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 was posted in the Hawaiʻi Independent on Feb 27, 2014. Lind responded to this directly, and I responded in turn (ending the debate, if I may say so) with my article “The Lind-Perkins Debate: The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement is Based in Historical and Legal Fact, not Faith” which was also in the Hawaiʻi Independent.

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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2 responses to “Response to Ian Lind: Sovereignty groups no laughing matter

  1. Brah, how come you wrote, “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)”?

    No can have neutrality when the dean of da School of Law at one of da colleges of da University of London was paid by Keanu to write legal opinions and papers in favor of Keanu’s arguments? If Keanu neva wen pay Craven, you might be right. But brah, he wen pay Craven. So, either you neva know he did ‘dat (makapō) or you you wen choose not for share ‘dat with everyone else and your students.

    But you know what I like know? Who told you dis? Who wen tell you dat having one dean from da UH Law School and da dean of one law school in London wen bring credibility and neutrality?

    If you really like teach your students something brah, you should do everyting you can for refute Keanu instead of hanging on his jock-strap. Right now, you only teaching these kids for give one guy, playing his flute like da Pied Piper, one free pass.


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