Puerto rico government

Peter Apo: Hawaiians must agree on the meaning of sovereignty to achieve this

A recent AFAR magazine interview with the well-respected dean of the Hawai’inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, Jon Osorio, struck me like the sound of a conch pulling me to attention.

What struck me was the topic, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, which seems to have been dormant of any meaningful public discourse during the four years of the Trump presidency.

Osorio may be reviving and raising the bar in the sovereignty conversation. “The sovereignist movement is not a monolithic thing. We do not agree between us on the form that this sovereignty should take ”, he wrote, describing the main challenge of this conversation.

I believe its target audience, besides the native Hawaiian community, includes today’s descendants of non-ethnic Hawaiians who were also citizens of the kingdom when Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown in 1893.

Osorio suggests the need for a unification strategy that sorts out the options and puts everyone on the same page in defining a preferred model of sovereignty. I should clarify that for the purposes of this column, “sovereignty” is defined as Hawaiians exercising authority to govern themselves. The term “self-determination” refers to Hawaiian exclusivity by sorting out a model of sovereignty and subjecting it to ratification through a democratic process. The two are linked.

To move forward, wherever the dialogue leads, it must be framed by a reliable historical account of why, what, when and how we got to where we are. O ke ala ma mua ke ala ma hope – the path to the future is a path through the past.

The road to annexation

Hawaii is the only American state that is not on the North American continent. It sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 1,800 miles from the nearest land mass. The native people of Hawaii were essentially isolated from the rest of the world for several centuries until the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778. Hawaii is also the only state in the nation that was once a royal kingdom, with a royal palace , headed by a king or queen. .

Iolani Palace is decorated for the celebration of King Kalakaua's 183rd birthday on November 16, 2019.
Iolani Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and served as the official royal residence. Cory Lum / Civil Beat / 2019

Since the arrival of Captain Cook, the history of governance of the Hawaiian Islands has grown from a system of island feudal societies to the Royal Kingdom of Hawaii established in 1810 by King Kamehameha the Great.

Over time, Western businessmen have gained influence over the governance of the kingdom. In 1887, during the reign of King Kalakaua, they succeeded in converting the royal monarchy into a constitutional monarchy – creating a legislative body and giving it the power to overthrow the monarch. This constitutional takeover was labeled as the “Bayonet Constitution”.

The amended constitution removed much of the king’s executive power and deprived most Native Hawaiians of their right to vote. The business-led legislature was now able to override the king’s veto.

In 1893, King Kalakaua was replaced by Queen Liliuokalani who launched a daring attempt to restore royal rule. This led to a serious confrontation with a self-proclaimed group of businessmen identifying themselves as the “Security Committee”. The committee was made up of six citizens of the kingdom, five Americans, a Scotsman and a German. They staged a coup, imprisoned the Queen, declared a provisional government in 1893, and called on the United States Congress to annex the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The Congress rejected the first two annexation attempts because of the American policy against the participation in the colonization of the island nations of the Pacific which was in full swing by the European powers including England, France, Germany, Russia and Spain.

The Hawaii Provisional Government then changed its name and established the Republic of Hawaii in 1894 to gain more time to pursue a third annexation attempt, which was successful. Hawaii became a US territory in 1898, then it became the 50th state in 1959.

The Spanish-American War

While it is true that the annexation of Hawaii to the United States was primarily initiated by the American sugar planters and their business colleagues, business was not the main motivation of the United States Congress.

Here is a succinct explanation of what really happened from the records of the State Department Historian’s Office:

“The Spanish-American War of 1898 ended the Spanish colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere and secured the position of the United States as a power in the Pacific. The American victory in the war produced a peace treaty that forced the Spaniards to renounce their claims to Cuba and cede sovereignty over Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States. The McKinley administration also used the war as a pretext to annex the Independent State of Hawaii.

After rejecting Hawaii’s first two annexation attempts, Congress turned around when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 – the same year Hawaii was annexed.

A Dominant Global View of Hawaii

The cultural, political, social, and economic history of Hawaii from an Indigenous perspective is a 243-year-old drama that began in 1778. The story has not yet been fully understood, even by those who live there. here. What most people think of Hawaii today was driven by global tourism marketing, which began in the late 1800s and intensified dramatically in the 1900s.

Over a century of tourism marketing has produced a worldview of the Hawaiian Islands as a paradise of sunny days, starry nights, flowers, palm trees, romance, sandy beaches, hula hoops, surfing and many. aloha. This view of a Pacific paradise is held by most Americans.

This makes it very difficult to make politicians aware that there could be problems in Heaven. In my opinion, Hawaiian sovereignty tops the list of the oldest, most difficult and most difficult to resolve political issues on the long list of troubles in Hawaii’s paradise.

What’s important to note is that the concept of Hawaiian sovereignty – some prefer the term self-determination – continues to define the playing field on which controversial public policy issues driven by native Hawaiians play out.

Three of the most sensitive media issues were Kahoolawe in 1975 – now resolved; telescopes on Mauna Kea in 2015 – still in play; and the ongoing Hawaiian challenges regarding the US military’s use of state land – also on the move.

While these questions, in all their complexity, do not directly invoke calls for sovereignty, they feed off each other.

The way to go

So what are the options? Without delving into the weeds, the best I can do is come up with a list that includes the following: Independence, Commonwealth, Most Favored Nation, Nation within a Nation, Nation within a State, and Status Quo. At some point, Hawaiians will have to find a way to sort out the options, which I guess would involve some form of democratic process. I believe more options will emerge if serious public dialogue ensues.

I remember there was a rigorous but unsuccessful initiative in 2015 called Kanaiolowalu to develop a voters list that included only Hawaiians, to elect delegates to a constitutional convention, and to come out of convention deliberations with a proposal to ratify in a country reserved for Hawaiians. vote.

Hawaiian flag hoisted in Thomas Square Park in Honolulu on July 31, 2021. At the start of the
The Hawaiian flag is hoisted in Thomas Square Park in Honolulu at the start of Hawaiian Restoration Day. Ronen Zilberman / Civil Beat / 2021

The legality of a Hawaiian-only process using public funds has faced a constitutional challenge. It’s worth mentioning that the challengers included Native Hawaiians.

Although a constitutional document was produced, it never reached the stage of ratification. It is possible that this unratified constitution will resurface if the dialogue on sovereignty gains momentum, as I expect.

I should also mention the Akaka Bill introduced by US Senator Daniel Akaka. He basically proposed a version of the nation in a nation model to the US Congress. It is a model by which individual Native American tribes can enter into negotiations with the federal government by presenting their own palette of governing authority provisions, which are then submitted for approval to Congress.

The Akaka bill was defeated in 2010 after a fierce campaign in Congress. It’s the only Hawaiian sovereignty option I know of that, over decades of political navigation, has nearly cleared the mountain, only to be subjected to ignominious defeat.

But, whatever the options, let’s be clear about the reality of the plight of Native Hawaiians in the pursuit and agreement on a unified future. No matter how united most Hawaiians seem on the issue of the pursuit of sovereignty, we all take different paths to climb the mountain.

We Hawaiians have become a community of tribes having great difficulty moving forward as one people. The successful pursuit of Hawaiian sovereignty will require extraordinary leadership and considerable financial resources. In my opinion, neither is on the horizon yet.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in a positive way, had the effect of reducing public dialogue on the burning issues of indigenous Hawaiians such as Mauna Kea. I think the respite was a good opportunity to get some fresh air. The future of the pandemic era is unpredictable and who knows when a degree of normalcy might return.

But, whatever tomorrow may bring, I sort of sense that in the coming months, especially as the 2022 election year approaches, the voices will start to rise again.

I am not able to identify the source of the following quote but I am compelled to share it with you as it pretty much sums up the whole column: to launch our canoe and navigate our future. Imua.


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