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Voice of America

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Hawaiian Sovereignty

#3 (of 4)

What Model?

date 11/14/96
number 4-09455
title hawaii sovereignty #3: what model?
byline joan beecher
dateline washington
editor phil haynes

intro: several weeks ago, native hawaiians -- those of polynesian heritage -- said in a state-sponsored poll that they favored "electing delegates to propose a native hawaiian government?" if such an election were held, the task of the delegates to the constitutional convention would be to choose a form of sovereignty for native hawaiians. in the third installment of a series on the hawaiian sovereignty movement, voa analyst joan beecher looks at the types of sovereignty being discussed.

text:before the vote, the state's office of hawaiian affairs prepared a summary of the three sovereignty options the convention would be looking at. first would be the "state within the state" option, under which the native hawaiian government would be something like a county, within the state of hawaii.

the second would be a "nation within a nation" arrangement, whereby the native hawaiian community, like most american indian tribes, would be recognized as a sovereign entity. such a nation would have its own land base, within the united states, but not subordinate to the state of hawaii. american indian tribes deal directly with the federal government on the basis of treaties concluded in the 19th century, and hawaiians who seek "nation-within-a-nation" status demand treaty-making rights in the present.

the third sovereignty option theoretically open to hawaiians would be full political independence from the united states.

the "state within a state" option appears to have few supporters at this point. but the "nation within a nation" concept has many. they include ka lahui hawaii, which claims to be hawaii's largest pro-sovereignty organization. huanani-kay trask, ka lahui's press officer, says her organization agrees with independence advocates that the u-s annexation of hawaii was illegal.

tape: act #1   huanani-kay trask

"what we disagree on is whether the united states, being the most powerful military country in the world, is realistically going to let hawaii quietly sort of negotiate a secession. i don't think that the realities of leaving at the end of the 20th century and the departure point of the 21st century would warrant that kind of assumption. i don't think it's useful. i don't think the hawaiians will gain any land or reparations in terms of monies and programs if they move toward that position. i don't think it's an achievable end."

text: but dennis kanahele, head of hawaii's self-proclaimed independent government, "nation of hawaii," believes that the so-called "apology law" passed by the congress in 1993 imposed a moral obligation on the united states. the law, signed by president clinton, formally apologized for the illegal overthrow of hawaii's independent kingdom 100 years earlier.

tape: act #2   dennis kanahele

"wait a minute -- you know, to have the most powerful country in the world actually put in their laws, saying that we admit to the crime -- it's unbelievable! and take a look at the u-s constitution, in article one, sections 8 clause 10: congress has the power to define and punish offenses against the law of nations. o-k, congress, you guys are the ones who passed the apology bill; we're going back to you, saying that a whole bunch of offenses were committed against the hawaiian people, according to the law of nations. we're going to use everything we can to really put them in a corner."

text:independence advocates also rely on a series of united nations conventions and declarations on colonialism and the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as article 73 of the u-n charter, which deals with "non-self-governing territories," that is, with colonies.

[opt] the united nations' so-called "blue water doctrine" specifies that to be considered a colony, a territory must be separated from the colonizing country by an ocean. for this reason, the u-n could not recognize russia's chechnya region as a colony, but it did recognize hawaii as a u-s colony until 1959, when hawaii voted to become a state. if the 1959 statehood vote can be declared invalid, on the grounds that the option of independence was not offered to voters as article 73 requires, then hawaii could conceivably hold a second vote. [end opt]

but in discussions of hawaiian sovereignty, two issues are often confused, says poka laenui, an attorney and independence advocate who serves on the hawaiian sovereignty elections council. they are, first, the issue of indigenous peoples rights, and second, the issue of decolonization.

tape: act #3   poka laenui

"let's take a look at just the indigenous people issue. the indigenous people should have some very specific rights -- the right to educate our children, for example, in our own languages; the right to control our own resources; the right to develop our own economic system, our judicial system, our social system... we have the right to hang on to these things, simply because we are the first people on these lands, and we are under threat of extinction... and yet, on the other hand, what about the right of independence? and if we do have the right to independence, who are the "we" to exercise independence? is that restricted only to the people of the indigenous race, or does it extend beyond racial categories?"

text: as mr. laenui points out, u-n documents on decolonization refer to "peoples" or "countries," not ethnic groups. when the kingdom of hawaii was illegally overthrown, the population was already multi-national. thus, any decision on restoring independence should not be up to native hawaiians alone, mr. laenui says.

what about citizenship in a newly independent hawaii? some independence advocates would extend automatic citizenship to any descendant of a resident of the kingdom of hawaii, whether native hawaiian or not. everyone else would have to be naturalized. [opt] this is essentially the same principle employed in the citizenship laws of estonia and latvia -- and is likely to encounter the same objections. [end opt] other independence activists would extend citizenship to anyone who wants it -- as long as they agree to renounce u-s citizenship, while still others are open to the idea of dual citizenship.

these discussions may be academic, if one agrees that an independent hawaii is an unlikely prospect. but they serve to show that sovereignty advocates in hawaii, as elsewhere, are wrestling with the vexed problem of how to protect the rights of the indigenous people without violating the rights of everyone else. [signed] neb/jb/pch

14-nov-96 12:29 pm est (1729 utc) nnnn

source: voice of america

#1: The Apology Law   |   #2: The People and the Land   |   #4 What Next?

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