takes place on
From decolonization to theBy Pat Omandam
privatization of OHA, the
dialogue is ongoing
Here is a snapshot of the legal and political actions on Hawaiian self-determination and redress being taken at various levels of government.
Kekuni Blaisdell of Ka Pakaukau and others support an international course of sovereignty. They support the decolonization of Hawaii because they say the 1959 vote for Hawaii statehood was invalid since it did not include an option to give Hawaii full independence as a nation.
As such, Blaisdell said, Hawaiians or kanaka maoli retain full rights to their self-determination. For starters, the kanaka maoli people should be considered a separate nation with "absolute equality of power" by the United States, he said.
Proponents want the United States to recognize and support reinscription of Hawaii on the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories that are eligible for decolonization. They seek a UN-sponsored plebiscite with no interference from the United States and an immediate moratorium on the sale or transfer of ceded lands.
Federal levelRice vs. Cayetano
In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 23 that Hawaiians-only voting in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is unconstitutional.
The decision stems from a U.S. District Court case by Big Island rancher Harold "Freddy" Rice, who filed the lawsuit after he was denied the right to vote in OHA elections because he was non-Hawaiian.
On the advice of attorneys, Gov. Ben Cayetano stated he would immediately name interim trustees to the OHA board based on the Supreme Court's ruling. But that sparked an outcry within the Hawaiian community by those who believe that only native people should elect native leaders and the governor shouldn't appoint them.
On March 2, Cayetano and OHA Chairman Clayton Hee agreed to jointly seek clarification from the Hawaii Supreme Court on how to proceed. The petition has yet to be filed.
Officials at the U.S. departments of Interior and Justice are preparing a draft report on the reconciliation process between the federal government and native Hawaiians following a series of meetings held in Hawaii in December 1999.
The talks -- required under the November 1993 U.S. Apology Resolution -- were delayed pending a review of the Rice vs. Cayetano decision last month, said Mark Van Norman, director of the Office of Tribal Justice of the Justice Department.
"Our initial review is that the Supreme Court's decision in the Rice vs. Cayetano case will not adversely affect the reconciliation process," Van Norman said recently. "In fact, the decision underscores the importance of clarifying the United State's unique political trust relationship with the native Hawaiian community."
Federal Hawaiian Affairs Task Force
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka leads a new four-member task force comprised of Hawaii's congressional delegates to see if a consensus could be reached on a federal bill to grant Hawaiians self-determination and political status.
The delegation admits it is taking on "a hot potato," but said it can't wait around for someone to act.
"Clearly, there's some work ahead of us," said U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. "I don't think at this point anyone has a clear picture of what this final entity will look like. The one thing that is clear is that it should not be dictated and should be the result of a concerted effort by all."
Akaka said the Clinton Administration has been receptive to native Hawaiian issues and Hawaii should take advantage of that.
"It's very urgent for us," Akaka said. "President Clinton has been very helpful, very sympathetic to our needs and I feel it's urgent we try to move as far as we can while he's in office."
Aloha March 2000
Kauai homesteader John "Butch" Kekahu's vision for 20,000 marchers in an Aloha March 2000 in Washington, D.C., in the name of self-determination and to protest the Rice decision, is picking up steam. The event is capturing the attention of Hawaiian communities, Hawaiian clubs and hula groups nationwide, as well as American Indian tribes.
The Aug. 12 march will be from the U.S. Capitol Building to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue.
"The time has arrived for all of us to come together and speak with one, strong, clear voice," said Kekahu, in noting the impact of the Rice decision. "Our differences are small compared to what we can stand to lose."
State levelState Legislature
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has asked the Legislature to consider two draft bills that would allow OHA to transition into, or create, a private nonprofit group to assume its mission and $375 million trust until there is a federally recognized Hawaiian nation.
Last week's OHA board approval to go forward with the bills was the agency's first major response to the Rice decision. State lawmakers have yet to hold hearings on the proposals.
Lawmakers also have introduced resolutions in support of federal recognition of a sovereign Hawaiian nation, as well as studies on the framework of OHA and the effects of the Rice case. Another bill would address individual homestead claims.
State Rep. Sol Kahoohalahala (D, Lanai) said passage of his sovereignty resolutions would show Congress the state Legislature supports an independent Hawaiian nation: not a state-sanctioned nation, but a Hawaiian-created nation.
"I know as a Hawaiian there are many fears and concerns about what 'sovereignty' is going to be like once we get to the federal level because it is, for many of us, an unknown area," he said.
"But we cannot discuss any level of sovereignty with the United States, whether its nation-within-a-nation or independence, unless we can talk to them native Hawaiian government to U.S. government," Kahoohalahala said.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
After the Rice ruling, OHA hired the law firm McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai and filed an action in federal court to allow OHA to intervene in any proceedings stemming from the Rice case. The attorneys working with OHA are former Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Klein and William McCorriston. Former Gov. John Waihee's law firm remains on retainer by OHA.
Meanwhile, current and former OHA trustees are parties to more than two dozen lawsuits filed in recent years in U.S. District Court and state Circuit Court -- but none appear as significant as the Rice vs. Cayetano case.
Most of the cases are minor and have been closed. Among those still active is a 1999 U.S. District Court case filed by Trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto, who is suing OHA under the Americans with Disabilities Act. There is a status conference hearing this Thursday on the case.
At Circuit Court, former OHA chief financial officer Shaun M. Kelly continues with his lawsuit, contending he was wrongfully terminated on Nov. 4, 1998, for raising questions about OHA's recent administration reorganization. Trustees gave depositions earlier this month.
Native Hawaiian Convention
Convention delegates are proposing models of Hawaiian sovereignty to the Hawaiian community for a vote. Delegates this past weekend met again to discuss two models: Independence and nation-within-a-nation.
Their goal is to present a finalized proposed model by July, with a vote on it by all Hawaiians in September.
The convention is supported by Ha Hawaii, the nonprofit group that is following in the footsteps of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council.
In 1996, the Council conducted the controversial mail-in Native Hawaiian Vote, in which the majority of its voters favored electing delegates to a convention to discuss sovereignty models.
Aloha Aina Political Party
Organizers are seeking petitions to qualify as a political party for this fall's state general elections.
The erosion of Hawaiian rights and entitlements, capped with the Rice decision, has spurred formation of the pro-Hawaiian political party. Aloha Aina candidates would run in state legislative races where the party feels the incumbent has not supported Hawaiian issues.
"In order to have native Hawaiians achieve their goal of self-identification, something must be done in the political realm," said 18-year-old Adrian K. Kamalii, a senior at Kamehameha Schools.
"And to establish this party, (it) creates public servants working for the betterment of native Hawaiians," Kamalii said.
Ceded land negotiations
Negotiations between the state and OHA over past-due revenues from ceded lands remain before the Hawaii Supreme Court for a judgment.
Talks broke down in April 1999. One of the key differences: The state wanted to settle all OHA claims over ceded lands, while OHA wanted to settle only past-due revenues from certain parcels that a Circuit Court judge in 1996 ruled they were entitled to.
The estimated amount owed ranges wildly: from $300 million to $1.2 billion. The last offer made to OHA was for about $300 million from the state plus ownership of thousands of acres of revenue-producing land.
In December 1998, Chief Justice Ronald T.Y. Moon urged both sides to settle their differences or the court would do it for them.
The "ceded lands" at issue in this dispute are the more than 1 million acres of crown, government and public lands gained by the U.S. government after the Kingdom of Hawaii's overthrow and later transferred to the state government. Revenues from use of these lands are to be used for five purposes, including "the betterment of the conditions of the native Hawaiians."
State law mandates that OHA receive 20 percent of proprietary revenue from its share of the ceded lands.
There are about 4.2 million acres total in Hawaii.
Project Hawaiian Justice
The educational initiative and action plan, endorsed by the sovereignty group Ka Lahui Hawai'i, is calling for an annual beneficiaries conference that involves the Kamehameha Schools, OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center.
The gathering would focus on areas of health, housing, education, cultural practices and Hawaiian rights. But the conference cannot be a "one-shot deal," said its chairwoman, Robin Danner.
"It cannot be just one trust or agency; it must be a unified effort by all of the trust organizations that serve Hawaiians," she said.
Meanwhile, Ka Lahui last October secured from the 558-tribe National Congress of American Indians, a resolution supporting the sovereign rights of native Hawaiians. The resolution also called upon the U.S. government to develop a true government-to-government relationship with the Hawaiian nation.