I was a boarder at Lahainaluna from 1986 to 1989. I went there because, living in Tonga and wanting to return to Hawaiʻi, we needed a boarding school. As my grandparents had both gone to the school in the 1920s and 1930s (my mother went to Kamehameha III Elementary, but moved to Honolulu before high school), and we still had relatives there, Lahainluna seemed a good match. As I moved into the field of Hawaiian history, and in particular teaching it at Kamehameha (which, as an institution, certainly revels in its history), I’ve come to feel that Lahainaluna’s history has been sorely neglected. This post is a beginning of an attempt to rectify this neglect.


My grandparents proudly sang the alma mater (the only one in Hawaiian) and my grandfather, who was as far from an intellectual snob as it is possible to be, spoke enthusiastically about the “ipu kukui `a`amau pio `ole i ka makani Kaua`ula” [the light of knowledge undaunted by the Kauaʻula wind]. Even my father (a Yankee from Massachusetts) got Lahainaluna fever, authoring an article in the 1980 Hawaiian Journal of History, “The Image of ʻKou Haoleʻ in the Lahainaluna Mooolelo.” Still, I didnʻt quite know what I was getting into. Iʻve often described it as a four-year military boot camp. We worked 20 hours per week in campus jobs including the school farm as payment for our room and board, and the program had intricacies that have to be saved from another post, but despite its drawbacks, I came to view this kind of labor as part of a complete life.


Lahainaluna Seminary was founded 183 years ago in 1831. Calling it the oldest school West of the Rockies, while accurate, seems to neglect that at the time, this was the Hawaiian Kingdom. The seminary was founded by Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) to train ministers and assistant teachers of religion – a kind of second layer of clergy in the quickly Christianizing Kingdom. The first principle, Sheldon Dibble had the foresight to see that in an environment of cultural loss, the Hawaiian scholars of the school should study and preserve their own culture, rather than that of others. I often wonder if someone like Hiram Bingham had been head of the school (which he could have – he was on the board), whether we would even have David Malo to look to today.


Lahainaluna ca. 1831

Lahainaluna went through several phases in its long history:

•Mission Seminary

•Royal Hawaiian Academy

•English Boarding School

•Vocational Trade School

•Technical High School

•Public High School

Today, while Lahainaluna’s athletic reputation has gone up (football, girls basketball, wrestling), its academic reputation is far from where it started. The “college” was more like a research university than the high school it is today. David Malo, for example, was 38 years old when he entered, but he was only a student for a couple of years before becoming a teacher – his intellectual reputation was well-established and the school merely formalized his already considerable knowledge base. The Lahainaluna scholars produced the first Hawaiian history text Ka Mooolelo Hawaii, which stated [excuse my rough translation]:

No ka naaupo loa a me ke wahahee wale o ko onei poe kahiko, olelo lakou, ua hanau maoli mai no keia pae aina, na Wakea laua o Papa, e like me ka hanau keiki ana. E aho kakou I ka naaupo o ka poe kahiko, no ka mea, he wa pouli ko lakou.

In the “very dark ages” and the time of only [snake-mouthed] people of old, they said that the [true creation/birth] of these islands [archipelago] was from Wākea and Papa, like giving birth to children. We [escaped?] the dark ages of the people of old because theirs was a [dark night/period].

Here we see the indoctrination that accompanied the preservation of the culture. As Emerson has noted of Malo in particular, this generation had the “zealousness of the new converted.”

The Lahainaluna scholars were laying the intellectual infrastructure for the new Hawaiian state. Although Hawaiian traditions were being recorded, Hawai‘i is becoming increasingly Westernized. This is especially true of the areas that Western ships frequented.

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Malo is criticzed by some Hawaiians today for what is seen as an overly-westernized view of Hawaiian culture. As Emerson (in Malo, 1951, viii). puts it, Malo’s “affections were so entirely turned against the whole system, not only of idol worship, but of all the entertainments of song, dance and sport as well, that his judgement seems to be warped, causing him to confound the evil and the good, the innocent and the guilty, the harmless and the depraved in one sweeping condemnation, thus constraining him to put under ban of his reprobation things which a more enlightened judgement would have tolerated.”

In other words, one must put Malo in perspective using a historical empathy that considers his unique position amidst the most profound changes in Hawaiian history.

Hale Paʻi, the printing House - site of the first Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Lama

Hale Paʻi, the printing House – site of the first Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Lama

Lahainaluna was also the site of the second printing press (after the MIssion Houses in Honolulu) and first newspaper, Ka Lama, in 1834. While Samuel Kamakau’s Ruling Chiefs of Hawaiʻi may be as much read today, of all the Lahainaluna scholars, David (or Davida) Malo, more than all the others, keeps his hold on the imagination.


More can be said about Malo than there is space for here, just between the introductions to Emerson’s and Chun’s versions of his writings. Arista (1998, 46), describes Malo’s first meeting with Richards:

Malo and Richards met when Keōpūolani took Richards as her teacher. It seemed that both men received the best education that their societies could offer: that was a religious education. Malo would find himself working with Richards when the two turned their knowledge, wisdom and experience to serving the aliʻi and the emerging nation.

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Malo was one of the chiefs (kaukaualiʻi) who studied under Richards. However, while it is often claimed that Williams was Malo’s teacher, Arista (1998, 47) notes that “Richards refers variously to Malo in his letters of this time, as ʻmy teacher, my interpreter,’ and later ʻmy assistant.’” In an article in The Polynesian, Malo is described as “a talented and excellent Hawaiian, for a long time the able and devoted teacher of the late Mr. Richards.” Thus, there was clearly a reciprocal relationship, a theoretical encounter of sorts between the two men.

This may be seen in Malo’s description of the political structure of traditional Hawaiian society, translated by Emerson as “the civil polity” (Malo, 1958, 187), was originally entitled “No Kalaimoku” (Malo, 2006, 103). Mykännen (2003, 139-144) provides an extended discussion of the interchangeability of the words kalaiʻāina –

Richards’s choice of words for political economy – and kālaimoku. I suspect that the two words are linked – some evidence suggests that the students of Richards were encouraged to prosthelytize, and spread the “gospel” of the new political economy. The timing works, if one is to believe Chun (2006, xviii), that Malo may have “commenced with his monumental work, entitled ʻMoʻolelo Hawaiʻi’ (Hawaiian Traditions or Hawaiian History)” around 1847. Chun disputes notions that Malo wrote what Emerson called Hawaiian Antiquities between 1839 and 1840, noting that his newspaper publications suggest the later date. Forbes (2000, 80) notes that “communications from David Malo appear with some frequency” in Ka Elele.

I’ve been heartened to hear that Lahainaluna has finally established an archive – better late than never – and its foundation (quite well endowed) has been doing great work. I would like to see Lahainaluna reclaim its place as, arguably, Hawaiʻi’s most historic school.

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April 10, 2014 · 8:07 pm

What’s the Verdict with Generation X?

This article is also posted on The Hawaiʻi Independent.

My ideas on generational politics have been brewing for years, but it was my former student Jacob Aki’s article “What is a Millenial?” in the Independent that provided the spark for me to finally put them to paper.

When I was deciding, in the late 1990s, whether to study history or political science, one book swayed me toward politics. It was called Revolution X, and its authors made the argument that “our” generation, X that is, should be concerned about things like social security running out. It’s almost laughable now but generational politics are not a laughing matter. Generational warfare is held by some to be as central a feature of future politics as water wars. Generation X is caught in the middle. We are the ignored generation, caught between the nearly inconceivable cultural achievements of the Baby Boomers (which may actually be two generations – more on that later) and the attention-obsessed Millennials (which I prefer to call, in our wake, Generation Y). In fact, we may be defined by these two generations just as the boomers were defined in opposition to the so-called “Greatest” generation – the Depression-WWII-1950s American dreamers.

In the Hawaiian context, I often imagine, and sometime see the generation gap which must have developed as the activist generation of the 1970s emerged from under the shadow of the World War II generation. When George Helm and Haunani-Kay Trask were portraying America as the bad guy, it must have baffled veterans who were quite certain that the bad guy was Hitler. While they had an enemy to unify and define them, we were said to struggle with our own identities, hence the X – the unknown entity. If the Millenials defining question is “why?” (why bother?) ours is “who?” (who am I?).

There is some dispute about the dates bookending Gen X: some, like the US Census and Jon Miller’s Generation X Report, label Gen Xers as those born between 1961 and 1981. This puts me smack dab in the middle, as I was born in ʻ71. It also makes Barack Obama the first Gen X President (if barely), rather than the third Boomer President (after Clinton and Bush 43). But Boomers are usually described as those born between 1946 and 1964. Some would divide this into two “generations:” The Vietnam Generation and the “Me” Generation. For reference, remember that only one of these groups, the latter, were disco dancers. The 1961-1981 dates fit with the definition of Millenials used by Aki: “the generation of people born between 1982 and 2002, some 81 million” young people. That Millennials are the indulged children of most narcissistic generation in history is the reason for the epithet “the Me, Me, Me Generation.” But the economic situation they will inherit makes me suspect they may in the end be called “The Disappointed Generation.”

And this is not to completely disparage their parents. The American philosopher Ken Wilber notes that the Me Generation, while narcissistic, is also highly “evolved” in terms of consciousness, being the first to integrate Eastern and Western modes of thought on a mass basis. The combination of high-level consciousness and high narcissism is a cultural “disease” Wilber calls “Boomeritis.” There are certainly worse diseases.

If one song can characterize Gen X, in contrast, it’s Madonna’s “Material Girl.” If a movie can characterize us, it’s not The Breakfast Club, but Reality Bites. While the Boomers gave the world hippies and zippies, the New Age, flower power and communes, we gave it valley girls, New Wave and the word “whatever.” We are the last “American Dream” generation that had it good growing up, was mainly insulated from war and had a decent chance at college and a job. Things were not so competitive for us. A Pink Floyd song we grew up with went: “We don’t need no education.” If you did go to college, tuition was still usually in the four figures, and we finished in about average numbers (30%).

We saw transitions: Carter to Reagan, the 1990 fall of the Berlin Wall, the tech revolution (weʻre the first Apple and earphone generation – remember the Walkman?), and the 1994 Republican Revolution. We experienced Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock first hand. But we are also the first generation to be raising kids in the new austerity and whose children will likely have it worse than we did. And the 70s and 80s were not all pastel-colored, feathered-haired walks in Paisley Park. We experienced the terror of Mutually Assured Destruction. As the terror subsided, we tentatively struggled to find our place in the world.

One thing I did not realize until very recently, reading Gail Sheehy’s Passages, was Gen X has a real need to belong, and we did not belong to our idols the Boomers, and are out-of-step with Millennials. (While we were the first full-fledged hip-hop generation, we now somehow “don’t get it” according to them). Met Life says that we are most concerned about maintaining our standard of living – which makes sense in the generational transfer of wealth that is starting as Boomers hit 65. We have only slowly and recently had to grow up.

As we enter middle age and lines begin to appear on our faces, I see my peers entering positions of power woefully unprepared. One theory of change holds that the way change really happens is that the generation with the old ideas simply dies off and the new generation with the new ideas replaces it. So as we take over, what have we learned from contrasting the strictness of our grandparents and the laxity (albeit brilliant) of the Boomers, particularly as parents? Because this perspective we have had living in changing times is, in my view, one of our only advantages. As the transitional generation, X can bring an approach that balances the strengths of the two previous, and perhaps even the subsequent, generations to bear on the myriad problems we will inherit.

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The science of willpower: Kelly McGonigal on why it’s so dang hard to stick to a resolution


how are those New Years resolutions going? ;~)

Originally posted on TED Blog:

KellyMcGonigal_Q&A It’s the second week in January and, at about this time, that resolution that seemed so reasonable a week ago — go to the gym every other day, read a book a week, only drink alcohol on weekends — is starting to seem very … hard. As you are teetering on the edge of abandoning it all together, Kelly McGonigal is here to help. This Stanford University psychologist — who shared last year how you can make stress your friend — wants you to know that you’re not having a hard time sticking to a resolution because you are a terrible person. Perhaps you’ve just formulated the wrong resolution.

McGonigal has, for years, taught a course called “The Science of Willpower” through Stanford’s Continuing Studies program and, in 2011, she spun it into a book, The Willpower Instinct. The TED Blog spoke to McGonigal this week about how willpower…

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St. Patrick’s Day – time of think of one’s Irish heritage

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 5.07.52 PMIʻm a quarter Irish. My father’s mother was named Theresa Mallon and her parents were from Inishtrahull, the Northernmost island in Ireland. So we’re island people through and through – Inishtrahull is only about a mile across and seems less than 100 yards wide at one point. It is hard to imagine more humble beginnings. It’s a rock. No one lives there now, but it was a fishing community – there was no way to make a living off that little land. The pictures of it give a sense of deep peace and serenity, but the conditions must have been brutal for all its inhabitants to leave. Iʻm not sure about it, but the timing of my great-grandparents’ departure is consistent with being due to the Potato famine. We think they were related to the Irish revolutionary Seamus Mallon, though Inishtrahull is in the Irish Republic, not Northern Ireland.

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Coltrane in Hawaiʻi

This post is the third in a series Iʻm calling the “in Hawaiʻi” series. (The other posts are about Herman Melville and Mark Twain). It’s also the first of a new style of post Iʻll be experimenting with, which Iʻm calling the “mini-post” – defined as: longer than a status update, but shorter than a normal post (250+ words). It will allow me to post more often, and accommodate peoples’ (alleged) shorter attention spans. It also means Iʻll be posting more versions of the same post as I add and lengthen them. We’ll see…

Iʻm fairly conventional when it comes to jazz, although Iʻm told by my Pandora algorithm that my favorite genre is “post-bop.” In my view, one of the innovators whose style led to post-bop was John Coltrane. For me, Coltrane’s significance is difficult to put into words. He spanned the continuum from the fundamentals of jazz to its most avant-garde and even to points where he was experimenting with music’s spiritual dimensions. I’ve used his version of “My Favorite Things” to show my daughters the virtues of jazz – the transition from stating the theme to carrying the piece far from its origin. Arnie Saiki turned me on to the Ascension and Om albums, which are as avant grade as anything Ornette Coleman produced. And what was seen as repetitiveness seemed, in my view, an experiment with the very boundaries between notes themselves. Iʻve had many nights of listening to Coltrane while reading Fred Moten’s analysis of Coltrane in In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition.

While listening to him on Pandora, I was amazed to find that he had been stationed, and did some of his early work in Hawaiʻi. According to the bio of Coltrane on Pandora:

In 1945, [Coltrane] was drafted into the navy and stationed in Hawaii. He never saw combat, but he continued to play music and, in fact, made his first recording with a quartet of other sailors on July 13, 1946. A performance of Tadd Dameron‘s “Hot House,” it was released in 1993 on the Rhino Records anthology The Last Giant. Coltrane was discharged in the summer of 1946 and returned to Philadelphia. 

It is interesting to imagine whether his experience in Hawaiʻi had an effect on his later crossing of boundaries.



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The Lind-Perkins sovereignty debate: The Sovereignty Movement is based in Historical and Legal Fact, not Faith

This is the fourth installment (the second of mine) in the emerging debate between myself and Civil Beat journalist Ian Lind. It is also available at The Hawaiʻi Independent.

I would like at the outset to express my appreciation that Ian Lind’s response to my rebuttal in The Hawaiʻi Independent was, in the spirit of its publisher, civil. These types of debates were common during the heyday of Hawaiian newspapers in the nineteenth century. Such debates are healthy and central to a democratic society, which suggests the Hawaiian monarchy period was more democratic (with a small d) then is often thought. It also holds out hope for a flourishing of new voices in this age of new media.

While I have no interest in debating the sovereignty issue “endlessly for another century,” no one (at least no one very credible) held against the Jewish people the desire to recreate a state two thousand years after the fact. I would argue that the overthrow really wasn’t that long ago – my grandmother was six years old when Liliʻuokalani died, and she lived until 2002 – it’s nearly in living memory. But Lind’s response demanded, and rightly so, a much more thorough examination of the historical and legal questions, particularly that of annexation.

Lind concludes after a discussion the Larsen case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, that “It’s hard to say where [the] notion comes from” that a treaty is required to annex territory, and that “no authority is offered for this rather surprising assertion.” It’s true I offered no authority, and that’s because it’s not a surprising assertion at all, but rather a standard, accepted principle of international politics. Congressional authority is restricted to US territory and simply does not extend to a foreign country, even (or especially) one in which the US aided an overthrow. The role of Congress (the Senate only) consists of the approval of treaties, which alone are international law. Anything else – an “Act of Congress,” even less a joint resolution – is mere domestic law, not applicable in foreign territory. Professor Lassa Oppenheim, author of International Law (1948), explains that, “cession of State territory is the transfer of sovereignty over State territory by the owner-State to another State,” and that the “only form in which a cession can be effected is an agreement embodied in a treaty between the ceding and the acquiring State.”

In June, 1898, during the debates over the Newlands Resolution, Senator Augustus Bacon stated that “a joint resolution for the annexation of foreign territory was necessarily and essentially the subject matter of a treaty, and that it could not be accomplished legally and constitutionally by a statute or joint resolution. If Hawaii was to be annexed, it ought certainly to be annexed by a constitutional method; and if by a constitutional method it can not be annexed, no Senator ought to desire its annexation sufficiently to induce him to give his support to an unconstitutional measure.” Congressman Thomas Ball of Texas concurred, calling the Joint Resolution “a deliberate attempt to do unlawfully that which can not be done lawfully.”

Lind cites the DeLima v. Bidwell case, but this was in 1901, after annexation, is still domestic, and was one of the “insular cases” depriving Territorial citizens of the full rights of U.S. citizens. It is consequently not an authoritative case on the matter of annexation, but rather a historically notorious case of the abuse of US “possessions.” Further, all territory acquired by the US was done so by treaty (including some of conquest) except for, ostensibly, Hawaiʻi.

Citing US Supreme Court cases as support for his contentions is itself a “matter of faith” that neglects the very fundamental fact that there were two countries involved in the annexation, thereby making this an international legal issue. This is like asking one boxer in a fight to determine the rules of victory after the fact. In contrast, I would cite a text that all can agree is a credible source: the international law text used at the Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa, International Law and Litigation in the U.S. co-authored by the well-known, late Professor Jon Van Dyke. It notes that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Article 27 states that “a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.” While the Convention has not been ratified by the United States, “it is cited by US Courts and the Executive view is that much of the treaty on treaties is customary international law.”

Supreme Court decisions do not modify this customary international law that has developed the international system. In a 1988 memorandum entitled “Legal Issues Raised by Proposed Presidential Proclamation To Extend the Territorial Sea,” Acting US Assistant Attorney General Douglas Kmiec stated:

Congress approved the joint resolution and President McKinley signed the measure in 1898. Nevertheless, whether this action demonstrates the constitutional power of Congress to acquire territory is certainly questionable. … It is therefore unclear which constitutional power Congress exercised when it acquired Hawaii by joint resolution.

And then there was the secret session on annexation of the US Senate in 1898 (the record of which was unsealed in 1969). Behind closed doors, the Senate discussion comprises about 80 pages of text and is difficult to summarize, but the entire text can be seen here. The following quote from Senator John Tyler Morgan strongly suggests that Congress, in fact, did not annex Hawaiʻi. The Senate empowered the President, it appears, to occupy Hawaiʻi, for that is all the executive branch can do. If the President could annex alone, McKinley would have done so – he had already signed the treaty.

Mr. MORGAN. … the President having no prerogative powers, but deriving his powers from the law, that Congress shall enact a law to enable him to do it, and not leave it to his unbridled will and judgment … When he is in foreign countries he draws his powers from the laws of nations, but when he is at home fighting rebels or Indians, or the like of that, he draws them from the laws of the United States, for the enabling power comes from Congress, and without it he cannot turn a wheel.

In addition to showing the limits of the executive and legislative branches, the debate transcript notes Hawaiʻi’s continued neutral status even after the overthrow, and the Senate’s concern over the violation of this status. This is not a legal issue, but it is worth noting that John Tyler Morgan, leader of the annexationist cause in the Senate, was a high ranking “Dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan for the State of Alabama, according to Authentic History: Ku Klux Klan, by Susan Davis (1924).

Senator Richard Pettigrew, an opponent of annexation, asked about the wisdom of bringing neutral Hawaiʻi into a conflict simply for coaling in the Spanish-American war:

Mr. PETTIGREW: Why are there not ten thousand to twelve thousand tons of coal there [in “Unalaska”] eight hundred miles nearer Manila than at Honolulu in a foreign territory? Why bring Hawaii into this complication? Why embarrass that feeble republic, or monarchy, or oligarchy, or whatever it is, with our presence? Why sail eight hundred miles out of the way in order to relieve Dewey? Why did we not sail straight there, coal in our own territory …?

Lind balks at my quotation marks around “annexation,” but he puts them around the overthrow, the legality of which is an absolutely settled issue. In the 1993 Apology Resolution, Public Law 103-150 (which, like the 1898 Newlands Resolution of annexation is just a statement), the United States “apologize[d] to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii [sic] on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States.”  It notes that this “resulted in the suppression of the inherent sovereignty and the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination” (

It requires a kind of double think to believe that while the overthrow was illegal, annexation was somehow legal. But that seems to be what the majority (though perhaps not Lind) believes occurred – an illegal overthrow followed by a legal annexation. I focused on the lack of a treaty precisely because the history of the overthrow is well-known, while less well-known is the idea that annexation was illegal on its own terms.

Lind concluded his response with the questions: “What if sovereignty isn’t self-evident? And what if it only counts if it addresses the problems that afflict so many Hawaiians in the 21st Century?” Sovereignty isnʻt self-evident if one party in the dispute is to be the arbiter of all rules, rather than using the rules of the system that the nearly 200 countries now in existence, in the very large majority of cases, follow. As for solving problems, I do not view sovereignty as a panacea. It could solve some problems, and likely would create many. But note that no decolonized country has ever asked its colonial overlord to return. Sovereignty is simply a recognized status that Hawaiians wanted to retain in 1898, as evidenced by the Kūʻē petitions, and that  has been repeatedly asserted by Hawaiians today in various forms.

I will conclude with some questions of my own. If a treaty was not required to annex Hawaiʻi, then why did the US try to perform a treaty twice? The first treaty was withdrawn by President Cleveland in 1893 and the second was killed in the Senate in 1897. If a treaty was not required, why did both sides pretend after the fact that there had been one? Lorrin Thurston wrote in his 1904 book of the same title, that one of the Fundamental Law[s] of Hawaii was an “1897 Treaty of Annexation.” Sanford Dole later helped erect a statue of William McKinley at the renamed Honolulu High School that holds a “treaty of annexation” in its hand. In 1902, the US State Department published a History of the Department of State, which maintains, erroneously, that Hawaiʻi was annexed by treaty.

Not all the historical facts are on the side of the sovereignty movement. It’s true, for instance, that several countries recognized the Republic of Hawaiʻi. This is problematic, and it is quite unclear how much those countries knew about the specifics of annexation. But by far the bulk of evidence, as I have set forth, supports the movement’s claims. What we have is a subjugated history, one that is exacerbated by focusing on the claims of one part of the larger sovereignty movement, with whose claims one disagrees. The larger movement itself is based not on faith, but on historically and legally sound reasoning.

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Response to Ian Lind: Sovereignty groups no laughing matter

This is my response to Ian Lind’s article in Civil Beat “Some Laughable Royalty Claims.” It will be posted in the Hawaiʻi Independent tomorrow (Feb 27, 2014).

Civil Beat’s decision to publish journalist and blogger Ian Lind’s article on “Laughable Royalty Claims” was certainly influenced by the racially-charged climate around Representative Faye Hanohano and the incident at Kalama Park on Maui. I have long respected Lind as a journalist, but he is, in this case, simply out of his depth. I will show that even more than in the other cases, Lind’s mockery of sovereignty groups who claim to be the legitimate government misses the historical and political context that drives these groups.

First, my credentials. As I tell my students, it’s not merely what is said, but who says it that matters. I encourage them to look for credibility and neutrality. I am not a crackpot. I have a master’s degree in government from Harvard and a PhD in Political Science from UH Mānoa. I have been a Hawaiian history teacher for fourteen years in public and private schools. I teach political science in the University of Hawaiʻi system. Consequently, I have the background necessary to put Lind’s statements in perspective.

Lind gives us all permission to laugh at the actions of groups such as Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom (also known as the Lawful Hawaiian Government) and others. His support for the laughability of their claims comes from recent rulings by the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court. This line of thinking comes from, at best, a Federal recognition mentality in which Hawaiians must ask permission to act on their claims, and at worst from a passive acceptance of the political status quo. It also ignores the historical sequence of events that led us here. When Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Peter Apo (himself an advocate of Federal recognition) spoke to my Hawaiʻi Politics class last week, he said that Hawaiians’ historical grievances must be addressed eventually. “You can feel the tension” in the Hawaiian community, he said. It is this tension that drives groups such as those Lind names to simply take the reins and establish governments, with or without (usually without) permission.

While he acknowledges that there are “other more mainstream sovereignty initiatives,” Lind does not name any, and his blog deals mainly with media and mainstream politics, not sovereignty. We are left to assume he is referring to the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission and its Kanaʻiolowalu initiative, which I have written about, and is itself highly problematic. One leader curiously not mentioned is Keanu Sai. Lind states that “only when a sovereign Hawaiian governing entity is recognized in the local, national and international arenas will it be granted the appropriate legal deference. Today, no group is able to claim such recognition.” Sai’s Acting Hawaiian Kingdom, however, argued a case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the World Court in 2000. This is tacit recognition of Hawaiʻi’s continued sovereign status from an international entitity, rather than from the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court, which cannot be expected to rule against its own credibility. Sai went on to get a PhD in Political Science based on the argument that Hawaiʻi remains a sovereign nation. On his dissertation committee were the dean of UH Law School (credibility) and the dean of the School of Law at one of the colleges of the University of London (neutrality).

The idea has been slowly, but steadily, growing that Hawaiʻi remains sovereign even though its government was, as Lind put it, “overthrown.” Putting quotes around the overthrow and neglecting the most credible initiatives for the recognition of sovereignty shows a complete lack of understanding of the history of the Hawaiian nation. Lind can probably be forgiven for this lack. A professor in the UH Mānoa History Department once told me that there had seemed, in the past, to be an effort to “do in” Hawaiian history as a field, an effort that trickled down to create a lack of curriculum materials for Hawaiian history at the lower levels.

Annexation 101

After the US-backed overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani, and President Cleveland’s agreement to reinstate her in 1893, five years of stalemate passed between Congress (the majority of whom wanted annexation) and the President (who said the Provisional Government was “self proclaimed” and “owed its existence to an armed invasion”). The annexationist William McKinley’s election was not enough to allow for the passage of a treaty of annexation, and after the Spanish-American War “annexation” was asserted through a mere Joint Resolution, which has little legal force in the US and none outside it.

This fact has driven sovereignty groups to act on the “inherent sovereignty” that was recognized in the 1993 Apology Resolution. Lind’s note that the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court has stated that “To date, no sovereign native Hawaiian entity has been recognized by the United States and the State of Hawaii,” shows no grasp of this history. It  has also led some foreign countries to question Hawaiʻi’s legal status. In 2011, China challenged then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to prove whether the US held jurisdiction to Hawaiʻi. What is implicated is that Hawaiʻi is under occupation. As Cambridge University international legal theorist James Crawford explains,

There is a strong presumption that the State continues to exist, with its rights and obligations, despite revolutionary changes in government, or despite a period in which there is no, or no effective, government. Belligerent occupation does not affect the continuity of the State, even where there exists no government claiming to represent the occupied State.

What we have, then, are governments “claiming to represent the occupied State,” but whose claims are not deemed credible by all. While it may be true that “their claims … are conflicting and overlapping,” their attempts to restore the government of Hawaiʻi – universally recognized as having been illegally overthrown – are no laughing matter.




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