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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 22, 2004

Akaka bill doesn't right wrongs done to Hawaiians

By Kunani Nihipali, Ho'oipo Kalaena'auao Pa and Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele

Queen Lili'uokalani protested the overthrow of her kingdom in 1893, protested later at her trial and again against the 1898 annexation by the United States.

The Hawaiian nationals, na 'oiwi o Hawai'i and non-Hawaiian citizens of the kingdom registered their protest against annexation through the Ku'e petitions of 1897. In 1898, Queen Lili'uokalani wrote in her book, "Hawai'i's Story by Hawai'i's Queen": "The people of the Islands have no voice in determining their future, but are virtually relegated to the condition of aborigines of the American continent."

Treaties of commerce, friendship and navigation between the Hawaiian kingdom and the United States were signed as late as 1875 and 1887. Clearly, the United States acknowledged the international independence of the Hawaiian kingdom by entering into these treaties.

More than a century has passed and not much has changed. Native Hawaiians have no real say in our future as we are being told the Akaka-Stevens bill is all we can hope for, and that therefore, we should accept this process for federal "recognition" now so that we will have a government-to-government relationship akin to that of Native Americans or Native Alaskans.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act resulted in the extinguishment of aboriginal title to facilitate oil exploration in Alaska. This was accompanied by the recognition of Alaska Native governments as corporations. It is important to understand the underlying motivation of the United States in proposing recognition of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as a domestic dependent nation.

Ann Keala Kelly recently wrote, "If federal recognition can lead to Hawaiians relinquishing claims to any part of Hawai'i, they could end up in a situation like that between the Inupiat and the Gwich'in, which tends to define as corporate Natives versus cultural Natives. Right now, the acreage of Hawaiian Homestead land, which is part of the nearly 2 million acres of 'crown and government land' renamed 'ceded lands' when the United States took control, is virtually the same amount of land the Alaska Natives ended up with after their settlement: just 10 percent of what was once all theirs."

The reality is that this is no bargain, but a path to extinction. The re-formulation of our nation to create historic legitimacy for the political economy of the United States' 50th state is nothing but a re-enactment of the betrayal.

The ramifications of the Akaka-Stevens bill are difficult to foresee, as well as to comprehend. The bill ignores the reality that today there is a continuing wrong that must be righted, in that the United States government does not recognize the government of the Hawaiian people.

The bill does not right that wrong. It states that the U.S. Constitution "vests Congress with plenary authority to address the conditions of indigenous native people." Clearly, this is not recognition of the government of the na 'oiwi o Hawai'i; it refers to "Indian tribes."

For purposes of the commerce clause, the kingdom of Hawai'i was a foreign nation, still is a foreign nation, and leaving aside the question of whether this is a valid statement with respect to Indian nations, it most assuredly does not apply to us!

We cannot survive without access to and control over our 'aina (land), our wai (fresh waters) and our kai (ocean). The bill does not recognize a land base for the entity. Settlement negotiations have referred to a pro-rata share of the so-called "public trust," the lands of the Hawaiian kingdom, the lands of the Hawaiian people.

They were never ceded! The usurpers of the Hawaiian kingdom took these lands and then passed them to the United States without consent or compensation. Stolen title was all that was conveyed! Why should we accept only a portion of those lands?

As proposed, the bill would have the state of Hawai'i exercising jurisdiction over these same lands. The inherent conflicts of interest are immense, and it reaffirms the status quo. Conflicts and co-optation prevent a just reconciliation of our native trust with the public trust. There is nothing in the bill that recognizes the primacy of the native trust.

The withholding of revenues owed to na 'oiwi o Hawai'i from the ceded-lands trust is a tool of the state to push the Office of Hawaiian Affairs into a final "global settlement." As a state agency, OHA's action to effect a proposed settlement is fraught with conflicts, without authority and unacceptable.

Large amounts of rent are owed by the federal and state governments to na 'oiwi o Hawai'i for the use of these lands.

Internationally recognized fundamental human rights are at stake here. As we embark on unifying efforts to rebuild and strengthen our nation, we must recognize that we are being co-opted into accepting a quasi-domestic dependent-nation status rather than the status our kingdom enjoyed, independence!

Until all the steps of reconstruction and reparation are taken, meaningful reconciliation will not occur, and there should be no final settlement. Decisions are being made on our behalf without the requisite consultation and consent. We are not equal partners, our bargaining power is weak and the voice of Hawaiian independence advocates today, which echo the queen's protests and those of her people, are most often excluded from decision-making processes and ignored.

There is no consensus.

We are not mere "artifacts." The United States and the state of Hawai'i relegate our inherent rights to the past, constrain our development and allow only those activities that support their own necessary illusion: that we, na 'oiwi o Hawai'i today, do not present a challenge to their legitimacy.

State sovereignty in Hawai'i is built on illusions. To claim that the state's legitimacy is based on the rule of law is hypocritical and contradicted by history. The laws and the legal system of the United States purport to create "domestic dependent nations," but even that is truly only an illusion.

We must reject assumptions that legitimatize our subjugation, and be allowed to evolve. These are necessary steps to achieving self-determination and building a sound native-governed community.

As George Jarrett Helm determined, we are in a "revolution of consciousness ... What we (are) looking for is the truth." The facts do matter! In our case, the facts are being misused to support the illusion of reality.

What do we hope to protect? What have the co-opted ones forsaken? The answer is, the heart and soul of our nation, our queen, and our kupuna (elders) and aloha I ke kahi I ke kahi, a respectful and peaceful co-existence.

With our thoughts, we create our reality. It would be a tragedy if after all our queen and ancestors who signed the Ku'e petitions have done to evidence their protests and the legitimacy to have our recognized, independent-nation status restored, we allow the wrongdoing United States of America to reduce our claim for independence to a subservient status.

As Ekolu Wale No, we have been engaged in a number of efforts to rebuild social cohesion, economic self-sufficiency and self-governance. We have learned to address our contemporary problems by reinvigorating the principles embedded in the traditional teachings of our kupuna. Our continued respect for our cultural values is helping us to resolve our political, economic and social problems.

Finally, as Joseph Nawahi asserted, "The cause of Hawai'i and independence is larger and dearer than the life of any man connected with it. Love of country is deep-seated in the breast of every Hawaiian, whatever his station."

Kunani Nihipali, Ho'oipo Kalaena'auao Pa and Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele are with Ekolu Wale No.