Hawai’i: An American Coup | Crooked Media
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January 16, 2023
What A Day
Hawai’i: An American Coup

In This Episode

  • Today marks 130 years since the United States illegally overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. Healani Sonoda-Pale, an O’ahu-based community organizer and member of the Ka Lāhui Hawai’i political action committee, tells us what this day means to Native Hawaiians and the movement to restore Hawai’i’s sovereignty.
  • And in headlines: a Russian missile strike killed at least 40 civilians at an apartment complex in Ukraine, the family of a man who died after an LAPD officer repeatedly Tasered him is demanding answers, and the CDC hopes to track new Covid variants by analyzing lavatory waste from international flights.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Tuesday, January 17th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What A Day, the only podcast that comes pre-loaded on every M3gan doll. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know that this doll is now like a queer icon and whatnot, but I don’t like scary movies. So what am I supposed to do? [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, Los Angeles police are under scrutiny again for the death of a teacher who was tasered multiple times. Plus, the CDC has an unusual new plan to track new COVID variants from international flights. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, CDC, get it together. [laughter] But first, today marks 130 years since the United States illegally overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. On January 16th, 1893, armed U.S. troops landed in Hawaii’s capital city of Honolulu and stormed Iolani Palace, the official residence of Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s ruling monarch at the time. Soldiers held her at gunpoint and gave her a choice, surrender the throne or go to war. After a day of being imprisoned in her home, the queen officially surrendered on the 17th to protect her people from violence. She did so on the condition that she would one day be reinstated once the U.S. realized that it had no authority to dethrone her. But that day never came. She was the first queen to rule the kingdom of Hawaii, as well as the kingdom’s last reigning monarch. So, Josie. Any chance you’ve heard about any of this before today? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Tre’vell. I’m so ashamed to say that I haven’t, because it sounds like I should have. Right? So– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s start with the basics. Who was behind this effort to dethrone the Queen? How long was it in the works? Given what you’ve told us already, I have some ideas. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But I’d love to hear more. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, you know, we know the American tradition. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We know how this works. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So the coup was orchestrated by a group of elite businessmen, most of them Americans who had arrived years before. Their goal was to reduce the power of the Hawaiian monarchy because it stood in the way of their interests. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: To them, Hawaii was an ideal location for trade. The land was perfect for growing sugar, which was a lucrative industry at the time. And these businessmen also saw it as a good place to establish the military outpost that’s now known as Pearl Harbor on Oahu. But the queen opposed them, right? She wasn’t just going to let them come take over her country all willy nilly. So with the support of the U.S. government, these guys staged a violent coup. Set up their own provisional government and established themselves as its leaders. This ultimately led to the annexation of Hawaii as a U.S. territory without the consent of its people in 1898, before it became the 50th state in 1959. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Wow. That is, well, not a good reason to overthrow someone’s country. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm Mmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Because it’s a good location for trade. So did the U.S. face any repercussions for this? Like what happened? It seems as if, like, maybe it just never got brought up again. Is that right? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, it’s interesting you say that because there was actually an investigation into the coup under former President Grover Cleveland just months after it happened. And it was revealed that Hawaii was an internationally recognized sovereign nation before the overthrow and that the U.S. had actually committed a, quote, “act of war” by invading it without cause. But that pretty much got swept under the rug when Cleveland left office. The U.S. did issue an apology for the coup in 1993 under then President Bill Clinton, acknowledging that it was wrong to overthrow the monarchy. Of course, it only took, you know, an entire century, a hundred years for that to come about. But it’s not like Clinton or any other U.S. president, for that matter, has ever offered any kind of real reparations for the Hawaiian people. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I got to say. Country comes in, overthrows your monarchy, and then 100 years later, the president just says sorry, that doesn’t that doesn’t really feel like real reckoning. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Um. So where does that leave us today on the 130th anniversary of the overthrow? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So we’ve talked to native activists on the show before about how they consider Hawaii to be an illegally occupied nation rather than a US state and how its sovereignty should be restored. I wanted to learn more about what this day means to Native Hawaiians and the Movement for Hawaiian Sovereignty. So I spoke to Healani Sonoda-Pale. She’s a member of Ka Lāhui Hawai’i, a political action committee that prioritizes Native Hawaiians and their right to self-govern. She’s organizing a big community action today for the 130th anniversary of the overthrow. I started by asking her why it’s important to commemorate this day. 


Healani Sonoda-Pale: This event commemorates the end as we know it of the Hawaiian Kingdom for a time. On the 100th anniversary of the overthrow, uh which was on January 17th, 1993, 40,000 kanaka maoli, 40,000 Hawaiians marched on Iolani Palace, led by some of the greatest leaders we’ve ever known in our generation. I was there. I was able to witness Haunani-Kay Trask say her speech that has been echoed throughout the world and throughout Hawai’i, she exclaimed on the grounds of the palace. 


[clip of Haunani-Kay Trask] We are not American. We are not American. Say it, in your hearts, say it when you sleep. We are not American. We will die as Hawaiians. We will never be Americans. 


Healani Sonoda-Pale: When she said those words, it was electrifying and it brought new life to the Hawaiian movement for sovereignty and self-determination. It was one of those moments that was profound for our people. And from that moment on, I knew I had to be in her class. I had to go to college. That set me on the path where I am today. As a leader now, as a Kanaka maoli mother, as a advocate. It’s important to keep that commemoration. It’s important to remember that day and to gather our people. We will never stop commemorating that day until we get justice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So your organization is leading the Onipa’a peace rally to commemorate the anniversary of the overthrow, from my understanding, you know, this is an annual tradition. Can you paint a picture of what this march looks like and the significance of the route that you all have planned? 


Healani Sonoda-Pale: Yeah. So we’re going to be gathering in the morning at Mauna Ala Royal Mausoleum. That is where the remains of the last uh ruling monarchs are buried. Mauna Ala is an important place here in Hawai’i. It’s the only place where the American flag can never be flown because of the sovereigns that are buried there. We will leave Mauna Ala at 10:00 and march down Nu’uanu avenue. We walk all the way down to Iolani palace, heading to the Queen’s statue where we’ll be honoring Queen Lili’uokalani at her statue. We will have Kailana, the founder of the march, holding the portrait of our last queen as we march down, She’ll be in the front, and behind her will be leaders of the mauna kea movement and the Hawaiian movement. It’s really a day for Hawaiians to come together on the palace grounds and to remember. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely. I was going to ask, where does the name of the march Onipa’a come from? 


Healani Sonoda-Pale: So Onipa’a was the queen’s motto. And it means to remain steadfast, to remain firm and immovable. During the Queen’s time there was already threats being made against the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States. It was a message of despite the turmoil, despite the fact that our numbers, our population is still dwindling, we need to stand firm, despite the fact that we may lose everything. And we did. We lost our country, that we need to stand firm. We need to Onipa’a. Our queen was a strong believer in nonviolence. She could have retaliated against the United States. She could have retaliated against these American businessmen who illegally overthrew our kingdom. But she chose not to. And she set the standard for us as a people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So now, speaking of standing firm, as I understand it, when the Americans took over in the years after the overthrow, one of their first orders of business was outlawing, you know, Hawaiian language and cultural practices. Can you talk to us a little bit about the nature of those bans and how, you know, you all as Native Hawaiians have kept those parts of yourselves, your identities, your culture alive under this regime. 


Healani Sonoda-Pale: So actually, our cultural practices were really attacked by the American missionaries who arrived in 1820. They Christianized a large part of Hawaiian society, the attack on hula, on surfing, anything that would in the missionaries eyes seem lascivious or promote lascivious behavior be outlawed. And when we were illegally overthrown, our language was banned and our kupuna were threatened and beaten for speaking Hawaiian in public schools and in the public. Our language actually came to the brink of extinction when our people realized that the native speakers, the mauna leo, were dying out. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a whole renaissance to bring our language back began. There was a real effort to annihilate us on so many levels. They took our land. They took our nation. They took our identity. And they made us feel ashamed of who we were, for so many years. Under the U.S. rule they even took away our memories. Another reason why it’s super important to commemorate this day. My generation, we grew up in the public education system, never knowing that this happened, never knowing that they imprisoned our own queen in her own palace. Never knowing that uh they landed troops to protect American business interests. We grew up thinking that we were better off under the United States. We were told that our people were savages. We were told that we became civilized after Westerners arrived. And the reality of it, we were the civilized ones. And that is what we are doing this Tuesday, is we’re reclaiming that memory. We’re reclaiming that history, that injustice that was done to us. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Healani Sonoda-Pale, a community organizer and member of Ka Lāhui, Hawai’i. We’ll provide links in our show notes so you can learn more about her work. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Tre’vell Anderson:  Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: On Saturday, a Russian missile strike killed at least 40 civilians, including several children, at an apartment complex in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. It was one of several Russian attacks that took place over the weekend and marked one of the deadliest strikes on Ukrainian civilians since the war started last year. As of yesterday, at least 75 people were wounded, while 30 more remained missing. Until Saturday’s attack, Dnipro had been considered a safe place where many displaced residents from eastern Ukraine took refuge. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Los Angeles is mourning Keenan Anderson after the LAPD released edited body cam footage of an officer restraining and tasing the 31 year old who died following the encounter. Anderson, who is Black, was in the L.A. area on January 3rd to visit family when he waved a police officer over for help after being involved in a traffic collision. The LAPD claims the officer thought he was responsible for the accident. Meanwhile, Anderson’s family has stated that he was in the midst of a mental health crisis. The responding officer then physically restrained him using his body weight. Anderson can be seen in the video begging for help as officers tased him at least six times, one of which was for 90 seconds straight. He died hours later in the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At least 69 people were killed in a plane crash in Nepal on Sunday, marking the country’s deadliest plane crash in over 30 years. Authorities are still investigating what caused the Yeti Airlines plane to go down so suddenly in otherwise unchallenging flight conditions. But Nepal’s aviation agency has since retrieved both the flight data recorder and black box from the site. Meanwhile, the country’s government declared Monday a public holiday to mourn the victims. And Yeti Airlines canceled all of its regular flights for the day. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Italy’s most wanted mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, was arrested yesterday after being on the run for 30 years. Sounds like the Italian police didn’t forget about it. [laughter] You like that one? Investigators– 


Tre’vell Anderson: It was cute. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sorry. I’m sorry to everybody. Investigators took Denaro, head of the Cosa Nostra Crime syndicate, into custody while he was at a private clinic known for plastic and other elective surgeries. The Mafioso had become near legendary for his evasion of the authorities with so few photos that Italian agencies had to use computer generated images to approximate what he may look like in old age. Having been convicted in absentia, Denaro faces multiple life sentences for dozens of murders and has been Sicily’s top kingpin for decades, even as a fugitive. Had a good run. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve disappeared for 30 years and they just pop out of nowhere and they got you. I’m sure you’re very upset. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I know! 


Tre’vell Anderson: You thought you were getting away with it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sure they really enjoyed looking for you for all of that time. So. 


Tre’vell Anderson: FEMA has severed ties with a California translation company after Alaskan residents looking for aid in their native languages opened up the agency’s literature and instead found a whole lot of ignorant nonsense. After a typhoon inflicted extensive property damage along Alaska’s western coast last September, FEMA offered monetary aid to the impacted residents, distributing instructive materials in English as well as in other native languages. Unfortunately, the documents were riddled with confusing phrases and errors. One passage read, your husband is a polar bear, skinny. Another translation was even written in an entirely unrelated language spoken in northern Canada. While the mistranslations did not significantly delay any necessary assistance. A spokesperson for FEMA said the agency takes full responsibility for the errors. Hopefully total shame on the contractors that botched the job is the one thing that’s not lost in translation. Because why are they playing games with these people? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Playing games? And also, FEMA has to double check people’s work. Reach out to people in the community, make sure that the materials make sense. This doesn’t reflect well on anybody. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And finally, one man’s airplane number two is another man’s treasure. At least if the other guy is a federal epidemiologist. After piloting a similar program at New York’s JFK Airport, the CDC is exploring the expansion of taking samples from the wastewater of international flights to help track the travel of COVID, as well as other dangerous viruses, pathogens, and bacterias. While the labs are full of shit in a literal sense, they aren’t figuratively using similar methodology in 2021 scientists were able to detect the presence of Omicrons BA-2 and BA-3 sub variants weeks before they began spreading elsewhere in the U.S.. Despite the success of the pilot program, the CDC acknowledged the difficulty of getting airlines to cooperate and giving access to the goods. But their scientists remain optimistic that widespread use of wastewater samples will help detect these threats earlier saving lives in the process. I guess that makes them the glass half full type of people. We’re just not going to say what’s in the glass. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] No comment. We don’t want to know what’s in the glass. I will say, as long as I’m not the one having to, you know, sift through you all’s fecal matter. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You know. I also think it’s worth pointing out that there is a large contingent of people who seem to think that they can do the CDC’s job better than the CDC can do their job. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if that’s the case. I just want to remind them what that job entails, [laughter] because it’s not all press conferences. Some of it is airplane shit. And that is not anybody’s idea of a good time. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Unless you’re an epidemiologist, perhaps. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Unless you’re an epidemiologist. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. 


[AD BREAK] [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review. Use a toilet in the sky for science and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just illegible FEMA documents like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And spare us M3gan. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I’m not a fan of dolls. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Of any sort. But especially those that kill people. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Kill people, do TikTok dances and apparently know the news. That’s my least three favorite things. Just kidding, knowing the news is good. [laughter[  Forgot where I was for a second. [laughter] Oh boy. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]