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"Reconciliation" Hearings Undermine
Kanaka Maoli Self-Determination

by Kekuni Blaisdell
Honolulu, Ka Pae'äina (Hawai'i)

Demands for restoration of the Kanaka Maoli nation and anger at colonial repressive measures were the major themes in the December 5-11, 1999, United States (U.S.) "Reconciliation" Hearings on five of the main islands of Ka Pae'äina (Hawai'i). U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary John Berry and U.S. Tribal Justice Director Mark Van Norman from Washington, DC, sat mostly glum-faced while more than 500 Känaka Maoli recounted a century of U.S. misrule.

The hearings came after 6 years of inaction and mounting Kanaka Maoli ferment following the 1993 U.S. Congress Apology Resolution (Public Law 103-150) in which the U.S. apologized to the Kanaka Maoli people for the U.S.'s role in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom 100 years previously. Introduced by Kanaka Maoli U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, the Joint Resolution acknowledged that the 1893 U.S. conspiracy, armed invasion and recognition of the white settlers' Provisional Government were violations of treaties between the two countries and international law, and suppression of Kanaka Maoli self-determination. The resolution called for undefined "reconciliation" between the U.S. and the Kanaka Maoli people.

At the December hearings, beginning on the neighbor island of Kaua'i , Kanaka Maoli witnesses asserted that the Kanaka Maoli nation exists separately from, and is foreign to, the U.S.. Therefore, the U.S. president and/or his secretary of state should be meeting with Kanaka Maoli nation representatives as equals to define and negotiate "reconciliation." Thus, the Royal Order of Kamehameha, refused to participate in the hearings and, instead, submitted a letter of protest. In Hilo, on the island of Hawai'i, Kihei Soli Niheu participated, but acquired news photo notoriety by "mooning" the two Washington officials.

The hearings' format also drew criticism. Written testimonies and sign-up were requested in advance. Oral presentations were limited to 2-3 minutes. In Honolulu, when Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Trustee Mililani Trask was not permitted to exceed 3 minutes, she walked out. On the following day, when Pömaika'iokalani Kinney spoke on Kanaka Maoli independence beyond 3 minutes and was threatened to be removed by security officers, a dozen Känaka Maoli from the audience stood around him until he completed his testimony.

Speakers repeatedly accused the U.S. officials of violating Kanaka Maoli self-determination by limiting discussion of "the political relationship of Känaka Maoli to the U.S. within the framework of Federal law." Witnesses pointed out that the only applicable domestic law was Federal Indian Law which provides for U.S. recognition of Indian tribes as "domestic dependent nations" and "wards," "subject to the plenary power of Congress."

Kanaka Maoli witnesses rejected the predetermined "unique historical and political trust relationship" which the colonial U.S., Territory and State of Hawai'i governments have evolved, imposed and abused since the illegal annexation of Ka Pae'äina in 1898.

Witnesses charged the U.S. with violating its "sacred trust" to the United Nations (UN), under UN Charter, Chapter XI, to promote Kanaka Maoli self-determination when the U.S. proceeded with its 1959 fraudulent Statehood process. However, when Känaka Maoli speakers called for the U.S. to support reinscription of Ka Pae'äina on the UN List of Non-Self-Governing Territories eligible for decolonization, Berry replied that he was not empowered to pursue international law and processes for these were outside the purview of his Department of Interior.

A Kanaka Maoli witness thereupon declared that we Kanaka Maoli people empower Berry to convey our request to his Secretary of the Interior Babbit to take to U.S. President Clinton for his Secretary of State Madame Albright for action.

Another highlight was the reading of Ka Pae'äina o Hawai'i Loa United Independence Statement by 40 standing Känaka Maoli of Ka Leo Kü'oko'a (The Independence Voice), representing various pro-independence organizations. The statement began: "We hereby unite in our common voice for the independence of Ka Pae'äina o Hawai'i Loa. Our nation continues to live as long as we remain steadfast in support of our national life, regardless of colonization, military occupation, economic domination and other efforts to wipe out our national memory and resistance."

Panel members told of the worsening health, social and economic plight of our Kanaka Maoli people and the need for return of all Kanaka Maoli lands and other natural resources before we can become a whole nation again. When Berry proposed an "Office of Reconciliation" within the Interior Department to deal with these matters, Känaka Maoli objected to "another BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs)" to represent our people and nation under U.S. domestic law.

Kanaka Maoli Nälani Minton and Shawnee/Lenapa Steve Newcomb spoke of fundamental flaws in western international law and U.S. Federal Indian Law. Based on conquest and racist exploitation of indigenous peoples, individualism, private property and capitalism, western jurisprudence has accelerated the New World Order of military, nuclear and economic globalization with environmental degradation.

Non-Kanaka Maoli allies Richard Salvador from Palau and American Tony Castanha of Taino Puerto Rican ancestry read their Statement of Solidarity for the Känaka Maoli movement which includes non-Känaka Maoli who also recognize the injustice of the U.S.'s deprivation of Kanaka Maoli self-determination and who insist on the full range of self-determination options, including independence and free association under international law.

The hearings recalled the August 1993 Ka Ho'okolokolonui Kanaka Maoli -- Peoples' International Tribunal in Ka Pae'äina when Kanaka Maoli people in their own ahupua'a (local communities) spoke out for return of their lands, self-sufficiency and self-determination. The international panel of judges' findings exposed U.S. colonial exploitation and ethnocide of Känaka Maoli beginning in 1790 and continuing through 1993. The judges' recommendations included: UN decolonization; return of all Kanaka Maoli lands without delay; and beginning negotiations between the two peoples and nations as equal powers.

The tardy U.S. and State of Hawai'i response has been to claim support for Kanaka Maoli self-determination while undermining it, beginning with the deceptive November 1993 Apology Resolution and its disclaimer which reads: "Nothing in this Joint Resolution is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States."

In the period 1994 to 1998, the State of Hawai'i created a Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council (HSEC) to hold a Native Hawaiian Constitutional Convention. In 1998, HSEC became non-government Hä Hawai'i. In January 1999, 8,867 Hä Hawai'i voters out of 101,951 registered by OHA, elected 78 delegates to an 85-seat Native Hawaiian Convention, leaving 7 vacant seats.

At the December hearings, when Berry asked if the Native Hawaiian Convention represented the Kanaka Maoli people, a loud "no" resounded. While 4 OHA trustees presented testimonies, none spoke as representing the Kanaka Maoli people and nation.

A month later, on January 14, the deadline for submission of "Reconciliation" Hearings testimonies, the newly reorganized OHA Trustees Board approved a 29-page OHA testimony. In spite of vigorous protests from community Känaka Maoli at the OHA board meeting, the OHA trustees asked that: - The U.S. president and Federal agencies formalize and implement the political trust relationship between Native Hawaiians and the U.S. as equivalent to the legal and political status of other Native Americans. - The U.S. government establish a Tribunal for Native Hawaiian claims similar to the Waitangi Tribunal in Aotearoa (New Zealand). - The U.S. support and facilitate self-determination and the convening of a Native Hawaiian Convention. - A separate Office of Hawaiian Affairs be established in the U.S. Department of Interior. - The U.S. and OHA determine the lands that should be returned to the Native Hawaiian people and assess back rent payment for U.S. use of "ceded" lands, while the Interior Department imposes a freeze on "ceded" lands sale, exchange and transfer until Native Hawaiian claims are resolved.

The OHA testimony concluded with U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman's July 1999 statement to the U.S. Supreme Court that "OHA furnishes a vehicle for the expression of self-determination . . . and thus confirms that Native Hawaiians constitute a present-day political community."

The foregoing are clear evidence that OHA, a State agency, and the Federal Interior and Justice Departments are committed to cementing the predetermined and imposed Kanaka Maoli subordinate trust relationship with the U.S. under Federal Indian Law, rather than a true process of Kanaka Maoli self-determination with UN oversight as provided by international law.

Thus, the Kanaka Maoli struggle continues against some of our own colonized Kanaka Maoli people, such as OHA officials, as well as U.S. and State of Hawai'i colonizers who maintain their domination and exploitation of our lands and our lives.

Published in In Motion Magazine February 5, 2000.