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The Rights of My People Liliuokalani's Enduring Battle With the United States, 1893–1917

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  • Publisher:
    Algora Publishing, 2009
    Note: This book was purchased with support from the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.


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    The Rights of My People reviews Liliuokalani's decades-long campaign for the dignity and sovereignty of Hawaii, particularly in the wake of the 1893 coup d'état, and the outright annexation in 1898.

    The author gives the first detailed and documented description of the seizure of the Crown lands, a quarter of the Hawaii islands, in 1893. This illegal move was contested aggressively by Liliuokalani for nearly two decades.

    With previously unexamined documents, court records, and correspondence, and with an engaging prose and graphic portrayals, author Neil Thomas Proto weaves into the story Liliuokalani's political, legal, and media maneuvering, and the exercise of her harshly learned wisdom and skill in forming and giving life to her claim that the taking of the Crown lands by the United States was immoral and illegal. The threat of execution and assassination and the continued use of religious and racial condescension and deception by her adversaries, old and new, unfold in Honolulu, Hilo, and on to the continent in San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

    Over more than a decade, the queen took up residence in the nation's capital, often for months at a time, to challenge the complicity of the United States in the media and before Congress. The story ends with the lawyers' arguments and the final decision in Liliuokalani v. United States of America in 1910. In the grandeur of what is now the Renwick Art Gallery, the United States Court of Claims heard and decided the case and sealed the islands' fate; a fate that neither Liliuokalani nor her people accepted through her death in 1917.

    With an easily accessible but penetrating analysis, Proto demonstrates the deliberate effort by Liliuokalani's own lawyers to denigrate her claim. The epilogue reflects the queen's intent through the end of her life to ensure persistence among her people and discomfort among those who had taken Hawaii. There is no conclusiveness or note of warmth to the ending.

    Through Proto's new perspective and exploration, Liliuokalani's cosmopolitan character and her place in a larger history emerge with clarity as do the continued contentiousness within Hawaii and between its native people and the United States.

    In 2009, the 50th anniversary of Hawaii statehood was marked.

    This book is especially important reading for

    • The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement and other institutions concerned about pending Native Hawaiian recognition legislation and litigation including those who oppose it;
    • Hawaii's congressional delegation and staff in Washington, D.C;
    • The legal community, including the Washington D.C. Bar;
    • Universities and institutions offering Pacific region studies and American foreign and diplomatic history studies (late 19th, early 20th century);
    • Women's organizations and historians throughout the United States;
    • Civil War and Reconstruction era historians;
    • The Smithsonian Institution and the Court of Claims Historical Society;
    • Native American organizations and historians (Alaska, the Pacific, Native Americans);
    • University of Hawaii law school;
    • Hawaii civic organizations;
    • The Liliuokalani Trust,
    • The Washington Place Trust;
    • Every Hawaiian (every island; high school and above, students and faculty)
    Original Publisher: New York, Algora Publishing
    Language(s): English