The Lāhui Strikes Back: The Illegal Overthrow of the HawaiianKingdom and the Struggle for Hawai‘i’s Water Resources

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Vol: 3, Issue: 1

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Ikaika Lowe
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“If we are ever to have peace and annexation the first thing to do is obliterate the past.” These words were said by Samuel Damon who assisted in the 1893 Illegal Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Overthrow was a turning point in history, not just for Kānaka ‘Ōiwi or Hawaiians, but also the management of water in the islands. In this paper I will analyze a few key ways the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom enabled the sugar plantation industries to acquire and control vast amounts of Hawai‘i’s water resources. I begin this conversation by looking at the relationship water has with Kānaka ‘Ōiwi and how water was managed during the pre-arrival of Captain James Cook. I will also analyze a few of the laws that the Hawaiian Kingdom passed towards the management of water, then look at the brief history of how the sugar plantations were financed and managed in the early years towards the latter half of the 19th century. Statistics of water usage pre and post overthrow will be used, with a short history of the water ditch systems that were used to transport water to the sugar plantations. I will then end it with an analysis of the laws during the Provisional Government, Republic of Hawai‘i and Territory of Hawai‘i that dealt with water management that enabled the accumulation of power within the sugar industry by a small group of corporations.