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Voice of America

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Hawaiian Sovereignty

#1 (of 4)

The Apology Law

date 11/12/96
number 4-09448
title hawaii sovereignty #1: the apology law
byline joan beecher
dateline washington
editor phil haynes

Written by Joan Beecher
Edited by Phil Haynes
November 11, 1996

Intro: the movement for national sovereignty in the soviet union helped lead to its demise, and continues to be seen as a threat to the integrity of such successor states as russia and georgia. sovereignty for indigenous peoples is also a pressing issue elsewhere, including the united states. in a recent vote funded by the state of hawaii, native hawaiians, who now compose only about 20 percent of the state's population, asked for a convention to set up their own native hawaiian government. with this report, voa analyst joan beecher begins a series that examines the hawaiian sovereignty movement.
text: hawaii is a group of eight major islands and numerous islets in the middle of the pacific ocean, some two-thousand miles [over three thousand kilometers] away from the american mainland. known as the "paradise of the pacific" because of its spectacular natural beauty, hawaii is a major tourist attraction. it is also an important transportation hub, and home to pearl harbor and other u-s naval bases.

when discovered by captain james cook in 1778, hawaii was inhabited exclusively by native hawaiians, a polynesian people. its ethnic composition gradually changed, with the arrival of american and european traders, planters, and missionaries, and with the mass importation of asian laborers to work the sugar plantations.

by the late 19th century, hawaii had developed a constitutional monarchy, and was recognized as an independent country by all the major powers of the time. but in 1893, the independent kingdom of hawaii was overthrown by a group of local americans and europeans, with the help of the u-s minister in the islands and a detachment of american marines. five years later hawaii was annexed to the united states and remained a u-s territory for 61 years, becoming a state only in 1959.

in 1993, another remarkable event occurred. in that year, the united states congress passed a joint resolution, signed into law by president clinton, officially apologizing to the native hawaiians for the illegal overthrow of their kingdom 100 years earlier.

the adoption of this resolution followed two decades of agitation and lobbying by local hawaiian sovereignty advocates.

that agitation caused u-s president ronald reagan, back in 1980, to set up a native hawaiian study commission, made up of six members of his administration and three hawaiians. the chairperson was kina'u kamali'i, who now heads the land and sovereignty commission of the state's office of hawaiian affairs.

tape: act 1   kina'u kamali'i

"we had meetings in washington d-c and also throughout the state of hawaii. we finally, in 1983, submitted a report to congress. unfortunately, the majority members of the commission of course did not see that they had any obligation to the native hawaiians, which led me to filing a minority report to congress, disagreeing with president reagan's majority members of the commission. in that minority report, we recommended that, number one: congress apologize for their misdoings; they have not fulfilled their obligations to us after stealing our nation in 1893. and that led to this resolution, almost word for word, from the minority report by our delegation."

text: usually referred to as the "apology law," the resolution acknowledges that the "indigenous hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people, or over their national lands."

when the resolution was being debated in the senate, senator slade gorton of the state of washington argued vigorously against it. its logical consequence, he said, would be independence for hawaii, and it could set a dangerous legal precedent for other indigenous american groups. as the senator pointed out: "every square inch of the united states of america was acquired in a manner which bears certain similarities to the acquisition by the united states of what is now the state of hawaii."

shortly after the resolution was signed into law, the hawaiian sovereignty advisory commission, a 20-member body appointed by the governor of hawaii, retained professor francis boyle of the university of illinois' law school to advise it on whether the "apology law" indeed provided a legal basis for the restoration of hawaiian independence. testifying before the commission in december, 1993, professor boyle said that it did. this continues to be his considered position today.

tape: act 2   francis boyle

"in the apology resolution, the united states congress, the united states government, admitted that it stole hawaii from the native hawaiian people in violation of treaties in existence at that time. it acknowledged that it has inflicted conditions on the native hawaiian people that are tantamount to genocide. it has acknowledged publicly and officially that the native hawaiian people have the right of self-determination and they have never validly exercised that right so far."

text: by inference, the "apology law" concedes that the statehood vote of 1959 was invalid, according to professor boyle. up until 1959 hawaii was on the list of "non-self-governing territories" -- that is, colonies -- submitted by the united states to the united nations, in accordance with article 73 of the u-n charter. according to article 73, powers administering "non-self governing territories" are obliged to offer them the opportunity to choose one of three models of self-governance. in 1959, professor boyle points out, hawaiians were given only one option -- statehood.

tape: act 3   francis boyle

"we are obliged, under the terms of the u-n charter, to give the hawaiian people their right to self-determination, to decide what they wish to do with their future. now, there are three alternatives that should be presented to them by the u-n. first, do they want amalgamation with the u-s? or second, do they want complete independence, as an independent nation state? or, third, do they want some type of relationship of free association, along the lines of the compact between the u-s and the commonwealth of puerto rico? those are generally the three options that are available, and that's the normal way that decolonization has been supervised by the united nations in the past."

text: all three of these options, and several others as well, have their supporters in the native hawaiian community. hawaiians have yet to reach a consensus in their debate over sovereignty. but most would agree that by passing the "apology law," the u-s government has recognized the legitimacy of the debate itself. (signed) neb/jb/pch

12-nov-96 2:29 pm est (1929 utc) nnnn report 4-09448

source: voice of america

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