There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
I began to notice a little over a year ago that there was a kind of “race” on for nationhood – that is, for the kind of nation we as Hawaiians would be(come). At that time I was beginning to hear the whispers of a new strategy, post-Akaka and Inouye, for Federal Recognition through the executive branch. This was a race in itself, as Obama’s term was seen as the deadline for any action on Federal Recognition (although as the spouse of the signer of the Apology Resolution, HIlary Clinton may hold out hope for Fed Rec). But I also noticed an uptick in progress on the independence front, mainly in the work led by Keanu Sai. And it is this race between these two mutually exclusive forms of sovereignty that I focus on in this post.
This week, we hear of major developments on both fronts. This came from OHA in a joint statement by Board chair Collette Machado and CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, ostensibly showing their unified stance after Crabbe’s memo to the State Department that seemed to indicate a preference for independence:
OHA’s top leadership also applauded the Obama Administration for reaffirming the special political relationship between the federal government and the Native Hawaiian people. The federal government is considering whether to take administrative action on reestablishing a government-to-government relationship with Native Hawaiians.
“For decades, OHA and other Native Hawaiian organizations and individuals have advocated for the creation of a pathway to reestablish a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States, and to protect existing Hawaiian rights, programs, and resources,” said Machado and Crabbe.
“Prerule” on Dept. of Interior action facilitating “government-to-government” status for the Hawaiian “community” (via Trisha Kehau Watson)
On the independence front, we hear that the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law will list Hawaiʻi in its War Report for 2013 as an occupied state (state is used here as in “nation-state” or country). The 2012 War Report listed nine “belligerent occupations,” i.e., occupations by warring states. Hawaiʻi is considered in this view as being occupied belligerently because it was a neutral country being pulled into the Spanish-American War in 1898. Other occupations in 2012 included:
Azerbaijan by Armenia; Cyprus by Turkey; Eritrea by Ethiopia; Georgia by Russia; Lebanon by Israel; Moldova by Russia; Palestine by Israel; Syria by Israel; and Western Sahara by Morocco (hawaiiankingdom.org/blog).
While a seemingly academic report, because the Academy is based in Geneva, it will certainly be read by United Nations officials, and thus has the potential to change the dialog on Hawaiʻi’s status. The video discusses the 2012 Report, but is instructive in terms of the agenda (or lack thereof) of its assemblers.
It is possible that the Obama Administration’s sudden interest stems from the growing knowledge of the idea of occupation, and possibly even from the report itself. It is in this sense that I use the term “race” – a (probably unwitting) contest between two mutually exclusive approaches to nationhood, the stakes of which could well leave a permanent mark on the direction of Hawaiʻi’s status under national and international law.
The War Report is available from Oxford University Press for £39.99.