All kamaainas should decide on state lands


POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

In last Sunday's Insight section, Ted Hong, the Hilo attorney, explained the recent U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision on Hawaiian ceded lands that concluded that the state, not any subgroup, holds lands in public trust to benefit all citizens. Succinctly stated: “;Kamaainas are we.”;

Suddenly, like the original Hawaiians, we all find ourselves in the same boat. Sailing again aboard our Hokule'a, we must depend on our own wits and wisdom to reach our common goals. Otherwise, we will not reach our destination, nor survive should we arrive there.

In that same edition, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona takes the classic, paternalistic position of the missionaries to protect the native Hawaiians from involvement in a more open, larger and sharing community. Seeking to preserve Hawaiian culture, he, in fact, manages to isolate Hawaiians from broader social interactions and common benefits.

Ironically, his paternalism alienates Hawaiians from making beneficial changes in the larger community. Instead, he sees that the onus now transfers to the state to make good on the Apology Resolution and the Akaka Bill, and separate out and herd the Hawaiians onto their own limited reservation.

Conversely, Abigail Kawananakoa apparently engaged the issue playing the blame game: According to Walter Heen, vice chairman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, “;She says OHA has not helped any families”; (Star-Bulletin letters, April 4). He asserts that OHA, at great cost, has assisted Hawaiian students in special immersion schools and scholars at the University of Hawaii to advance themselves. By making Hawaiians a special class, we isolate them from the benefits and contributions they could receive and make to the larger society. Worse, targeted charity inadequately responds to the need.

Similarly, the “;success”; of the Kamehameha Schools trust focuses on educating a social elite funded with the income that flows from the state's largest charitable trust reserved for the benefit of native Hawaiians. The fact that talented Hawaiians emerge from these schools should surprise no one. The frustration comes when private charity limits the range and size of that achievement. The trust thus converted a social benefit for all kamaainas into a limited benefit for 4 percent of the native Hawaiians.

No wonder factions riddle the native Hawaiian community, they have so little over which they can contend. Conversely, the reason they have not won over the majority to their minority demands reflects on goals that do not benefit all parties equally. One cannot build a viable community based on charity. You cannot generate leaders with real vision until they see the bigger picture. By rewarding all, they, in turn, will become more richly rewarded. Then Hawaiian leaders will arise who lead rather than plead. By initiating programs that do not benefit all, but enhance and benefit the few, they scavenge their own futures.

Seize the day; all state lands are ours. How will we use them to benefit everyone, and thus convert everyone into us? Let's get on board now and sail this community into a united, better future.


Robert Tellander is a retired sociology professor.