WAIMANALO --Two dozen sheds and huts fringe a sloping wedge of grass at the foot of the Koolaus. Beyond them, amid ohia trees, taro grows in lo`i, the restored paddies.
For Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele and his followers, this is Puuhonua Village - the seed of the self-proclaimed Nation of Hawaii. Kanahele's nation has adopted a constitution, claimed the right to try a federal fugitive and embarked on an education campaign that blends radical politics, right-wing economics, Hawaiian discontent and Kanahele's charismatic, populist appeal.
Kanahele, the nation's head of state, envisions it encompassing all of the Hawaiian islands, prospering on international trade and banking, free of "illegal military occupation" by federal and state governments, where Native Hawaiians would have far more political and economic clout than they do now.
"We're going for the whole nine yards," says Kanahele. "We've already go the land. We're occupying the whole archipelago."
Not all Hawaiian activists share his particular vision.
Mililani Trask, head of the rival sovereignty organization Ka Lahui Hawai`i, says: "Everything Bumpy's done has been detrimental to sovereignty. His approach has been to basically tap into the system by using sovereignty as an excuse to avoid responsibility."
But Kanahele says, "This is justice. Justice is sweet."
It's been a busy year, Kanahele says.
In addition to building the village, they've changed the organization's name at least twice and tweaked the establishment's nose.
And now Kanahele spends much of his time delivering educational talks, here and on Neighbor Islands. One session was last weekend, on his 41st birthday.
The high school dropout went to prison on weapons charges stemming from the 1987 occupation of Makapuu lighthouse (he had a previous record that included conviction for burglarizing cars as a youth). Now he deftly wields a marker and microphone.
About 120 people sat listening under plastic canopies on the village lawn for three hours.
One of them, Charlene Kilaulani of Waipahu, said she has relatives involved in the nation and she was here to learn more. "We want our `aina back. That's what it is," she said.
Her husband, Murphy Kilaulani, said "The wrong that was committed: I like know why nobody got arrested for that, yet they arrest our people."
Kanahele stressed the need for Hawaiians to educate themselves and spread the word.
He explained how the nation seeks to restore political and economic power Hawaiians lost in the 1893 overthrow of Queen Lili`uokalani. And he described how the Nation of Hawaii is already an independent nation.
His points during his lecture included:
"They apologizing because they know it's wrong. They know it's just as bad of a holocaust as they had in Germany. Same thing. You know what? We never know we was dying. Take away your land and the ocean, and your food and supplements, we eat Spam, ham, corned beef."
U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, a 442nd veteran, later said: "I can't be responsible for what everyone says, but that is the beauty of this country. The First Amendment gives you the right, even if the statements may be less than correct, even if the statements do malign or cause grief."
Kanahele's assistants passed silver coins and "silver certificate" dollar bills through the audience while other distributed an article by the American Freedom Coalition, a self-described "national grassroots coalition promoting positive family values and a strong national defense." The coalition has been linked to the ultra-conservative Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
Kanahele shares the coalition's view that the Federal Reserve system has bankrupted America. "Why would we want to be part of one broke country?" asked Kanahele.
Kanahele said two members of the nation, including attorney general Maltbie Napoleon, were sentenced for traffic violations by Circuit Judge Marie Milks to perform community service with the Nation of Hawaii. Milks last week said she considered the nation a "valid recipient" for community service. [see related article]
Today, the nation has roughly 60 acres of state land. Kahahele and his followers agreed to lease it in June 1994, ending their occupation of Kaupo Beach Park near Makapuu. The lease still hasn't been signed because of disagreements over terms.
Duke Sabedong surveys the village and says, "I love it."
His home was built last month, a sturdy 16-by-16-foot wooden cube.
"I get house now. Can live off the land," says Sabedong, the nation's justice minister.
Cars or trucks are parked next to most of the houses. Half of the vehicles - including Kanahele's late-model Cadillac - have state license plates; the rest have yellow "SOVEREIGN" plates.
In the largest building are the nation's offices. Computers grace some desks. A huge photocopying machine stands against one wall of the main office. Kanahele, who lives elsewhere in Waimanalo, has an office of his own.
Estimates of the village's population run from 60 to 80. Kanahele says the nation has 2,400 names on its computer data base, but more have to be punched in. He estimates the nation has "around 7,000" citizens.
Village children have classes and outings. Kanahele says they'll probably keep the kids out of the state school system next year.
The residents pool their money and resources. Much of it is donated, says Kanahele. Some residents work outside; some receive welfare and other government subsidies.
"Why not?" Kanahele said. "It's owed to them."
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