The Aloha State: A Complete History of the Hawaii State Flag

The Aloha State: A Complete History of the Hawaii State Flag

After the end of World War II in 1945, Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959. From the earliest inhabitants of Polynesian voyagers to the citizens today, Hawaii is rich with history. It also boasts one of the more interesting state flags.

As you read on, you will learn more about the complex history behind the Hawaii state flag as well as getting a closer look into that rich history.

What Is the Hawaiian State Flag?

If you haven't seen the Hawaiian state flag, you may find yourself surprised. Most would assume that it incorporates the beachy, island aspects of the Aloha state.

In contrast, you will find that it doesn't include anything that would make the average person think of Hawaii or the beach. Instead, the flag consists of the Union Jack in the upper left corner and eight red, white, and blue stripes.

The Late 1700s

Hawaii has long been fought over by many different countries. Even its own people fought against one another in a battle of the islands. In the late 1700s, many battles took place.

In 1795, the Battle of Nuuanu took place on the southern shores of Oahu. This key battle allowed King Kamehameha to unite the islands of Hawaii.

He was up against Kalinikupule's army. In the end, Kamehameha's troops cornered them at a 1,000-foot cliff which sent hundreds of soldiers over the side.

King Kamehameha

Following many conflicts and warfare, the Hawaiian Islands were united by King Kamehameha. These islands became one kingdom in 1810. His dynasty ruled over Hawaii from 1795 to 1874.

Kamehameha created a constitutional monarchy that reflected those systems in Europe. Although he was accepting of western customers, he still maintained kapu, the religious laws that governed life in Hawaii.

During the late 1700s, he flew a British flag over his home. This flag was given to him by King George III as a symbol of friendship. However, this flag quickly changed and replaced with the American flag.

War of 1812

The War of 1812 was responsible for the change in flag above his home. Kamehameha began flying this new flag to appease American interests which did not please the British officers in his court.

Kamehameha wanted to remain neutral in the conflict. The British crown recognized him as the legitimate ruler and hoped that he would keep order and allow them to use the islands to support trade networks between China.

The Creation of a New Flag

King Kamehameha wanted to please both the British and American interests. This led him to create an entirely new flag. The official Hawaiian flag was created by a Royal Navy officer.

Using elements from both country's flags, Kamehameha wanted to reflect his neutrality.

What Does the Hawaii State Flag Mean?

Each element of the Hawaii state flag has its meaning and importance. We know that the flag was created by combining the British and American flag elements.

The Union Jack or the Union flag represents the United Kingdom. The eight stripes are similar to that of the 13 colonies on the American flag. They represent the eight islands of Hawaii.

Both the British and the American flags include the colors red, white, and blue which explains the Hawaii flag colors.

Earning Statehood

As the Kamehameha dynasty continued, more and more interest started to flare in Hawaii's islands. People from all over landed on the shores of Hawaii. New England missionaries came to the islands in 1820 and began to westernize the area.

As of 1840, France, Britain, and the U.S. recognized Hawaii as independent and under the rule of King Kamehameha III. Still, France and Britain wanted control of the islands leading Kamehameha III to put the islands under United States protection in 1875.

1887 brought about the famous naval base at Pearl Harbor. Sugar interests by the United States led the King to be overthrown. Shortly after Hawaii was annexed and became a U.S. territory in 1900.

59 years later, Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state.

Is There Another Flag?

It is apparent to many that this flag is not the best reminder of Hawaii and its amazing elements. Some even argue that it is not the real flag of Hawaii.

Brought to light in just 2001 by Gene Simeona, was the "native Hawaiian" flag or the Kanaka Maoli. This flag has been said to be the personal flag of King Kamehameha before what we know now as the state flag.

The flag is thought to have been destroyed by British Navy Captain Lord George Paulet. He had seized Hawaii for five months in 1843.

This flag has a green shield with a coat of arms in the center. The coat of arms is made up of a kahili and two paddles. This represents the voyaging tradition of the islands.

The rest of the flag consists of green, yellow, and red stripes that represent the different groups in Hawaii's society.

  • Green: "makaainana" or commoners
  • Yellow: "alii" or powerful royal class
  • Red: "konohiki" or those who served the alii

A Rich Culture

During the 19th and 20th centuries, great changes were happening within the Islands of Hawaii. International geopolitical and economic shifts have found their way into Hawaii for many years.

This has played a large factor in the rich and diverse culture that Hawaii poses today and explains why the Hawaii state flag might not make sense if you are unfamiliar with its past.

Interested in flying a flag just as King Kamehameha did? Check out our state flags!

Oct 27th 2020

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