On March 6, 2014, KITV News aired a story where ‘Iolani School students reenacted a historical trial of Lorrin Thurston, who was the lead insurgent when the United States illegally overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom government in 1893, was put on trial for treason. Thurston was a Hawaiian subject and an attorney in the Hawaiian Kingdom. He was the leader of the insurgency that got the U.S. Ambassador John Stevens to land U.S. troops to protect them from arrest by the Hawaiian authorities in order to declare themselves and new government. U.S. Special Commissioner James Blount who was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to investigate whether or not U.S. troops were involved, concluded, “in pursuance of a prearranged plan, the Government thus established hastened off commissioners to Washington to make a treaty for the purpose of annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States.”
To view the KITV news coverage of the historical trial go to this link.
‘Iolani School is a private school that was established in 1863 by Father William R. Scott of the Anglican faith. The former name of the school was Lua‘ehu, but it was renamed ‘Iolani in 1870 by the former Queen Emma when it moved from the city of Lahaina to Honolulu. The school’s patron saints are King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma.
Here is the transcript of KITV’s coverage.
HONOLULU —The ‘Iolani palace throne room, the very room where former Queen Lili’uokalani was put on trial for treason, was turned into a court room Thursday.
At first glance you feel like you have been transported back in time to the trial of Lili’uokalani. The palace throne room was set up for the case, but well over a century later comes a twist; Iolani School history students are putting Lorrin Thurston on trial.
Thurston played a prominent role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarch; the witnesses historical figures of that time.
“How do you feel about Lorrin Thurston and his overthrow of Hawaii? I believe he’s guilty. He led the overthrow. He acted on his own accord. He started the Committee of Safety and he also wrongfully used the U.S. Navy as intimidation during the coup,” said Senator James Blount, author of the Blount Report. “You did not take the opinion of the coup? I didn’t have them for my report. I envied the local population. Why? Cause they would have been biased.”
Taking their assignment seriously most dressed the part and sounded the part too.
“The Angle Franco Treaty…I agreed to recognize the Hawaiian Kingdom as a sovereign,” said Queen Victoria, a friend of Queen Lili’uokalani.
“I didn’t betray her. I did what I thought would be best for the people,” said Sanford Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii.
“Did the annexation of Hawaii benefit the landowner more or was it made for the people — the Native Hawaiians? It was for everyone living in Hawaii,” said Max Webber, an Iolani School 12th grader playing Thurston.
After a brief deliberation, the jury decides.
“Your honor, we the jury find Lorrin Thurston guilty of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” said a student cast in the jury.
A sigh came from Weber, who played Thurston and dove right into the project.
“I read there all these books about him and he had a book he wrote about himself. So, I went through and read a lot of that and I also ideas of what he was thinking during that time,” said Weber.
“‘Iolani Palace is taking a new initiative to focus more on education and going outside of the four walls of the classrooms is so much more effective,” said ‘Iolani Palace Executive Director Kippen de alba Chu
Iolani School history teacher Melanie Pfingstem, who played the judge, agrees.
“Well I just think that simulations are really a great way for kids to internalize history,” said Pfingstem.
“This whole experience has really given us the details and the exact circumstances around the overthrow and the part each player played. That was really eye opening to how Hawaii became what it is today,” Michelle Kimura, an Iolani School 10th grader who portrayed Lili’uokalani.