Ka Hae Hawai’i Day

Ka Hae Hawai’i Day


Ka Hae Hawaiʻi Day

July 31 -Ka Hae Hawai’i Day, Hawaii Flag Day

  • Only U.S. state flag to have flown over a kingdom, a territory, a republic, and a state.
  • Captain Vancouver established a UK-Hawaii friendship in 1793-4 and obtained a “cession” of the Islands to the UK, but the British government apparently never took notice of it. He gave a red ensign to the king then, which on later visits he found flying in places of honor.
  • During the War of 1812, an American asked why the King (this was Kamehameha) was flying the “enemy” flag. He lowered it and raised the U.S. Flag, only to have the same thing happen when a British ship put into port. To avoid trouble, they decided to combine the two flags into one.
  • A captain Adams (British) apparently helped design this flag for the king. Some scholars credit a Captain Beckley, however.
  • The number of stripes varied, but was standardized at eight after 1843, for the eight principal islands in the group. In 1843 the UK declared that Hawaii was definitely independent and the Hawaiian flag was raised in a ceremony. However, this flag had stripes in the order white-red-blue through some mistake, which is why it is that way today, not red-white-blue as was originally done.

Dipesh Navsaria, 21 November 1995


  • 1794-1816 Hawaii flew Union Jack as its National Flag
  • 1816-1843 Hawaii flew early version of present flag
  • 25 Feb – 31 July 1843 British occupation; all Hawaiian Flags were destroyed
  • 31 July 1843 King Kamehameha III spoke his famous prayer of thanksgiving, a part of which serves today as the State Motto while a Hawaiian Flag that included a dove and olive branch was hoisted.
  • 20 May 1845 present Hawaiian Flag adopted
  • 1 Feb – 1 April 1893 U.S. Flag flown in Hawaii
  • 1894 Republic of Hawaii readopts Hawaiian Flag
  • 1898-1959 Territory of Hawaii uses Hawaiian Flag (confirmed 1903)
  • 1959-present State of Hawaii uses Hawaiian Flag (confirmed 1959)

Hawaiian flags

There are various accounts of the earliest history of the flag of Hawaii. One relates how King Kamehameha I flew a British flag, probably a Red Ensign, given to him by British explorer Captain George Vancouver as a token of friendship with King George III. Subsequent visitors reported seeing the flag flying from places of honor. An adviser to Kamehameha noted that the Union Flag could draw Hawaii into international conflict as his kingdom could be seen as an ally of the United Kingdom, and he subsequently lowered the Union Flag over his home at Kamakahonu. While disputed as historically accurate, one account stated that in order to placate American interests during the War of 1812, a flag of the United States was raised over Kamehameha’s home only to be removed when British officers in the court of Kamehameha vehemently objected to it. This explains why the resulting flag of Hawaii was a deliberate hybrid of the two nations’ flag.  In 1990, Governor of Hawaii John D. Waihee III proclaimed July 31 to be Ka Hae Hawaiʻi Day, the Hawaiian Flag Day. It has been celebrated each year since

British East India Company flag
In 1816, Kamehameha commissioned his own flag to avoid this conflict, which has evolved into the current flag. It was probably designed by one of the commanders of the Royal Hawaiian Navy, former officers of the British Royal Navy, who advised Kamehameha, based on a form of the British naval flag. There is debate as to the actual designer: some credit Alexander Adams, others George Beckley. It was very similar to the flag of the British East India Company in use about this time which had only red and white stripes. Captain Adams used this flag for the first time on a Hawaian trade mission to China in 1817

9-striped variantKa Hae Hawaiʻi
The original flag was designed to feature stripes alternating in the order red-white-blue, also attributed to various historical flags of the United Kingdom. However, some have argued that the stripes were influenced by the flag of the United States.

The flag used at the first official flying of the flag of Hawaii erroneously placed the stripes in the order white-red-blue.  The number of stripes also changed: originally, the flag was designed with seven horizontal stripes, and in 1845 it was officially changed to eight stripes. The latter arrangement was adopted and is used today.

Kanaka Maoli flag
The Kanaka Maoli (“true people” in the Hawaiian language) flag is sometimes said to be the original flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii. To some, this flag symbolizes the Native Hawaiians since the present Hawaiian flag, a hybrid of British and American symbolism, evokes images of colonialism.  The colors are red-green-yellow, said to have been Kamehameha’s personal flag, and reintroduced by Kamehameha III. The central design is also present in the official coat of arms of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

Gene Simeona of Honolulu claims he has recreated the “original” Hawaiian green, red, and yellow striped flag, destroyed by British navy Captain Lord George Paulet when he seized Hawaii for five months in 1843. Simeona says a descendant of Paulet he met on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace in 1999 told him the present Hawaiian flag is not the original. Simeona said he found the design in the Hawaii State Archives.

At the center of the flag is a green shield bearing a coat of arms of the kanaka maoli, made up of the royal kahili, the original Hawaiian royal standard. Crossing this kahili are two paddles, representing both voyaging traditions of Hawaiians, and Kamehameha’s Law of the Splintered Paddle. There are nine stripes unlike the eight striped flag of the present State of Hawaii. Each stripe represents one of the inhabited Hawaiian islands. They are Hawaii Island, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, and Nihoa. According to this flag’s promoters, the green in the flag represents the maka ‘ainana (commoners), the land and goodness; the red represents the landed konohiki (middle class), genealogy and strength; and the yellow represents the aliʻi, spirituality and alertness to danger.[8] Other flags have been proposed, and interpretations of colors,[9] but even leaders of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement often use the current state flag, since it was in effect after 1843.

Hawaii celebrates Flag day on July 31st, 2011.


Meyer’s Konversations-Lexikon of 1897 had a different version of the Hawaiian flag. The Union Jack is smaller, the height corresponding only to three stripes instead of four.

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