Utne Reader

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by: LENS Publishing Company., Inc

No. 57, May/June 1993, (pg. 36.)

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Hawaii O-O?

THOUSANDS OF NATIVE HAWAIIANS AND THEIR SUPPORTERS marched through the 50th state’s capital district in the early-morning hours of Sunday. January 17, 1993, in a protest commemorating the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom 100 years ago, an event that led to Hawaii’s annexation by the United States and, ultimately, statehood. The more than 10,000 peaceful marchers descended on Iolani Palace. the former seat of the Hawaiian government and the spot where, in 1893, Queen Liliiiokalani was forced to abdicate by U.S. diplomats backed by 162 U.S. Marines and a gunboat.

Though the event, which capped five days of official and grass-roots ceremonies, was largely ignored by the national media, it was regarded by many in the islands as proof that the issue of sovereignty for Hawaii’s native people is no longer relegated to activist fringes. Spurred by the anniversary of the queen’s overthrow, people throughout the state are examining the injustices perpetrated against Hawaii’s indigenous population and what can be done about them.

The arguments in favor of Hawaiian self-governance are compelling. Once a thriving people with a rich culture, Hawaiians were very nearly wiped out by diseases introduced after the arrival of explorer James Cook in 1778. Today, the nearly 140,000 Native Hawaiians who make up more than 12% of Hawaii’s population die younger, earn less, go to jail more frequently, and are more likely to be homeless than any other ethnic group in the islands.

Both the federal and state governments have dismal records of not fulfilling their responsibility to use the lands they hold in trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians. In 1991, after investigating programs of the Hawaiian Homes trust, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report charging that both governments had for decades failed to protect Hawaiian civil rights. No one claims a sovereign Hawaiian nation can coalesce overnight, but as sovereignty discussions continue, two key models for a self-determining Hawaiian nation have emerged: the nation within a nation, and complete independence.

Under the nation-within-a-nation model, Hawaiians would be recognized by the federal government as a self-governing entity, much as Native Americans and Eskimos have been. The Hawaiian nation would have authority over the public lands taken from the kingdom in 1893 and the power to make laws, collect tax, dispense justice, enter into treaties with other nations, and perform a variety of other functions carried out by most sovereign states.

For Hawaiians to create an independent nation within a nation under existing federal policy, the federal government must recognize that Hawaiians are a Native American population. Although the President Reagan and President Bush administrations adamantly asserted that Hawaiians constitute an ethnic group, rather than a Native American one, under the Clinton administration there appears to be hope. Once Clinton has cleared the way, the U.S. Congress will have the authority to deliberate on bills recognizing a Hawaiian nation.

Those who back complete independence see America as an aggressor who invaded the islands, thereby committing an act of war, and they declare the state and federal governments in Hawaii to be temporary and illegal colonial administrators. In essence, they believe that, since the Hawaiian people never voluntarily gave up their sovereignty, they never truly lost it. They encourage Hawaiians not to await an act of the occupying government, but to reassert their inherent sovereignty now.


------ Derek Ferrar & Julia Steele

                      Honolulu Weekly


     Excerpted from Honolulu Weekly (January, 13, 1993).

     Reprinted by permission of Alternet.

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