New state holiday proposed

  • West Hawaii Today file photo Flags are mounted on vehicles July 31, 2015, at Puukohola Heiau during Hawaiian Flag Day.

HILO — A holiday that originated in the Hawaiian Kingdom could be making a comeback.

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs voted in favor of a bill to make La Ku‘oko‘a — Hawaiian Recognition Day — a state holiday in place of Presidents Day. SB 1451 will next be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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According to the bill, sponsored by each of the state’s 25 senators, the holiday was first celebrated in 1847 after global powers of the time recognized the kingdom as part of the family of nations.

“The celebration grew under the reign of King Kalakaua,” the bill states, “with formal proclamations sent by official circular to the foreign diplomatic corps in Hawaii and the Hawaiian Kingdom consuls abroad, informing them of the holiday.”

Its observation continued after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 and into the early territorial years, the bill says.

The holiday would be observed on Nov. 28, making it the third state-recognized holiday of the month after Thanksgiving and Veterans Day. However, the number of recognized holidays would stay at 13 each year, as Presidents Day would be removed from the list.

Most, but not all, states recognize Presidents Day as an official holiday or celebrate it as George Washington’s birthday, according to the National Constitution Center.

The bill received testimony in favor from several Hawaiian organizations.

In its testimony, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs said that La Ku‘oko‘a commemorates the day Great Britain and France recognized the kingdom as an independent nation.

“With this recognition, the Hawaiian Kingdom entered into treaties and engaged in foreign diplomacy with the major nations of the world,” OHA says.

The state agency says the holiday is a source of pride for many Native Hawaiians, and its recognition has grown substantially.

“As La Kuʻokoʻa has begun to re-gain its prestige, with organizations holding celebrations on November 28 across the islands, it is appropriate and timely for the state itself to formally recognize the unique historic and political significance of this day to all who call Hawaii home,” OHA wrote.

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The Hawaii County Council passed a nonbinding resolution recognizing La Ku‘oko‘a in 2015. Proponents referred to it then as Hawaiian independence day.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.