On November 20, 1892, U.S. Diplomat John Stevens assigned to Hawai‘i stated in a confidential dispatch to U.S. Secretary of State John Foster, we must “Americanize the islands, assume control of the ‘Crown lands,’ dispose of them in small lots for actual settlers and freeholders for the raising of coffee, oranges, lemons, bananas, pineapples, and grapes, and the result soon will be to give permanent preponderance to a population and a civilization which will make the islands like southern California, and at no distant period convert them into gardens and sanitariums, as well as supply stations for American commerce, thus bringing everything here into harmony with American life and prosperity. To postpone American action many years is only to add to present unfavorable tendencies and to make future possession more difficult.”
After seizing the Hawaiian Islands during the Spanish-American War, the United States initiated a formal policy of denationalization through Americanization throughout the Hawaiian Kingdom’s public schools system. Private schools followed the policy. In 1906, the formal policy was initiated to not only obliterate the national consciousness of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the minds of the children, but to also conceal the blatant violation of Hawai‘i’s sovereignty as a neutral state and the international law of occupation. This program was called “Programme for Patriotic Exercises in the Public Schools.” The purpose of the program was to inculcate American patriotism in the minds of the children and forced them to speak English and not Hawaiian.
According to the Programme, “The teacher will call one of the pupils to come forward and stand at one side of the desk while the teacher stands at the other. The pupil shall hold an American flag in military style. At second signal all children shall rise, stand erect and salute the flag, concluding with the salutation, ‘We give our heads and our hearts to God and our Country! One Country! One Language! One flag!’”
In 1907, Harper’s Weekly magazine covered the Americanization taking place at Ka‘ahumanu and Ka‘iulani Public Schools, which has students from the first to eighth grade. When the reporter visited Ka‘iulani Public School, he documented the policy being carried out and took a picture of the 614 school children saluting the American flag. He wrote:
“At the suggestion of Mr. Babbitt, the principal, Mrs. Fraser, gave an order, and within ten seconds all of the 614 pupils of the school began to march out upon the great green lawn which surrounds the building. Hawaii differs from all our other tropical neighbors in the fact that grass will grow here. To see beautiful, velvety turf amid groves of palms and banana trees and banks of gorgeous scarlet flowers gives a feeling of sumptuousness one cannot find elsewhere.
Out upon the lawn marched the children, two by two, just as precise and orderly as you can find them at home. With the ease that comes of long practice the classes marched and countermarched until all were drawn up in a compact array facing a large American flag that was dancing in the northeast trade-wind forty feet above their heads. Surely this was the most curious, most diverse regiment ever drawn up under that banner—tiny Hawaiians, Americans, Britons, Germans, Portuguese, Scandinavians, Japanese, Chinese, Porto-Ricans, and Heaven knows what else.
‘Attention!’ Mrs. Fraser commanded.
The little regiment stood fast, arms at sides, shoulders back, chests out, heads up, and every eye fixed upon the red, white, and blue emblem that waved protectingly over them.
‘Salute!’ was the principal’s next command.
Every right hand was raised, forefinger extended, and the six hundred and fourteen fresh, childish voices chanted as one voice:
‘We give our heads and our hearts to God and our Country! One Country! One Language! One Flag!’
The last six words were shot out with a force that was explosive. The tone, the gesture, the gaze fixed reverently upon the flag, told their story of loyal fervor. And it was apparent that the salute was given as spontaneously and enthusiastically by the Japanese as by any of the other children. There were hundreds of them in the throng, and their voices rang out as clearly as any others, their hands raised in unison. The coldest clod of a man who sees the children perform this act of reverence must feel a tightening at the throat, and it is even more affecting to see these young atoms from all the world actually being fused in the crucible from which they shall issue presently as good American citizens.”
Under customary international law, Americanization is a war crime of attempting to denationalize the inhabitants of an occupied territory. Germans and Italians were prosecuted for the same war crime after World War II for implementing a systematic plan of Germanization and Italianization in occupied territories.
Since the program began, Americanization had become so pervasive and institutionalized throughout Hawai‘i, that the national consciousness of the Hawaiian Kingdom was nearly obliterated, but for the institutional recovery of the Hawaiian language and the resurrection of diligent historical research that has begun to uncover the true status of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent state under an illegal and prolonged occupation. This revelation is reconnecting Hawai‘i to the international community and its treaty partners regarding the violations of rights and war crimes committed against the citizens and subjects of foreign states who have visited, resided or have done business in the Hawaiian Islands.
In 1898, Queen Lili‘uokalani, in her autobiography “Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen,” told what was to come. She wrote,
“Oh, honest Americans, as Christians hear me for my down-trodden people! Their form of government is as dear to them as yours is precious to you. Quite as warmly as you love your country, so they love theirs. With all your goodly possessions, covering a territory so immense that there yet remain parts unexplored, possessing islands that, although near at hand, had to be neutral ground in time of war, do not covet the little vineyard of Naboth’s, so far from your shores, lest the punishment of Ahab fall upon you, if not in your day, in that of your children, for ‘be not deceived, God is not mocked.’ The people to whom your fathers told of the living God, and taught to call ‘Father,’ and whom the sons now seek to despoil and destroy, are crying aloud to Him in their time of trouble; and He will keep His promise, and will listen to the voices of His Hawaiian children lamenting for their homes.”