Tag Archives: Collette Machado

Sovereignty and Mental Models

When Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO (Kapouhana) Kamanaʻopono Crabbe wrote his letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry asking what risks OHA might be incurring under international law, his framework for understanding, as well as that of the opposing Trustees, were examples of mental models.

OHA CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe

Crabbe’s questions were:

First, does the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a sovereign independent State, continue to exist as a subject of international law?

Second, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist, do the sole-executive agreements bind the United States today?

Third, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, what effect would such a conclusion have on United States domestic legislation, such as the Hawai‘i Statehood Act, 73 Stat. 4, and Act 195?

Fourth, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, have the members of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, Trustees and staff of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs incurred criminal liability under international law?

Chairperson Collette Machado’s response in the form of a letter stated that Crabbe does not understand the extent to which the US will hold on to Hawaiʻi – ostensibly for military purposes. But she offered no evidence of this “fact,” which in reality was not a fact at all, but a belief.

In The Power of Impossible Thinking, authors Yoram Wind and Colin Crook (2006, 5) note that:

Almost every aspect of our lives is shaped in some way by how we make sense of the world. Our thinking and our actions are affected by the mental models we hold. These models define our limits or open our opportunities. Despite their power and pervasiveness, these models are usually virtually invisible to us.  We don’t realize they are there at all.

What we have in the OHA crisis is a conflict of mental models. One side sees law as the driving force behind Hawaiʻi’s “limits and opportunities,” the other sees only power. According to Wind and Crook (2006, 9), we are awash with sensory data all the time, and are only able to make sense of the world by “choosing to ignore some of the external world.”

Clearly the majority of Trustees, like the majority of Americans, choose to ignore international law. But perhaps Crabbe’s side (and I’ve made my allegiance to this side quite clear) ignores power to some extent. Keanu Sai’s  Hawaiian Kingdom blog published a post asking “were these rhetorical questions?” This post explained the legal basis for asking the questions, but did not address the strategy behind Crabbe’s action. Perhaps this is intentional, but an explanation of strategy, in addition to the legal case might make Crabbe’s position more compelling.

By exposing the mental models both sides hold, people may be better able to make informed, rather than reflexive, decisions on their positions regarding Hawaiʻi’s present and future political status. Wind and Crook (2006, 52) point out that age is a decisive factor in openness to new ideas, and we see this in sovereignty politics, with older Hawaiians understandably wanting to see something in their lifetime. This is not to say that the young are entirely better positioned – their very openness makes them more prone to fads.

In The Race for Nationhood, I posited that these two sides (independence and Federal recognition) were racing to see their model implemented, but I came to think this is a race for the meaning of nationhood. In this race for meaning we need to be aware of how our own minds free or deceive us.

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The Race for Nationhood

There’s something happening here.

What it is ain’t exactly clear. 

Buffalo Springfield

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.
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“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.
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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.

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