by Herb Kane
Pele, “She Who Shapes The Sacred Land,” is a fiery goddess of Hawaii, who demands notice. Her volcanic aspect belies the sterotypical imagery we often find attributed to our Asian and Asian Pacific Island sisters.
I dedicate this to her fierce spirit, and to her spiritual daughter Liliuokalani, and honor the fire found within a diverse group of women who have formed an alliance to fight for their rights in our nation.
We are not often reminded of Asian and Asian Pacific women as rulers and leaders. And yet many have ruled as monarchs and heads of state, while we have not managed to do that in the United States—yet. The history of Hawaii illustrates the tale of one such leader.
Though Hawaii became a state in 1959 (yes, birthers, our president was born in the U.S.), it was annexed by the U.S. in 1898, after the overthrow of the last reigning Native Hawaiian monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, in 1893.
Historians Shirley Hune and Gail M. Nomura write, “Between 1820 and 1845, the role of Native Hawaiian women was equal to that of men. They could vote, own property and leave intolerable marriages.” That ended with the advent of U.S. rule.
Liliuokalani fought for the economic and cultural rights of Native Hawaiians and Asians, but with the help of a U.S. military invasion, and the backing of a group of American and European businessmen, her reign was ended.
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