Admission Day

A man who helped raise the American flag at Iolani Palace on Annexation Day, August 12, 1898, is back in town for the first time since.

There was no more excitement on the eve of annexation that there was here yesterday, on Admission Day, he said.

The visitor is A.I. Morgan, 83, a guest at the Halekulani.

He recalls annexation as a military expediency. On that date the Spanish-American War was under way and U.S. forces had engaged the Spaniards in the Philippines.

"America couldn't afford to be cut off from the Philippines. To protect things, President McKinley had Hawaii taken over," Morgan said yesterday.

Morgan at annexation time was a petty officer in the Navy. He had been wounded at Manila and was en route home. He had been in Queen's Hospital for awhile, but was back on duty by Aug. 12, assigned to the Mohican, a converted barkentine then at Honolulu.

Officers and men from the several U.S. Navy vessels here were sent to the palace, which Morgan refers to as Government House, for Annexation Day ceremonies.

"There was a great, long halyard on the flagpole," Morgan said. "We lined up and all put a hand on it.

"Later, President McKinley sent me a little piece of the halyard. We all got a little bit, as a souvenir.

"I still have mine at home."

Home is Berkeley, Calif., where Mr. Morgan's wife, Agnes, is chemist, biochemist and professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of California.

The Morgans are here for the first Nutrition Institute at the University of Hawaii, in which Mrs. Morgan is participating.

How have things changed in the 61 years since Morgan last was here? He said

"Well, Honolulu was a wooden sidewalk town then.

"And we were bothered by mosquitoes. Terrifically. They got right through the netting over our beds.

"All the women wore one-piece Mother Hubbards. I remember that was strange to me."


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SOME HAWAIIAN SOVEREIGNTY ACTIVISTS CHOOSE TO PERPETUATE THIS STORY, KNOWING IT IS FALSE, JUST TO STIR UP ANGER OVER ALLEGED HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES (actual dialogue among sovereignty activists during the annexation's centennial commemoration in 1998)

The story of the shredded flag has an obvious purpose -- to inflame the anger of ethnic Hawaiians today by portraying the annexationists as hateful, despicable people who desecrated a beloved symbol of the monarchy right before the eyes of the Hawaiian people to humiliate them. The story also is a personal attack on the character of Thurston Twigg-Smith, who continues in his grandfather's footsteps, opposing race-based government handouts and opposing efforts to create a race-based government in Hawai'i today. The story creates sympathy for ethnic Hawaiians, and places them on a moral pedestal for refraining from violence in the face of such outrageous provocation, both in 1898 and also today. The story elicits sympathy from people who might otherwise be neutral on Hawaiian sovereignty. It portrays ethnic Hawaiians as poor downtrodden victims of foreign invaders.

For all these reasons, radicals with no respect for the truth want to perpetuate the myth of the shredded flag even when they know it is false. The story is such good propaganda that the radicals want to keep it going. The usual "face saving" argument for knowingly perpetuating a lie is to say that even if it's false, it nevertheless accurately portrays the spirit of the times. But of course we have no way of knowing what was the spirit of the times, unless we have accurate facts from which to form judgments. Judges tell juries that if a witness is caught in a single lie, that is enough to throw doubt on everything else the witness has said.

First, let's repeat what Thurston Twigg-Smith said in his book, on pages 319 and 321. Twigg-Smith has oral testimony from Jim Bartels, and written testimony in a letter from the producers of a PBS TV program, that the shredded-flag lie was deliberately repeated by activists who knew it was false.

page 319:
"Fiction: The 1997 Public Television video, Hawai'i's Last Queen, included an emotional episode that said the Hawaiian Flag taken down at Annexation was "cut up into little ribbons by the missionaries and given to their children as souvenirs of what they had done to the Hawaiians."
Fact: There is no historical record of any such incident. The producers of the video knew no Hawaiian historian had ever mentioned such an act and knew this fable first appeared in the 1950s as an item written by a newspaper columnist known for her often fictitious tales of old Hawai'i. [Note from Ken Conklin: Mr. Twigg-Smith is probably referring to Clarice B. Taylor, some of whose fanciful mixtures of truth and fiction published in the Advertiser were later collected in the book "Little Tales All About Hawai'i." However, the flag-shredding story does not seem to be included in that book.] They used it anyway, telling this writer that it captured the spirit of the Annexation period. H.J. Bartels, curator of 'Iolani Palace and sympathetic in a rational way to sovereignty issues, believes this flag incident is fictional. He suggests it may have sprung from an item in the August 5, 1898, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, page 1, column 3. The item related that a commercial firm had approached President Dole with the idea of raising and lowering the flags on a colorful ribbon-like lanyard that then could be cut into pieces and sold as souvenirs. There is no report this was ever done but the Dole family in the 1970s sold to antique dealer Robert Van Dyke a piece of cloth resembling this description, which may have been the lanyard sample shown to President Dole. At any rate, there were no missionaries alive at the time of Annexation and the four missionary descendants who were involved in leadership of the Revolution and the Provisional Government—Castle, Dole, Smith and Thurston, all attorneys—certainly didn't spend their time cutting up Hawaiian flags.

Later, on page 321, while disposing of another scurrilous falsehood (regarding an alleged assassination attempt against the ex-Queen by Thurston), again quotes Bartels,

[Twigg-Smith page 321]:
""It was just a rumor," notes Bartels. "We left it in because it caught the state of mind of the times." Interestingly, that's about what the producer of Hawai'i's Last Queen said to me in a letter about the flag-cutting incident: "It may not be true, but we think it catches the flavor of the period." In other words, what's wrong with a little baloney if it makes the stew taste better?"

To close out this webpage, here are some e-mails exchanged on an internet discussion group (the Kanaka Maoli Allies Group) that made clear that the activists like the propaganda value of the myth even if it is false. Ken Conklin was a participant in this discussion group at a time when he was still undecided about his own views on sovereignty. As a member of the group, he was able to go through the archives to read old messages, in order to learn from people who had debated the issues. Here is some of the dialogue related to the shredded flag lie. This is a very lengthy exchange of e-mails, raising all sorts of issues including the belief of Joseph Goebbels (Hitler's propaganda minister) that the "big lie" is an important propaganda tool whose effectiveness outweighs all the little lies that are packed inside it.

#############

** From Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao, a member of the Kanaka Maoli Allies Group who always refused to reveal whether he was Kanaka Maoli or merely an ally (or perhaps an agent of the CIA trying to stir up trouble!):

Several messages posted to this list over the past couple of weeks have stated that at the time of annexation in 1898, when the Hawaiian flag was lowered from I'olani Palace and replaced with the U.S. flag, that the Hawaiian flag was torn or cut into several pieces and the pieces were then distributed as souvenirs among the haole members of the "Committee of Safety" or whomever. One person on the KMA list even speculated that maybe Thurston Twigg-Smith might have one of those pieces; and wouldn't it be wonderful if someday all those pieces could be reassembled into the original flag.

Well, it appears that the pieces have already been reassembled; and in fact, the Hawaiian flag was never cut up in the first place. Today's August 2 Sunday Advertiser has a front-page photo whose caption states, "Allen Hoof, left, and John 'Butch' Kekahu examine the Hawaiian flag that was replaced at Iolani Palace 100 years ago by the U.S. flag." In the accompanying article, on page A-3, it says, " "John 'Butch' Kekahu, a Hawaiian rights activist from Kauai who happened to be in the archives, instead [instead of looking at the preserved U.S. flag which had been hoisted on annexation day] focused on the Hawaiian flag that came down from the palace at 11:46 a.m. in 1898. It was so tattered Hoof didn't want to unfold it any more from the acid-free roll it hangs on [ in the archives ] ..."

I regret that it falls to me to puncture a myth that should never have been posted in the first place. On a previous occasion, we discussed another myth -- that the Hawaiian language was for many years "illegal" in Hawaii. We had an excellent discussion and some very good research that showed the reality: that the language was discouraged; that many Hawaiian parents wanted their children to assimilate and thus avoided using Hawaiian language; that in school, children were punished for using Hawaiian language because the schools were vigorously trying to make everyone speak English; that English became the required language for legal process; that the strong discouragement of Hawaiian language may have caused loss of morale and certainly caused loss of cultural memory. But the alleged illegality of the language was factually incorrect. The research done on this KMA list helped set the facts straight, and is capable of giving the dominant culture confidence in the credibility of kanaka maoli scholarship.

There are strong emotions about the language, and about the flag that flew over the Palace. It is understandable that myths like these might grow. But what is not understandable is that myths like these get perpetuated by people who should know better. The KMA list has a group of very fine scholars and thinkers. Their credibility is called into doubt when they allow such myths to be perpetuated unchallenged. Hawaiian culture has a long and distinguished tradition of oral culture, where important chants, songs, hula, kumulipo, and geneologies are passed from one generation to another orally because there was no written language. False myths (about the illegality of the language and the flag torn into pieces passed out as souvenirs) perpetuated orally and now in writing raise doubts about whether more important parts of oral tradition were true to fact and were passed along accurately through many generations. For those who think I am not kanaka maoli, this is a sad day for you that the myth of the shredded flag is perpetuated by kanaka and its falseness is first demonstrated on this list of kanaka scholars by a non-kanaka. For those (any left?) who think I am kanaka, you may rejoice that kanaka have cleaned their own house of a racially inflammatory false story.

As an aside: the dominant-culture media have been having a splendid time on the East Coast of moku honu regarding the Tawanna Brawley story (spelling?). A young Black teenage girl claimed several years ago to have been raped and further brutalized by a group of whites including, I seem to recall, policemen. The case dragged on, reputations got ruined, racial animosities got inflamed, and gradually it became clear that the girl was lying and that a Black political activist minister had knowingly used the false story to drum up political support and inflame hatred of whites. A jury trial found that Rev. Al Sharpton and a couple of his friends were liable for damages for slander, libel, defamation of character, etc., and the jury has been meeting in recent days to determine how much money must be paid in damages to the defendants. The whole sad story has cast doubt on the believability of women who cry "rape," and the believability of minorities who claim severe racial and police brutality; and the dominant culture media are playing this for all it is worth. Most women who cry "rape" are probably telling the truth and deserve to have their stories taken seriously; likewise for most minorities who claim police brutality. But when there are even a few highly publicized false stories of rape or brutality, it gets harder for the true stories to get listened to and acted upon. Hawaiians will do well to avoid allowing a false shredded flag myth to play the same role here. Future jurors are influenced by present exposure of false myths. Residents of Hawaii and the mainland whose goodwill is essential for sovereignty are also influenced by exposure of false myths. We can all hope there are no more false myths. But if any should arise, I look forward to the time when someone clearly identified as kanaka is the first person to shoot down the next false myth.

-- Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao

--------------

*Scott Crawford's reply, in which he seems to offer hope that the torn-up flag really did happen, but the problem is merely confusion over whether it happened at the overthrow, or the proclamation of the Republic, or some other date. *

While I thoroughly agree that it is important to avoid perpetuating inaccurate stories or "false myths" I believe that the error in this case rests not in the event itself, but in the date on which it occurred. I believe I was the first one to post the annexation as the date, and I realized after I posted it that it was incorrect. I also noticed the reference in the Advertiser today and that confirmed it. Kaukamana`o has raised this to our attention, and wisely. I haven't looked for documentation on this, but I believe it was not the annexation but the proclamation of the republic or perhaps the time when an American protectorate was claimed over Hawaii after the overthrow when the flag was torn up. I would like some help here to get to the facts, but I think that it is too early to dismiss that the event took place at all. This is a powerful and symbolic emotionally charged story. I believe it is very possibly true, but I would like to know for sure and know the details. I believe it was in the Act of War (Joan, can you help?) and Na Maka and the other producers of that video might know the source.
Scott

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*Reply of Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao to Scott's reply*

Aloha e Scott:

Mahalo nui for forwarding my post; and my apologies to you and the KMA list for the multiple postings. I guess the server was acting up again; and we all should be more careful and more patient about re-posting messages which seem to evaporate on the first try.

Your comment is well taken that the torn-up flag event may indeed have happened, but at a different time later or earlier than when the Hawaiian flag was changed for the U.S. flag at the Palace on annexation day. If the story in Sunday's Advertiser is correct, and if the flag that Butch Kekahu was looking at in the archives is the actual Hawaiian flag that was replaced on that fateful day, then either the story about tearing up the flag and handing out pieces as souvenirs is totally wrong, or else that shredded flag event must have happened at a different time (and with a different actual flag), as you suggest. I do not have a copy of "An Act of War" movie, produced by Na Maka; but I do seem to remember seeing a scene like that in that movie (not sure though). So now we must also wonder whether that movie (or some other one) depicts the flag incident as having occurred on annexation day, which would be false; or whether it depicts the event as happening on a day weeks or years earlier or later but involving the famous annexation-day flag, which would also be false. Of course, the flag that is in the archives could have been placed there erroneously and might not be the flag that was allegedly taken down and cut up just before noon on annexation day.

So I guess that at most one of the following things must be correct:

(1) The whole story of the annexation-day flag being cut up and handed out as souvenirs is false; and if the movie produced by Na Maka also depicts this event, then it also is pertetuating the false and inflammatory story in the hot medium of a movie; or

(2) The flag in the Archives that Butch Kekahu was looking at is incorrectly labeled and documented by the archives and is in fact not that flag; or

(3) The Advertiser story is incorrect; or

(4) There was a cutting up of the Hawaiian flag and distributing its pieces as souvenirs; but that event did not involve the actual flag that was replaced by the U.S. flag on annexation day. And the event may have occurred weeks or even years earlier or later; perhaps, as Scott suggests, at the time of the proclamation of the Republic. If so, what were the circumstances of this event? Was it perhaps a staged event, in the same way as the famous photo of the soldiers planting the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima was actually a re-enactment requested by the photographer at a later (and safer!) time?

So now we must await help from those more knowledgeable. We had some excellent research previously on different issues such as the illegal language issue and the sacredness of Leahi; so maybe this issue will produce good research as well.

-- Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao

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** Na Maka O Ka 'Aina has been producing high-quality propaganda films for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement for many years. Scott Crawford wrote to them to ask about whether the shredded flag incident was portrayed in their movie "Act of War." First is Scott's request; then the reply from Na Maka. Note that the Na Maka reply does what a propagandist would be expected to do when placed under a spotlight -- change the subject. "We at Na Maka o ka 'Aina feel that attention should be focused instead on the main issue here ..." [which is the "illegality" of the annexation] **

From: namaka@interpac.net (Na Maka o ka 'Aina)
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

This is a powerful and symbolic emotionally charged story. I believe it is very possibly true, but I would like to know for sure and know the details. I believe it was in the Act of War (Joan, can you help?) and Na Maka and the other producers of that video might know the source.

Scott

Aloha kakou,

The incident of the Hawaiian flag being cut up was NOT in our documentary ACT OF WAR.

However, it was in HAWAI'I'S LAST QUEEN, a documentary produced by Vivian Ducat and aired on PBS' The American Experience.

In this program, Malcom Naea Chun is interviewed and says the following about the events of August 12, 1898:

"But when the Hawaiian flag was lowered it was said that it was cut into small little two to three inch ribbons and given out as tokens of remembrance to the sons and daughters of the missionary families, so that they could keep those as little tokens of their great victory over the Hawaiian Kingdom and the end of the tyranny of the Hawaiian monarchy."

There is also a reference to the incident in a now out-of-print book entitled I KNEW QUEEN LILI'UOKALANI by Bernice Pi'ilani Irwin, (copyright 1960, printed in Honolulu, distribution by South Sea Sales). Bernice Pi'ilani Irwin was a writer whose mother was a close friend of Queen Lili'uokalani and who, as a student at the Priory School, first met the Queen and later was a frequent guest at Washington Place.

By way of further background, Bernice Pi'ilani Irwin is the author of a book of Hawaiian stories published in 1937, IN MENEHUNE LAND. For five years she wrote a popular column for the Honolulu Advertiser. Later her column appeared for fifteen years in the Honolulu Times. Here is what she had to say about the incident in question:

"Before annexation our quarrel was not with the people of America, but with those foreigners in Hawaii who, while still retaining their American citizenship and at the same time posing in Washington as Hawaiians, took such an active part in overthrowing our government.

"Not content with achieving annexation for which they had been working many years, these foreigners committed a despicable act. When our beautiful Hawaiian flag, under which many of them had been born and reared, was lowered on annexation day, they cut it into three-inch strips for 'souvenirs' to be handed down through their families to future generations as a memento of their triumph.

"This lack of respect for our flag was in marked contrast to the great respect shown by the Hawaiians when the American flag was lowered by order of Commissioner Blount after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. After his official investigation of the part played in the attempted protectorate by the American Minister Stevens, Blount realized that an unfair advantage had been taken of the Hawaiians. He therefore ordered the American flag lowered. On this occasion there was a group of Hawaiians standing in silence, heads uncovered, as the flag came down and their Hawaiian flag was raised. When asked why they did not shout with joy, they replied, 'That would show disrespect to the American flag.'"

These are the only references we have found. It could be that the incident of the cutting up of the Hawaiian flag is not able to be documented by primary sources, perhaps being an event which did not take place in public.

We at Na Maka o ka 'Aina feel that attention should be focused instead on the main issue here, that is, how are we all going to deal personally and politically with the fact that there was no annexation. Annexation, according to the US constitution, cannot be achieved through a joint resolution of Congress. Yet it was a joint resolution of Congress that US Minister Sewall presented to Sanford Dole on August 12, 1898 at 'Iolani Palace.

Shortly before the ceremony, the Executive Committee of the Hawaiian Patriotic League, which had been part of an effective effort to stop the annexation treaty in the US Senate the year before, presented a memorial to Minister Sewall, stating:

"The Declaration of American Independence expresses that Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; Therefore, be it resolved: That as the representatives of a large and influential body of native Hawaiians, we solemnly protest against annexation in the manner proposed and without reference to the consent of the people of the Hawaiian Islands."

Minister Sewall simply filed the memorial with the U.S. Dept. of State.

(This last bit of info is from THE HAWAIIAN REPUBLIC by William Adam Russ, Jr.)

Puhipau / Joan Lander
Na Maka o ka 'Aina
P.O. Box 29
Na'alehu, Hawai'i 96772-0029

Ph. (808) 929-9659
Fax (808) 929-9679
email: namaka@interpac.net
http://film-hawaii.com/NaMaka

------------

From: "John McClain"
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

Aloha kakou

So which flag is the one in Sunday's Advertiser cover story, that Allen Hoof and Butch Kekahi are examining? According to the article, it was the "flag that was replaced at Iolani palace 100 years ago by the U.S. flag." It's looking pretty good for being cut up. Is this another flag or what?

Just wondering

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From: michael ng
To: "KMA"
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

We at Na Maka o ka 'Aina feel that attention should be focused instead on the main issue here, that is, how are we all going to deal personally and politically with the fact that there was no annexation. Annexation, according to the US constitution, cannot be achieved through a joint resolution of Congress. Yet it was a joint resolution of Congress that US Minister Sewall presented to Sanford Dole on August 12, 1898 at 'Iolani Palace.

Agreed, whether the act of the shreeding did or did not take place can be agrued either way. It is however symbolic of the actions that did actually take place, the illegal overthrow and the shredding of Hawai'i nei. Now we are here to piece back together those shreddings.

Michael Ng...

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From: Scott Crawford
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Cc: "phb"
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

Thanks for your researched response, Joan. I agree that the focus should be on the fact of the annexation itself not being real, and Michael's powerful metaphor that the symbology of the flag being torn up is true of the nation as well, whether or not the event actually happened. While it is relatively unimportant, I do however think that these anecdotes from history are what help bring the past alive, and that the symbology of the flag shredding is quite powerful, that it would be good to know whether or not it actually happened, and if so, what is the flag in the archives vs. the one that may now be in the collections of the descendents of the doers of the deed.

Scott

--------------

From: "Kaukamana'o Ka'imina'auao"
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

Aloha kakou:

The research regarding the shredded flag story has been very interesting and helpful. Much more research is needed, since there is as yet no definitive answer to the puzzle. It may be that we are reaching the point where further research takes more time than the issue is worth. The following is a very important essay growing out of this issue but going far beyond it. I hope you will give it your thoughtful attention.

For latecomers to the discussion: the issue of the shredded flag concerns a claim often heard that at the time of the (alleged) annexation of Hawaii to the United States, at noon on August 12, 1898, at 'Iolani Palace, the Hawaiian national flag that was lowered to make way for the raising of the U.S. flag was torn into small pieces maybe 2 or 3 inches square, or strips, and the pieces were handed out amidst great celebration to the leaders of the annexation movement, as souvenirs, while "defeated" kanaka looked on. Such an event, if it occurred, would have been highly inflammatory at the time; and the stories that it occurred (and possible re-enactments of it) would also be emotionally inflammatory in the highly charged political environment of today. But a photo and story appeared on the front page of the Sunday Advertiser of August 2, 1998, showing a leader of the upcoming anti-annexation march on Washington, unfolding that original Hawaiian flag in the Archives of the State of Hawaii. So something is wrong somewhere: maybe the story of the shredded flag is false, maybe the flag in the Archives is not the one that was hauled down at the time of annexation; maybe the story in the newspaper is part of a vast conspiracy to discredit the movement; nobody knows the explanation. A few of the posts on this issue have headed in an interesting direction which I would like to point out.

A post from Na Maka o ka 'Aina said that their research showed that the incident of the shredded flag did not appear in ACT OF WAR, but did appear in HAWAI'IS LAST QUEEN. Both of these were very powerful and moving productions. So Na Maka acknowledges that it has portrayed the shredded flag story as factual in one of its productions. The question is whether the Na Maka productions are meant to be taken as factual, like scholarly history books or television "documentaries" on the second world war; or whether they are to be taken as inspirational dramas or propaganda, like historical novels or war movies starring John Wayne. Clearly it is the intent of Na Maka to stir up pride and feelings of Hawaiian patriotism among the kanaka maoli who see the productions, and to stir up feelings of curiosity and perhaps guilt among the non-kanaka. The Na Maka productions are well-made and very stirring, in either case -- nothing like the dull but allegedly factual movies we used to watch in history classes in school. But the "facts" presented in the Na Maka productions are all selected to illustrate one interpretation of history, skewed in one direction, sort of like the Blount Report or Michael Dougherty's book TO STEAL A KINGDOM. Na Maka's productions are far more subtle and not nearly so propagandistic as the John Wayne movies; but they are created by kanaka to portray the kanaka viewpoint in a quiet but deeply stirring style. I am a great admirer of Na Maka.

But Na Maka in its post to this list began to take an interesting direction regarding whether the shredded flag story is factually true. Na Maka hinted that whether the story is factually true or not is less important than presenting the overall greater truth of the theft of the kingdom and the falsity of the annexation.

----

We at Na Maka o ka 'Aina feel that attention should be focused instead on the main issue here, that is, how are we all going to deal personally and politically with the fact that there was no annexation. Annexation, according to the US constitution, cannot be achieved through a joint resolution of Congress. Yet it was a joint resolution of Congress that US Minister Sewall presented to Sanford Dole on August 12, 1898 at 'Iolani Palace.

----

Michael Ng then picked up on this hint and made it explicit, as follows:

Agreed, whether the act of the shreeding did or did not take place can be agrued either way. It is however symbolic of the actions that did actually take place, the illegal overthrow and the shredding of Hawai'i nei. Now we are here to piece back together those shreddings. Michael Ng...

-----

Scott Crawford then agreed with Na Maka's desire to shift the focus away from the factual issue and onto the bigger picture, and praised Michael Ng's "powerful metaphor" of the tearing up and shredding of the nation of Hawaii and the need to reassemble those pieces.

From: Scott Crawford
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Cc: "phb"
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important

Thanks for your researched response, Joan.

I agree that the focus should be on the fact of the annexation itself not being real, and Michael's powerful metaphor that the symbology of the flag being torn up is true of the nation as well, whether or not the event actually happened. While it is relatively unimportant, I do however think that these anecdotes from history are what help bring the past alive, and that the symbology of the flag shredding is quite powerful, that it would be good to know whether or not it actually happened, and if so, what is the flag in the archives vs. the one that may now be in the collections of the descendents of the doers of the deed.

Scott

-----

Finally, we received a message forwarded by Scott from "phb" .

This is the one that really got my attention. This post makes it very clear that what is needed is a powerful myth to inspire and unify the people, and it doesn't matter whether the myth is true at all. The author even suggests starting a treasure hunt for the missing pieces, even knowing they do not exist, because such a treasure hunt is a way of uniting the people and stirring up their passion for the cause. Lest there be any doubt what was meant, and because it is hard to tell who was the author, I am re-posting that message and its documentation in its entirety below, and will then comment on it.

--- begin forwarded text

To: "Scott Crawford"
From: "phb"
Subject: Re: Shredded Flag Myth; Credibility Politically Important
Date: Tue, 04 Aug 98

It seems that there was somewhat indifference to the question of the flags remanents . Often an emotionally charge subject will create a "larger than life" symbol, which with the passage of time,is lost or distorted by the purveyors of information. In your case, however, you possess a piece of the flag, a remenant of the actual symbol ," the tooth of Buddha", if you will.

I would think that those who are interested in presenting the case of annexation to the people would use all available, highly emotionally charged symbols at their disposal, and would disagree with the one individual who thinks that your case should hold strictly to the "unsavory" facts.

People give up their lives daily for intangible things, visions of the world as they think it should be. And often at the forefront of their battles, whether real or imagined, are their highest prized symbols.

I also think that a "call for the remenants" would be extremely useful publicity, and would serve to bring your issue to the attention of many who would not otherwise be interested. Everyone loves a good treasure hunt, and in this case the treasure would not be the flag pieces,(what some would think they are looking for), but instead, the unification of a country.

It could be foreseen that those unwilling to give up their pieces because of the monetary value, might also be those who would be unwilling to reunify for the same reason.......the "symbolic" comparisons could go on and on.......

5:19 PM -1000 8/3/98, phb wrote: Thank you for all the forwarded replies ,scott? it seems that the answer is 'OUT THERE SOMEWHERE'.......by the way , my name is Philip, not Michael, unless he too was inquiring of the pieces??......... It is an interesting topic you have raised, and I am surprised the answer has not been more readily available. Michael was one of the others who responded with an opinion on the matter who I was replying to.

Scott

--- end forwarded text

-----------

*** Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao writing again **

There is a favorable way to look at this way of thinking, and an unfavorable way. I shall explain both the favorable and the unfavorable. I shall make both as clear as I can, and take them to extremes because it is by looking at the extremes that the issue becomes clear. Some may take offense and accuse me of "pushing the hot buttons." So be it. What I see happening here deserves to be a very hot button and needs to be thought about carefully.

Here is the favorable way of looking at this way of thinking:

The philosopher/anthropologist Joseph Campbell made a career of exploring the great myths of all cultures, including religions and folk tales. He used the word "myth" not at all negatively, but very positively and respectfully. The Christian mythology, Buddhist mythology, the mythologies of various indigenous peoples, etc. He said all great cultures have important myths which differ from each other in their particular imagery but which have fundamental similarities and great truths underlying them. He believed that these myths help the people who grow up with them or are converted to believe in them. The myths help people to sense a level of being which lies inside and yet beyond the events of everyday life. He said that great myths arouse people's loyalty to a nation or a cause, and also help them achieve spiritual enlightenment. I say that Hawaiians have a great mythology, most notably the Kumulipo. Hawaiians have a powerful set of values (see George Kanahele: KU KANAKA) and a deeply spiritual tradition exemplified in the daily rituals of olden days, and the heiau, oli, hula, lua martial arts, and many other cultural forms. These great myths need to be harnessed in service to the quest for sovereignty. Some kanaka maoli in recent years have begun to do that, most notably Kekuni Blaisdell; Pua Kanahele; 'Ilio'ulaokalani; Sam Ka'ai; Pu'uhonua (Bumpy) Kanahele with his village in Waimanalo; the Kahana Valley group of Kalo farmers (including Lynette Cruz from the KMA list); and many others.

Christianity is the dominant culture mythology familiar to most of us here on the KMA list. Children grow up believing that the Bible stories are literally true, and that Jesus was a real person. Most important Christian theologians of the past 100 years have been thinking the opposite way. They do not believe that Jesus existed in this historical world; or at least they believe that it does not matter whether he did or not. I know this might come as a shock to many people (it surely shocked me as I studied this subject!!), but modern Christian theology says that it does not matter whether the myths were historically factual. All that matters is that Christians must have faith in the underlying mysteries. Time magazine ran a pretty good story on this many years ago with its cover: "The Death of God." And anyone interested can read a very readable book by a very famous Christian many consider a saint: Albert Schweitzer, THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS.

So it is in that context that the trend of the quoted posts to the KMA list can be taken in the most favorable light. Hawaiians need some political myths to go with their ancient spiritual mythology. And if the myth of the shredded flag is factually false, it doesn't matter. The myth is symbolically true, as was "revealed" by Michael Ng and Scott Crawford and "phb" And the myth can be used to rally the masses in support of sovereignty.

There now, wasn't that inspirational? I personally agree with Joseph Campbell and Albert Schweitzer et. al. And Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama are among my modern-day heroes because they were able to harness these spiritual myths in the struggle for political justice. They understood exactly what they were doing, and did it very well indeed. Will na kanaka maoli be able to do this sort of thing? Let us hope so, with all our hearts. Things are looking good. As members of this KMA list know very well, I have many doubts about some of the historical claims, and some of the theological commitments (such as the one-drop theory of who is kanaka). But I also have many hopes and much faith.

The bogey-man of the year is Thurston Twigg-Smith. According to the Star Bulletin of August 3 (page C1), his ancestor Lorrin Thurston is being portrayed as Satan and as a scorpion, and as a rapist (political metaphor), in a new hula-opera production by kumu hula John Renken Kaha'iali'iokaiwi'ulaokamehameha Kauauaamahikalaniki'eki'eokohala Topolinski. (Sheesh! Dat guy has a longer name than I do!! hmmmmmmm.... Wat, dat make him mo bettah?) This production, of course, undoubtedly has even less pretense at historical accuracy or scholarly neutrality than the productions of Na Maka o Ka 'Aina, but may be more arousing for those who can sit through the lengthy performance. Anyway, Twiggy's book has the very interesting title: SOVEREIGNTY: DO THE FACTS MATTER? Boy, he hit the nail right on the head with that subtitle! The posts from Na Maka, Michael Ng, and "phb" are clearly headed toward a flat-out admission that the facts don't matter very much at all. If some historical allegation turns out to be factually incorrect, well, don't worry, just move on to the bigger picture because that is what is important. I am concerned that we have reached the point where there is a hard core of sovereignty fanatics who are so totally committed to the movement that they will ignore any and all contrary facts, make use of any and all favorable facts, and plunge headlong into the abyss. Perhaps another name for the mild version of that syndrome is "political loyalty." Taken beyond civilized behavior, it is what leads to violence in the name of a political cause. It is exemplified at the extreme on an individual level by the suicide bomber, or on the national level by the use of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, chemical, etc.).

Now here is where I get nasty and push those hot buttons in my arrogant manner to make a point. You no like, bettah hele aku. Just please remember me kindly for the inspirational stuff before this.

Adolph Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels were masters of "The Big Lie." Richard Nixon quoted them admiringly at one point, I believe, when discussing the Viet Nam War, and again in the Watergate coverup tapes. The political theory is that small lies can easily be exposed as lies, and do not produce very much political gain even if they are believed. But really BIG lies can turn the course of history in whatever direction you want. Really BIG lies are so enormous that opponents get worn out trying to disprove them; and they are so seductive that they compel fervent belief by the masses of the people and change the course of history. Of course, the BIG lie has many medium lies wrapped inside, and each of those has many small lies, etc. (Spouses who cheat on their spouses will understand what I mean here!!) When looked at from a purely logical standpoint, Hawaiian sovereignty looks like a BIG lie, with all the facism of Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. One thing it lacks is a desire to take over the rest of the world. And so far, it also lacks any propensity to violence. As I re-read the following, I wonder if a comparison to the State of Israel might be more appropriate than a comparison to the Nazis or Japan, since neither Israel nor Kanaka have current aspirations to control the entire planet. But Nazi, Israel, Imperial Japan, and Kanaka all make the claim that members of one race are descended from god(s) and have an inborn God-given right to control an area of land; that people not of that race have inborn limitations and are ineligible to speak to god(s) or control that land and cannot understand certain things; that anyone who has one drop of the blood of the great race living anywhere in the world is entitled to "return" to the sacred land and take over control of it, possibly pushing out any "outsiders" currently living there, or confiscating the outsiders' illegitimately titled land and property. All make the claim that from time immemorial, the creation of the universe and its divinely controlled evolution have inexorably led to the emergence of the great race in its sacred place. And from this powerful, mystical theology come all sorts of beautiful, seductive cultural products that can be used to whip up mass hysteria in the service of political objectives. Well, I could go on and on, but you get the picture I am sure, and it is not a pretty picture.

Now please, don't go quoting individual sentences and pieces of this and that to show the absurdity of what I have just said and to express outrage. Remember the good, inspirational stuff that came before. Remember that I am trying to paint two pictures here: one a beautiful masterpiece that inspires spiritual devotion; the other a horrible, disgusting piece of devastating imagery. It's like those KMA posts I quoted: you might rip up these flags (what I said) to shreds, but it is the full assemblage of the pieces that needs to be looked at. It is my hope that the beautiful inspirational picture is the true portrait of kanaka sovereignty. It is my doubts that make me fear what would happen if the ugly picture were unveiled as sovereignty approaches.

The question whether the shredded flag story is historically true is very minor indeed in the context of the big picture. But the attitude of ignoring the facts to maintain a larger fiction is very dangerous to spiritual health, and is also dangerous to political credibility when the truth is exposed. Twiggy asked in the subtitle of his book, "Do the Facts Matter?" It grieves me when I hear a few kanaka starting to answer, "No."

-- Kaukamana'oka'imina'auao

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From: Baron Ching
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Subject: Ka Hae Hawai'i

Aloha Kakou,

Sorry, here's my two cents.

Kauka, I don't buy the theory that you have disproved a "myth".

Went to the Archives yesterday to view Ka Hae and they won't even let the public in the same room-"too fragile". What they did say was that they don't exactly know what is there, they did not open Ka Hae fully and they probably never will given manpower availability and its fragility. And they mentioned that it was torn.

So maybe you can conclude that it is indeed the entire Hae Hawai'i. The Archives people are not so sure. Seems odd that Hae America is in one piece and Hae Hawai'i which is exactly the same age is torn and fragile.

Seems to me that the situation would be more consistant with somebody tearing off pieces of Kahae.

My vote would be for the shredded souvenir theory. And with that Hae Hawai'i.

Kaho'ola

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From: namaka@interpac.net (Na Maka o ka 'Aina)
To: kanakamaoliallies-l@hawaii.edu
Subject: Re: Facts and Myths: IMPORTANT discussion

Aloha kakou,

Just to reiterate, we (Na Maka o ka 'Aina) did NOT include the flag cutting incident in our video ACT OF WAR. However, it was included in the program HAWAI'I'S LAST QUEEN, produced by Vivian Ducat of Ducat Segal Productions, Inc. 130 West 86 Street #12B, New York, New York 10024.

Do the facts matter on this list?

The Eyes of the Land

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(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

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