The Hawaiian National Flag and Royal Flag

Another example of misinformation centers on the Hawaiian national flag. Lately, there is a common misunderstanding that the current flag that has the Union Jack at the top left corner is not Hawaiian, but rather British that was imposed here in the islands in 1843 by British Naval Officer Lord Paulet. According to the story published in the Honolulu Adverstiser in 2001, Gene Simeona of Honolulu, stated “he resurrected the ‘original’ Hawaiian green, red and yellow striped flag, destroyed by British navy Capt. Lord George Paulet when he seized Hawai‘i for five months in 1843.” Sonoda calls this flag the Kanaka Maoli flag.

Kanaka Maoli Flag

A very simple way to falsify or refute this claim is to show that the flag with the Union Jack existed before 1843. There is a lot of evidence that refutes this claim such as ship logs of foreign ships that visited the islands since 1816, which is the date the flag was created by order of Kamehameha I. Below are two portraits painted around 1819. The first portrait was painted in 1819 of the baptism of Kalanimoku, the Hawaiian Kingdom’s former Prime Minister on board the French ship Uranie after the death of Kamehameha I, and the second portrait was done sometime after 1819 of the Hawaiian ship commanded by Captain Alexander Adams during the reign of Kamehameha II. Both ships had the presence of Kamehameha II.

Baptism of Kalanimoku

Hawn Flag (Adams Collection)

The second portrait is also called a flagship that has both the national flag and the royal flag. The royal flag, also called the royal ensign, is a flag that signals the presence of the Hawaiian monarch and in this portrait it signaled the presence of  Kamehameha II on board. The royal ensign also flies at the residence of the Hawaiian monarch and wherever the monarch travels.

Royal Ensign

Sonoda’s claim that the Union Jack symbolizes British colonialism in Hawai‘i is also not accurate, because Kamehameha I joined the British Empire voluntarily, along with his principle chiefs, on February 25, 1794, when Kamehameha entered into an agreement with British Captain George Vancouver. The agreement provided that the British government would not interfere with the kingdom’s religion, government and economy—“the chiefs and priests, were to continue as usual to officiate with the same authority as before in their respective stations.”

If the island Kingdom of Hawai‘i was colonized, Kamehameha would not have maintained the status of King, but would have been replaced by a British Governor-General. Queen Victoria recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign State on November 28, 1843 after Lord Paulet’s seizure from February to July 1843. Therefore, Sonodo’s other claim of Lord Paulet’s seizure is true, but there is no evidence that the green, red and yellow striped flag ever existed.

51 thoughts on “The Hawaiian National Flag and Royal Flag

  1. Mahalo for clearing up this misinformation regarding the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi and now our true Hawaiian National Flag. It is so sad to see how people are manipulating our true history for their own personal gains, in pursuing their own agenda’s or in their claims to be the next Ali’i Nui. There is only one true Hawaiian Kingdom and that is the one that was illegally overthrown on January 17, 1893. As we get closer to its restoration more truths will be revealed for as my mother and father had told me: “It is the truth that you must seek, it is the truth that you know and it is the truth that you must follow. For as long as you follow the truth and do what is right you no need worry about nothing for the truth will be your guide”. These words of wisdom from my makua have and are continuing to be my guide in my journey to make the wrong……RIGHT!!! EO…..

  2. Thank God for documented evidences to stop the continued confusion by the media, military and unfounded truths…and therefore, I so appreciate Dr. David Keanu Sai and his research and as usual proof is always provided, thank you for that…as for the yellow, green and red flag? Where is the document to prove that this yellow, green and red flag were ever legitimate? Is there such proof?

    Mahalo Piha,
    Kawehi Kanui, Kahu
    Waimanalo Ahupuaa Hui
    and Hawaiian Womens Patriotic League

  3. Mahalo nui, Dr. Sai for correcting this inaccuracy! I’ve been waiting for this kind post about our national flag for a long time!

    Yes. That so-called “Kanaka Maoli” flag that I see everywhere in clothing and banners, people can call it whatever they want. However, if they claim that that flag has HK significance, I too can concur evidently speaking, no such flag exist.

    When I first saw this flag and heard about its so-called value of it being the “true flag of Hawaii,” honestly speaking, I did not think of it that way. Something about it did not FEEL right.That was also at a time when I was “off-track” about Hawaii’s history. In one of the articles of this weblog (War Crime: “Americanization” of the Hawaiian Islands), I commented saying that whenever I looked at a flagpole containing our national flag and the American flag above it, the flags look “different” to my eyes. I had that same feeling on that “Kanaka Maoli” flag. When I saw that flag at first, just like the American flag, I not only felt a sense of dullishness, but just by looking at it, there were “voices in my head crying out in anger” It made me shiver in frustration! Something right there did not feel right!Understanding my past history of looking at our flags, I feel a sense of happiness and peace when looking at our TRUE national flag, but by looking at this “Kanaka Maoli” flag, despite its “claims of it being the actual flag of Hawaii”, something was not right!

    To understand why that “Kanaka Maoli” flag has no HK significance, I did some research trying to find if it did had any HK significance, but I found nothing. But I did find that Honolulu Advertiser article that you posted and that is what prompt me to take action.
    I went to the Hawaii State Archives, which is where that guy “Simeona” said he found that flag. I showed the associates in the Archives a picture of the “Kanaka Maoli” flag and asked them if there was anything in the Archives about that flag. To them off-hand, they said they never seen that in records before. I even asked the Archives supervisor and she said the same too! I looked in files containing flags and in pictures containing flags. I found nothing! (Haha! Although for a laugh, I did find a picture taken after 1898 containing a U.S. Navy solider holding a blow-up image of the Joint Resolution that “annexed” Hawaii to the United States! It said right there in plain English–“To provide for annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States……”! Well at least I found out, evidently speaking there is no treaty of annexation! Haha!)

    To wrap up my soap opera box, lol!, that “Kanaka Maoli” flag to me today symbolizes “Americanization” and indoctrination of the people of Hawaii! And it sets a misleading example to us young generation future HK subjects! Whenever I see it, especially on people’s clothing, I feel pain in my chest and flare my face in frustration! I’ll never recognize that flag! Its no different then the American flag to my eyes!

    Remember, the HK is not only the land of God, but a world of magic! Magic that says when something is wrong!

        • The Reggae flag has four colors, green, red, yellow, black. The Kurdish flag is green, red and yellow stripes only. The main point of interest on the NATION BANNER is the piko. Do you know what the piko stands for? Do you know the kauna for green, red and yellow? The piko is the most important part of the banner. If it were not, it would not be on the palace gates, fence and de facto government agency stationary, seals, etc. At least the de facto show honor and respect for the piko. Do your own research. It’s no secret.

        • I don’t think it’s about disrespect as much as an observation many people share. Nice to have it clarified. I was beginning to believe it after seeing green feather lei at the Bishop. That’s when I thought, maybe their could be veracity to its existence.

  4. E ho’omakaukau kakou i ka ‘Oia’i’o ke ho’ike ‘ia nei o ko Hawai’i mo’olelo maoli! No ka mea ‘a’ole hiki ke pio ke kanaka i ka malamalama o keAkua: “O Wau no ke ala, a me ka ‘Oia’i’o a me ke ola.” Mahalo e keAkua. Aloha keAkua.

    • Amene.
      I want to ask this q? Olelo o hawaii has changed a lot and the kupuna that I speak to say it will never be the same, that it’s lost. Obviously, it’s resurgence is a necessary and beautiful thing (mahalo!). That said, do u think some of its evolution will be accepted and adopted by this generation or will this generation be staunch academics of the Olelo? ex: I asked an immersion school student how to say, “say something in Hawaiian for me.” He replied, “po’o Olelo o Hawaii”. I love his response! To me, it was the Hawaiian from his head. PERFECT! But I mentioned this to another child and they said, “that kid didn’t know what they were talking about.” Will we lose the poetic thought process of the language with americanization?

  5. In the morning I use to put my hand on my chest when I hear the morning school bell ring, my grandmother use to put my hand down and tell me don’t look at the flag. She told me many stories about when she was little and how she raised my mother to never forget who she is and what to always remember, never be a shame of her culture and don’t forget to speak your own language, now she is telling me to do the same. When I think about the flag, to me the only thing the hawaiians use to carry around with the monarch was the Kahili, I don’t ever recall a flag, yet I could be wrong. Sometimes I wish I paid more attention to my grandmother then playing.

    • I was brought up the same way. In school I was always told not to recite the pledge of allegiance but to stand in respect only without even placing my hand on my chest. My mom was born and raised on kuleana lands on Kauai where we still have family living without running water or electricity. This is where my Kupuna instilled in me from the early 60’s who I was, where I came from and what had happened to our Queen as was passed on from one generation to the next.

  6. Aloha kakou.
    Slightly off-topic (but perhaps relevant nonetheless) has anyone read the March 7th, 2013 article “The Kamehameha Family Curse” as published in the Honolulu edition of “Street Beat News” in which the unknown author claims that Kamehameha I likely had foreknowledge of the attack upon the “Fair American” ship? Hopefully the site-moderator here allows posted links:

    This book was supposed to be in print by now and raises some interesting questions which contradict historian James J. Jarves original account, can anyone provide some kokua and furnish any details that Kamehameha I knew in advance of Chief Kame’eiamoku’s impending attack on the “Fair American” schooner? Mahalo.

    Also, I wish to register great disappointment at the loss of the online Maoliworld website without explanation, the circumstance surrounding the loss are not important the deficit of information is, for one the site had a more elaborate informative thread on the origins of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Kanaka Maoli flags, I recall posting a pictorial link (non-Hawaiian) with numerous dated historical Hawaiian Kingdom flag variations including the personal Royal Standard of HRH Queen Lili’uokalani. A few months ago we had the formal removal of a Hawaiian National from the U.N. Indigenous Forum again this appeared to be a relatively unreported event which Hawaiian Nationals should have been made aware of. Aloha.

  7. In the book ʻHe Alo a He Aloʻ, there is an explanation of the recent origin of the green, red and yellow flag. If I recall correctly, this book has chapters on differing models of Hawaiian sovereignty, through the words of Hawaiian leaders and activists. It was ground breaking at the time of publication (through AFSC, around 1989?).

    • I remember this publication, if i remember correctly, I believe the kanaka maoli flag design was suggested by uncle Buzzy Agard. As long as we know the true history and difference, I think it’s cool, it has definitely been embraced by the opio.

      • Yes, in ‘He Alo a He Alo’ pages 108-110 Louis “Buzzy” Agard has a design of the flag which includes this symbol, explains the meaning of the symbol, and says “A new symbol will replace the British Union Jack…”

        The symbol has been embraced by many, but along the way the misinformation got started about it being an ancient flag/symbol, when it clearly is not.

  8. It would be nice to witness the american flag being lowered and our Hawaiian Kingdom flag raised up to the top of the staff throughout all Hawai’i nei! A reversal of that digraceful August 12, 1898 day in Hawai’i nei!

    As far as the misinformation concerning our Hawaiian Kingdom’s flag,
    sometimes some people want to see something so badly that they end up bridging the gap with their own delusional misinterpretation of historical events concerning the Hawaiian Kingdom’s flag hoping that
    the general population will buy into their crap making them the
    leading authority of their own crap-o-la creation! Hilahila!

    Always qualify the information being offered! No shame ask direct
    questions, if someone can’t backup what they’re saying let’um pass
    like a good bowel movement it will save you a lot of time and perhaps a lot of money!

  9. Again we have been set free by evidence & Truth:) Thank you Dr Sai! Those who are sharing misinformation will eventually face the facts & evidence. They too will be set Free. We thank Abba in Heaven everyday for you & your family! May Yahweh Richly Bless, Protect & Prosper you always because your heart is pure:)
    Blessed are they who are Pure in Heart for they shall SEE God:)

  10. I was told by an individual associated with the historical society, that the Hawaiian, union jack, flag represented the four world powers that were in hawaii in the early 1800’s. Britain, France, US and Russia. I would ask you to verify this, however I would rather not disrupt the great things you are doing.

    If this is true, this is a clear example of what Kanaka Ma’oli are about, embracing all people of the world yet maintaining pride in our unique culture.

    • It represented the three (3) countries that were not only the powers in the Pacific at that time, but also of which the Hawaiian Kingdom was able to obtain treaties and these countries recognition of Hawaii as an independent and sovereign nation. They were Great Britain, France and the United States….not Russia. The Union Jack was in recognition of Great Britain, the top stripes for France and the bottom stripes for the United States. As you can see, the United States violated their agreement and illegally overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom. There is NO Treaty of Annexation so, not only is Hawaii NOT a part of the united States of America, but Hawaii is indeed….ILLEGALLY OCCUPIED!!!

  11. aloha… i can’t wait 4 the day to see… only 1 flag… and 1 flag only… our flag… all over our Nation… long live the H K… 4 now and 4 ever… another great job Dr Sai

  12. It always helps to pule kakou…as the US spins out of control with all the disclosures being released and the whistle blower expose more of their attitude for a month now…we will not see our nation until more education is given to those who know and to organize…until then, I pule and meditate for the help to come from outside into all of us to do what is pono is the face of threats from all super powers who are the real problem born with greed, lust and war in their hearts to gain their ill gotten wealth. Auwe!

    He Pule Kakou,
    My two cents.

  13. Aloha kakou.
    It is noteworthy that Captain the Right-Honorable Lord Byron records in “Voyage of the HMS Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, in the years 1824-1825″ that the Kingdom flag had seven white and red stripes with a Union Jack in the corner, historian James Jarvis sees this observation as incorrect in that circa 1816 the Kingdom flag was comprised of seven alternative red, white, and blue stripes.

    Commander Byron (who was related to the famed poet of the same name) would have been highly au fait with maritime and national flags at the time, it may have been an omission to exclude the blue stripes on his behalf but one wonders (?).

    Writing of flags and nations, Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT over in the U.S. had a significant article in “The Guardian” last June 19th on the Edward Snowden affair:

    How typically hypocritical of the U.S. Government given that the U.S. Secretary of War Belknap could dispatch the spies Brevat-Brigadier General Barton Stone Alexander and Major General John Schofield from San Francisco in the Spring of 1872 under the pretext of a vacation to the neutral, independent Hawaiian Kingdom to scope out the military potential of a future strategic locale. This fact was kept secret from the American public for a quarter of a century and only manifested itself at the time of the unlawful 1898 annexation attempt. They even named the occupational Schofield barracks on O’ahu in honor of this treasonous individual. Auwe no ho’i e!

    • Footnote:
      At the proceedings of the Hawaiian Historical Society meeting of July 13, 1905 Sidney M. Ballou of Honolulu delivered a presentation on behalf of his brother (Howard M. Ballou of Boston) in which it was noted that the Kingdom flag was comprised of seven alternative red and white stripes, the Jack opposite the upper three as depicted by J.W. Norrie, hydrographer in “The maritime flags of all Nations” (1824, London), this adds credence to Byron’s observations.

      You can access same by Googling “The reversal of the Hawaiian Kingdom Flag by Mr. Howard M. Ballou” I will attempt to post the link here but it may not open due to being in PDF format:


  14. Bottom line is that people need to be educated about the Atooi nation. I am so glad I came across this. I’m Hawaiian and went to school learning Hawaiiana, but never Hawaiian history. I educated myself on this, but still have lots to learn. I never felt comfortable with the red/gold/green flag. Sounds more Reggae to me than anything else and we are Hawaiian and not Jamaican. No offense to any nationality, but I do feel a bit offended that in my 49 years of living here, that I have never seen any Hawaiian flag of that color. That is just simply cartoonish and our Hawaiian Monarch was ROYAL.

  15. I had heard that the current flag is different from the original flag. That the stripes were made differently somehow. Is the painting that is depicted here, the one with the people on the ship, an example of this idea? I noticed that the flag hanging has the stripes going in the opposite direction. Any info? Or did I just space that in the article. I’ll go back now and re-read, but if it’s not mentioned, could anyone enlighten?

  16. After reading these comments I too am confused about these HK so called flags….these flags were brought into our Kingdom by these western HAOLE’s.As Kanakamaole’s our Kingdom still exist to this day my flag is my KAHILI.aloha and malama pono the Aina and YES Our Aina is still occupied by the so called U.S. for Strategic Military Greed whiich like the Roman Empire wiil turn to Dust .

  17. History is written by its victors, flags are a European concept for idiots to worship like a American idol. Queens flags are Queen bedsheets on a pole

  18. 14th of December c.1817 written in the Russian LOG BOOK of the ‘RURICK’ translates to; “We saluted the royal Hawaiian flag which waved over the Fort, with seven guns, and were answered by the Fort gun for gun.”

    In the year(s) 1839-1840 ‘In the center of the fort, rises the flagstaff, upon which the national flag, (the British Union, with alternate stripes of red and white,)’ – from the book INCIDENTS of a WHALING VOYAGE by Francis Allyn Olmsted pg.195 –The lack of Blue was most likely due to the FRENCH Pillage and Plundering Honolulu previously.

    Then in 1853 Paul Emmert paint with oil Fort Honolulu with the British Ensign as an X not the normal + look. Which can be seen on the wall of the Mission House Archive office on King Street Honolulu Hawaii Museum — This Flag was in retaliation to the BRITISH take over of Hawaii during the Paulet Affair.

  19. The popularity of reggae in Hawaii spawned that red, gold and green flag. They borrowed the reggae colors and swapped out the African plight for Hawaiian and came up with this not so original concept that has absolutely no connection to Hawaiian history. Only place you see it is on lifted or lowered trucks, and sold in shops where they sell marijuana parafernalia = its a local pop culture design. No research required.

    • As a visitor to these isles I want to respect the land and the spirits and the people. As an African American who grew up in San Francisco during the Black Power Movement of the 60’s and learned about the significance of the tri-colors red-gold-green and red-black-green I felt honored to see a Hawaiian created flag encompassing the freedom struggle of another island people. Please understand. I am not advocating this flag as the national or Kingdom of Hawaii flag. Only that this be cherished for the symbol of a people’s struggle for independence and not just a Jawaiian thing. The flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii must be one that is mutually acceptable by all the people. Peace amd Love, Kusuru aboard S/V Juju, Molokai.

  20. We need to have our own Hawaiian flag and not some British flag.Someday I hope we have one.I like the one we have now but don’t like the colors.

  21. Question to the blog….recently the term “Mauna A Wakea” has been used popularly among many Hawaiians. I am Hawaiian and an amateur historian. I find cognate names for Mauna Kea throughout Polynesia, but no cognate names for “Mauna A Wakea”. You can find Maunga Tea, Maunga Tea Tea, etc., but nothing close to Mauna A Wakea. I think this is a recent “instant historical discovery” and those who promote the name as being original are doing a great disservice and slight to the true and ancient name, Mauna Kea. The explanation I have been given is that the fast pronunciation of Mauna A Wakea becomes “Mauna Kea”. I don’t buy that and my research does not show any evidence for that. Anybody know who invented “Mauna A Wakea”??

  22. So, is it Simeona or Sonoda? I knew that flag was fake from the beginning! Simeona didn’t even provide solid proof that it was the original.

    • Pieces of the original “torn” flag are in the hands of a ohana. You will have to wait for them to reveal the proof. Simeona is also a Sonoda, father being one and mother the other. You can’t refute that, can you? His research is pono. To be continued. Don’t quit your day time job. Some day, one day, any day, another day, just not today.

  23. Red White and Blue are pan European colors, Red Gold and Green are pan African colors. Who did the most wrong to our people, Europe or Africa? That state flag is a British Jack and I don’t think Akua will resurrect the British monarchy here in these islands ever again,it’s a dead era. Time for a new.

  24. Since it is the obligation and responsibility only of the ORIGINAL people of the KINGDOM OF HAWAII to set the direction of its future, the nations flag will be the symbol of that end result recognition. Foreigners now have privileges and no rights to involve themselves directly with a nation they are not a party of unless by genealogy proof they are kanaka maoli, the true people by their ancestry to Hawaiti. We thank foreigners for their mana’o and efforts to educate a nation that was already civilized, but you know by international law of nations you cannot participate directly in a nations process unless you are invited to the negotiations table, but by then it might be non-negotiable. It has already been decided. You may have to wear an identification that says you are a “visitor”.

  25. I somehow doubt that the most powerful nation in the world is going to allow a state that profits them billions of dollars a year to become it’s own sovereign nation.

  26. I love the colors that it blends with our islands and the oars which reminds us of the long journeys that were taken overseas to get to the Island homes.

  27. Aloha kodierer, I bet you also doubted that the most powerful nation in the world would not loose being the number one economy and loose being the number one reserve currency.
    My, how things are changing.

  28. Be yourself my brothers, learn from the history and move to the future. Whatever that English and western flag means should be thrown away in the garbage. Make new flag to gather around, and that green, yellow, red looks very good :)

    • Anyone who disrespects our Hae Hawai’i, does disrespect to the greatest Hawaiian who ever lived, Kamehameha I. He chose that flag as his own and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Recent “history” is what people make up because they are disenchanted with actual history. The present Hae Hawai’i is what Kamehameha chose….respect that.

    • That green, yellow, and red flag is not the national flag of Hawaii. Furthermore it has no historical significance, nor does it exist in history. It’s made up and it is a bad example for young generation learning Hawaii’s legal history

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