Return to the Hawaiian Independence Home Page, or the News Articles Index

#1: The Apology Law   |   #2: The People and the Land   |   #3 What Model?

Voice of America

series on

Hawaiian Sovereignty

#4 (of 4)

What Next?

date 11/15/96
number 4-09460
title hawaii sovereignty #4: what next?
byline joan beecher
dateline washington
editor phil haynes

intro:three years ago the u-s congress formally apologized to native hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom in 1893. this year, the helped fund the so-called "native hawaiian vote," in which native hawaiians -- who comprise from 12 to 20 percent of the state's population -- were asked if they wanted to elect delegates to set up a government of their own. the majority of the respondents voted "yes." in this final report in a series on the hawaiian sovereignty movement, voa analyst joan beecher looks at the vote and what might come next.

text: in july, 80-thousand ballots were sent out to native hawaiians who registered for the vote. according to the final results, about 30-thousand valid ballots were returned, and of those, more than 22-thousand were in favor of calling a constitutional convention.

members of the hawaiian sovereignty election council, pro-sovereignty activists appointed by the governor, hailed the vote as a mandate to move on to the next step -- electing a constitutional convention. but an anti-vote coalition -- also composed of pro-sovereignty activists -- interpreted it very differently. huanani-kay trask, for example, insists that most native hawaiians boycotted the vote, as her organization, ka lahui hawaii, had urged them to do.

tape: act #1   huanani-kay trask

"only one-quarter -- 26-point-seven percent -- of the eligible voters voted 'yes.' how can they say that's a mandate? i don't know how they can say that, because it's not true. the numbers don't bear out their position."

text: what divided the pro-vote and anti-vote groups was not ideology -- different points of view on sovereignty were represented on both sides -- but their position on the state's role in the vote. the process, which cost almost two-million dollars, was funded half and half by the state legislature and the semi-autonomous office of hawaiian affairs. for some sovereignty advocates, the fact that the state was financing the vote called its legitimacy into question. in their view, the state was trying to co-opt the movement, and defuse it. huanani-kay trask explains her group's position:

tape: act #2   huanani-kay trask

"we just see this as a kind of "demonstration election," as i call it, to give people the false impression that things here are being taken care of, because 'let's vote.' it's a very american thing -- 'let's vote.' but the hawaiians refused. we don't want a convention that is run and funded by the state, and we don't want something that is nothing."

text: but members of the hawaiian sovereignty election council -- h-s-e-c for short -- insist that state funding is not the same as state control. they point out that under international law, governments are not debarred from providing assistance to indigenous or subject peoples in realizing their right to self-determination. on the contrary: they are obliged to provide assistance.

but this debate may soon be academic, since at this point it does not look as if the state is going to provide financing for the next step. this means that the native hawaiians themselves may have to raise the money to elect and organize the constitutional convention.

observers from outside the state think it remarkable that the state provided any financing at all for a vote that could conceivably lead to hawaiian independence. poka laenui, a member of h-s-e-c, notes that the general public in hawaii is for the most part favorably disposed to the idea of hawaiian sovereignty.

tape: act #3   poka laenui

"if that was not the case, the legislature would not have been able to get away with supporting the funding of the native hawaiian vote... the thing is that many people support it [hawaiian sovereignty] in principle, but they themselves don't know what exactly they support, because the hawaiians themselves have not clearly defined what they mean by hawaiian sovereignty. in general, the vast majority of the [non-hawaiian] people admit that a wrong has been done, and must be corrected. but how do you bring about a correction? that's still undetermined."

text: the big question is whether non-hawaiian citizens of hawaii would support independence, if that is what the native hawaiians should decide they want. a few sovereignty advocates take the position that "outsiders" -- or "colonizers," as some would put it -- have no right to decide whether hawaii should be independent or not. others admit that if independence is to become a reality, the state and federal governments will insist on a referendum in which the entire population will take part.

skeptics doubt non-hawaiians would vote for independence - or that even a majority of native hawaiians would. others are optimistic about the chances of persuading non-hawaiians of the advantages of independence. they include dennis kanahele, head of the "nation of hawaii," hawaii's self-proclaimed independent government.

once an advocate of confrontation with the authorities, and presently facing trial on what many observers say are trumped-up charges, mr. kanahele says he now believes in the power of persuasion and education. in fact, he says, this is what distinguishes the hawaiian sovereignty movement as a whole.

tape: act #4   dennis kanahele

"this is the first peaceful movement [of its kind] probably the world has ever seen...we were the rowdiest group, so if anybody would make trouble, it would have been us... we've learned that you don't have to fight these guys. we just have to have patience, and we have to educate each other, and we have to be concerned about the non-hawaiians as well as our own people as we develop this process."

text:for their part, the state and federal governments have also committed themselves to a policy of reconciliation, rather than confrontation, with native hawaiians. and this gives hope that the question of native hawaiian sovereignty can ultimately be resolved in a fashion that everyone involved can accept. [signed] neb/jb/pch

15-nov-96 11:56 am est (1656 utc) nnnn

source: voice of america

#1: The Apology Law   |   #2: The People and the Land   |   #3 What Model?

Return to the Hawaiian Independence Home Page or the News Articles Index