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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 25, 2004

NO: Unnecessary bargain extinguishes all claims in exchange for recognition

By J. Kehaulani Kauanui

1. The U.S. apology of 1993 recognizes that "the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum."

August Santos and his son James, with Jason Miranda, all of Mo'ili'ili, oppose the sovereignty bill sponsored by Sen. Akaka.

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Passage of the bill would mark the first time in history that we acquiesce to the illegal U.S.-backed overthrow in 1893. If the bill passes, we would have to give all of our power to be self-determining to the secretary of the interior and the Congress forever.

2. The Native Hawaiian Education Act already explicitly states, "Congress does not extend services to Native Hawaiians because of their race but because of their unique status as the indigenous people of a once-sovereign nation as to whom the United States has established a trust relationship."

If the relationship already exists, then why is the Akaka-Stevens bill necessary? If we are unable to protect our people with current U.S. laws, then what good is the bill if it passes?

3. Acceptance of programs for Native Hawaiians does not indicate acceptance of domestic dependent nationhood within the United States. International law does not require oppressed peoples to refuse support for their survival while working for independence. As a colonial power, the United States has the duty to offer these services until it relinquishes its control.

4. When the United States helped to overthrow the queen in 1893 and illegally annexed Hawai'i in 1898, it deprived kingdom citizens of their right to their independent nation. Descendants of those citizens are entitled to recover that status and their citizenship therein. An independent Hawai'i would then be able to invoke measures under international law to guarantee our distinctive indigenous status.

5. Even though the U.S. policy toward kanaka maoli has been different from other people of the territory (1900-1959) and the state (since 1959), the apology disproves any assertion that we have accepted Native American status.

6. There is nothing in the bill that protects the federal money that Hawai'i state agencies currently receive, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the state budget. Proponents of the bill are willing to give up our rights to independence to try to save funding that comes to $175 per Hawaiian.

7. There is no reason we should assume we would escape state law under the bill. Tribal nations are continuously plagued by court challenges brought by states and nonindigenous individuals challenging their sovereignty and assets, especially when the Supreme Court routinely privileges states' rights.

8. There is no language in the bill that addresses protections for kanaka maoli from future lawsuits. And the bill itself could be ruled unconstitutional, since the Supreme Court likely would find Hawaiian inclusion under the Indian Commerce Clause to be unconstitutional.

9. Our claims to independence under international law stem from the fact that our loss of self-determination at no time amounted to a legal termination of political sovereignty, which was not lost via conquest, cession or adjudication.

10. The United States predetermined statehood as the status for Hawai'i, then misinformed the United Nations that we had freely exercised our self-determination and chosen statehood. Fortunately, the U.S. apology admitted that exercise had never occurred, because we were entitled to a U.N. plebiscite to determine our political status, which should have included the independence option, with eligible voters limited to descendants of kingdom citizens.

11. Supporters of the bill refuse to acknowledge the ways that federal recognition sets up a process for the extinguishment of all claims in exchange for that recognition. The bill is designed to facilitate a settlement for the nearly 2 million acres of "ceded lands," our Hawaiian national lands.

12. Proponents of the bill also insist it won't foreclose our claims under international law, and even argue that the bill is a "first step" toward independence. But they don't understand how the United States asserts its plenary power to keep indigenous sovereigns both domestic and dependent.

Moreover, they depend on the Indigenous Peoples Model within the United Nations, whereas independence supporters opposed to the bill rely on the model of either decolonization or de-occupation.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui teaches anthropology and American studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.