Only U.S. state flag to have flown over a kingdom, a territory, a republic, and a state.
Captain Vancouver established a UK-Hawaii friendship in 1793-4 and obtained a "cession" of the Islands to the UK, but the British government apparently never took notice of it. He gave a red ensign to the king then, which on later visits he found flying in places of honor.
During the War of 1812, an American asked why the King (this was Kamehameha) was flying the "enemy" flag. He lowered it and raised the U.S. Flag, only to have the same thing happen when a British ship put into port. To avoid trouble, they decided to combine the two flags into one.
A captain Adams (British) apparently helped design this flag for the king. Some scholars credit a Captain Beckley, however.
The number of stripes varied, but was standardized at eight after 1843, for the eight principal islands in the group. In 1843 the UK declared that Hawaii was definitely independent and the Hawaiian flag was raised in a ceremony. However, this flag had stripes in the order white-red-blue through some mistake, which is why it is that way today, not red-white-blue as was originally done.
Uncle Eugene Simeona did a lot of research on this. His mana'o is kind of hard to follow and it's easy for many to write off as "lolo" but I believe there's something to it. There is no question that he's put in lots of archival research and that he believes passionately in his findings. The final "current" rendition is credited to him, so he's the one to ask. His son-in-law Shane Pale might have knowledge, too -- I haven't talked to him about it, but he has enough connection to both Eugene and UH-style research to give important mana'o. Dr. Masa has also taken Eugene's full-length "class", so he might know something about the facts/history involved.
There is a point around 1980 when the design was either "created" or rediscovered; one explanation (I think it's by Buzzy Agard?) appears in "He Alo, He Alo" (I think -- if not, it's in a similar compilation around that time).
Part of the power of the flag is in its mystery. To me, it represents that part of "history" which was sketchily recorded, almost wiped out, but not forgotten, and then brought back to life through the dedication and faith of those (and specifically those typically considered "the fringe" of the mainstream) who have never let go. Even if it turns out that the "actual" hae of the early kingdom differs significantly, the mana'o is very true. In Kanaka Maoli cosmology, after all, there are levels of truth far deeper than technical accuracy...it's an 'oia'i'o thing.
From an article in the Honolulu Advertiser: Monday, February 12, 2001
'Original' flag raises debate
By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer
Upside-down or right-side up, the Hawaiian flag has long been a proud symbol of Hawaiian nationalism.
A copy of an "original" Hawaiian flag, believed destroyed by the British in 1843, is displayed at ‘Iolani Palace.
But some say the flag, a hybrid of British and American symbolism, smacks too much of colonialism.
Enter Gene Simeona of Honolulu, who says he’s 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.
To Simeona, his newly unearthed flag says, "We are not British. We are kanaka maoli."
Simeona says he ran into a descendant of Lord Paulet on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace in 1999 who told him the present Hawaiian flag is not the original.
That provoked Simeona to scour the Hawai‘i State Archives, where he found the design, then reproduced it. Since then, he and his business partner Stan Fonseca have been churning the emblem out in hopes that it’ll catch on as a fresh, noncolonial symbol of the restored Hawaiian kingdom.
According to Fonseca, the green in the flag represents the maka‘ainana (commoner) caste, the land and goodness; the red represents the landed konohiki who served the ali‘i, genealogy and strength; and the yellow represents the ali‘i, spirituality and alertness to danger.
At the center of the flag is a green shield bearing a coat of arms of the kanaka maoli, made up of kahili and crossed, pointed paddles that represent the voyaging history of Hawaiians.
Anna Marie Kahunahana, founder of A Call for Unity, which seeks to restore the independent Hawaiian nation, wholeheartedly endorses the flag.
"It represents who we are as a people and a nation," she said.
Others aren’t so sure about the design.
"I had it up for a while, but I took it down. It’s too reggae for me," said Aopohakuku Rodenhurst of the Nation of Ku spiritual group.
Still, Simeona and Fonseca are selling and giving away the flags faster than they can make them.
On Feb. 25, they will fly the "Hawaiian people’s flag" on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace to commemorate "the crime" of Paulet’s fleeting takeover of Hawai‘i.
"Please leave your Union Jacks at home," said a recent notice announcing the event in the Hawaiian News.
British explorer Capt. George Vancouver originally presented Kamehameha I the islands’ first Union Jack in 1794.
Later the British and American emblems were blended. The nine stripes represented the major Hawaiian Islands and the archipelago. The Union Jack represented Britain’s historic protectorate relationship with Hawai‘i. After statehood, the stripes were reduced to eight bars.
Kekuni Blaisdell, a physician and leader of the independence group Ka Pakaukau, said perhaps it’s time for a flag that is void of colonial symbols.
But others say Hawaiians shouldn’t be in a rush to embrace the new flag without establishing its authenticity.
Peter Umialiloa Sai, a spokesman for the Council of Regency of the Hawaiian Kingdom, says when his organization first learned about Simeona’s flag a year ago, they conducted research to try to pinpoint its origin, but found no clues.
In the meantime, Sai said, they amassed extensive documentation validating the traditional Hawaiian flag as the official emblem of the former Hawaiian kingdom.
"Regardless of that colonial symbolism, it is our national flag, and you just can’t discard it because it has some negative stigmatism," he said.
As for the new flag, he said, they’ll stay open-minded, but "we’re not going to give it any more life than it deserves."
--- to which 'Ohu adds:
Thus the question still remains: is there a true research trace of the design via the archives that gives provenance to the red yellow green flag?
I should mention that the 1980's version I referred to was not identical, but was based on very similar themes. Since then, I think Uncle Eugene's research has filled a lot of gaps. One notable thing that he always mentions, but which is not covered in the Advertiser article, is that the paddles at the center are supposed to represent the Kanawai Mamala Hoe (hey, btw -- ever notice them on the HPD badge? I'll attach a pic below). This to me would represent more of an internal symbolism than an external one, in that this Kanawai is supposed to represent the power of the people and the basic rule that the government isn't supposed to fuck with us maka'ainana, right? One theory is that this flag was a "people's flag" rather than "the" flag of the kingdom -- this is consistent with the pictures in which it does apparently appear -- albeit blurrier than the Loch Ness Monster shots (eo na mo'o nui!!!). I thought that this was what Uncle Eugene was originally saying, but then I got a little confused, to tell the truth (yeah I kinda "cut class" in 'Iolani Palace parking lot at times; I'm sure he would say I no understand good cuz I neva listen...). Anyways, I don't really know what would constitute "provenance" in our cultural context at this particular moment in the turning of the Honua, but there certainly is true research and deep roots. Even IF the whole thing turns out to be as much mo'olelo as "historical fact", does that not merely add to its truth in the same way that all of our lore holds something very real?
Anyway, personally, I'm not that much of a nationalist, to tell the truth; I just want America (and all the rest of those colonizing/occupying buggas!) out of our 'Aina. Flags are great, whether red, green, yellow, blue, white, red, or multicolored like Setsu Okubo's old banners. But to me, the real flag is the healthy (and not GMO) kalo leaf, fed by planny fresh water and growing from good nuclear-free, totally demilitarized Hawaiian soil, shining in abundance in the beautiful sun.
That's what prompted Kamehameha to acquire a flag for Hawaii. Vancouver helped by using the British union Jack in the design. Yes, There could be a maritime flag, but at that time, no nation knew of Hawaii or familiar with its insignia; that's why Kamehameha used that flag. Every comment has a lot of merit and through all this, we can deduce the logical story. Kamehameha probably thought that all the countries had a similar flag only to discover differently. With the discovery of the existence of the USA, Kamehameha may have then wanted to modify the flag to incorporate the two countries since other countries would recognize Hawaii's ships. Having maritime flags or a dynasty's flag was quite common to do.
Hawaii is coming into a new era for itself and the logical thing is once the US deoccupies the Hawaiian Kingdom, it would then be apropos to create a new flag. Deference to the old flag can still be given to stand alongsside a new banner. Maybe Hawaiian artists could design a new flag to represent the new Hawaii with its explanation of the design and have the people vote on a new flag.
The heraldry reflects the Head of State and the nation, thus that would change with the leader since it's a personal banner of recognition as is the ahu'ula and the kahili. The universal recognition is the pulo'ulo'u as a kapu of the person's station. Superceding all that would be the national flag conforming to which other countries would be able to recognize as that nation-state's flag.
It's time to prepare and adopt a new flag once everyone rallies together. The various political groups could design one of their own also; as some families already have their banners. Consider a new national flag that represents the people and an inspiration for pride of country.
If anyone is more interested in some more background on the national flag, here's the front page of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa from Jan 1 1862, upon which they printed a full color Hawaiian flag and have some info in Hawaiian and English about it. I'm new here so I don't know if the attachment is going to show up correctly though...
Thanks for sharing this. I wish they elaborated on the colors more. On my page I have a picture of the original flag and seal taken from a document of King Kamehameha III. There stripes in the canton were originally blue (signifying peace, justice, and freedom) but was changed to red when the de facto United States corporation decided that they needed our land and our Hawaiian Postal Savings Bank funds to use to fund their military operations and their bankrupt country.
Actually it is supposed to represent Maritime Admiralty Law. This means it doesn't follow the US constitutional laws but admiralty laws (of the sea) The constitution has no jurisdiction. It is said to represent no nation and no constitution,no rules of court, and is a foreign entity. For a more thorough explanation, copy and paste:
It can mean the country is under marshal law. In court the judge is the master or captain of the "ship"; he has absolute power to make the rules as he goes. You've entered a foreign country. You have no constitutional rights in his court.