Flag of Hawaii
Ka Hae Hawaiʻi
UseCivil and state flag Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flagSmall vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flagReverse side is mirror image of obverse side
AdoptedDecember 29, 1845; 178 years ago (1845-12-29)
DesignEight alternating horizontal stripes of white, red, and blue, with the 4:7 United Kingdom's Union Flag in the canton

The flag of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Ka Hae Hawaiʻi) was first adopted in the early 19th century by the Hawaiian Kingdom and continued to be used after its overthrow in 1893. It is the only U.S. state flag to feature a foreign country's national flag—that of the United Kingdom's Union Jack—which commemorates the Royal Navy's historical relations with the Kingdom of Hawaii, and in particular the pro-British sentiment of its founder and first ruler, King Kamehameha I.[1][2]

The Hawaiian flag is among the most iconic and recognizable in the U.S., being noted by vexillologists for its design and aesthetics.[3] Its eight stripes represent the main islands of the Hawaiian archipelago; while the colors do not have any official symbolism, it is speculated that they reflected the symbols of other Polynesian kingdoms as well as the flags of the foreign powers that first visited Hawaii: The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and France.[4] Apart from its official usage, the flag of Hawaii is also used by the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, specifically its inverted variant.


Flag of the East India Company (after 1801)

In 1793, Captain George Vancouver, of the British Royal Navy, having previously visited the islands in 1778–1779 with Captain James Cook, returned in command of HMS Discovery.[5] During the visit, Vancouver met with Kamehameha I and presented him with a Red Ensign,[6] used by the Royal Navy at the time. The Kingdom of Ireland was not a formal part of the United Kingdom before 1801, which meant that, at this time, the British flag did not contain the Saint Patrick's Cross of Ireland. This version of the Red Ensign, as well as the current version which added the cross in 1801, served as the unofficial flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii until 1816.[7]

Flag of Hawaii, 1816–1845 (1:2 canton, 9 stripes))
Flag of Hawaii used by the protectorate and republic

Scottish Captain Alexander Adams' journals mention the British East India Company flag when Kamehameha had originally purchased Adams' brig named the Forester and renamed Kaahumanu.[8][9] As part of the ship's transfer, the ensign of the East India Company, which consisted of the Union Jack on a field of red-and-white stripes, was taken by Adams during a ceremony with an 11-gun salute.[8] Many older Native Hawaiians prior to 1921 believed that the current flag of Hawaii was created by Adams during his trip to China in 1817.[8] At that time Adams was Commander of the Hawaiian Kingdom Navy,[10] captaining the Kaahumanu under Kamehameha I.[9] While there is no indication that the flag was either made or flown during that period, Adams did note that on his way to China, while stopping at Waimea, Kauai for supplies, he did give Kaumualiʻi his own ensign to raise at the port, as the king only had a Russian flag left from the Russian colony in Hawaii.[8][11]

March 12, 1817. Gave the King (Kaumualii) our ensign to hoist in lieu of the Russian, who said that it was on account of his having no other.[12]

There may have been different versions of the flag with different numbers of stripes and colors.[13] The number of stripes also changed: originally, the flag was designed with either seven or nine horizontal stripes, and in 1845 it was officially changed to eight stripes. The latter arrangement is used today.[14]


The flag of Hawaii flying in Haleakalā National Park

The canton of the flag of Hawaii contains the Union Flag of the United Kingdom, prominent over the top quarter closest to the flag mast. The field of the flag is composed of eight horizontal stripes, symbolizing the eight major islands (Hawaiʻi, Maui, Kahoʻolawe, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, and Niʻihau). Other versions of the flag have only seven stripes, probably representing the islands with the exception of Kahoʻolawe or Niʻihau. The color of the stripes, from the top down, follows the sequence: white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red. The colors were standardized in 1843, although other combinations have been seen and are occasionally still used.[15][16]

In 2001, a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) placed Hawaii's flag 11th in design quality, out of the 72 U.S. and Canadian provincial, state, and territorial flags ranked.[17]

Despite superficially resembling the flags of British Overseas Territories, the Hawaiian flag is proportioned differently – the Union Jack in the canton is in a 4:7 ratio,[18] and a differing standard is used to define the colors.[citation needed]

Lā Hae Hawaiʻi

In 1990, Governor of Hawaii John Waihee proclaimed July 31 to be Lā Hae Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian Flag Day. It has been celebrated each year since then.[19] It is the same date as Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, Sovereignty Restoration Day, a holiday of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi that is celebrated by proponents of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

Flag of the Governor

See also: Flags of governors of the U.S. states

The flag used by the governor of Hawaii is a red and blue bi-color. In the middle of the eight white stars appears the name of the state in all capital letters. During the time Hawaii was a United States territory, the letters in the middle of the flag were "TH", which stood for "Territory of Hawaii".[20]


Date Flag Image
1793–1800 British Red Ensign[21]
1801–1816 British Red Ensign following the Acts of Union with Ireland
1816–1845 Early version of the present flag (1:2 canton)
February 1843 – July 1843 Union Flag (during the Paulet Affair)
1845–1898 The current Hawaiian flag introduced in 1845 (4:7 canton)
February 1893 – April 1893 US flag (after the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii)
1898–present Hawaiian flag used by the US territory and state of Hawaii

Kanaka Maoli flag

Gene Simeona's Kanaka Maoli flag, introduced in 2001

The Kanaka Maoli ('true people' in the Hawaiian language) design is purported by some to be the original flag of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, though this claim is unverified and widely disputed.[22][23] It was introduced to the public by Gene Simeona in 2001.[24] It has nine alternating stripes of green, red, and yellow defaced with a green shield with a kāhili (ceremonial feather standard) crossed by two paddles.

Gene Simeona claims to have unearthed the Kanaka Maoli flag in 1999. Simeona said he encountered a descendant[who?] of Lord George Paulet who told him about an earlier flag. Simeona claims to have found evidence of the Kanaka Maoli flag in the state archives, though any sources he may have used have not been identified.[25] Subsequent efforts to verify Simeona's claim have been unsuccessful.[25] Critics of the claim have pointed to evidence of the widely accepted Hawaiian flag being in existence before the Kanaka Maoli flag.[26][25][original research?] Louis "Buzzy" Agard had proposed a Hawaiian flag design in 1993 which featured nine alternating stripes and the same charge as on the Kanaka Maoli flag,[27] leading many to believe it is where Simeona drew his inspiration.[26]

A flag with nine stripes alternating black, yellow, and red, with a yellow field in the canton defaced with a kahili crossed by two paddles.
Flag designed by Louis Agard in 1993, six years before the Kanaka Maoli flag appeared on public record.

Despite the lack of verification about its historic use, the design has gained popularity among people who prefer its lack of colonial imagery.[22]


See also


  1. ^ Marshall, Tim (2017). A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols. Simon and Schuster. pp. 52–53. ISBN 9781501168338.
  2. ^ Bloss, Janet Adele (1983). State Flags. Willowisp Press. p. 66. ISBN 9780874061833.
  3. ^ Edward B. Kaye (10 June 2001). "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey" (PDF). nava.org. North American Vexillological Association
  4. ^ "Flag of Hawaii | United States state flag". Britannica. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  5. ^ Nelson, Mark "Kailaa" (March 4, 2011). Learn to Play Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar. Mel Bay Publications. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-61065-596-5.
  6. ^ All about Hawaii: The Recognized Book of Authentic Information on Hawaii, Combined with Thrum's Hawaiian Annual and Standard Guide. Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 1974.
  7. ^ Healy, Donald T.; Orenski, Peter J. (January 12, 2016). Native American Flags. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-8061-5575-3 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ a b c d The Friend. February 1921. p. 43 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ a b Native Hawaiians Study Commission: Hearings Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, Ninety-eighth Congress, Second Session, on the Report of the Native Hawaiians Study Commission. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, US Senate; US Government Printing Office. 1985. p. 427.
  10. ^ Fry, Michael (2001). The Scottish Empire. Tuckwell. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-86232-185-4 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Pierce, Richard A. (1965). Russia's Hawaiian Adventure, 1815–1817. University of California Press. p. 13. GGKEY:D93WWZ14DB5 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Annual Report of the Hawaiian Historical Society. Hawaiian Historical Society. 1898. p. 8 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Ballou, Howard M. (1906). The Reversal of the Hawaiian Flag. pp. 5–11. ISBN 0-8028-5088-X.
  14. ^ Quaife, Milo; Weig, M. J.; Appleman, R. E. (1961). The History of the United States Flag. New York: Harper. p. 154.
  15. ^ "Name and Insignia of Hawaii – State Flag". Hawaii State Library. March 1, 2006. Archived from the original on May 11, 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2007.
  16. ^ BBC History, Jan 2008
  17. ^ "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey" (PDF). nava.org.
  18. ^ "[§5–19] Description of the Hawaiian flag". Hawaii State Legislature. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  19. ^ "Ka Hae Hawai'i – The Hawaiian Flag". Hawaii Public Radio. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  20. ^ "Name and Insignia of Hawaii – Governor's Flag". Hawaii State Library. March 1, 2006. Archived from the original on May 11, 2007. Retrieved October 25, 2007.
  21. ^ All about Hawaii: The Recognized Book of Authentic Information on Hawaii, Combined with Thrum's Hawaiian Annual and Standard Guide. Honolulu Star-Bulletin. 1974.
  22. ^ a b "What's the Story Behind Hawaii's Flag?". Hawaii Magazine. October 21, 2008. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  23. ^ Pulse, Big Island (August 20, 2019). "Kanaka Maoli Flag – Hawaii's Original Flag or Clever Marketing?". Big Island Pulse. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  24. ^ "What's the Story Behind Hawaii's Flag?". Hawaii Magazine. October 21, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2023.
  25. ^ a b c Anwar, Yasmin (February 12, 2001). "'Original' flag raises debate". Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on June 4, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  26. ^ a b Kingdom, Hawaiian (December 13, 2014). "Origin of the Hawaiian Kingdom Flag". Hawaiian Kingdom Blog. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  27. ^ Agard, Louis "Buzz" (1993). He Alo a He Alo – Hawaiian Voices on Sovereignty. Honolulu: American Friends Service Committee. pp. 108–110. ISBN 9780910082259.