Why the Native Hawaiian Reorganization Act Must be Rejected
By KEKUNI BLAISDELL, LYNETTE HI’ILANI CRUZ, GEORGE KAHUMOKU FLORES, et al.
We, the undersigned Kanaka 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. At our invitation, a number of our kako‘o (supporters) have also added their names to this letter.
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 Hawai’i 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. “wardship” 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, Hawai‘i’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 kako‘o. 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 O‘ahu. 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 Hawai‘i International People’s Tribunal—composed of world human rights leaders, including three eminent U.S. law professors—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 Hawai‘i 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 Lili‘uokalani 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 Hawai‘i’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 — 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 — to veto the Bill.
Me ka mana‘olana no ka huli me ka pono (With hope for change with justice),
Kekuni Blaisdell, M.D. Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Consultant, Department of Native Hawaiian Health, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i; Convenor, Kanaka Maoli Tribunal Komike; Hawaiian Independence Alliance, Honolulu
Lynette Hi‘ilani Cruz, Ph.D., Kupuna of O‘ahu, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Hawai‘i Pacific University; President, Ka Lei Maile Ali‘i Hawaiian Civic Club; Hawaiian Independence Alliance, Honolulu
George Kahumoku Flores, Kupuna of O‘ahu; Hawaiian Independence Alliance, D.M.Z., Honolulu
Kukauakahi (Clarence Ku Ching) J.D., Huaka‘i i na ‘Aina Mauna, OHA trustee ’86 – ’90
Puhipau, Kupuna of Na‘alehu, Hawai‘i; Na Maka o ka ‘Aina (Film Production)
Pua Nani Rogers, Kupuna o Kaua‘i, Ahupua‘a o Kealia, Member of Na Kupuna o
Manokalanipo, Founder of the Ho‘okipa Network, Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i
Maivan Clech Lam, M.A., M.Ph., , J.D., L.L.M., Professor of International Law (ret.), City University of New York Graduate Center, New York
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Ph.D., Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Center for the Americas, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
Jonathan Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, Ph.D., Professor, School of Hawaiian Knowledge, University of Hawai‘i Manoa, Honolulu
Terrilee Napua Kekoolani, Founder of ‘Ohana Koa, Hawai‘i. Chapter of Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, Honolulu
Ikaika Hussey, Founder of MANA (The Movement for Aloha No Ka ‘Aina), Honolulu
Kyle Kajihiro, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee Hawai‘i Program (for title identification only), Honolulu
Donna Hewahewa Holt Burns, Artist, Hawaiian Independence Alliance, Honolulu
Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘opua, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Hawai‘i Manoa, Honolulu
Eiko Kosasa, Ph.D., Lecturer, Social Sciences Division, Leeward Community College, Pearl City; Hawaiian Independence Alliance, Honolulu
Dean Saranillio, Doctoral Candidate, Program in American Culture, University of Michigan; Hawaiian Independence Alliance, Honolulu
Al Kuahi Wong, Kupuna; Hui Anuenue of New England; Director, Koani Foundation, Anahola, Kaua‘i
Kai‘opua Fyfe, Kupuna, Delegate to Native Hawaiian Convention from Lihu‘e, Kaua‘i; Director, Koani Foundation; Intervenor, UN Human Rights Council, Treaty Bodies, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Charter Appointee to Native Hawaiian and Kaua‘i Island Education Councils, Anahola, Kaua‘i
David Ingham, Director, Koani Foundation, Anahola, Kaua‘i
‘Ehu Kekahu Cardwell, Director, Koani Foundation, Anahola, Kaua‘i
Kunani Nihipali, Ekolu Wale No
E. A. Ho‘oipo K. Pa, Esq., Ekolu Wale No
Hans Peter Jensen, III, Maoli Media
Hanale Delovio, Hui Anuenue of New England