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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 1, 2005

Hawaiian independence groups send 'no' message

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

A strong statement condemning the Akaka bill has been issued by leaders of a number of Native Hawaiian sovereignty groups, most of whom support a separate Hawaiian nation.

About the Hui Pu

Among those who attended the Hui Pu last weekend and are stated supporters of the declaration condemning the Akaka bill: Soli Niheu of Nuclear Free Independent Pacific, Keoni Choy of Na Kupuna Moku'o'keawe, conference coordinator Keli'i Skippy Ioane of King's Landing Village, Palikapu Dedman of the Pele Defense Fund, Moani'keala Akaka of the Aloha 'Aina Education Center, Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele of the Independent and Sovereign Nation State of Hawai'i (Nation of Hawai'i), Henry Noa of the Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom, Kekuni Blaisdell of the Kanaka Maoli Tribunal Komike and Ka Pakaukau, Kaleikoa Ka'eo of Not of Hawai'i and Mililani Trask, former kia'aina of Ka Lahui o Hawai'i.

The Akaka bill "purports to legislate the political status of a people who have never yielded their sovereignty to the United States," the declaration states.

The statement, addressed to President Bush and the members of Congress, comes only weeks before the Akaka bill is expected to get a vote on the Senate floor. On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, said he believes a vote could come as early as the week of July 18.

The bill would lead to the U.S. government's recognition of the nation's 400,000 Native Hawaiians in the same way that it recognizes American Indians and Alaska natives. Proponents call it a critical step toward making right the injuries suffered as a result of the overthrow of the monarchy and necessary to stave off challenges to Hawaiian-only programs.

Some people oppose Hawaiian-only programs as divisive and unconstitutional. Some Native Hawaiians who want a separate, independent nation also oppose the bill.

About 75 people attended the Hui Pu, Hawaiian for "to unite," at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies last weekend. Andre Perez, conference co-coordinator, said the statement represents a unified position among a number of groups that have different views in the sovereignty movement.

By showing solidarity, Perez said, the group "hopes to rally others to oppose the bill."

Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele, head of state of the Independent and Sovereign National State of Hawai'i (Nation of Hawai'i), said his main beef with the Akaka bill is that Native Hawaiians have not been allowed opportunity for input. "This is a second attempt at annexation, as good as it sounds," he said.

Ka'eo agreed that there should be hearings in Hawai'i before there is a vote in Congress. Proponents of the bill don't want to hold hearings locally because at previous hearings, a good portion of those who testified spoke against the Akaka bill, he said. "Where is the self-determination here?" he asked.

Nihelu said the bill fails to make "pono," or right, the ills of the past. "We are who we were," he said. "Free and independent."

Accompanying the declaration are 20 position points of the group. Among the chief concerns raised is that, "If Hawaiians agree to federal recognition, they are consenting to give all power over their rights, lands and self-determination to the U.S. federal government. ..."

Proponents of the Akaka bill believe its opponents are not seeing the picture clearly.

Clyde Namu'o, administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said "by not passing (the Akaka bill), we are denying an opportunity to many of us who believe that federal recognition is an acceptable first step in the reconciliation process."

The bill merely establishes the process by which Hawaiians could be federally recognized, he said. "If Hui Pu and others believe that Hawaiians should reject federal recognition ... it would be incumbent upon them to lobby others to support their position at the appropriate time."

Donalyn Dela Cruz, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, the bill's lead author, said Akaka respects the unified front shown by the groups and is encouraged by their involvement in the process.

"He also respects that they are entitled to their feelings and their beliefs on this," Dela Cruz said.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.