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Free isles would still draw tourists, advocate says

They will see it as 'more sacred,' Kanahele professes

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 8, 1994

By Russ Lynch

Rebuild a true Hawaiian culture and transform the State of Hawaii into an independent nation and tourists will come, and love what they see, says Pu'uhonua "Bumpy" Kanahele.

"I foresee that when Hawaii becomes independent, the tourists will look at this place as more of a sacred place," Kanahele said in a recent interview at the headquarters of the Sovereign Nation-State of Hawaii in Waimanalo.

Perhaps not as many, but a better quality of tourist would come with a sincere interest in the place and its people, Kanahele said.

Kanahele doesn't want Hawaii to be as dependent on tourism as it is now but he said tourism and the Hawaiian culture can exist hand in hand to the benefit of both.

He said his comment at the recent Tourism Congress, which sounded as if he was suggesting violence directed at tourism, was misunderstood.

He meant quite the opposite, said Kanahele, who said he has in fact forestalled possible violence by advising against it.

What he did mean, he said, was that if the Hawaiians do not get what they want, things could get violent. But rather than let that happen, his organization would once again go to the tourists and tell them their presence is lending support to an economy that is based on an illegal government in land improperly seized from the Hawaiians.

For two days in February, the Ohana Council, led by Kanahele, had its supporters in Waikiki handing out leaflets to tourists saying that Hawaiians are being oppressed and tourists are helping that oppression by their presence and their spending.

What do Kanahele and his followers want? They have already established a nation, which is legal under U. S. Public Law 103-150, signed by President Clinton in November 1993, he said.

In the apology resolution, Congress recognized that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in January 1893 was illegal. The Kanahele group's constitutional lawyer, Francis Boyle, has advised the group that it doesn't need an act of Congress or anyone else to determine its rights because the resolution has done that.

"What I want is some day for all the Hawaiian organizations to have an opportunity to determine what government we choose," he said. The Hawaiians should be left alone to decide for themselves just how that will be done and should be encouraged and aided in that effort. Such decisions should not be made by the state or the Legislature or a native Hawaiian elections commission, Kanahele said.

He also believes the Hawaiians should be given back their land.

Meanwhile, his group is working hard to develop its nation, on the 50 acres of ceded land granted to it by the state.

Nestled in the trees up against the Koolaus, the site is a cluster of tents, including a couple of American Indian teepees, some wood-canvas dwellings and the main house, used as an office, which was donated to the group.

About 100 people live at the site and they have learned the hard way, by hard labor, how to build homes and cultivate land.

And "When you occupy the land, make sure you have a plan," Kanahele said.

There is a plan and it is already being carried out, he said. One example is the recultivation of ancient Hawaiian taro fields higher up the hill behind Pu'uhonua Waimanalo, the name the group has given its village that means place of refuge, or place of peace and safety.

Hawaiians don't need handouts, he said. What they need is a chance to work for themselves, in their own society, bringing back traditional values. That's what they are doing at Waimanalo, Kanahele said.

"Lots of our people work. They're carpenters, truck drivers, mechanics, schoolteachers. We have Hawaiian language classes here. We're starting to grow Chinese taro, vegetables. We're raising turkeys."

Some think Hawaiians are lazy, Kanahele said, but the hard work going on at Waimanalo proves how wrong that image is, he said.

"We're not out there talking about all the good we're doing. We're too busy doing it."

And the group is by no means restricted to native Hawaiians. Kanahele's executive secretary is a New Zealander. Another executive is of American Indian heritage.

"This is a whole different world," he said, looking in awe at the mountains, the view that goes as far as Rabbit Island, the trees and old cultivation sites. "There were once hundreds of thousands of Hawaiians living all along the base of the Koolaus," he said.

Despite the back-to-nature direction of the new community, it is in the modern world too. In the main house there are seven computers. The Nation of Hawaii is hooked into the Internet, letting some 20 million subscribers around the world view a colorful reproduction of the nation's flag, review the law that the group uses as its basis for the claim that sovereignty is already here, and get a description of how the society is set up.

Kanahele said tourism is the source of extensive cultural and environmental damage and the industry must undergo a transition into a different kind of tourism that respects and works with the Hawaiian native culture.

At the same time, the economy must be diversified with community-based enterprises filling more of the needs of island people, to make Hawaii less dependent on outsiders, he told the Tourism Congress last month.

Tourism, in the long run, can only benefit from independence and the creation of a new Hawaiian nation, he said. Meanwhile, the tourist industry must change. "We need to focus on quality over quantity and emphasize Hawaii's unparalleled value as a source of health and well-being, cultural sharing, natural beauty and spiritual rejuvenation, through the true essence of aloha," he told the Tourism Congress.

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