Tag Archives: Civil Beat

Response to Kaʻiulani Milham’s “A Game Changer for Kanaka Maoli”

Kaʻiulani Milham, a writer and participant in the Naʻi Aupuni constitutional convention, published a thoughtful editorial in Civil Beat about a topic very relevant to the readers of this blog, so I thought Iʻd give my line-by-line two cents. She often hits the mark, but sometimes, in my view, misses it.

With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, Kānaka Maoli face a vastly altered landscape in our pathway to self-determination and the question of whether or not to accept the Department of Interior’s final rule, for federal recognition.

Probably the main point that Milham misses for Fed-Rec, which is that itʻs dead. It was to be done by executive order, so even if Obama signs on Jan. 19th, Trump will unsign on the 20th.

The country we contemplated a nation-to-nation relationship with, is not the same nation we imagined last week.

But it is.The ill-will toward Hawaiians was always visible in Congress, which refused to consider the Akaka Bill for a dozen years (1999-2012). Anti-affirmative action sentiment (73%) was always going to be against us (if the Akaka Bill and Fed-Rec were something you wanted).

The aloha we uphold — kindness, welcoming and inclusion — are the polar opposite of Trump’s xenophobic essence and the underlying national spirit of exclusion his election revealed.

Yes and no. America is an incredibly divided country – thatʻs been clear for a while now.

His race-driven hatred for people of color, from Muslims to Mexicans, will be felt by Kānaka Maoli, too. Guaranteed.

I basically said this in my post “Hawaiians in Trump’s America.”

What’s worse is that the hatred he represents reflects the values of his share of U.S. voters who voted in this election.

Those who think as Trump does — as well as those willing to look the other way when he repeatedly showed himself to be a rampant racist and misogynist — have been empowered by his fascist rhetoric. They won’t be backing down from their bully pulpit any time soon.

The economic, health and social conditions of Hawaiians will not improve under a Trump presidency.

Probably true.

Nor can we afford to delude ourselves that federal recognition will protect our cultural and natural resources.

When I was on John Kane’s radio show, Letʻs Talk Native (WBAI, New York City), I read the litany of Hawaiian socio-economic ills, and he said “We have all those things with Federal Recognition!” Heʻs one Native American who gets it.

The shocking images from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, flooding our social media pages for weeks now, has shown just how far America’s corporatocracy will go to rape the natural resources, culture and sacred places of native people.

If Barack Obama has not had the moral courage to stop the atrocities being committed there in the name of Big Oil and Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, we would be insane to believe Trump will do better.

And you were about to celebrate “Thanksgiving,” created to thank Native Americans who helped pilgrims survive their first winter, while Standing Rock was going on? Thereʻs another holiday on Monday, Nov. 28 – Lā Kuʻokoʻa, Hawaiian Independence Day – no guilt required in its celebration.

But the “status quo” also looms like a bogey man — with impossibly high-priced housing, a failing state education system, high incarceration rates and low graduation rates and countless other chronic social and health issues for Hawaiians.

Under the specter of Rice v. Cayetano and other anti-Hawaiian U.S. Supreme Court rulings, federal recognition advocates fret over the anticipated loss of federal funds Hawaiians have become dependent on to revive our still threatened ʻŌlelo Hawaii and other foundational pillars of our culture.

See above comments on affirmative action.

Fear of losing these programs and funds drove our trustees at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to invest an estimated $43 million, on various attempts at federal recognition, that we now see has been spent for naught.

Gambling on a tag-team effort by back-to-back Obama and Hillary Clinton administrations to carry their federal recognition dream into reality, our trustees have been caught with their pants down.

How foolish to think tying our futures to the vagary of American politics was the safest course.

Yet Milham participated in Naʻi Aupuni. Is this an admission?

We are not safe.

Not on any level.

More importantly, as Haunani K. Trask famously declared on the 100th anniversary observance of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1993, “We are not Americans!”

In a larger, pragmatic sense, none of us here are “Americans.”

Possibly true, but it misses the point that some really arenʻt Americans – oneʻs citizenship is not a matter of opinion. Some Hawaiians have no American ancestry and thus retain only Hawaiian citizenship.

Now, because of this election, and what it portends for American politics in the foreseeable future, we all must honestly consider how maintaining ties to America impacts all of us in Hawaii.

These islands are 2,471 miles away from the nearest American soil, a world a way culturally from Washington, D.C.

With a climate change denier entering the Oval Office, and scientists concluding that climate change-induced sea level rise will hit Hawaii harder than anywhere on Earth, we have to ask ourselves:

When did the deciders in Washington, D.C. ever prioritize the well being of Pacific Islanders?

I asked myself a similar question when I was looking for graduate programs – in university departments itʻs as if the Pacific does not exist.

Not in post WWII Hawaii when America used Kahoʻolawe for a half-century-long bombing campaign that broke the island’s water table and left it uninhabitable, littered with unexploded ordinance that largely remain below the surface after $400 million spent on clean up.

And only got 70% of the surface and 10% of the subsurface.

Not in 1946 when America began its 56-year bombing run on Bikini Atoll, or when it dropped a hydrogen bomb there in 1954, leaving the Marshall Islands toxic to this day.

Not for the last 45 years as America invited half the world’s armed forces to use Hawaiian waters for RIMPAC’s biennial exercises with their devastation of our marine resources.

Not in 1997 when America rejected the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, turning its back on sea-level rise impacts to Pacific peoples.

Not when Tuvalu began its evacuations, as sea-level rise inundated their islands, or when Kiribati bought land in Fiji in preparation for evacuations to come.

Not in 2014 when Obama announced the Pacific Pivot, further militarizing the Pacific and putting Pacific peoples firmly in the scatter-gun pattern of collateral damage from America’s future wars.

Not today when America’s reluctant signature to the Paris Climate Accord is threatened with abrogation by Trump.

If America puts this little value on protecting the Pacific, our Hawaiians Islands and Pacific Islanders in general, how can any of us here in Hawaii feel safe?

Does Trump think of Hawaii when he says he’s going to “Make America Great Again?”

More likely he’ll put Hawaii in the crosshairs of America’s enemies.

The reality for Hawaii is, this unbalanced, undisciplined, inexperienced American president will have unprecedented potential to fatally bungle foreign relations with North Korea, China or some other American enemy.

Hawaii, being the nearest target, will be attacked just like it was on Dec. 7, 1941.

Hawaiians, unquestionably, have suffered most from the imposition of American rule over our islands, but we’re NOT the only ones who will suffer if it continues.

Brown or white, we in Hawaii are all Pacific islanders.

Not exactly. Some people here think weʻre an annex of Southern California.

Whether Hawaii will survive for our future generations will depend on our resolve to form a unified independent Hawaiian government.

We can confront the challenges of restoring Hawaiian Independence together, wait to see what American politics will bring, or slowly sink beneath the waves of sea-level rise, climate change induced mass extinctions and the myriad other environmental threats that stand before us.


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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 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 iLind.com 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.


IAN LIND, SOME LAUGHABLE ROYALTY CLAIMS. CIVIL BEAT http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2014/02/26/21292-hawaii-monitor-some-laughable-royalty-claims/


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