This is a quick summary of what I was able to catch from the June 23rd hearing.
At the Capitol building today, the independence movement was out in force. I had the sense that support independence was growing, but it was hard to back up with numbers. Even the petition supporting Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, the closest thing to a referendum on independence, topped out at twenty-eight hundred. But today seemed to show that independence is gaining a kind of consensus support – either that, or independence supporters like attending hearings.
I will say that to the Department of Interior’s (DOI) credit, the last hearing on Federal recognition was in 2001 – in thirteen years this was the first hearing on the issue.
The trick with the rule change proposed by the DOI is that most Hawaiians, even most fervent independence supporters, favor protecting existing entitlements. So how can that be done while preventing a Federal recognition government from forming? Paraphrasing a statement from Movement for Aloha No ka ʻĀina (MANA), Professor Jonathan Osorio had what I thought was the best solution to this predicament: Interior should protect entitlements directly without forming a government-to-government relationship with the native Hawaiian community.
A talking point sent out by Hawaiian Kingdom blog seemed to have reached a broad audience. A fairly large proportion of those giving testimony asked “by what authority is the Interior Department here?” Almost verbatim.
I wasn’t present for the entire hearing, but while I was there, only two spoke in favor of the rule change – one was Native Hawaiian Roll Commissioner Naʻalehu Anthony, who said that while he and Governor Waiheʻe were well aware of the historical issues others raised, he wanted the issue to stop with his generation. He stated, to applause, “I no like just leave this for my son.” He recalled being at similar hearings as a child. Another was a woman working in an industry related to tourism. She emphasized the need for a strong economy underlying a sovereign government and urged a respectful discourse. Apparently, Collette Machado spoke in favor, sparking a spontaneous outbreak of the national anthem Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī.
When Andre Perez asked how many people were involved in the prior nation-building efforts, at one point only OHA trustees raised their hands.
Both Henry Noa and Prof. Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua questioned the “reestablishing of a relationship” between the two governments, when no relationship existed other than the treaty relationships with the Kingdom. Goodyear-Kaʻōpua called the process a small first step, but asked DOI to recognize that “you are on our land.” She also proposed free, prior and informed consent and neutral international monitoring. Several also reminded DOI that Hawaiʻi was a neutral, multi-ethnic country whose non-native citizens were being disenfranchised.
The reaction of the panel was difficult to discern, since they did not speak, but when told that they were “pawns” of their government, one speaker commented on the expressions of the panel, which seemed dubious.