Some say the talks with U.S.By Pat Omandam
officials will block true
Kekuni Blaisdell bites a pear and points at a large cloth banner that hangs from ceiling to the floor in his old open-beam house in upper Nuuanu Valley.
Neatly painted on it is the United Nations' definition of self-determination: "All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
That covenant, Blaisdell and others argue, is why native Hawaiians, or kanaka maoli, should not consider the reconciliation meetings being held this week in Hawaii as the only avenue toward redress and a restoration of a sovereign Hawaiian government.
Instead, they believe the talks with officials from the U.S. Justice and Interior departments -- the main meetings are set from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the East-West Center -- may be a roadblock toward true self-determination.
They contend any outcome of the talks must be within the framework of existing federal law. Since the only existing U.S. laws dealing with indigenous people are based around a "nation-within-a-nation" status as with Native American Indians, Hawaiians would get no better than that.
But Nalani Minton, a cultural practitioner and indigenous-rights activist, said "that is not the only option."
"It is a deliberate attempt to fix us under federal indigenous law," she said.
Minton said people must realize the federal programs and money appropriated to help Hawaiians over the years only makes them more dependent on the United States, and raises what she calls their "denial of self-determination."
True sovereignty, she said, is a personal awareness that comes only when people can see clearly their right to independence, as well as the federal government's plan to place Hawaiians as wards of the state. Minton said all indigenous peoples hold their self-determination for all time and cannot be defined by such constructs.
Minton and NoeNoe Silva, a Hawaiian historian, are protesting the reconciliation talks by circulating a list of ways Hawaiians are being denied their self-determination. Their protest is modeled after the Ku'e petitions the two women published two years ago that contained the signatures of more than 21,000 Hawaiians from a century ago who protested the 1898 annexation of Hawaii to the United States.
They plan to share their views at the reconciliation talks, hoping for "a deeper focus on real issues," Minton said.
Blaisdell argues the hearings deny kanaka maoli true and full sovereignty as defined in U.N. General Assembly resolutions. He contends the United States prior to statehood never offered Hawaiians an option of independence, free association or integration with it.
As a result, Hawaii was removed from the U.N.'s list of non-self-governing territories -- those areas eligible for decolonization at the U.N. level. Blaisdell and other members of the Kanaka Maoli Tribunal Komike are pushing for Hawaii to be re-inscribed on the list.
If Hawaii is de-colonized, they believe an impartial international observer could oversee a plebiscite by native people, who then can determine their sovereignty without any influence by any nation.
Blaisdell, Minton and Silva appear this week on a taped hourlong Olelo program to discuss their positions. The show airs at 7 p.m. today on Oceanic Cable Channel 53, and at 6 p.m. tomorrow on Channel 54. It airs again at 11 p.m. Friday on Channel 53.
The reconciliation process is called for under the 1993 U.S. resolution that apologized to Hawaiians for the role of Americans in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, its co-author, has told the Hawaiian community that his goals for the meetings are creation of a native Hawaiian office within the Interior Department, and the establishment of a federal framework to handle long-standing issues, such as ceded lands and sovereignty.
Akaka wants to take maximum advantage of the time left under the Clinton administration to focus on actions to better the conditions of Hawaiians.