by Karen Eoff
For over 2,000 years, the Hawaiian Islands supported agrowing, thriving population, a self-sufficient andsovereign nation. The "Kanaka Maoli" (real people) had aculture based on sharing, respect and ecological harmony.Then, in 1893, by an act of war, the U.S. overthrew theHawaiian monarchy and imposed Western concepts of privateland ownership based on individual gain, desire and greed.Conservation of land and ocean resources, once essential forsurvival, was replaced by commercial exploitation of theindigenous people and their lands, with wasteful consumptionof resources, pollution and desecration of the land.
It is no longer a secret ... all is not well inParadise. From the missionaries of the last century to thedevelopers of this century, the pressure to westernize theHawaiian culture has been relentless, leaving in its wakethe scars on the land and the breakdown of the Hawaiianvalue systems. In a relatively short period of time, muchhas been destroyed. What is left of the land and the cultureis extraordinary beyond words, and should be respected byall and allowed to recover and resurge. For over 100 years,foreign men of power have been exerting their will anddominance over the Hawaiian people and the land. Some see itas progress, some see it as racism.
In an attempt for survival in what has become someoneelse's paradise, Sovereignty is like a shield against theforces that impose complete westernization of the cultureand the land. In its simplest form, Sovereignty meansreparation and a formal apology by the U.S. for unkeptpromises; and a return of the Homelands and Ceded Lands toHawaiian control and the formation of a Hawaiian nation.
Running parallel to the Sovereignty movement is agrowing political awareness and revival of culturaltradition. People are becoming educated about the truth andare actively seeking a return to the moral fiber of the lawsthat guarantee protection of Hawaiian rights. In the processof testing different avenues and demanding accountabilityfrom all levels of government, issues affecting the survivalof the culture continue to surface.
At the present time, there is a potentially landmarkcase before the Hawaii Supreme Court rising out of aproposal for a large-scale resort development on a popularlyused beach in Kona. When modern-day concepts of U.S.property law conflict with traditional concepts and uses ofthe land, the battles have usually gone in favor of thedevelopers, creating violations of the laws protectingNative Hawaiian (gathering) rights and contributing to thedestruction of the Hawaiian culture. Where the U.S.Constitution upholds private property owners' rights, itviolates the Hawaii State Constitution, which seeks toprotect traditional and customary Hawaiian practices. Theselaws of protection must be clarified to avoid this continuedconflict. The moral components of the law must be broughtout to assure the preservation of their intent. They can nolonger be interpreted to accommodate western standards andconcepts. The moral intent of the laws has become buried bythe profit-motivated developers and their high-paid lawyersrepresenting western concepts. Laws have been ignored inorder to issue permits to big developers and as large-scaleresort projects continue to dominate the coastline,Hawaiians lose the opportunity to subsist in a context thathas meaning.
Cultural practices and traditional knowledge must bepassed on if the culture is to survive. Hawaiian traditionsmust be further developed and made available to the rest ofthe world. We need to look beyond western thought toalternative insights and solutions devised by other peoplesand other cultures. The Hawaiian tradition has much to offerin areas of psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, religion,biology, astronomy and environmental studies. Hawaiians mustbe allowed to develop as Hawaiians to take this 2,000-year-old culture and move into the future, applying knowledge andwisdom of the past to present-day situations. Exploitationcannot be allowed to continue for the loss of a race is atragic loss for all mankind.
Creating a sovereign Hawaiian Nation may be an examplethe rest of the world can learn from. As people who share acommon culture, religion, language, value system and landbase start to exercise control over their lands and lives,free from the domination of other nations, the goals ofself-sufficiency and self-determination will emerge.Hawaiians must be able to reclaim and revitalize the cultureand apply Hawaiian traditions to modern times.
My hope is that as Sovereignty comes more into focus,and the ideals of the self-governing Hawaiian Nation emerge,that some of these values and concepts will also begin topenetrate all governmental agencies; that the moralprinciples of Hawaiian Law will guide us in all future landuse decisions in Hawaii; and that the state motto will berealized: "Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka 'Aina I Ka Pono' ... the lifeof the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
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