April 19th, 2009
Native Hawaiian groups have long fought to restore their sovereign authority. Senator Akaka has offered several bills over the past decade to grant a Native Hawaiian government the same kind of federal recognition that 562 tribal governments in the United States possess.
I am by no means an expert on Native Hawaiian sovereignty issues. But one problem I have heard about is that there are about 120 Hawaiian sovereignty groups and they do not agree on what sovereignty for Native Hawaiians would mean or what form they want it to take. Consequently, there are groups that support the Akaka bills and many that do not.
I am posting here an edited version of an open letter to President Obama that I received by email from some Native Hawaiians who oppose the Akaka bill.
“URGENT OPEN LETTER TO U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, April 14, 2009
We, the undersigned KÃ„Ânaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) kupuna (elders), kumu (educators), and representatives address this letter to you on behalf of our people and nation, as well as of other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs. . . .
Our primary purpose for contacting you, Mr. President, is to solemnly inform you of our categorical opposition to the proposed legislation now before the U.S. Senate and House that is entitled The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is commonly referred to as the “Akaka Bill.” This legislation, first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2000 and now confusingly existing in four versions (S. 381; S. 708; H.R. 862; H.R. 1711) proposes that the U.S. Government recognize a “Native Hawaiian Government” that is to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Interior in conformity with U.S. federal law and practice regarding Native American tribal nations.
We reject this Akaka Bill for weighty reasons. To begin with, the historical harm the United States first committed in Hawaii in 1893 brought down, not a “Native Hawaiian Government”, but the independent Hawaiian Kingdom composed of Kanaka Maoli as well as non-Kanaka Maoli subjects. Consequently, the Kanaka Maoli people and other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs have, since that time, accumulated fundamental political and other claims against the United States under international law that the United States must recognize rather than hope to dispel via the enactment of this Bill. Indeed, in our view, the passage of this Bill would constitute nothing less than a second illegal denial of our Kanaka Maoli people’s right to self-determination and the Kingdom heirs’ right to sovereignty. The first outrage, we note, has already been formally admitted by the U.S. Congress in its Apology Resolution of 1993 which, furthermore, pledged to right that original wrong. Not only does the Akaka Bill not follow through on that pledge, it in fact attempts to sabotage the rightful return of our people to our status prior to 1893-98 by imposing on us a colonial U.S. stewardship that is anchored in the U.S. judicial doctrine of the plenary power of Congress over Native American nations.
Moreover, we submit that, presuming on the good faith of your Administration, Hawaii’s Congressional delegation is now trying to ram through the Akaka Bill in the U.S. Congress before the latter can inform itself fully of the vehement and ever-growing opposition to the Bill in Hawai’i among Kanaka Maoli, other Kingdom heirs, as well as kakoÃ¢â‚¬Ëœo. We use the term “ram through” advisedly because, among other things, the delegation has held but ONE 5-day hearing, back in 2000, on the Bill since its inception, and only on the single island of OÃ¢â‚¬Ëœahu. Moreover, while the video record of that lone hearing shows overwhelming opposition to the Bill, the delegation disingenuously reported the opposite to Congress.
In 1993, our HawaiÃ¢â‚¬Ëœi International PeopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s TribunalÃ¢â‚¬â€composed of world human rights leaders, including three eminent U.S. law professorsÃ¢â‚¬â€heard evidence on our main islands and found the following U.S. actions to be violations of international law: its intervention in the 1893 overthrow of our independent government; its 1898 annexation and military occupation of our homeland; its conduct of the fraudulent 1959 HawaiÃ¢â‚¬Ëœi statehood vote; and its ongoing seizure of our national lands with resulting ethnocidal effect on our people. These findings have been widely disseminated and embraced in our homeland.
That same year, the 1993 U.S. Apology Resolution (103d Congress Joint Resolution 19, P.L. 103-150, November 28, 1993) was signed by President William Clinton. The Apology acknowledges the role of U.S. Minister John Stevens and of the U.S. military in the overthrow of our Queen LiliÃ¢â‚¬Ëœuokalani in 1893 in direct contravention of bilateral treaties then binding on the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Resolution further 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.” Moreover, it pledges the United States to acknowledge the ramifications of the 1893 overthrow so as to identify a basis for reconciliation between the U.S. government and the Kanaka Maoli people. Shamefully, the Akaka Bill moves in a direction opposite to that pledge.
The Bill arrogantly attempts to unilaterally characterize the historical transgressions of the United States against our people and kingdom, and to unilaterally specify their remedy. We insist otherwise. U.S. crimes against our Kanaka Maoli people and other Kingdom heirs from 1893 on require, for their redress, that a mechanism composed of U.S. agents and wholly independent representatives of Kanaka Maoli and Kingdom heirs be bilaterally set up by your Administration and us to make findings of fact and conclusions of international law that could serve as a road-map for the resolution of the political and legal issues now outstanding between our two parties.
We look forward to working as soon as possible with your Administration on such a mechanism. In the meantime, we respectfully request that, as head of the U.S. Democratic Party, you ask its Congressional leaders as well as HawaiÃ¢â‚¬ËœiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Congressional delegation to immediately withdraw the Akaka Bill from consideration. In the highly unfortunate event that they should not do so, and the Akaka Bill passes, we urge you Ã¢â‚¬â€ in the interest of future good relations between the United States and the Hawaiian nation, and also of sparing your Administration the embarrassment of having to execute a Bill that our people will roundly reject Ã¢â‚¬â€ to veto the Bill.”