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Should race or religion be used as a basis for granting, prohibiting, or otherwise restricting access to certain public lands of the state of Hawaii? Should a person's access to specified public lands be granted or withheld or given preference on account of his race or religion? Testimony of Ken Conklin for the Halawa-Luluku Interpretive Development Project, January 22, 2008, regarding mitigation of damage to the land and culture caused by the construction of the H-3 Highway.


** NOTE for website readers: The Halawa-Luluku Interpretive Development Project began in 1999, with frequent administrative meetings and public meetings since 2004. Their website is at:
http://www.hlid.org/
At the bottom of that webpage is a link for "archives" and in the archives is the preliminary draft for the Interpretive Development Plan, Jan. 22, 2008, a document of 90 pages which can be downloaded in pdf format by clicking here:
http://www.hlid.org/pdf/IDP_Draft_080122.pdf
The testimony below is in response to that plan.

To: Halawa-Luluku Interpretive Development Project
Re: Interpretive Development Plan "Preliminary Draft"
For: Public hearing at Castle High School
Date: January 22, 2008
From:
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.

Aloha mai kakou.

O Ken Conklin ko'u inoa. Mai ke ahupua'a o He'eia mai au.

I am Ken Conklin. I have been a resident of the ahupua'a of He'eia continuously since 1992, and visited here several times during a period of ten years before that. I have a deep respect and appreciation for Hawaiian history, culture, language, and people. On numerous occasions I have participated with work groups restoring and maintaining the Kawa'ewa'e Heiau in Kane'ohe, including occasions when I led the cultural entrance protocol offering 'oli (chant) and pule (prayer) to the gods in Hawaiian language along with ho'okupu (offerings).

It is good that the federal and state governments are cooperating with community members to mitigate the adverse effects from the construction of the H-3 highway, including a substantial budget for protection of, public access to, and interpretation of, historical and cultural artifacts and places.

However, I am concerned that some elements of the proposed mitigation are themselves likely to cause adverse effects which would, in turn, need to be mitigated -- adverse effects on unity and equality in Hawaii's multicultural, multiracial society.

As is often said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is in that spirit that I express the following concerns in hopes of preventing adverse social and cultural effects that would arise from a few ill-advised components of your "preliminary draft" plan.

The most troubling element of the preliminary draft is its contemplation that certain areas of Hawaii's public lands will be labeled "kapu" and that the interpretation of "kapu" by the designated management agencies ("'Aha Council" and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs) will result in complete exclusion of the general public except for a few chosen individuals who will be granted access based on their racial heritage and/or religious practices.

For evidence that this is a real concern, I direct your attention to page 3, "Objectives", item # 1 "Healing of the 'Aina" part (b) "implement preservation and restoration plans to protect existing resources by designating kapu areas"; and to page 5 describing the role of the 'Aha Councils; and to page 4 identifyiing the race-based Office of Hawaiian Affairs as having administrative authority for the mitigation program in general and especially that OHA will become Program Manager responsible for permitting the activities and public access allowed at Halawa and especially at Luluku.

Regarding OHA: Its mandate is to serve the needs of ethnic Hawaiians to the exclusion of others. It routinely gives grants for racially exclusionary programs. It has spent (literally) untold millions of dollars on propaganda and advertising for the racially exclusionary Kau Inoa program and in support of the racially exclusionary Akaka bill. It sponsors television infomercials and newspaper ads claiming that the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands (including about 95% of all the government lands of the State of Hawaii) belong to ethnic Hawaiians collectively as a racial group. It is grossly inappropriate to put OHA in charge of managing lands that should be accessible (or restricted) without regard to race.

The public lands of Hawaii must always remain open or restricted to all the people of Hawaii on an equal basis regardless of race and also regardless of religion.

The very first phrase in the First Amendment found in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." As it says, government shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Therefore those who wish to practice their religion on public lands should be allowed to do so (subject to reasonable regulation). However, the Constitution also says, in the same place, that there can be no government establishment of religion. And in the 14th Amendment the Constitution also says that each person is guaranteed the equal protection of the laws regardless of race.

Setting aside certain public lands as "kapu" and then administratively giving different amounts and kinds of access to different people based on race or religion is both illegal and immoral, because it uses government power to establish preferential treatment for one religion above others and for one race above others.

Of course there are conflicting uses for particular parcels of land, and compromises must be made to allow private cultural or religious practices at some times while guaranteeing public access at others. The National Parks have wrestled with this issue for many decades. For example, "Devil's Tower" mountain (featured in the movie "Close Encounters of the Second Kind") is sacred to a tribe of Indians, but is also a favorite place for skilled athletes to engage in rock climbing; and the park authorities regulate access so as to accommodate both interests on a schedule widely publicized to everyone well ahead of time.

There are some who say that anyone with a drop of Hawaiian native blood is an "indigenous person" with a special spiritual and even genetic relationship to the land. The racist Kau Inoa TV ads paid for by OHA are beamed into the living rooms of all Hawaii's people, insulting the 80% who are so unfortunate as to lack a drop of native blood.

One Kau Inoa ad features "cultural practitioner" Butch Helemano saying "Well basically, you know, being Hawaiian allows me to look at the world with a different perspective than others that aren't. In other words we can look at the sea and look at it as a place of sacredness and look at the sky as a place that we hear and look for messages so don't forget who we are and your culture cuz that's the most important thing here as a Native Hawaiian." Another Kau Inoa ad features "cultural practitioner" Vicky Holt Takamine saying "Every other people that come here to these islands have an ancestral homeland that they can go back to", as though we should all get out of Hawaii, or at least that we don't truly belong here and should not have equal status. Full text and analysis of several Kau Inoa ads can be found at
http://tinyurl.com/22ekaa .

Certainly anyone who chooses to believe a religious tenet is free to believe it and even to proclaim it in the mass media -- even such a divisive, demeaning, and despicable belief as Butch Helemano's statement that there are inborn racial differences in the ability to perceive spiritual messages emanating from the land, sea, and sky. Anyone is free to say that this is our land and anyone lacking a drop of the magic blood should go back to whatever homeland their ancestors came from. But although anyone is free to hold and proclaim such racist beliefs, nobody should be allowed to enshrine them into the laws governing management of and access to our public lands. That enshrinement is exactly what the current "draft proposal" would accomplish through the authorization for "kapu lands" and the empowerment of OHA and the 'Aha Councils as managing agents.

In recent years there has been a movement to revive the old Hawaiian religion, and to use it to assert political demands. For example, we have been told that Mauna Kea is a sacred place and there should be no telescopes there; we have been told that Makua is a sacred place and there should be no military training there; we have been told that taro is the elder brother in the genealogy of ethnic Hawaiians and there should be no patenting or genetic modification of it. For a large webpage describing and analyzing the use of Hawaiian religion for political purposes, see:
http://tinyurl.com/2n4hy .

With all due respect to today's so-called "traditional practitioners" I would point out that the old religion was abolished in 1819 by order of the three most powerful leaders of the Kingdom of Hawaii -- King Liholiho Kamehameha II, Queen Ka'ahumanu (wife of Kamehameha the Great and regent for the boy King), and High Priest Hewahewa. These leaders were exercising self-determination on behalf of their people. They abolished the old religion BEFORE the American missionaries ever arrived in Hawaii. When the kapu was broken in a public ceremony and the order was given to destroy all the heiau and burn the wooden idols, a civil war broke out. The diehard deadenders defending the old religion were killed in the Battle of Kuamo'o and the issue was settled. Wasn't it?

Today's "traditional practitioners" are creating a new religion containing some reinvented elements of the old religion but lacking the old religion's comprehensiveness. For example, today's cultural practioners (hopefully) do not practice human sacrifice, the death penalty for women who eat bananas or coconuts, or the exclusion of women to a separate dwelling during the days of their monthly menstrual cycle. Yet such practices were essential components of a thoroughly integrated seamless religion.

The religion of today's "traditional practitioners" has no continuity with the pre-contact old religion. It is not the religion of Hawaii's truly indigenous people; rather, it is a religion no more nor less deserving of respect or political deference than any "new age" or mainstream Western or Asian religion. Anyone is welcome to practice the newly reinvented Hawaiian religion; but nobody should be allowed to claim special privileges or land management rights based on it. In any case, no race or religion should be endowed with supremacy or governmental authority in our multiracial, multicultural society.

An ancient Hawaiian 'olelo no'eau (clever saying; proverb) says: "He ali'i ka 'aina, he kauwa ke kanaka." Land is chief; people are its humble servants. Here is the conclusion of a webpage devoted to that proverb; the full webpage can be seen at
http://tinyurl.com/h3rdb

We ARE all equal in the eyes of god(s); and we SHOULD all be treated equally under the law. The spirit of the land speaks to all who have ears to hear, regardless of race. Land is chief; people are its humble servants. It is wrong for some servants to demand supremacy for their family or their racial group thereby arrogantly asserting they are superior over the land. The navigation stories confirm we are all immigrants here -- even someone with 100% native blood has 99% of the bones of all his ancestors buried somewhere else in the world outside Hawai'i. The sovereign Kings of Hawai'i exercised self-determination on behalf of their people to recognize that all subjects of the Kingdom are equal under God and should be treated equally under the law regardless of race. Today's activists seeking race-based political power and race-based control of land are disrespecting the decisions of their ancestors carried out for more than a century of sovereign Kingdom history. Kingdom law, and U.S. law, both recognize all races as equal. Both kinds of law recognize that the ceded lands belong to all Hawai'i's people, regardless of race. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, the State of Hawai'i Department of Hawaiian Homelands created to implement it, and the OHA created in 1978, will all be declared unconstitutional when courtroom delays and appeals eventually give way to final decisions. Then perhaps we can stop fighting over racial supremacy in controlling the land, and start serving the land in full consciousness of our inherent equality under the gods and the laws.

I object most strenuously to any kapu or system of land management and access control that would treat people differently based on race or religion. I object for myself, because I share the deep love for the 'aina and respect for the gods that is expressed by some "cultural practitioners" and because I demand for myself the same rights of expression and access they have. I also object on behalf of all the people of Hawaii -- both those with native blood and those without -- who want to be treated with equal respect under the law, in a spirit of unity and aloha. I object out of fear that the Halawa-Luluku Interpretive Development Project will become another brick in the wall of "Hawaiian Apartheid -- Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State" (title of my book; see http://tinyurl.com/2a9fqa ).


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