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.

The Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi

We’ve received many inquiries requesting commentary on the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi because of the recent news conference at the United Nations Indigenous Forum as well as local news coverage. The purpose for this blog entry is to correct historical inaccuracies especially in light of legal matters now before the United Nations General Assembly,  the International Criminal Court, and State of Hawai‘i Courts.

The term “Atooi” is not a Hawaiian word, but rather a British word spelled out with British phonics. The word “Attooi” was first uttered by the crew of Captain James Cook’s Third Voyage when his ships arrived in the Islands in 1778. Today we call these islands the Hawaiian Islands, but in 1778 there were four separate and distinct kingdoms: Islands of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau under Ka‘eo; Islands of O‘ahu and Molokai under Kahahana; Islands of Maui, Lanai and Kaho‘olawe under Kahekili; and the Island of Hawai‘i under Kalaniopu‘u.

Cook was tasked by the British Admiralty to map the Pacific Islands and find the northwest passage that could link the north Pacific Ocean with the north Atlantic Ocean. Cook was not only a British explorer, but also cartographer, which is a map maker. Cook sailed north from the Island of Borabora in the Society Islands on December 9, 1777 and came upon the Island of O‘ahu on a Sunday on January 19, 1778, and soon after came upon the island of Kaua‘i the next day. His first encounter with the natives in canoes took place off the coast of Kaua‘i, where they bartered fish and vegetables for nails and iron. According to Cook’s journal (p. 221), “Their language differed from that of every other people we had before visited; but we had learnt to converse by signs, and very soon made ourselves understood.”  It was probably at this point that the natives were asked what was the name of the island in order to map it, and to the British ear they spelt what they heard using British phonics–Atooi (Kaua‘i). It wasn’t until after 1820 that Hawaiian phonics was formally established through collaboration of the missionaries and Hawaiian chiefs.

The first publication of the island names using British phonics was published in London in 1781 titled “Journal of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean on Discovery,” identifying the Island of Hawai‘i as “O-why-e,” the Island of Maui as “Maw-whee,”  the Island of O‘ahu as “O-aa-ah,” and the island of Ni‘ihau as “Ne-hu.” Three years later, the island names were refined using British phonics in the first map of the islands published in London in 1784. On this map the islands were named oWhyhee (Hawai‘i), Mowee (Maui), Tahoorowa (Kaho‘olawe), Ranai (Lanai), Morotoi (Molokai), Woahoo (O‘ahu), Atooi (Kaua‘i), and Oneeheow (Ni‘ihau). Later maps using the British names of the islands were published in the French and German languages.

Cook's map

On the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi website, it is claimed that “Atooi” is translated in the native language to mean “Light of God,” but this is not correct because “Atooi” is not a Hawaiian word, but rather a British version of a Hawaiian word spelled using British phonics. The website also claims “Atooi was the ancient name for, Hawaii, the head [po’o] of the Polynesian Triangle.” This is also not correct because the word is not ancient, but rather  a British invention by Captain Cook’s crew.

It has also been commonly stated that Kaua‘i was never conquered by Kamehameha. Yes this is true, but it was conquered by Ka‘ahumanu who was serving at the time as Regent while Kamehameha II was in London. After Kahekili invaded and conquered the O‘ahu Kingdom in 1783, there were no longer four separate kingdoms, but now three. In 1795, Kamehameha, successor to Kalaniopu‘u, invaded and conquered the Maui Kingdom, and in 1810, Kaumuali‘i, successor to Ka‘eo of the Kaua‘i Kingdom, peacefully acknowledged Kamehameha as his superior, thereby consolidating all of the former kingdoms into the Kingdom of the Sandwich Islands. On August 8, 1824, the Kaua‘i chiefs unsuccessfully rebelled under the leadership of George Humehume, successor and son of Kaumuali‘i, the late King of Kaua‘i. Humehume was removed to the Island of O‘ahu under the watch of Kalanimoku, the Prime Minister, and all of the Kaua‘i chiefs were dispersed throughout the islands and the lands were seized by Hawai‘i Islands chiefs.

Additional blog entries will address misinformation on the Hawaiian national flag, the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.

International Criminal Court Acknowledges Receipt of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Request for Investigation into War Crimes

On June 17, 2013, the International Criminal Court (ICC) received the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Referral to initiate criminal investigations and its Declaration extending the jurisdiction of the ICC to investigate war crimes committed on Hawaiian territory since July 1, 2002.  Initially the ICC’s jurisdiction was limited to crimes committed after March 4, 2013 when it began its jurisdiction over the Hawaiian Islands. On June 24, 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) acknowledged receipt of the communication and stated they “will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”



The ICC can initiate an investigation from three sources or a combination of the three: first, from the United Nations Security Council; second, from the government of the State that granted jurisdiction to the ICC; and, third, from private parties who were victims of war crimes committed on the territory that the ICC has jurisdiction. According to the ICC Prosecutor’s Policies, “in response to referrals or communications, the Prosecutor will gather and assess relevant information until such point as he is satisfied that there is, or is not, a reasonable basis to proceed. The Prosecutor makes the determination as to whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed based on the three factors required by the Statute:

  1. the factual/legal basis: the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been or is being committed;
  2. the admissibility test: the case is or would be admissible (including on complementarity grounds) under Article 17;
  3. the interests of justice: taking into account the gravity of the crime and the interests of victims, there are nonetheless substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.”

Because the Hawaiian Kingdom is occupied and not a part of the territory of the United States, U.S. government officials who have committed war crimes within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom are not immune from prosecution by the ICC. According to the Rome Statute, Article 27—Irrelevance of official capacity:

  1. This Statute shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity. In particular, official capacity as a Head of State or Government, a member of a Government or parliament, an elected representative or a government official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this Statute, nor shall it, in and of itself, constitute a ground for reduction of sentence.
  2. Immunities or special procedural rules which may attach to the official capacity of a person, whether under national or international law, shall not bar the Court from exercising its jurisdiction over such a person.

In its Referral, the Hawaiian Kingdom provided evidence of the following war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statute that have and continue to be committed on Hawaiian territory since July 1, 2002.

  • Article 8(2)(a)(iv)—Extensive…appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly
  • Article 8(2)(a)(v)—Compelling a…protected person to serve in the forces of a [Occupying] Power
  • Article 8(2)(a)(vi)—Willfully depriving a…protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial
  • Article 8(2)(a)(vii)—Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement
  • Article 8(2)(a)(viii)—The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory
  • Article 8(2)(b)(xiii)—Destroying or seizing the [Occupied State’s] property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war

When evaluating the commission of a war crime, the Prosecutor will be guided by certain elements of the crime established by the ICC that need to be met. In addition to these elements, the ICC states:

  • There is no requirement for a legal evaluation by the perpetrator as to the existence of an occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party;
  • In that context there is no requirement for awareness by the perpetrator of the facts that established the character of the occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party; and
  • There is only a requirement for the awareness of the factual circumstances that established the existence of an occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party.

War crimes are not necessarily centered on the perpetrator or principal alone, but could include accessories to the crime. Accessories are persons who assist in the commission of the crime, whether before or after the crime was committed by the principal. An accessory is distinguished from an accomplice who is normally present when the crime is committed and has participated in some fashion. An accessory before the fact is a person who orders the commission of a crime or assists another person financially, emotionally, as well as  providing physical assistance in order for the crime to be committed by the principal. An accessory after the fact is a person who conceals the commission of the crime in order to shield the principal. Conspiracy and the obstruction of justice are common terms associated with accessories.

The ICC Prosecutor’s Policies also provides, “The Office of the Prosecutor will strive to complete all analyses as expeditiously as possible in order to reach timely decisions whether to investigate. It is worth emphasizing that Article 15 provides a valuable avenue by which concerned individuals and organizations may furnish information to the Prosecutor, but he retains his independence under the Statute. In particular, imposing rigid timetables on this process of analysis would not be workable under the framework of the Rome Statute.”