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Voice of America

series on

Hawaiian Sovereignty

#2 (of 4)

The People and The Land

date 11/13/96
number 4-09453
title hawaii sovereignty #2: the people and the land
byline joan beecher
dateline washington
editor phil haynes

intro: three years ago, u-s president bill clinton signed the so-called "apology law," a joint congressional resolution formally apologizing to native hawaiians for the illegal overthrow of their kingdom in 1893. and this year, the state of hawaii helped fund the so-called "native hawaiian vote," in which native hawaiians were asked whether they wanted to elect delegates to set up a government of their own. who are the native hawaiians? voa analyst joan beecher examines the question, in this second in a series of reports on the hawaiian sovereignty movement,

text: hawaii is the most multi-racial of the 50 american states. [opt] its population includes newcomers from the u-s mainland, along with the descendants of white settlers; of chinese, japanese, korean, filipino, samoan, and portuguese indentured laborers brought in to work the sugar and pineapple plantations, and of the indigenous polynesian people, the native hawaiians. [end opt]

estimates of the number of native hawaiians in the state's population of just over one-million vary from just 12 percent to 20 percent of the total. [opt] in the united states, one's nationality or ethnic origin is not indicated on one's passport. [end opt] of the number of people who choose to identify themselves as native hawaiian, only six-thousand or so are pure-blooded. one scientist has even projected that the hawaiians as a distinct people will disappear by the year 2040.

there are several reasons for this, says dr. kekuni blaisdell, a prominent hawaiian physician who heads a pro-independence group. first of all, ethnic hawaiians outmarry at a greater rate than any other ethnic group in the islands.

tape: act #1   kekuni blaisdell

"we also have the shortest life expectancy, and the highest mortality rate from all the major causes of death, compared to any other ethnic group in our homeland. and it's because we are colonized. our land has been taken, and therefore we have no natural resources of our own."

text: the land dr. blaisdell refers to includes almost five-million hectares of crown land that in the words of the "apology law," was ceded to the united states on annexation, "without the consent of or compensation to the native hawaiian people or their sovereign government."

in 1921, after hawaii's territorial delegate proposed that the u-s congress open the "ceded lands" to native homesteaders, congress responded by setting aside a mere 500-thousand hectares of the total as hawaiian home lands for settlement by the natives. as dr. blaisdell points out, only those who could prove they were at least half native hawaiian by blood were eligible.

tape: act #2   kekuni blaisdell

"lands were set aside to be awarded to those who were eligible. but no funds were provided to support the program. so the [hawaiian homes] commission decided to lease out the land to foreign interests in order to support the program. less than five-thousand families have been awarded land. there are over 25 thousand eligible persons on the list waiting for their land."

text:much of the rest of the "ceded" lands is also leased out to foreign commercial interests, although 20 percent is under direct federal control, mostly for the pacific command's complex of bases.

in the 1970's, as the state's population exploded and more and more land came under development, more and more native hawaiians found themselves facing eviction and total displacement. they began to protest. in response, the state set up a semi-autonomous agency, the office of hawaiian affairs -- or oha. oha receives 20 percent of the revenues from the "ceded lands" to use for programs to benefit native hawaiians.

this is not enough, according to sovereignty advocates, for whom land remains the central issue. some believe that the only way for native hawaiians to gain real control over their rightful heritage is for native hawaiians to obtain federal recognition as a "nation" -- that is, status similar to the one most american indian tribes enjoy. this is the position of ka lahui hawaii, which claims to be the state's largest pro-sovereignty organization. as ka lahui press secretary huanani-kay trask puts it:

tape: act #3   huanani-kay trask

"we would have a definable territorial boundary around our land base. we would elect the representatives that would govern that land base. we would have complete control of the resources, and we would be in a position to enter into binding agreements with the surrounding states and with the federal government."

text:ms. trask stresses that this does not mean the native hawaiian "nation" would completely take over existing public institutions on native hawaiian land, such as her own employer, the university of hawaii.

tape: act #4   huanani-kay trask

"what we're willing to work out is the back rent that the university owes, and services. we would like, for example, free tuition, free parking, free housing for our students. we would also like to see that part of the tuition that is paid by non-natives, both in-state and out-of-state, go to hawaiian students, because that would be an arrangement for the reparations part of the agreement."

text:but sovereignty advocates generally acknowledge that the problem is defining who is a native hawaiian. the old 50-percent "blood quantum" standard for defining who is native hawaiian is rejected as reactionary. the preferred definition -- which is used in the "apology law" -- includes anyone who is a descendant of the aboriginal people living in the islands previous to 1778 (when they were first discovered by europeans). but would this mean, for example, that a mixed-race student who is one-sixteenth hawaiian would be entitled to free tuition at the state university, whereas another mixed-race student would not be? [opt] ka lahui hawaii, in an apparent attempt to address such questions, admits non-hawaiian members, which it calls "honorary citizens." but this solution has its problems, too. [end opt]

similar questions arise when the question of hawaiian independence is discussed. who has the right to declare independence? and who would be entitled to automatic citizenship in independent hawaii? these are very much the same kind of questions that are familiar to citizens of the former soviet union. and as in the former soviet union, there has been no one single answer to them. we will explore some possible answers in our next report. [signed] neb/jb/pch

13-nov-96 12:35 pm est (1735 utc) nnnn

source: voice of america

#1: The Apology Law   |   #3: What Model?   |   #4 What Next?

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