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Hawaii's Most Important Civil Rights Issues -- An attorney who is a member of the Hawaii State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights publishes his recommendations to the Chairman and members of the USCCR identifying the most important civil rights issues in Hawaii in 2009 and looking forward.
Hawaii Reporter, July 29, 2009

Hawaii's Most Important Civil Rights Issues
Open Letter to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

By H. William Burgess

To: Gerald A. Reynolds, Chairman, and members
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 Ninth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20425

Aloha Chairman Reynolds and members of the Commission.

As you may recall, I am a member of the Hawaii State Advisory Committee. This letter responds to the USCCR’s June 12, 2009 request to State Advisory Committee members to rank the most important civil rights issues in their states. Mr. Chris Byrne advised me by email that the deadline for response was extended to July 24, 2009.

In my opinion, the most pressing need for civil rights attention in Hawaii is the pervasive and escalating dominance by forces favoring supremacy for Native Hawaiians. Special privilege and political superiority for anyone with at least one drop of Hawaiian ancestry have become the accepted norm among those who hold the rule in Hawaii.

America’s largest charitable trust, Bishop Estate, with vast land holdings in Hawaii and subsidized by Federal, State and County tax exemptions worth a $ Billion or more annually, continues to discriminate in its admission policy against school age children in Hawaii on the basis of their race. How the IRS justifies allowing the exemption is a continuing civil rights scandal of major proportions. It should be looked into promptly by the Hawaii Advisory Committee.

The same charitable trust has compromised Hawaii’s government (See Broken Trust by Judge Sam King and Randy Roth) and supports the Akaka bill. (See the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement web site.) Each should be examined by our committee.

The State of Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawaiian Homes Commission/Department of Hawaiian Home Lands have together just since 1990 spent and set aside value of well over $1 Billion exclusively for persons of Hawaiian ancestry. In addition they have spent over $2 million of public funds and continue to spend more to lobby for, advertise, and advocate enactment of the Akaka bill (the latest version, S. 1011/H.R. 2314 is now pending in Congress).

The Akaka bill would bring Apartheid to Hawaii; secession from the jurisdiction of the United States Constitution; sponsor break up and giveaway of some, perhaps all of the domain, power, authority and jurisdiction of the State of Hawaii. The bill would thus usurp the unalienable political power and sovereignty of all the people of Hawaii, equally with those of Hawaiian ancestry, over the entire State of Hawaii promised by the United States in the valid terms of the 1959 Admission Act. The Hawaii Advisory Committee should promptly advise that Congress and the Administration reject the Akaka bill permanently. In addition the disproportionate spending and use of public lands for the benefit of Native Hawaiians should be examined.

In addition, the Federal Government, according to proponents of the Akaka bill, provides over $50 million per year annually exclusively for Native Hawaiians for health, education, housing and other entitlements for Native Hawaiians. This calls for civil rights analysis and recommended action.

Other specific projects which should be examined by the Hawaii State Advisory Committee include the following:

Repeal of the 1993 Apology Resolution. Without notice or opportunity to be heard by the public, the 1993 resolution ignored at least three thorough investigations: The Morgan Report, the 1980 Native Hawaiian Claims Commission and the Bellows Environmental Impact Statement.

On March 31, 2009 the Supreme Court of the United States in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs held that the 1993 Apology Resolution created no substantive rights; and that the 37 "whereas" clauses would "raise grave constitutional concerns" if they are read to retroactively "recognize" that the native Hawaiian people have unrelinquished claims over the ceded lands. The cloud created 16 years ago by the Apology resolution suggesting that one class of citizens has special claim to the State’s public lands, has been removed. Hawaii SAC should recommend to the USCCR that it be formally laid to rest.

Repeal of Sec. 4 of the 1959 Admission Act requiring the new State of Hawaii to adopt the explicitly racial Hawaiian Homes Commission Act which still continues to mandate that the State of Hawaii continue to discriminate. Both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush recommended that the United States role in forbidding amendment or termination of the HHCA be ended.

Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission. Sets aside exclusively for one race public lands equitably owned by all the citizens of Hawaii.

NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and the related Hawai'i statutes. The law often interferes with and sometimes prevents individuals and families from pursuing their own rights to trace and prove their genealogies and from doing DNA testing.

Papahanaumokuakea -- the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument. The law provides special rights for Native Hawaiians to have access to all parts of the 1200-mile-long archipelago for cultural and religious purposes even when such purposes are not related to cleaning or preserving the natural environment; whereas non-Native Hawaiians have no such rights. However, the bones of Caucasians and Japanese are scattered throughout the area (not just in the more openly accessible area around Midway), not only because of ships sinking and airplanes being shot down during WW2 battles, but also because even in ancient times there were seafarers transiting the area, Okinawan sailors for example. Why should ANYONE with a drop of native blood have special access rights not available to others; even when a particular ethnic Hawaiian has no known ancestors who visited those areas previously and no individual history of cultural or religious activity specifically related to those areas?

The right of Native Hawaiians to own their DHHL homeland lots in fee simple. An arrangement should be worked out to allow existing Hawaiian homesteaders to acquire the fee simple interest in their homestead lots at no or discounted price as part of a global settlement of all claims for entitlement/sovereignty/independence and termination of OHA, DHHL and all federal and state programs giving Hawaiians or native Hawaiians any benefit not given equally to other persons.

The City & County of Honolulu Ordnance granting tax exemption to any kuleana property where at least one of today's owners is a Native Hawaiian who can prove lineal descent from the original grantee of a Royal Patent Deed.

Hate crimes specifically directed against haoles are far more numerous and more vicious than hate crimes against any other races in Hawaii. The whole concept of extra punishment for hate crimes might be a bad idea, since it punishes thoughts rather than deeds. But IF there's going to be a hate crime enhancement for punishment, then all races including Caucasians should be equally eligible to be seen as victims of hate crimes.

H. William Burgess is an Attorney at Law in Honolulu. Reach him at


** Note by website editor Ken Conklin: I agree with Mr. Burgess that the issues he has listed are the most important ones. My book describes the "big picture" surrounding these issues. See "Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State" at


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