Last week, “Hawaii Five-0” tackled a small bit of Hawaiian history that was both brave and controversial. Hawaiian sovereignty — the “grassroots political and cultural campaign” for Hawaiians to create and govern an independent nation of Hawaiʻi — is a hot topic in Hawaiʻi. Both kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) and kamaʻāina (local Hawaiʻi residents who are not of Native Hawaiian descent) will argue the issue, and all of its complicated realities, with the passion that is akin to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the recent Women’s March on Washington.
“Hawaii Five-0” is often seen as “just a television show.” Yet the fact that they based their episode “Ka laina ma ke one” (“Line in the Sand”) on such a difficult subject, helps to show the depth of their desire to highlight real issues. Issues that continue to impact the Hawaiian people.
I’ve said it many times, but I’m always grateful that the Five-0 production and writing team has never been afraid to recreate and reveal shameful moments in history. In the season four episode, “Hoʻonani Makua Kāne” (“Honor thy Father”), “Hawaii Five-0” helped to explain how Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. While we are not proud of what we did to our own citizens, the fact that some fans continue to ask me if the episode showed what really happened to Americans of Japanese descent during that time period, tells me that these kinds of episodes are important. They definitely seem to teach us about issues that perhaps would never be talked about, if not for a television show.
I have to thank all of the fans who sent me messages via social media about how much they appreciated all the details about Hawaiian history in last week’s post. While I grew up learning about Hawaiʻi and the history of my island and my people– sometimes I have to remind myself that for the most part, Hawaiʻi is sort of a mystery to the rest of the world.
But it is all true, Five-0 fans. Hawaiʻi was once an independent nation, ruled by kings and one queen. Our first king was Kamehameha Paiʻea or Kamehameha I, who united the islands and established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. His son Liholiho became Kamehameha II, and is most famous for breaking the ancient kapu system that comprised our system of law. He and his Queen consort, Kamāmalu, traveled to London to visit with King George IV, and died after contracting the measles.
After Liholiho’s death, his brother Kauikeaouli, became Kamehameha III. Kauikeaouli is known for converting the kingdom to Christianity and establishing a constitutional monarchy. He ruled the longest out of all the Hawaiian monarchs and moved the capital of the kingdom from Lahaina, Maui to Honolulu, Oʻahu. After his death he was succeeded by his nephew Alexander ʻIolani Liholiho, Kamehameha IV.
Because of the weakened immunity of the Hawaiian people, which caused the population to succumb to disease more easily than foreign born residents, the king and his Queen consort, Emma, built The Queen’s Medical Center. More commonly known as Queen’s Hospital, the medical center has grown into one of the most medically advanced hospitals in the modern world. In “Hawaii Five-0” Queen’s Hospital, is renamed “King’s Hospital.”
Kamehameha IV died at age 29 and left his throne to his older brother Lot Kapuāiwa, who became Kamehameha V. Lot was the last to reign from the House of Kamehameha. After his death, his cousin, William Charles Lunalilo, was the first monarch elected to the throne. He is best known as “The People’s King” because of the fact that the Hawaiian people chose him to be their King.
In 1874, David Kalākaua became the last king of Hawaiʻi, after a fierce election against Queen Emma. Kalākaua is best known as The Merrie Monarch because his jovial personality, his love of music, and playing the ukulele. His reign is also known as the first Hawaiian Renaissance, as he brought back the once banned ancient art of hula. The famous hula contest “The Merrie Monarch Festival” is named after our king.
Kalākaua also commissioned the statue of Kamehameha I, which now stands in front of Aliʻiōlani Hale, the current Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court Building. Aliʻiōlani Hale is better known by modern “Hawaii Five-0” fans as Five-0 Headquarters. He also built ʻIolani Palace, which is the only royal palace in the United States. It had indoor plumbing, and was wired for electricity and telephones before the White House. Fans know ʻIolani Palace as the first Five-0 Headquarters, as it was the original “Palace” where McGarrett and his team had their offices in the classic version of “Hawaii Five-0.”
In 1877, Kalākaua appointed his sister, Liliʻuokalani, as heir-apparent to the throne. After a scheduled trip to California he suffered a stroke and died in San Francisco. Liliʻuokalani became Queen in 1891 and she worked hard to restore power to the Hawaiian throne. I wrote about what happened to our Queen, and the overthrow and annexation of our kingdom, in last week’s post.
But the idea of Hawaiian independence did not come to an end with the death of Liliʻuokalani. As “Ka laina ma ke one” showed, the sovereignty issue still exists today. While Bumpy Kanahele and the Nation of Hawaiʻi are probably the most active group that seeks to establish an independent Hawaiian nation, the issue is not dormant.
After the second Hawaiian Renaissance began in 1970, Hawaiians began to fight to reestablish the common practice of hula, gaming, farming, fishing, surfing, and to bring back the teaching of Hawaiian language in public schools. The Polynesian Voyaging Society built the Hōkūleʻa, a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe, in order to prove that Hawaiians navigated the seas using non-instrument wayfinding navigation. The Merrie Monarch Festival helped to create a resurgence of the study and practice of hula. Hawaiians also became more involved in state politics and worked to reclaim a political presence that benefit kanaka maoli and our cultural practices and heritage.
I could write thousands of words about the politics behind the plight that Hawaiians face today– the high rate of incarcerated Hawaiians; the difficulty of Hawaiians on with higher education; the percentage of Hawaiians accepting public assistance; the number of Hawaiians who are homeless; the higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disorders; as well as the fact that few Hawaiians own homes in Hawaiʻi– on the very land that is their birthright.
Of course, “Hawaii Five-0” will not solve all of our problems, I don’t think that for a minute– but at least the issues and the truth behind them– have been presented on an international stage. For that reason, I am most grateful. Because those who watch the show– because they love Hawaiʻi, or love Alex O’Loughlin, or Scott Caan, or all of the above– they can help us to continue to educate the world about our special island home, and the people who are tied to its land and culture.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
This week’s “Hawaii Five-0” was a repeat of the very popular season six episode, “Hoa ʻĪnea” (“Misery Loves Company”). The episode showed each Five-0 team member’s Valentine’s Day disasters. It was also the first time we were introduced to the wife of Sgt. Duke Lukela (Dennis Chun), Nalani Lukela. Mrs. Lukela is played by local Hawaiʻi artist Laura Mellow.
Chun and Mellow are partners in life and they spoke to me about their love story— and their connection of aloha to “Hawaii Five-0.” You might remember seeing Mellow return for the Aloha ʻOe party for Masi Oka’s character Max Bergman in the Jan. 14 episode, “Ua hoʻi ka ʻōpua i Awalua” (“The Clouds Always Return to Awalua”).
Another special part of this week’s episode was seeing Hawaiʻi actor James “Jimmy” Koons play the Valentine’s Day cheater of the year, Michael Foxton. Koons, a former D.C. police officer and Widmore Scientist from “Lost,” shared his on set experiences with the Five-0 Redux last year.