Media Coverage of DOI Hearings Off-Base

‘If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.’

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Randall Akee wrote in the Hawaiʻi Independent that media coverage prior to the Department of Interior hearings was “presumptuous.” Iʻm finding that the coverage during the hearings seems to miss the point. The Star-Advertiser lead article was headlined “Hawaiians Reject Federal Input.” While this is somewhat accurate if read in the right way, it could easily be misconstrued as Hawaiians rejecting the input of the Federal government. What Hawaiian rejected was the opportunity to give input on several questions pertaining to the relationship between their “community” and the Federal government. This was followed up with the headline “Conduct at Native Hawaiian Meetings Bemoaned.” Rather than conduct, the media should focus on content. Hawaiians are now asking the right questions, including “by what authority are you in Hawaiʻi?” This questions the process, their presence and undermines their assumptions – namely, that annexation was legal.

Civil Beat ran a negative headline: “Kanaka Maoli to Feds: ʻGet Out of Our House! Go Home!'” While this is also accurate in a sense, focusing on the aggressive delivery of a minority of the speakers undermines the quite valid and rational logic of the speakers (even the aggressive ones). Chad Blair writes: “’Get out of our house!’ several speakers told the Interior panel, which included Esther Kiaaina, a senior adviser to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. ʻGo home!'”

Leona Kalima at the Honolulu hearing. Photo: Civil Beat.

Leona Kalima at the Honolulu hearing. Photo: Civil Beat.

Blair goes on: “they cited analyses of treaties, bills, acts, resolutions, petitions and law that led them to passionately believe that Hawaii is quite independent of the other 49 states.” Nevermind the actual content of the “treaties, bills, act, resolutions, petitions and law,” Hawaiians, according to Blair simply “believe … the U.S. government had no jurisdiction in the islands.” Perhaps Blair was exercising journalistic neutrality, but this is where such a practice may be misguided. The entire system is biased toward the Federal viewpoint and against the Hawaiian perspective. Attempting to balance these with judgement-free accounts is taking the side of power.

The only major media site that got it right was the Huffington Post, whose headline read “Hawaiians Say ‘This is Our Country.'” This sums it up very eloquently.

Written testimony can be submitted for 60 days from the start of the hearings at this site:!submitComment;D=DOI-2014-0002-0005


Filed under sovereignty, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Media Coverage of DOI Hearings Off-Base

  1. Your post about news coverage of that first meeting reminds me of how the discourse is changing. Its like the anger had to come out but now we are having a serious public conversation with not only the panel of federal employees but more importantly a conversation with ourselves.


  2. It is a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I watched the hearings on Olelo. Blair accurately quoted in his concise article, and the title was correct. Neutrality is important, essential in journalism. Blair does this well. Of course anger is there as well as the lack of education of many speakers, but they have right to be heard., and we non-Hawaiians need to listen.


    • umi

      Youʻre right of course about neutrality in journalism, but Iʻd say it was a lack of education in the listeners. The DOI’s own document mentions “annexation by joint resolution” but no one has ever shown that this is legal. The speakers’ unanimity on the topic is no coincidence – at one hearing 145 against and 5 in favor – they are citing law credibly. To focus on tone, rather than content, is just spin.


  3. Kama'ema'e Smith

    Conflict and misery sell papers, but I agree that savvy Hawaiians questioning process and authority is the important story. In 1970 these hearings would have gone as organizers planned. In 2014, sovereignty has firm footing and politicians are hard pressed to find “middle ground.” OHA trustees feel pressed to take stands. The state is mandating attendance of employees and appointees at the hearings; DOI comes all this way to find lots of Hawaiians did not sign up for state-designed tribe governance. And after DOI visits neighbor islands, they will bring the same issue before tribes on the mainland. Anything could happen. We live in extraordinary times.


    • La'amea

      Aloha Kama’ema’e I also had the same thought about these meetings that 40-45 years ago many Hawaiians would’ve bought in wholly to these sorts of gestures. I do notice with occupied and suppressed populations throughout the world that ideas become more extreme the longer they remain suppressed by a dominating gov’t. Take a look at Palestinians for example. I think Hawaiians have been more than patient with the United States. Our leaders chose the non-violent route many years ago before the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. We’ve continued to follow the spirit of their example, but over 120 years is a long time to wait for a response, and to think we’ll remain patient for another 120 years is folly. I believe the U.S. has as much skin in this game as we do. You can see the beginnings of extremism among the Hawaiian populace in more blunt and prominent ways today, hopefully it never comes to that.


  4. La'amea

    After attending the Waimanalo meeting on Monday, while I did not speak, I definitely could feel the passion in everyone that spoke, some were more eloquent than others, but the feeling tended to be the same – that the people talking to us were the wrong ones, and they were frustrated by it. If the U.S. Federal Gov’t wanted to establish a gov’t to gov’t relationship we should be talking to representatives from the U.S. State Department, not the Department of the Interior. Most Hawaiians don’t want “tribal” recognition or systems that have been set up in the Continental U.S. for the Native People’s there, we had and continue to want our open internationally recognized country back.

    For me personally, I was in the mode of “we should take what we can get while we can”, until I entered these meetings and felt that passion in the room, it made me believe again that we can get more than the crumbs being offered by the Department of the Interior and the OHA process. The key though is whether we can truly organize and rally together as a larger community following these meetings in sustained & organized effort. In addition we gotta realize the extent to what is possible when coming to a new pact vs. what we want. What some people were expressing, “Go Home”, isn’t possible in this day and age, no matter the degree of wrongness past injuries done against the Hawaiian people/representative gov’t were. We need to be making intelligent collective decisions now to end our diaspora as a people, strengthen our cultural base, and create a central uniting body that will make our homeland a place where we can live happy, healthy, and productive lives in perpetuity. Let us not squander a moment like this and act/organize with urgency.


  5. Pingback: Following the Public Hearings on Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition | the maile vine

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