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Hawaii Statehood: August 21, 1959

Hawai'i was admitted as the 50th state of the United States of America on August 21, 1959 by proclamation of Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the U.S.   This followed many years of efforts by proponents of statehood to convince the residents of the islands, as well as the citizens of the United States, that Hawai'i should become a state.

Admission Day is a state holiday in Hawai'i, observed on the third Friday in August.   The other key dates in the process included passage of the Admissions Act by Congress in March of 1959, signed into law on March 18th by the President,  and votes for statehood by the residents of Hawai'i in November of 1950 and June of 1959.

Following Alaska's admission in January, 1959, a new flag with 49 stars was designed and first flew over Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1959. It would be the official flag for only a year.  The 50 star flag became the 27th flag on July 4, 1960, and remains the official flag of the United States.  

Just as the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani in 1893 and the subsequent annexation of the islands by the United States in 1898 are steeped in controversy, so too is statehood. The document reprinted below was part of an anti-statehood rally held on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace on August 21, 1999, the 40th anniversary of statehood.  It's reprinted with permission to provide a look at the other side of the story.

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On August 21, 1959, Ka Pae'aina Hawai'i officially became the 50th US State when US President Dwight Eisenhower declared that "the procedural requirements imposed by the Congress on the State of Hawai'i to entitle that state to admission into the Union have been complied with in all respects."

While the colonial establishment has subsequently annually celebrated August 21 as a State holiday, only since about 1990, have we Kanaka Maoli begun to learn that the 1959 Statehood process was a fraud.

Here are the facts:

*In 1946, at the time of the founding of the United Nations (UN), Ka Pae'aina Hawai'i was placed on the UN List of Non-Self-Governing Territories (colonies) eligible for decolonization as a consequence of the US's forced annexation of Ka Pae'aina Hawai'i in 1898.

*According to the UN Charter, Chapter XI, Article 73, the US, as the administering (colonizing) power in Ka Pae'aina, had a "sacred trust... to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the people concerned, their political, economic, social and educational advancement...and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions." The US intentionally failed to fulfill this "sacred trust" responsibility to the colonized Kanaka Maoli people.

*Instead, aware that the UN was under pressure to refine a decolonization process that was to become General Assembly Resolution (UNGAR) 1514 in 1960, the US moved to ensure that Ka Pae'aina Hawai'i (and Alaska) would be incorporated as states of the Union before 1960.

*March 12, 1959, the US Congress passed the Hawai'i Statehood Admission Act (PL 86-3), before a vote on the issue by the colonized Kanaka Maoli people, in violation of the Kanaka Maoli right to self-determination.

*Later, on June 27, 1959, a Statehood Plebiscite in Ka Pae'aina Hawai'i posed only one option on the ballot: immediate statehood. The colonial establishment trumpeted statehood as "equal opportunity and autonomy." The only other (unstated) option was for Ka Pae'aina to remain as a territory. No reference was made to two other options-independence or free association-as provided by UNGAR 742 of 1953.

*All US citizens in Ka Pae'aina, including US military personnel, were permitted to vote, instead of only the colonized Kanaka Maoli people who were the only island residents eligible for the exercise of self-determination and who comprised only 16% of the resident population. The vote outcome was as predicted with a large majority in favor of immediate statehood.

*September 17, 1959, unknown to the general public, the US misinformed the UN that "Alaska and Hawai'i had attained full measure of self-government as admitted states."

*December 12, 1959, without public announcement, the misinformed UN General Assembly approved Resolution 1469 noting that "the people of Alaska and Hawai'i have effectively exercised their right to self-determination and have freely chosen their present status."

*One year later, on December 14, 1960, the UN DECLARATION ON THE GRANTING OF INDEPENDENCE TO COLONIAL COUNTRIES AND PEOPLES was passed as UNGAR 1514. The concluding paragraphs defined self-determination and clarified some specific features, conditions and outcomes of the UN decolonization process:

  • The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the UN and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
  • All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  • Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational prepared-ness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.
  • All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.
  • Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or color, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.
  • Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nation.

The peoples of Ka Pae'aina and the colonized Kanaka Maoli in particular have never been publicly informed of the foregoing historical events.

This history does not appear in textbooks and is not taught as part of the core curriculum in the island colonial schools.

The official colonial establishment and the colonial communications media continue to deny that Ka Pae'aina is a colony and the we Kanaka Maoli are colonized.

Indeed, as recently as 1997, Prof. Jon Van Dyke of the UH law school, wrote that since the people of Hawai'i had exercised their right of self-determination in the 1959 Statehood Vote, international law does not apply to Kanaka Maoli sovereignty.

Reprinted with Permission