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What is a Hawaiian Subject?
by Keanu Sai

Interview recorded for the television broadcast Aloha Quest
December 1999

Hawai‘i was made up of people of many racial ethnic extractions but they all came under one nationality, called Hawaiian subjects.

Race was not an issue in the Hawaiian Kingdom. As far as “native Hawaiians,” which is a race, they were included in the laws and protected by the laws — terms such as "reserving the rights of native tenants." These are very clear examples of native tenant rights being secured within the framework of Hawaiian Kingdom law.

But the Hawaiian Kingdom was a country of laws. It included many races, but also many nationalities that were part of the Hawaiian Kingdom. But all were subject to those laws of the Kingdom.

Nationality derives from what nation you are from. It's your citizenship. Another term for nationality is your political status. “Race” is not “nationality.” It's not a political status. Race is your ethnicity.

As for myself, my ethnicity would be native Hawaiian (or Kanaka Maoli), English, Irish and Chinese. But my nationality would be a Hawaiian subject. A Hawaiian subject is a nationality. It is the nationality of the nation called the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Now for those who applied through naturalization, well, naturalization requires you to relinquish your former citizenship and then take on the Hawaiian subject status.

A Hawaiian subject is someone that has the political status of being a Hawaiian national. And it's not limited to the native race or the aboriginal blood.

We have two examples here and they are Asa Thurston, who was naturalized in 1849, May 30, and he was from Massachusetts. This is the predecessor to a very famous person today named Thurston Twigg-Smith. Now this person, Asa Thurston, who is Thurston Twigg-Smith's predecessor, was naturalized as a Hawaiian subject. He was formerly an American citizen.

We also have another example here of another very interesting person, and this is William Harrison Rice. He is from the state of New York and he was naturalized on July 16, 1849. Now this is the predecessor of Freddy Rice, who is that person suing OHA in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now the issue here is, if annexation did not happen, and there is no proof of naturalization of any of these individual's descendants to be Americans again, then their descendants today are still Hawaiian subjects, as their predecessors were in the Kingdom era.

In the Hawaiian Kingdom, Hawaiian subjects varied in many different racial backgrounds or ethnicities. Here is a person named Jose Duenas who was from Guam. And he was naturalized in 1868, November 13.

And this person's name is Ah Kui. And Ah Kui is a very famous name today. We have a radio broadcaster on KCCN named Keaumiki Akui. Well Ah Kui here comes from China. And he was residing in Wailuku, Maui. Well, Ah Kui applied for naturalization and he was granted naturalization in 1869, January 25. Which means that their descendants are also Hawaiian subjects until they get naturalized to another country.

And it also shows that Hawai‘i was a country of laws and nationality and not necessarily a specific race.


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