Tag Archives: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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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The OHA Ceded Lands Settlement

After decades of “negotiations,” OHA and the State have reached an agreement over the revenue from the so-called “Ceded lands.” (See my article from the Hawaiʻi Independent: Making Sense of the Ceded Lands: An Historical Assessment for an overview of these lands). There are a couple of ways to look at this settlement – one “inside” and one “outside.” Jon Osorio alluded to this in his article anticipating the settlement. An inside view looks at it from the perspective of OHA and other state insiders. From this perspective, the settlement has potential. The $200 million value of the lands may underestimate the potential value of these lands, as they are downtown and waterfront. It settles a long-standing claim for Hawaiians without affecting future claims, either to further revenue or to sovereignty itself (this is Abercrombie in his liberal mode – an article in a Big Issand newspaper questions which Abercrombie weʻre seeing at different moments). $200 million increases OHAs net worth by approximately 50% (a little more actually). Itʻs been said that OHA is now being forced into the role of land manager, but that began years ago with the acquisitions of Waimea Valley and Waokeleopuna on Hawaiʻi Island, a fact that seems to have been left out of the discourse surrounding this settlement. In my view, OHA, as the de facto (if not de jure) Hawaiian government should have land as a primary asset – after all, to be Hawaiian is to be of this land. While more radical Hawaiians make very valid arguments as to OHAʻs authority, and the fact that this is a transfer, basically, from the state to itself, the mainstream Hawaiians are moving ahead. In their view these are real gains for Hawaiians.

However, there is another view, which Iʻm calling “outside” only in the sense that most of those who hold them are outside of the corridors of power. In this view, OHAʻs legitimacy is undermined not just by the illegality of the overthrow itself, but of the US governmentʻs own recognition of this illegality. Some point out that the lands granted are, first of all, backfill. They are not a part of the original island of Oʻahu. One not-too-radical group called it “a dump.” Even Richard Fassler noted the environmental problems with the site, the costs of cleanup, and how the state is likely glad to be rid of it.

The bigger issue for outsiders is the giving up of the claim itself. Claims are always a tricky matter. In New Zealand, for instance, the question has arisen as to whether the settlement of claims ever actually satisfies the claim. Many Maori say claims are never fully satisfied. And that may be the case here – certainly it is the case for future claims, but considering that Hawaiʻi Courts already awarded OHA billions in revenue (which was never paid), it is hard to argue that $200 million settles it. It is, as with many such things, not least the Akaka Bill, better than nothing. And nothing is what Hawaiians have had for decades (under the Democrats, it should be noted) – nothing but a claim.

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