Hulihia Nā Kānāwai ʻĀina: The Effects of Post-1893 Land Law Changes On Native Hawaiians - Population Demographics Supplement or Supplant?

Wright, Michelle Kawēlau
Jones, Reece
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The 1895 Land Act was a culminating step in the effort to remake Hawaiʻi into a settler-colonial landscape. Sanford Dole and the rest of the usurpers utilized white supremacist ideals to create land law changes that enabled white American immigration while dispossessing Native Hawaiians concurrently. The Land Act was an integral part of a systemic racist process designed to supplant Kanaka Maoli in their homeland and disconnect them from ʻāina, a legacy that lives on today. This dissertation, “Hulihia Nā Kānāwai ʻĀina: The Effects Of Post-1893 Land Law Changes on Native Hawaiians – Population Demographics Supplement Or Supplant?,” archivally examines (1) critical steps that the usurpers made immediately after the coup that laid the foundation for a white supremacist agenda, (2) post-coup legislative changes to laws connected to the ownership and use of land, (3) how those land law modifications changed the social, demographic, and economic landscape in Hawaiʻi and continue to impact Native Hawaiians today. The Hawaiian Kingdom’s internationally recognized sovereignty required the usurpers to take specific, unique steps to ensure the success of their white Supremacist settler project. These steps included the 1893 coup, the faux-colonial oligarchical government, and the creation of mechanisms to suppress the swift and long-standing Native Hawaiian refusal to submit to the Provisional and Republic of Hawaiʻi governments. Additionally, this dissertation argues that the usurpers’ white Supremacist project began before the actual coup and was comprised of several incremental policies that taken together altered Hawaiʻi’s landscape. These policies, supported by legislation, included the expansion of immigration by white American settlers, the creation and growth of tourism, and the development of Hawaiʻi as the center of U.S. military control. This study finds that using this three-pronged approach ultimately lured white American settlers here while simultaneously disenfranchising Native Hawaiians socially, demographically, and economically in their homeland. Comprised of seven chapters, this dissertation asserts three interventions. First, it centers Native Hawaiian people and their experiences, whose voices have been overlooked in prior scholarship about this period. Secondly, archival primary documents are used as the sources of knowledge and evidence of change. Documents were gathered from multiple archives across countries and continents to ensure a plurality of critical voices were heard and represented in the text. Lastly, other Native Hawaiian scholars have asserted that the 1848 Māhele was the real start of Native Hawaiians losing their sovereignty. Through this text, I argue instead that the post-coup land law changes were more detrimental to Native Hawaiian land ownership, land rights, and ultimately Kanaka Maoli identity and sovereignty than the Māhele of 1848. The 1895 Land Act forever altered the course of Hawaiian history and land tenure. Native Hawaiians went from being the largest ethnic population segment in Hawaiʻi to a minority in their homeland in 125 years. In addition, Native Hawaiians represent the bottom of the socio-economic scale in nearly every indicator category. How did this happen? How did Native Hawaiians become landless in Hawaiʻi? Was it their fault? The ultimate goal of this dissertation is to explore these questions through an analysis of land law changes from 1893 to 1959 and expose the racist and settler-privileged policies which enabled the dispossession of Native Hawaiian land, rights, and power. As such, this project is not only connected to expanding academic understanding of Hawaiʻi’s post-1893 land law changes but, perhaps more importantly, is also designed to impact Native Hawaiian understandings of this period. Native Hawaiians did not willingly submit to the settler colonial project but were systemically disadvantaged throughout the Provisional and Republic periods. Revealing this history provides an opportunity to affirm the identity and well-being of our Native Hawaiian communities who continue to resist the effects of white American settlement today.
Geography, 1895 Land Act, Hawaii, Hawaii Homesteads, Land Laws, Territory of Hawaii
151 pages
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