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"Restore the kingdom" - Reconciliation talks draw 200 Hawaiians on Kauai

Honolulu Advertiser
December 6, 1999

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kauai Bureau

LIHUE, Kauai -- Representatives of the federal government said they cannot give what most Native Hawaiian people who attended a meeting on reconciliation yesterday said they want: the sovereign Hawaiian nation restored.

Nearly 200 Kauai residents, almost all of them Hawaiian, showed up for the first of a statewide series of reconciliation hearings being held as part of the 1993 federal resolution that apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy more than a century ago.

David Helela, the first to address the panel, laid out demands that were echoed by most of the three dozen who spoke at the hearing: "Immediate return of the Hawaiian nation and 1.8 million acres of crown and government lands."

Speaker after speaker told representatives of the U.S. Justice and Interior departments that if the federal government really wants to atone for its role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, the appropriate action is simple.

"All we want to hear from the federal government is, 'You are restored to what you are, what you were -- a Hawaiian nation,' " said Henry Smith.

But that is beyond the power and authority of the reconciliation procedures, said Mark Van Norman, director of the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice.

"We're undertaking a process under domestic law. ...Greater self-determination or nation within a nation, that's the kind of dialogue we can have," he said.

Several speakers thanked Van Norman and Assistant Interior Secretary John Berry for having shown respect by visiting the grave of Queen LiliŽuokalani, although one said they also should have visited graves of Kamehameha's heirs to show respect for the dynasty that ruled the Islands for centuries.

Berry said they left a tribute at the queen's grave in recognition "for the many indignities that she suffered at the hands of the United States."

To the audience, Berry said, "We apologize for the incredible pain and injustice that was caused."

Gathering data

Under the provisions of the so-called Apology Bill, in which the United States formally apologized for the overthrow of the monarchy and the seizure of royal lands, a process for reconciliation was established. The purpose of the hearings is to gather information and opinions from Hawaiians on such issues as ceded lands, compensation and political status.

The Kauai meeting was disrupted several times by sign-carrying protesters demanding immediate independence and complaining of injustices against the Hawaiian people. Police officers showed up, but ultimately the tone of the meeting calmed when Hawaiian elders were called to quiet the protests.

Kaiopua Fyfe addressed the lack of a unified voice for the Hawaiian people and the anger that many Hawaiians express.

"There is not single voice that speaks for a majority of the kanaka Hawaii maoli. There will be one," he said. "The hostility that you folks will be exposed to, I hope you can see beyond. It's not without reason."

Same refrain

In different words, many speakers repeated the same message. Some samples:

"We need sovereignty. ... Restore the kingdom," said Arthur Trask Sr.

"We don't need anything from the federal government. Just pack your bags, take all your military bases, and go back where you came from," said Robert Pa.

"We should actually be talking to representatives of the State Department," said Wilma Holi.

"Give back the land. ... This is an issue of foreign affairs," said Ipo Torio.

Kane Pa asked members of the audience who support an independent Hawaiian nation to stand. More than 80 percent of the audience stood.

"Right the wrong. Stealing is a crime. Lying is a crime," said Duke Sabedong. "We do not want to be wards of the state and federal government any more. Take your stuff and go home."

He added that the United States should maintain military protection of Hawaii to ensure the Hawaiian nation is not overthrown by another foreign state.

Listing wrongs

Some speakers said there is more due the Hawaiian people.

One asked for the return of all Hawaiian lands to a Hawaiian nation, plus payment for 107 years of use of the land. Several speakers addressed personal issues of lost ancestral lands, wrongs against individuals, and lost culture and language.

The Kauai meeting was scheduled to last two hours, but went on more than twice that long.

The hearings, billed as brown-bag meetings, continue today from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Paukukalo Community Center on Maui; 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at Big Pavilion in Wailoa State Park in Hilo; 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at a West Hawaii site still to be identified and 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lanai High and Elementary School cafeteria on Lanai.

Forums are slated from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Keoni Auditorium at the East-West Center.

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