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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 2, 2004

Pro, con articles on Akaka bill fail to address land issues

By Haunani-Kay Trask

The April 25 pro and con articles on the pending Akaka bill do not address the deals struck between Gov. Linda Lingle, the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the federal Interior and Justice departments, the Hawai'i congressional delegation and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement relating to the global settlement for Hawaiian lands and revenues. In the interests of clarity, here is what needs to be understood:

• The current Akaka bill is not the product of a democratic process. Only the listed entities above were included in the creation of the latest version of the bill. Sovereignty groups, community organizations and the larger Hawaiian public were intentionally excluded.

• No hearings have been held on the current bill, precisely to exclude oversight by the native community. New sections were added to the bill that provide that the U.S. courts will have jurisdiction to hear claims against the United States arising under federal law on the date of enactment of the bill. No historic claims, such as loss of self-government and lands at annexation, will be allowed.

• The bill requires the United States and Hawai'i to obtain a global settlement for Hawaiian lands and revenues before the Hawaiian nation is recognized. In other words, Big Brother will determine our land and resource base and the structure of our governing entity. This is not self-determination. It is state determination.

• Native Hawaiians must agree to extinguish our rights to lands and sovereign powers over them as a prerequisite to federal recognition. This is outrageous. If we have no land base, no entitlements and no political entity, we won't need federal recognition.

• In the April 7 version of the bill, certification of organic documents that provide for the creation of the Native Hawaiian governing entity is subject to future negotiations with the federal and state governments as well as congressional legislation and state legislation to implement any agreement. This process forces Hawaiians to agree to the worst settlements in order to meet the 20-year sunset provision. Without a settlement, we lose the right to bring claims against the United States. Such a timetable encourages government negotiators to wait out the 20 years, when all claims expire.

Apart from obvious bad intentions, this deal also violates U.S. law and international law. Hawaiians need to understand the current version of the Akaka bill as a termination, rather than resolution, of the question of native existence and recognition.

The argument made by Davianna McGregor, that something is better than nothing, is on its face ridiculous. In its current version, the Akaka bill constitutes a total taking of native lands and entitlements. This is worse than nothing. It is a form of debasement, rather like accepting the status of a house slave, when the alternative is mass resistance to slavery itself.

The argument made by her opponent, Kehaulani Kauanui, that independence is preferable to dependence, is obvious on its face. So, too, her suggestion that models of decolonization or deoccupation exist as alternatives to the Akaka bill. But like all supporters of independence, Kauanui does not explain how the United States, the world's sole superpower, will be forced to give up Hawai'i, its dozens of military bases, thousands of resident settlers and millions of tourists.

If the United Nations couldn't prevent the U.S. war in Iraq, why should Hawaiians expect the United Nations to enforce the decolonization of Hawai'i? Or is Kauanui suggesting a war of national liberation? The sad reality is that those who support independence haven't a clue how to achieve it.

What is to be done?

Hawaiians need to be included in the federal policy on recognized native nations on our own terms. Talk of independence is just that ... talk.

What Hawaiians need is power — the power to reclaim ceded lands, all entitlements that accompany them, and substantive recognition as a self-governing nation.

In other words, Hawaiians need sovereignty on our own land base in our own country run by our own elected representatives. We do not need the latest version of a paper nation railroaded by the congressional delegation and their hand-picked Hawaiian collaborators. Hawaiians must oppose the current Akaka bill. If passed, it will be the death knell of any native claim to land and self-government.

Haunani-Kay Trask has been a Hawaiian nationalist for more than 20 years.