(c) Copyright 2001 - 2008
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
Aloha For All is a multiracial, multi-ethnic group committed to the principle that aloha is for all people regardless of racial, ethnic, or national origin. We are based in Hawai'i but welcome participation from throughout the United States and other nations. We stand against proponents of "Hawaiian sovereignty" who seek racial supremacy in voting rights or property rights for kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians, defined as people who have at least one ancestor who lived in Hawai'i prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778). Our primary purpose is to educate the people of Hawai'i and of the United States regarding historical, legal, and moral issues concerning the concept of Hawaiian sovereignty. Our founders are retired attorney H. William Burgess and his part-Hawaiian wife Sandra Puanani Burgess: a feature article was published in Midweek Newspaper on January 2, 2002 providing biographical information and a description of their longstanding civil rights campaign for equality under the law in Hawai'i. See:
These are our basic commitments:
1. A UNITED STATE OF HAWAI'I We favor keeping Hawai'i as a single, unified political entity as one of the States of the United States of America. We oppose partitioning the State of Hawai'i along racial or hereditary lines. We oppose creating any political subdivisions where members of any racial or ethnic group would have legally recognized supremacy of voting rights or property rights. We oppose seceding from the United States to create an independent nation of Hawai'i, or asking the United States to withdraw from Hawai'i.
2. ALL PERSONS ARE INHERENTLY EQUAL. We believe that all persons are inherently equal. We oppose giving special economic rights or political status to any group based on genetics.
3. KANAKA MAOLI ARE CULTURALLY FIRST AMONG EQUALS. We acknowledge that the kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiian people) came to Hawai'i centuries before people of other races and ethnicities came here. They established a complex culture with many beautiful aspects that continue to inspire people of all races who choose to learn about them. All persons living in Hawai'i are free to pursue whatever cultural or spiritual practices they wish, so long as they do not infringe the rights of others. Because of the special affection the people of Hawai'i feel toward the kanaka maoli and their culture, we freely support and encourage the preservation and thriving of that culture as first among equals -- not because it has any legal or political entitlement to supremacy, but because it was historically first and continues to inspire us all.
4. ALL RACES WERE HISTORICALLY FULL PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM OF HAWAI'I, AND REMAIN FULL PARTNERS TODAY. We note with pride that people of all races were welcomed into Hawai'i from the time of first contact in 1778 until now. Europeans, Americans of all races, and Asians became full partners who helped Kamehameha the Great unify the Kingdom of Hawai'i, who brought written language and the rule of law, who helped Hawai'i become a thriving Kingdom, prosperous territory, and proud state. Beginning with King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III, all citizens of Hawai'i regardless of race had equal voting rights under the Constitution of 1840, and equal property rights under the Mahele of 1848. Kanaka maoli exercised their right to self-determination by making full partners of the settlers, whose expertise and investment helped Hawai'i grow and prosper. By the time of the overthrow and annexation, kanaka maoli were a minority, as demonstrated by the Census of 1900 showing that only 26% of the population had any kanaka maoli genetic heritage. Thus, the nation whose monarchy was overthrown was not primarily Native Hawaiian. If the United States owes anything to Hawai'i for its role in overthrowing the monarchy, it is owed to all the people of Hawai'i, and not to just one race. People without kanaka maoli ancestry are full partners in Hawai'i, and not mere guests.
5. GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE SHOULD BE BASED ON NEED WITHOUT REGARD TO RACE. We believe that if federal, state, or local governments wish to give help to needy people, such help should be given on the basis of who needs it and not on the basis of their race. We oppose any government assistance programs that give racial or hereditary preferences. If kanaka maoli or any other ethnic group are more in need of government assistance than other groups, then they will automatically receive more help than other groups when help is based on need alone.
6. THERE ARE NO SPECIAL LAND RIGHTS BASED ON RACE. The government lands of the Kingdom of Hawai'i were held by government on behalf of all the people. The crown lands of the Kingdom were held by government to support the office of head of state; and when the monarchy was overthrown, the crown lands became the same as government lands. Neither the government lands nor the crown lands were the property of kanaka maoli as a race; and the income from these lands was used for the benefit of all the people. Neither kanaka maoli as a race, nor kanaka maoli as individuals (except for the head of state), had any right to income from these lands. At the time of annexation, the government and crown lands were ceded to the United States subject to the requirement that all these ceded lands were to be held in trust for the benefit of all the people of Hawai'i. At statehood, the ceded lands were returned to the new State of Hawai'i (except for military bases and national parks) to be held for the benefit of all the residents of Hawai'i. Some aspects of land ownership and usage in Hawai'i may be different from other states in the United States, because of the unique history of the Kingdom. For example, there may be limitations on the usual right of a property-owner to exclude other people from his property, because there may be customary rights to shoreline access, and customary rights to gather certain items of food, flowers, and materials. But such rights pertain to all residents or "tenants" regardless of race.
7. KANAKA MAOLI ARE NOT COMPARABLE TO AN INDIAN TRIBE. THEY ARE AN ETHNIC GROUP, NOT A POLITICAL ENTITY. Kanaka maoli eagerly welcomed newcomers since the moment of first contact in 1778. They freely intermarried and produced succeeding generations with lower and lower quanta of native blood. Today, probably 3/4 of all persons who have any native ancestry have less than 25% native blood quantum; and many have very small portions of native ancestry. Virtually all persons with native ancestry are fully assimilated, speak English as their primary language; believe in Christianity, Buddhism, or other mainline religions; live side-by-side with non-natives in Western-style houses in fully integrated neighborhoods; hold the same kinds of jobs as non-natives; and participate fully in the social, economic, and political life of the multiracial community. Unlike recognized Indian tribes, people of kanaka maoli ancestry are not a separate and distinct people, and do not have a tribal government which exercises any significant influence or authority over them. Attempts to gain recognition as an indigenous political entity are motivated primarily by a desire for special welfare benefits, tax exemptions, and regulatory exemptions that might be appropriate for isolated groups of indigenous tribesmen on the continent or in Alaska but are wholly inappropriate for the fully assimilated and intermarried American citizens of Hawaiian ancestry. We oppose any governmental recognition of political status for people with kanaka maoli ancestry because it is unnecessary, historically inappropriate, racially divisive, and destructive to the Aloha Spirit. We oppose partitioning the State of Hawai'i along racial lines, or creating any political subdivisions where members of any racial or ethnic group would have legally recognized supremacy.
Opponents of Aloha For All like to characterize members as racist, hostile to Hawaiian culture, against Native Hawaiians, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do often find ourselves opposing legislation or institutions, because advocates of racial supremacy and entitlement programs for ethnic Hawaiians are well-entrenched in the power structure of Hawai'i and have billions of dollars available to support their racially exclusionary programs and institutions such as Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Bishop Estate/Kamehameha Schools, Department of Hawaiian Homelands, etc. But we oppose these things because of the principles we stand FOR, as described above. We find ourselves in the same situation that minority groups and civil rights organizations have often faced, where we are struggling with small resources against powerful institutions and individuals. Like civil rights organizations have traditionally done, we speak truth to power, express our views in whatever public forums are available, and use the courts when necessary.
We are PRO-EQUALITY, PRO-UNITY, PRO-ALOHA, and PRO-HAWAIIAN-CULTURE.
PRO EQUALITY includes two basic concepts: (a) all persons, regardless of race or genealogy, are inherently equal (some might say equal in the eyes of God) and (b) all persons regardless of race or genealogy should be equal under the law.
PRO UNITY includes two basic concepts: (a) all who have a long-term commitment to Hawai'i are unified in the Spirit of Aloha; and (b) we believe it is wise to preserve a single, unified State of Hawai'i under the sovereignty of the United States, with one unified set of laws governing us all.
REGARDING PRO-EQUALITY: our opponents disagree with us on both aspects mentioned above. Those favoring race-based sovereignty who "come from a spiritual perspective" believe that racially-defined Hawaiians are descended from the gods (but the rest of us are not); that ali'i are a hereditary elite distinguished from maka'ainana by genealogy; that different genealogical lines have different kuleana (areas of privilege and responsibility) regarding spiritual, political, and land issues. Our opponents have a wide variety of different and conflicting "models" of sovereignty, but all have one thing in common: people who have at least one drop of native blood are entitled to superior voting rights and property rights by virtue of race and/or genealogy alone. To read an explanation about how religious myths are used to support political claims for racial supremacy in Hawai'i, see:
According to some models, ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to exclusive control of a portion of the Hawaiian islands, possibly including 1.8 million acres of ceded lands, plus the right to participate as citizens of the (greatly reduced) State of Hawai'i. The model of Yugoslavia comes to mind, where Serbs, Croats, and Muslims have separated themselves into ethnic enclaves (balkanization).
According to some models, Hawai'i should be a nation, independent from the U.S., in which the entire archipelago remains unified but with ethnic Hawaiians having voting rights and property rights superior to non-Hawaiians (otherwise things would be just as they are at present, with Hawaiians outnumbered and outvoted 4-to-1). The models of Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and especially Fiji come to mind, where one ethnic group (claiming to be indigenous to the homeland) asserts supremacy over other ethnic groups.
REGARDING PRO-UNITY: our opponents disagree with us on both aspects mentioned above. They are racial separatists, seeking a separate political entity based on race alone. In some ways they resemble the now-discredited Black separatist movement in the continental U.S. 30 years ago, claiming that their status as victims entitles them to a separate political identity. They say that because ethnic Hawaiians are the "indigenous, aboriginal, native" people of these islands (buzzwords which are factually challengeable), therefore they are entitled to special status and special aloha. They see themselves as the hosts, and the rest of us are merely guests (even including ethnic Japanese, Chinese, and Euro-American families who have lived in Hawai'i for eight generations). They say this is their homeland and they have nowhere else to go -- implying that those multigeneration families could "go back" to their "homelands" which they and their parents and grandparents have never seen (sort of like telling an African-American that he should, or could, go back to Africa).
Related webpage: Akaka bill -- would it be a unifying force for Hawai'i if it passes? The Akaka bill -- building a bridge to the Nineteenth Century.
Related webpage: Kamehameha vs. Akaka -- Kamehameha unified Hawai'i 200 years ago; Akaka bill's main purpose is to divide Hawai'i (includes history of Kamehameha Day holiday; lack of certainty about Kamehameha's birthdate within a range of 25 years; Battle of Nu'uanu Pali and Herb Kane's painting of it and Adair's political cartoon based on it; newspaper advertisement comparing Kamehameha's unification of a multiracial Hawai'i against divisiveness of Akaka bill)
REGARDING PRO-ALOHA: We in Aloha For All believe that equality under the law allows us all to remain unified in the Aloha Spirit while pursuing our distinct cultures. We do not seek a grey uniformity; on the contrary, we value the strong cultural and spiritual differences which make the kaleidoscope of Hawai'i so vibrantly beautiful. Colorblind law does not mean colorless culture. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in the Rice v. Cayetano decision: "it demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of by his or her own merit and essential qualities. An inquiry into ancestral lines is not consistent with respect based on the unique personality each of us possesses, a respect the Constitution itself secures in its concern for persons and citizens." The Supreme Court also explained the relationship between equality under law and aloha-for-all this way: "...... the use of racial classifications is corruptive of the whole legal order ... The law itself may not become the instrument for generating the prejudice and hostility all too often directed against persons whose particular ancestry is disclosed by their ethnic characteristics and cultural traditions. 'Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.' " The people of Hawai'i spontaneously treat each other with aloha, except when some people seek special power or privilege. See a major essay "The Aloha Spirit -- what it is, who possess it, and why it is important" at:
REGARDING PRO-HAWAIIAN-CULTURE: Hawai'i is one of the most physically beautiful places in the world; but what makes Hawai'i absolutely unique is Hawaiian culture and language, and the Aloha Spirit. Many people came from elsewhere to live in Hawai'i, and are committed to remaining permanently, precisely because of Hawaiian culture, language, and spirituality. Some of these first-generation immigrants have shown their love of Hawaiian culture and language by learning more about Hawaiian culture and language than most lifelong residents or most ethnic Hawaiians. The preservation and re-invigoration of Hawaiian culture and language are helped by a legal system which provides equal rights for all people to pursue their cultural interests within a stable, unified, multicultural society.
Political unification is the history of both Hawai'i and the United States. The United States was formed by the unification of separate states and territories, and was preserved by a bloody civil war. Hawai'i was unified by Kamehameha the Great through bloody warfare with opposing chiefs on his own island and other islands. Following the annexation of Hawai'i, in the first Territorial legislature in 1901, 70% of the representatives, freely elected by the people of Hawai'i, were ethnic Hawaiian; and they voted unanimously to seek statehood. Likewise, the statehood vote of 1959 was overwhelmingly positive, including a majority of ethnic Hawaiians. Put to a vote again today, the result would almost certainly be the same.
We cannot have a successful unified democratic society in which there is a racial or hereditary elite, or a division of political sovereignty along racial lines. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We are an island community. Our people are inextricably intertwined through intermarriage, religion, occupations, place of residence, etc. Whatever one group does affects us all. Fundamental decisions about political sovereignty are for all the people of Hawai'i to decide.
What follows is an open letter "from the heart" to the people of Hawai'i regarding Hawaiian sovereignty.
Aloha to the People of Hawai'i:
Occasionally an advocate of race-based political sovereignty for ethnic Hawaiians will write or speak "from the na'au" (from deep down inside) expressing strong feelings of pain or anger. Well, I have strong feelings too. There is no historical, legal, or moral justification for race-based political sovereignty or racial entitlement programs for ethnic Hawaiians. Scholarly and legal analyses of the issues can be found on my website:
But this essay is from my na'au. It is intensely personal. It is a defense of equality, unity, brotherhood, and aloha for all.
I first visited Hawai'i in 1982. In 1992 my body returned to permanently join my soul, which had never left. The magical 'aina (land, sea, and sky) made the gods easily visible here. I loved Hawaiians and their language, hula, music; ideals of aloha, lokahi, ha'aha'a, 'olu'olu, etc. explained by George Kanahele. I spent several years full-time (teacher's pension) studying Hawaiian language, history, and culture, at first naively assuming the sovereignty activists are right. But study, thought, conversation, and gut-wrenching spiritual struggle convinced me otherwise.
Studying the culture and language has not made me an expert, but shows the sincerity of my love and respect for the Hawaiian people and their cultural and spiritual heritage. My limited knowledge surpasses that of many ethnic Hawaiians, including some activists too busy politicking to learn "their" heritage. Some activists oppose my learning these things. Because if everyone can share culture and language, then the only thing the activists can claim as unique is a gene or two. "Eh brah, you got da koko, you Hawaiian. You no got da koko, you no Hawaiian" (having the blood is both necessary and sufficient for being Hawaiian, they say).
It grates to hear highly-educated, highly-paid, Hawai'i-born university professors speak about loss of culture and language which they themselves haven't bothered to learn. It is insincere, patronizing demagoguery. When a sovereignty activist opens a political event with a chant or prayer in Hawaiian, ask why. Do they think the gods don't understand English? Or are they merely trying to impress the audience? Some activists get upset when I, a haole malihini (white newcomer), dare to speak "their" language, or say a prayer in Hawaiian when helping restore a heiau (stone temple). They forget where the written language came from, and that many prayers and chants survive only because they were written down (Hawaiians did not have any written language until the missionaries from New England arrived in 1820 and created one). Much of the culture today, and virtually all the linguistic fluency, has been learned from books or special-purpose workshops rather than from routine upbringing. Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike acquire cultural or linguistic authenticity through sweat-equity rather than blood-equity. I am not a "wannabe" Hawaiian. I am saying that some blood-Hawaiians have only the blood, and may be merely wannabes in any cultural or spiritual sense.
I believe all persons are inherently equal, unlike some activists who think genetics determines one's standing before God. I believe we should all be equal under the law, unlike some activists who think ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to racial supremacy, superior voting rights, and special property rights. I believe Hawaiian culture deserves special respect as first among equals, a great treasure of the world, and a unique defining characteristic of Hawai'i. But it grates to hear someone say ethnic Hawaiians are the hosts, and everyone else is merely a guest. Most people with any Hawaiian blood today have mostly non-Hawaiian blood. 99% of the bones of every ethnic Hawaiian's ancestors are buried somewhere else in the world -- even a 100% blood-quantum Hawaiian has less than two thousand years of ancestors buried here and tens of thousands of years of ancestors buried somewhere else. All those ancestors deserve respect.
Newcomers to Hawai'i became full partners. John Young, a sailor from England, was held captive by Kamehameha and soon thereafter voluntarily stayed with the King, becoming an important advisor. His expertise enabled Kamehameha to destroy his enemies. Young was given chiefly status, the governorship of Kamehameha's home island, a homestead near the great heiau of Pu'ukohola, and marriage into the family (becoming grandfather to Queen Emma). Newcomers brought written language, Christianity, and the rule of law; all eagerly embraced by Hawaiians. Gerritt Judd almost single-handedly saved Hawai'i's independence in 1843. Tens of thousands of Japanese and Chinese came to work on the sugar plantations. Filipinos came to work on plantations, in healthcare, and hotels. We are all equal partners in Hawai'i, and it is morally wrong for sovereignty activists to claim racial supremacy.
It grates to hear that this is the only homeland for Hawaiians, but everyone else has some other homeland. Tell that to a person of ethnic Asian or Euro-American ancestry whose family has lived in Hawai'i for 5,6, 7 generations. Telling a multigeneration Japanese family they can look to Japan as a homeland is like telling an African-American to go back to Africa. Indeed, telling this malihini I can go back to Boston is grossly improper, because Hawai'i is my homeland, adopted in my heart through struggle and tears. As the song says, "He loa ka helena ma ke alahele, e huli wahi ma keia ao ... He Hawai'i au." It has been a long journey on the path to find a homeland in this world ... I am Hawaiian.
Hawaiian racial supremacists say that non-ethnic-Hawaiians asserting equal rights is a form of cultural genocide. Nonsense. In the early decades of the Territory, with equal voting rights for all citizens, Hawaiians dominated the legislature. But at the same time Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian-language newspapers (freely published contrary to claims the language was illegal) slowly declined. Over the past 20-30 years there has been a great renaissance of language, hula, music, voyaging, and archeological restoration -- all within the U.S. legal system of equal rights, and supported by all ethnic groups. The population of ethnic Hawaiians fell to about 39,000 at Annexation, but since then has multiplied sevenfold to about 200,000 inside Hawai'i and perhaps 100,000 living elsewhere. Hawaiian population, health, language, and culture have improved enormously within the U.S. orbit compared to the final 40 years of the monarchy.
Of course some Hawaiians are poor. So are some Asians and Euro-Americans. If Hawaiians are worse off than other groups, they will get most of the government help under any system that gives help based on need alone. There's only one reason to give help based on race instead of need, and that is to divide people along racial lines. If some people prefer special culture-based healthcare, education, etc. then make such things available to all cultural groups. Let a variety of providers offer services, and let government help pay for services to needy people, who can choose whatever style they prefer.
It grates to see professors, lawyers and administrators demanding racial entitlement programs to help poor downtrodden Hawaiians. What they really want is to save their own highly-paid jobs. OHA should help people, but instead spends millions on advertising to boost its own image. DHHL was supposed to put Hawaiians "back on the land," but instead built ordinary suburban housing like Waimanalo and Papakolea -- and recently completed the Kalawahine project providing upscale housing for stockbrokers and fire captains. The theory in 1921 was that if Hawaiians were given fee-simple land they would sell it and fritter away the money. But Hawaiians today can care for themselves without oversight from paternalistic bureaucrats. Why not convert those leases to fee-simple? Before DHHL there was a homestead program giving land to people without racial restrictions. The Barrett case seeks to end OHA and DHHL. Sovereignty activists stir up emotions by saying the elimination of DHHL would throw tutu out of her hale (throw auntie out of her house). Nonsense! Future homesteading leases could still be awarded to people based on need without racial restrictions, and OHA's money would be well-spent to convert existing leases to fee-simple (neediest families first). But of course the staffers wouldn't like losing their jobs.
It grates to hear Hawaiian supremacists portrayed as underdogs. OHA has about $400 Million. Bishop Estate (oops -- Kamehameha Schools) has 6-15 Billion (estimates vary). These two institutions have lots of lawyers, accountants, and paid lobbyists. Most large lawfirms have lucrative contracts with them, refusing to represent their opponents who must rely on pro-bono attorneys hoping to collect fees and expenses if they win. When OHA wants to oppose Rice or support the Akaka bill, it buys full-page ads in the newspaper, and commercials on TV and radio, sends lobbyists to Washington, and pays for glitzy cocktail parties. When I and my friends want to support Rice or oppose the Akaka bill, we send e-mails and letters. That great propaganda factory in Manoa has taxpayer-funded professors, staffs, buildings, and hundreds of students supported by tuition-waivers receiving good grades and degrees for towing the party line; while I and my friends have to hustle to get a rare speaking engagement out in the community.
All humans are inherently equal, and should be treated equally by government under the law. A colorblind society need not be colorless. Equality provides a guarantee of fundamental fairness, allowing multicultural pluralism to thrive. Political unity supports cultural diversity. Hawai'i is a rainbow of colors and cultures, each beautiful and unique. Wouldn't that rainbow look weird if the colors were placed as thin stripes in separate parts of the sky?
I am opposed to racial separatism. I am opposed to ethnic nationalism. And I speak on behalf of many ethnic Hawaiians who feel intimidated by the activists. I get phone calls, e-mails, and hushed conversation from Hawaiians thanking me for voicing their feelings. Some have considerable standing in the community; some are unknown. They ask me not to reveal their names. They are afraid. How sad. And also very understandable. Because some activists for racial supremacy are not bashful about saying, "We were once warriors too, you know -- and I hope for all our sakes we aren't forced to using more than pens." A hint or threat of violence is itself an act of violence, and must be repudiated. The African-American civil rights movement succeeded, as my friends and I are now succeeding, by speaking truth to power, standing up for what's right, and using the courts when necessary to obtain justice. Like those activists, I too am descended from people who once were indigenous. My native, aboriginal ancestors practiced slavery and human sacrifice, and used clubs and spears against their opponents. Some parts of history are best left in the past.
The people of Hawai'i are thoroughly intermarried and intermingled. We live, work, pray, and attend school side by side in the most racially integrated society in all of America. What history and the free choices of people have joined together, let not politicians and racist demagogues rip asunder. Support equality, unity, brotherhood, and aloha for all.
For a statement of basic principles, see
For an analysis of some of the actual proposals for Hawaiian sovereignty, see the following webpage and judge those proposals against the positive principles:
Aloha kakou. Mahalo.
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
46-255 Kahuhipa St. Apt. 1205
Kaneohe, HI 96744
tel/fax (808) 247-7942
(c) Copyright 2001 - 2008
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
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