The red, gold and green “Kanaka Maoli” flag has made its way into many pictures and social media posts. It’s managed to find its way into the middle of the protests that are occurring on Mauna Kea. I admit that I was initially enamored by it (maybe because I grew up in the reggae generation) and sought out one for myself during the first round of protests in 2014.
But then I was told that the so-called Kanaka Maoli flag built its momentum with a dramatic back story and clever marketing.
Here’s the story according to Hawaii Magazine:
“The controversial Kanaka Maoli—or “native Hawaiian”—flag was introduced to the public by Gene Simeona of Honolulu in 2001. Simeona stated that this unearthed design was “resurrected from an ‘original’ Hawaiian green, red and yellow striped flag, destroyed by British navy Capt. Lord George Paulet when he seized Hawaii for five months in 1843” and that it was Kamehameha’s personal flag long before the modern Hawaiian flag.”
But then there’s also another account of the flag’s true origin. You may find this account circulating on social media as many have copied and pasted it numerous times.
The Kanaka Maoli Flag was created by Louis “Buzzy” Agard in the book He Alo a He Alo – Hawaiian Voices on Sovereignty in 1993 located between the pages of 108-110. The only difference in the book is that the shield is in the upper left instead of in the center. While the picture is in black and white, the proposed colors in the text are red, yellow and black. Somewhere along the line, slight modifications were made and the back story was added to create an emotional attachment to the flag.
And once again, here is a very similar account on the Hawaiian Kingdom Independence Blog:
With the abundance of “Kanaka Maoli flags” being displayed at Mauna Kea and many demonstrations and vehicles flying the flag in support, I thought it would be helpful to revisit the origin of this flag.
But in fact this flag design was created in 1993 by Uncle Louis “Buzzy” Agard, published in the book He Alo a He Alo as a short essay called “A Pro Active Symbol.” While some symbols in the flag are of ancient origin, the overall design itself is not.
The flag, with some basic modifications, has served the purpose that he envisioned, adopted as a symbol of protection to replace the union jack, which the Kanaka Maoli and supporters do indeed rally around and fly with pride.
I just hope that those who fly the flag are also aware and respectful of its true origin.
So, while the origin of the flag has been clouded in controversy, it seems that the intent and purpose of the flag has fulfilled the vision of the original creator.
So, what do you think? Is it Kamehameha’s personal flag or just a clever marketing story? Do you fly it? What are your thoughts on the Kanaka Maoli flag?