Senate Unanimously Passes Resolution Honoring Hawaiian Colonists of Equatorial Islands in the Pacific

Hui Panalaau Colonists Enabled the United States to Establish Territorial Jurisdiction Over Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands

Washington, D.C. – Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging and honoring the brave young men from Hawai‘i, the majority of whom were Native Hawaiian, who ensured the success of the Equatorial Pacific colonization project.  This once-secret initiative began in the 1930’s to enable the United States to claim jurisdiction over this hotly disputed area of the Pacific in the years leading up to World War II.  The earliest colonists were new Kamehameha Schools graduates who were dispatched to the remote islands of Howland, Baker and Jarvis.  These young men had been carefully selected to ensure that they could survive in the isolated, barren, and inhospitable environment with little support from outside.  The colonization ended abruptly when Imperial Japan attacked these islands and Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), who introduced the resolution, commended the Hui Panalaau in this the 80th anniversary of the first landing of Native Hawaiian colonists.  “This is a remarkable story of humble valor, when 130 sons of Hawai‘i made use of their island spirit and resourcefulness to make a very big difference for America and ultimately the free world,” said Senator Schatz.  “It is my sincere hope that the deeds of the Hui Panalaau colonists will be more broadly shared, understood, and appreciated by the people of Hawai‘i and by  Americans who treasure our rich history.”

Throughout the seven years of colonization of the islands (1935-1942), 130 young men in small groups joined the effort and risked their lives on remote islands far from the safety and security of their homes and family.  The mission was led by the Department of the Interior to establish American possession at first because the islands were seen as potential stopovers for a newly budding commercial air travel industry.  As World War II intensified and the Japanese empire advanced across the Pacific, control of the islands became important militarily.  In their service, three young men lost their lives, one from a ruptured appendix and two following a Japanese air attack in 1941.  Others sustained permanent injuries during their service.  The earliest colonists were from the Kamehameha Schools, and later colonists also hailed from Roosevelt and McKinley High Schools.  Today, there are three known surviving colonists in Hawai‘i.

“Passage of this Resolution is ‘pono’ and will go a long way to help recognize the commitment and bravery that these colonist undertook to risk their lives in service to their country and Pacific Island heritage,” said Herb Lee Jr., Executive Director of the Pacific American Foundation (PAF) in Kaneohe, Hawai‘i

“Students are inspired by the role played by individuals their own age in history,” said Dr. Kauanoe Kamana, Principal of Nawahiokalaniopu‘u Hawaiian language immersion school.  “Passage of this resolution to honor the young Native Hawaiian colonists of remote Pacific Islands during World War II is an especially meaningful and proud moment for our students.  Mahalo to Senator Schatz for making sure the Hui Panlaau colonists finally receive the national recognition they deserve.”

The link below provides more history and pictures on the Hui Panalaau.