Tag Archives: State of Hawaii

55 Years of Hawaiʻi Statehood

According to Bell (1984, 38), American statehood for Hawaiʻi was discussed as early as the 1850s. The incorporation of Hawaiʻi into the United States through the 1900 Organic Act, Bell argues, included an tacit, or unspoken “assurance of ultimate statehood” (Bell, 1984, 40). Supreme Court decisions pointed to the idea that territorial status was “an intermediate step to eventual statehood” (1984, 41).

According to AhQuon McElrath: “the issue of communism was a smoke screen … They had to figure out a was of getting rid of the ILWU. So they raised the issue of communism. Of course, the anti-statehood people, most of them were anti-statehood because of the Oriental [Asian] population, jumped onto the anti-Communist issue too … it was popular … during the days of Senator McCarthy to worry about Communism” (PHS, 1986, 109).

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John Burns recognized opposition to statehood. He stated:

The reasons why Hawaii did not achieve statehood, say, ten years ago … [or even] sixty years ago—lie not in the Congress but in Hawaii. The most effective opposition to statehood has always originated in Hawaiʻi itself. For the most part it has remained under cover and has marched under other banners. Such opposition could not afford to disclose itself, since it was so decidedly against the interests and desires of Hawaii’s people generally (Whitehead, 1993, 44).

Governor John A. Burns

Opposition to statehood for Hawaiʻi fell into two camps – those who opposed it because they preferred the Territorial arrangement, and those who held on to the idea of a more independent Hawaiʻi. The first position was represented by a group called IMUA, or the Hawaii Residents’ Association, which the mainstream dismissed as “lunatic fringe conservatives” (Whitehead, 1993, 45).

The most outspoken voice of the second group was Alice Kamokila Campbell, who testified:
I do not feel … we should forfeit the traditional rights and privileges of the natives of our islands for a mere thimbleful of votes in Congress, that we, the lovers of Hawaii from long association with it should sacrifice our birthrights for the greed of alien desires to remain on our shores, that we should satisfy the thirst for power and control of some inflated industrialists and politicians who hide under the guise of friends of Hawaii, yet still keeping an eagle eye on the financial and political pressure button of subjugation over the people in general of these islands (Whitehead, 1993, 50).

The January 17, 1946 headline of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin read “Kamokila Opposes Island Statehood.” Campbell also created an Anti-Statehood Clearinghouse, which received testimony from members of the community, especially Hawaiians, and expressed those opinions that ordinary people could not, under fear of losing jobs or other forms of retribution. Her precise goal for Hawaiʻi is not entirely clear. At times she asked that Hawaiʻi be “left alone,” and at others she said she favored “an independent form of government, but one in which ʻthe Congress of the United States would have a slight hold on us, so that we could not go absolutely haywire.’”


Alice Kamokila Campbell

Kamokila Campbell was the daughter of sugar grower and financier James Campbell and Abigail Maʻipinepine Parker, who was “descended from HawaiʻI’s ruling chiefs” (Whitehead, 1993, 47). Kamokila Campbell’s sister, Abigail Wahiikaʻahuʻula Campbell, married prince David Kawānanakoa. The Campbell children were beneficiaries of the Campbell Estate, worth approximately $20 million in the post-war period (Whitehead, 1993, 47).

George Lehlightner worked for statehood because he perceived inequalities in the Territory:
So we [the United States] were actually saying out of one side of our mouths that we were fighting a war to assure the maintenance of our own freedom and restore it to others and, yet, out of the other side of the mouth we were telling 500,000 Americans [residents of Hawaiʻi], all of whom were good and loyal citizens, that we were going to impose taxation without representation and even worse on them, and we did (Lehleitner, 1986, 12).
Lehleitner (1986, 13) also felt that the charge of anti-American sentiment in HawaiʻI was exaggerated and false:

…there was not a single case on record of any citizen [of Hawaiʻi] having done anything that could be even remotely called treasonable. And then, when you add on top of that, the fact that HawaiʻI’s population was about 40 percent of Japanese descent, 40 percent AJAs, that in itself, it seemed to me, and I so presented it to the members of Congress I spoke with, was a strong case.

The strategy pursued by John Burns and pro-Statehood Democrats was to allow Alaska to gain statehood first, rather than combining the two territories into one bill. This would split the opposition in Congress to statehood for either HawaiʻI or Alaska. This proved a successful strategy, as Hawaiʻi was made a state on August 21st, 1959.

Hawaiʻi had been on the United Nations list of Non-Self Governing territories since the 1940s. It’s removal from the list required there be three options on the plebiscite ballot: territory (commonwealth), state and independence. Because this third option was left out, the Statehood vote and Statehood itself could be seen as illegal.


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The End of an Era – Daniel Inouye

Even eighteen months later, the impact of the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye has yet to be conceived, let alone fully felt. Some of the recent support for Coleen Hanabusa may reflect a fear that Senator Brian Schatz may not be able to hold on to Inouye’s stream of Federal funding. Ikaika Hussey set out the facts of “what it means” in his article in the Hawaiʻi Independent “What Inouye’s passing means for Hawaiʻi.” Hussey’s article begins:

the entry to Senator Inouye’s office held a row of portraits on its wall, with Kamehameha I, Liholiho, Kauikeaouli, the rest of the Kamehameha dynasty, and the brother and sister who were Hawaii’s final monarchs. And at the end, a bare spot, just the right size for another frame … It wouldn’t be hyperbole to imagine Inouye’s visage in that space. 

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal called Inouye “The King of Hawaiʻi” (and all this time I thought it was my cousin). Between $173 million and $320 million in Federal funding is directly attributable to Inouye’s pushes for Federal spending in Hawaiʻi, earning him the nickname among Conservatives “The King of Pork.” But the full impact of what he and his generation has done is only appreciated tangentially, and has not been as fully documented as it should be. In this post, I merely attempt to review the historical background of Inouye and his portion of the “greatest generation.” While many Hawaiians, probably rightly, have criticized Inouye over the years (the Trask sisters most famously) for his support of the military-industrial complex in Hawaiʻi and globally, it is worth remembering the inspiring story of the 1954 revolution, of which he was the last representative.

The Young Captain Daniel Inouye


World War II created a noted set of community heroes, many of Japanese ancestry, including Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Many AJAs, or Americans of Japanese Ancestry as they called themselves, were part of the 442nd [infantry regiment] and the 100th Battalion. At first, the US government, which was [rounding up] Japanese Americans on the US continent, did not allow AJAs to join the military. A group of AJAs from the University of Hawaiʻi formed an organization called the Varsity Victory Volunteers, in which they performed labor for the military effort without compensation. Convinced that the AJAs were loyal to the United States rather than Japan, the military allowed their enlistment, which they did in large numbers.

Daniel Aoki, a member of the 442nd, and later an aide to governor John A. Burns, describes the formation of the predominantly-AJA units:

The 100th was composed of men that were drafted before the war. And then unfortunately, when the war came, well, they took all their arms away and put them into labor battalions until they finally decided to get them all grouped together, and make them an infantry battalion, and send ʻem over to [Fort] McCoy [in Wisconsin] for training. But I presume that just one battalion, a Japanese battalion on top of that, theyʻll have difficult time trying to attch them to some, say, Caucasian outfit, right? And so, I think this is when they came up with the idea of developing an all-Nisei combat team. And they wanted to develop a full team of Japanese boys. And this is how the 442nd came about (PHS, 1986, 155).

Facing some of the most fierce fighting in Europe, some members of these units liberated concentration camps in Europe and suffered massive casualties. The 442nd and 100th Battalion became the most highly decorated units in American history.

After the war, many veterans were armed with the GI bill, which gave them the ability to attain a college education, and law school for some. This made them qualified candidates for public office.

Demographically, the immigrant population remained the majority of population, and Japanese Americans alone made up 45 percent of Hawaiʻiʻs population. A second generation of the immigrant population comes of age to vote in the years after the end of World War II. This also allowed for another major political change, the rise of the Democratic party, which culminated in the 1954 Democratic Revolution.

With  qualified candidates such as Inouye, Matsunaga, and the so-called “Great White Father,” John Burns, the Democratic Party reversed the Republicans’ decades-long hold on Hawaiʻi politics. With a well-organized campaign and unified voters, the working class which had already come together for the labor strikes, and a voting majority, the Democratic Revolution changed Hawaiʻiʻs power structure in ways that remain to the present day. Cooper and Daws (1985) relate the ways in which this new, rebellious set of politicians capitalized on the development boom set off by Hawaiʻi Statehood, becoming partners in “hui,” or development partnerships, and profiting personally from the building of apartments and commercial properties.

Hawaiʻi Congressional Delegate, Democratic Party Chairman and later Governor John A. Burns

In the weeks after the election of 1954, John Burns reflected on the meaning of the shift toward Democratic control. Burns said in November of 1954 that “the late President Grover Cleveland  … remarked on the annexation of Hawaii [sic] in 1898 that he was ashamed at how Hawaii had been made a Territory,” and that “on Nov. 2 … some of that shame was removed from the people of Hawaii.” Burns credited the ILWU with the victory, which he said would “free [Hawaiʻi] from domination of arbitrary masters and free from economic strangulation.”

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The State of Hawaiʻi – Part 2

Iʻm writing this piece for my students, and it contains sections from other articles – mainly The Permanent Revolution. In this sequel to The State of Hawaiʻi – Part 1, I look at the underlying issues of people’s thought and ideas about each other, rather than the political issues of rail, etc. This is a work in progress.

Richard Hamasaki’s poem, “Cowardly Christopher Deedy” reminds us of Hawaiʻi’s “integration” into the global political economy:

On a clear morning on November 5th
Christopher Deedy flew into town,

a federal agent assigned to protect
APEC dignitaries in Honolulu

for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation,
a serious façade and a farce for most.

APEC was staged to promote deception
and Special Agent Deedy felt right at home.

Hawaiʻi was seen as an ideal and benign site to host the dignitaries of APEC – it proved to be more explosive, both in terms of the protests and violence inflicted, the shooting of Kollin Elderts being the most prominent example.  In some ways, this idea of passivity is well-founded.

The mindset of many people in Hawaiʻi is one of dependency and helplessness. We donʻt see ourselves as a place of any serious industry, but dependent on a constant flow of dollars from seven million tourists annually. Noel Kent wrote the book Hawaiʻi: Islands Under the Influence, which used third-world dependency theory in looking at Hawaiʻi’s economic history. The result is not pretty. Mufi Hanneman put it strongly when he said that local people have a subtle sense of inferiority. We feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors (read: interlopers) and unable to exercise self-determination at even the most basic level – over our economy, lands and waters. But there is also an underlying sense of rage. As Lois-Ann Yamanaka pointed out when she was on The Connection on National Public Radio in the 90s, “everyone hates everyone” – she was referring to race in particular.

So far from a utopian state of bliss, much of Hawaiʻi, in my estimation, is in a kind of low-grade depression. Not necessarily economically, but perhaps even there. Certainly in terms of control. Newcomers arrive to manage or largest institutions, and are immediately integrated into the elite power structure, while generations of local people never approach it. They scarcely know it exists. Since the 1954 Democratic Revolution, Hawaiʻi was supposed to be firmly in the hands of local people, and it is to some extent, but in actuality it is a network of wealthy newcomers, “kamaʻaina” families and local politicos.

In 1954, the Democratic Party organized a revolution that mobilized demographic shifts and anti-plantation (and anti-elite) sentiments that had been building for decades. The formerly non-existent party used union organizing to mobilize voters from ethnic groups whose aspirations had long been repressed. The result, by the time of statehood, was one of the most liberal agendas of any state, including low tuition levels at the University of Hawaiʻi, a well-intended unitary school board, and stated rights for women.

Fast forward to 2012, and the revolution has morphed into an unstoppable machine for preserving the status quo. On election night, Duke Aiona’s defense of the now-decrepit Republican Party’s few victories made the Republicans sound like the party of the grassroots underdog rather than the party of elite business interests that it is. And these elites, whether Republican or Democrat, make up the ruling class – the top group of what I see as seven Hawaiʻi’s.


It occurred to me that there are about seven Hawaiʻi’s – that is, seven classes of people who, while intermingled, basically have a different experience of Hawaiʻi – as if there were seven different universes on this island (I confine myself somewhat to Oʻahu, which I know best). I wonʻt go into the details, because they are charged with racial and class stereotypes, but the point is that these “Hawaiʻi’s” have little to do with each other. They interact only in superficial ways. Iʻm constantly amazed that people live on Oʻahu and have rarely, if ever, been to certain places, and basically donʻt know their way around this small island. And despite this ignorance, some have a blatant disdain for others, based purely on geography. These “Hawaiʻis” are, but are not only, class-based divisions. Geography determines access to people, schools and resources, but race plays a dominant role.

Jonathan Okamura, in his book Ethnicity and Inequality in Hawaiʻi, posits at least two Hawaiʻi’s – an overclass consisting of Haole, Chinese and Japanese, and an underclass of Filipinos, Hawaiians and Samoans. Everyone knows this, but Okamura’s contribution is that he supports his claim with data, which shows that:

ethnicity not race or class, signifies difference for Hawai’i’s people and therefore structures their social relations. In Hawai’i, residents attribute greater social significance to the presumed cultural differences between ethnicities than to more obvious physical differences, such as skin colour. According to Okamura, ethnicity regulates disparities in access to resources, rewards, and privileges among ethnic groups, as he demonstrates in his analysis of socioeconomic and educational inequalities in the state. He shows that socially and economically dominant ethnic groups – Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and whites – have stigmatized and subjugated the islands’ other ethnic groups – especially Native Hawaiians, Filipino Americans, and Samoans. He demonstrates how ethnic stereotypes have been deployed against ethnic minorities and how these groups have contested their subordinate political and economic status by articulating new identities for themselves.

In his chapter on race in the book The Value of Hawaiʻi, John P. Rosa (authority on the 1931 Massie-Kahahawai cases) clarifies the distinction between ethnicity and race: the first is a perceived category, while the second is more akin to a biological (or anthropological) category, like what might be used on the census – “haole” vs. “caucasian,” for example. These perceived categories of ethnicity are deployed to create a kind of segregation. And because of this segregation – let’s call it what it is, whether racial, class-based, or merely geographic –  people are not really able to see outside of their own frames of reference.

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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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