Lā Kūʻokoʻa

November 28 is Lā Kūʻokoʻa, a kingdom holiday celebrating the independence of the Hawaiian kingdom. The Anglo-Franco Proclamation was signed on that day in 1843 by Britain and France, recognizing the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. The kingdom had been having trouble with foreign powers overstepping their bounds, so the mōʻī Kauikeaouli sent Timoteo Haʻalilio and his assistant William Richards on a diplomatic mission to secure recognition.

It was a difficult journey, as they sailed across the Pacific, traveled overland across Mexico, up to Washington, D.C. (where Haʻalilio also faced explicit racism), and then across the Atlantic to Europe. They successfully secured recognition from Britain and France, two of the great powers of the time, but Haʻalilio passed away off the coast of New York before he was able to return home.

Lā Kūʻokoʻa was one of the major kingdom holidays celebrated, along with Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, for five decades. Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian citizens of the kingdom alike would celebrate with visits to the palace, feasts, speeches, mele, horse and velocipede races, and more. After the overthrow, the Republic of Hawaiʻi declared Thanksgiving an official holiday in the hopes that it would overshadow Lā Kūʻokoʻa, and it worked as many residents of Hawaiʻi have never celebrated Lā Kūʻokoʻa.

In recent decades, however, schools and community organizations have been working to ensure that that changes. This year, for example, Native Hawaiian Student Services at UH Mānoa teamed up with the Hālau Kū Māna, Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Ānuenue, and Kamehameha Schools,  to help them have their largest Lā Kūʻokoʻa celebrations ever.

As the members of NHSS say, “You are what you celebrate.” So let us celebrate ka Lā Kūʻokoʻa. Let us learn our history and moʻolelo. Let us remember the example of our aliʻi. Let us be independent and free.

November 28th is Lā Kūʻokoʻa. So who shall we become as we celebrate our Kūʻokoʻa?