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The trouble with the Kana'iolowalu racial registry

(c) Copyright July 12, 2013 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


Kana'iolowalu is a racial registration process supported by the Hawaii state legislature and using government money. The word as described by its supporters seems benign and friendly: striving together to achieve a goal, like the droplets of water in a stream. But the word has much more violent, warlike undertones. Let's remember that Kamehameha the Great was called "Kana'iaupuni" where that word "na'i" means "conquest" or "conqueror." And "olowalu" means "to rush or attack in concert" and also "dodging the onslaught of spears." So "kana'iolowalu" can best be translated as "conquest through swarming" -- a method of warfare like the blitzkrieg, whereby attackers surround, rush, and overwhelm an enemy.

The main trouble with Kana'iolowalu is philosophical and moral. The state legislature is creating a list of people who have at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. Once the list is created, the legislature intends to grant governmental powers to that racial group and then hand over state government money and land to it. Should our state government be supporting a process intended to divide the lands and people of Hawaii along racial lines?

There are also many important practical and legal troubles with the actual process currently underway.

In Act 195 (2011) the legislature created the foundation for a state-recognized tribe by declaring that ethnic Hawaiians are are Hawaii's only indigenous people, and by setting up the Kana'iolowalu process to create a list of them. Now, in Act 77 (effective July 1, 2013) the legislature has authorized a pitifully small enrollment in the Kana'iolowalu racial registry to be enormously expanded by automatically dragging in the names of everyone whose Hawaiian native ancestry has been previously verified by OHA, Kamehameha Schools, other race-based institutions, or birth certificates on file at the state Board of Health. See the news report by Associated Press in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser of July 8, 2013.

There are at least three scenarios where the Board of Health might certify ethnic Hawaiians for the racial registry. They range from a completely voluntary confirmation requested to the BOH by the individual applicant, to an involuntary process where Kana'iolowalu tells BOH to have clerks or computers examine every birth certificate on record to compile a list of names of everyone who has "Native Hawaiian" on the certificate. See below for more details. Whatever method is used, BOH will have to deploy personnel and budget to this new task, without any additional funding, which will divert resources from its other important responsibilities and from people with no native blood simply waiting to get certified copies of their birth certificates for normal purposes like applying for driver licenses, passports, etc.

It's troubling enough when a government rounds up everyone with a specific racial heritage and creates a list of their names. But the biggest trouble comes when that list is put into action to eventually take government land and money currently held on behalf of all Hawaii's people and hand it over to the racial group. Most of Hawaii's people probably oppose that idea; and perhaps even a majority among ethnic Hawaiians oppose it. Certainly it would be unconstitutional to do that, although Hawaii seems to do many unconstitutional race-based things faster than the U.S. Supreme Court can strike them down.

Aside from those fundamental philosophical and moral issues, the main practical trouble with Kana'iolowalu is that it has already failed in its effort to appear to be a political entity and not merely a racial registry. Such a small percentage of ethnic Hawaiians signed up for it that the leadership has decided to automatically add more than a hundred thousand names from earlier registries. Those registries were entirely racial with no pledge of political, civic, or cultural allegiance. Thus most of the names on the expanded Kana'iolowalu roll will be there based entirely on race, destroying any pretense that it is a political group.

It's at least immoral, and probably illegal, to drag people's names into a new membership roll containing political affirmations which those people might not support, and without asking their permission. There are rumors that Kana'iolowalu might allow involuntarily dragged individuals to opt out or withdraw their names. But that's not the righteous way to decide who's in and who's out. Each person should be asked to opt in before his name gets added, not asked to opt out after it was already involuntarily added. The reason a real Indian tribe today exercises legal, governmental authority over its members is because the members have voluntarily joined (children enrolled by their parents freely affirm or disavow their membership when they become adults).

More trouble comes from the exercise of authority by a minority over a majority. After more than 7 years and millions of dollars in advertising and recruiting, only 108,000 people had placed their signature on the Kau Inoa registry -- out of 527,000 ethnic Hawaiians counted in Census 2010. That's barely 20%, yet they would be presumed to make decisions for the other 80%. The same is true for the entire population of Hawaii. There is no quorum or membership threshold below which Kana'iolowalu must remain unactivated. Ethnic Hawaiians (and others) who oppose the whole concept are left on the outside and have no way to oppose it even if they are a majority. Should the 21% of Hawaii's people who have a drop of Hawaiian blood be allowed to dictate that our entire population and lands be divided along racial lines? 20% of a 21% minority is only four percent of Hawaii's people; and if the enrolled membership makes decisions by majority vote, that's only two percent of Hawaii's people deciding the future for us all. Those two percent will be the most aggressively activist racial partisans in Hawaii, guaranteeing permanent racial strife and unending lawsuits.

More trouble comes from the fact that 237,000 ethnic Hawaiians live outside Hawaii, which is about 45% of the total 527,000 in the U.S. Should the State of Hawaii transfer land and money to the control of a "tribe" where 45% of its people live outside the state? See "Census 2010 Native Hawaiian data -- some political implications for the Akaka bill, Act 195 state recognized tribe, and the Hawaiian grievance industry racial victimhood allegations" at

Additional trouble comes from the fact that the news media always focus on the conflict between two factions of Hawaiian sovereignty activists, portraying those as the only two options for resolving the "plight of the Native Hawaiians." The story goes that ethnic Hawaiians are poor downtrodden victims of history desperately in need of reconciliation and recompense, and how to accomplish that is a choice between (a) creating a racial separatist Hawaiian Indian tribe vs. (b) U.S. withdrawal from Hawaii to make Hawaii once again an independent nation.

But of course those are not the only choices. There's a third choice, which is certainly preferred by most of Hawaii's people and probably preferred even by a majority of ethnic Hawaiians. It's the aloha choice of unity and equality: Hawaii remains unified with the United States; Hawaii's people remain unified under the single multiracial sovereignty of the State of Hawaii; and we fully embrace the concept that we are all equal in the eyes of God regardless of race and we all should be treated equally by our government with no special privileges or handouts based on race. See "Aloha For All -- Basic Principles" at
See also my essay in the Honolulu Advertiser of July 20, 2001 at
and my expanded version of it "Three Choices For Hawai'i's Future: Akaka Bill vs. Independence vs. Unity and Equality" at

A powerful and persuasive speech rejecting racial separatism and ethnic nationalism, and supporting the aloha choice, was given on Sunday June 2, 2013 by Dr. Keli'i Akina. He is the new CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and a 2012 OHA trustee candidate, who is of Hawaiian and Chinese ancestry and a graduate of Kamehameha School. He addressed the Conservative Forum for Hawaii at the Naniloa Hotel Crown Room in Hilo Hawaii. Dr. Akina's topic was "E Hana KÔkou: The Advancement of Native Hawaiians and All Residents of the Aloha State.ö A news report about it is at
A video of the entire one hour eight minute event is available at


The trouble leading to Kana'iolowalu began when the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created in the 1978 revision of the Hawaii state Constitution. A Constitutional convention voted to place 116 amendments on the ballot, making it difficult for voters to understand everything. The amendments were grouped into 34 packages in a way which made it nearly impossible for voters to single out and reject particular items they didn't like. Overwhelmed by the complexity, uninformed about the details, and having been propagandized by government leaders, the voters approved all the amendments. The Hawaii State Bar Association demanded a new election. Following a lawsuit Kahalekai v Doi, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that six items must be discarded because the voters had not been properly informed about them, including the racialized definitions of the terms "Hawaiian" and "native Hawaiian." Somehow the legislature "fixed" the problem. The items related to creation of OHA received more "no" votes than "yes" votes, but were deemed to have passed because, at that time, blank votes were counted as "yes." A later Supreme Court decision held that a Constitutional amendment should pass only if it receives "a majority of all the votes cast upon the issue" [including blanks], which today is interpreted to mean that blank votes count as "no." OHA would not exist if that had been the way blanks were counted in 1978.

The racial troubles built into the amendments became clear in year 2000. The Constitution said that only people with Hawaiian blood could be allowed to vote for OHA trustees or to be candidates for trustee. In Rice v. Cayetano the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the requirement that voters must be racially Hawaiian to vote for OHA trustees violates the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that the right of citizens to vote "shall not be denied or abridged on account of race." Governor Cayetano expelled all 9 OHA trustees on grounds they had been elected illegally. A followup decision later that year (Arakaki#1) in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu, later confirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the requirement that candidates for OHA trustee must be racially Hawaiian also violates the U.S. Constitution's 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In November there were 96 candidates for the 9 trustee seats, indluding more than a dozen who had no native blood, one of whom actually got elected (Charles Ota for the Maui seat).

Under the amended state Constitution OHA was empowered to speak on behalf of ethnic Hawaiians. Thus OHA has spent many millions of state government dollars on advertising, travel, and lobbying for various bills in the legislature, racial registries (like Kau Inoa and Kana'iolowalu), and especially for the Akaka bill. Furthermore OHA, a state government agency, was empowered to choose to spend government money on projects which could be exclusively for the benefit of one racial group -- a clear violation of the 14th Amendment "equal protection" clause of the U.S. Constitution. Several federal lawsuits were filed during the next ten years seeking to abolish OHA and various racial entitlement programs. However, none of those lawsuits reached the merits of the issue, due to dismissals on technical grounds related to lack of "standing" or the "political question" theory. The merits of those cases remain open to future litigation. See history, document citations, published commentaries and analysis of those lawsuits in "Tenth anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano"

Kana'iolowalu is the latest in a long string of OHA-sponsored racial registries designed to create a government list of people having at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. This time around OHA was hoping to create not merely a racial registry but a political entity which the State of Hawaii could treat as a state-recognized Indian tribe and which might then also get federal recognition.

Being a political entity is an essential element of being an Indian tribe. The U.S. government does not recognize all Native Americans as a single tribe. Indeed, a majority of Indians are not members of any tribe. Perhaps all members of a tribe are racially Indians, but certainly not all Indians living in a certain area are members of the tribe. There are several hundred different tribes, each having its own unique government and membership roll. Hundreds of years ago these tribes controlled different areas of land, spoke different languages, and often warred against each other. Each tribal government exercises significant authority over its members, just as the 50 different state governments make different laws exercising authority over their citizens. The U.S. government does not give benefits directly to individual Indians, but instead gives benefits to each tribe; and the tribe then distributes the benefits to its enrolled members.

What made Kana'iolowalu appear different from earlier Hawaiian racial registries was the effort to make it look like a political entity, or government. People submitting applications for membership not only must prove their Hawaiian native ancestry, but also must (a) "affirm the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people, and my intent to participate in the process of self-governance" and also affirm (b) "I have a significant cultural, social or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community." See the application form at

Those two political affirmations make it look like Kana'iolowalu is a political entity and not merely a racial group. However, being racially Hawaiian is the only requirement actually enforced by demanding documented proof. There is no demand for an applicant to provide proof of membership in any Native Hawaiian cultural, social, or civic organization, nor even to give the name of any such organization he belongs to. There is no requirement for a notarized affidavit affirming the unrelinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people and intent to participate in the process of self-governance. Thus we see that right from the beginning, the Kana'iolowalu enrollment was serious only about the racial requirement and was putting in the political affirmations merely for show to give the impression it was a political entity.

But after a full year of soliciting enrollment throughout America and a budget of several million dollars, only 9300 people had signed up compared to a stated goal of 200,000 and a Census 2010 count of 527,000 ethnic Hawaiians nationwide.
Ethnic Hawaiians were voting with their feet against Kana'iolowalu. So OHA persuaded the state legislature to pass a bill, signed by Governor Abercrombie to become Act 77 (2013) allowing the Kana'iolowalu registry to automatically add onto its membership roll all the names that had previously had their ancestry verified in connection with OHA's Operation Ohana, OHA's Hawaiian Registry, OHA's Kau Inoa registry (108,000), Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Kamehameha Schools, etc. In addition, the state Department of Health will verify whether the word "Hawaiian" appears on someone's birth certificate, or a parent's birth certificate, without needing to send an actual copy of the birth certificate to Kana'iolowalu and without requiring the usual payment of ten dollars for a certified copy.

So how exactly will that Board of Health process work?

There are at least three scenarios where the Board of Health might certify ethnic Hawaiians for the racial registry. (a) An individual who voluntarily applies for registration with Kana'iolowalu writes a note to BOH asking BOH to send a note to KNO confirming that "native Hawaiian" is on the birth certificate. (b) KNO assembles a list of names who have applied to KNO, and from time to time, without asking permission from the individual applicants, sends the list to BOH requesting confirmation of "Native Hawaiian" on the birth certificates for all those names. (c) KNO asks BOH to have its clerks look through every birth certificate on file, or create a computer program to do it, to identify every person whose birth certificate contains the racial designation "Native Hawaiian" (at least for births in Hawaii and perhaps also for births in other states), create a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, etc., and send the list of certified Native Hawaiians to KNO. We don't know yet which scenario will be followed, or whether the method of operation might change at the whim of the bureaucrats. But since there's currently a deadline of the end of 2013 for KNO to compile its final list, and there great embarrassment at the small number of voluntary applicants, we can expect the bureaucrats to panic and move swiftly to option (b) and then (c). Whatever method is used, BOH will have to deploy personnel and budget to this new task, without any additional funding, which will divert resources from its other important responsibilities and from people with no native blood simply waiting to get certified copies of their birth certificates for normal purposes like applying for driver licenses, passports, etc.

People who participated in all those earlier registries, most notably Operation Ohana, Kau Inoa, Kamehameha Schools, or merely having "Native Hawaiian on their birth certificates, never made any political affirmations about unrelinquished sovereignty or membership in Native Hawaiian political or cultural organizations -- all they did was to prove their Hawaiian racial ancestry. And now the vast bulk of names on the hugely expanded Kana'iolowalu registry will be imported from those other registries that were based solely on race. This destroys any pretense that Kana'iolowalu is anything other than a racial registry. It will certainly not be eligible for federal recognition as an Indian tribe. Even the numerous tribes that have only state-recognition have been given that recognition because historically they exercised significant governmental authority over their members.

Citizenship and voting rights in the Kingdom of Hawaii did not depend on race. The government that exercised authority over Hawaii included numerous Caucasians in positions of authority, who were either native-born or naturalized subjects of the Kingdom. Englishman John Young served as battlefield general and chief counselor to Kamehameha The Great, who gave him his daughter in marriage, a house immediately next to the sacred Pu'ukohola heiau, and made him Governor of Hawaii Island. John Young's bones are the oldest bones buried at Mauna Ala, the Royal Mausoleum. Throughout the Kingdom's history most cabinet ministers and judges, nearly all department heads, and perhaps 1/4 of the members of the legislature were Caucasians. There were more than a thousand adult Chinese immigrants who became naturalized subjects of the Kingdom, with full voting and property rights (until King Kalakaua signed a new Constitution in 1887 stripping them of their voting rights).

So when Kana'iolowalu talks about the "unrelinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people" it is greatly exaggerating. The Native Hawaiian people behaved as no Indian tribe ever behaved, by welcoming huge numbers of non-natives into the nation as full-fledged members with voting and property rights and placing them into leadership positions. The sovereignty was exercised by Caucasians and Asians as full partners with the native Hawaiians. Indian tribes rarely allowed Caucasians or escaped slaves to become members through marriage or special achievements, and almost never allowed non-Indians to become chiefs.

Kana'iolowalu would like to present itself to the U.S. as though it is a freestanding tribe, when in fact it is being created by the state legislature using state government money and will forever be merely an appendage of the State of Hawaii. The genuine Indian tribes existed as freestanding sovereign political entities before the Europeans arrived and before the United States was created. Neither the U.S. nor any of the states created them. But the phony Akaka/Kana'iolowalu tribe never existed until the State of Hawaii (and perhaps eventually the U.S.) invented it. Real Indian tribes need not disclose their budgets and salaries to anyone outside the tribe, or even to ordinary tribal members unless a tribal law compels them to do so. OHA often behaves like a wannabe tribe. OHA has repeatedly refused to comply with state requirements to disclose its expenditures and personnel salaries on grounds that OHA is not a state government agency. The Office of Information Practices ruled that OHA is a state agency and must comply with public access regulations, but OHA continues to refuse. The situation will be the same for the Akaka/Kana'iolowalu tribe. In the end a court will force compliance. See a detailed analysis of this issue "OHA is a state government agency despite its assertions to the contrary. It must disclose its income, budget, and expenditures. OHA, the new Act 195 state recognized tribe, and any future federally recognized Akaka tribe are government-created agencies and therefore must all comply with the 15th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution" at

Kana'iolowalu is the latest in a long string of OHA-sponsored racial registries designed to create a government list of people having at least one drop of Hawaiian native blood. Left-leaning activists seem to make no protest against such a list even though they vigorously protest government archiving of personal data about individuals, disclosed by Edward Snowden. Have we learned nothing from the consequences of the German government creating racial registries in the 1930s?

For 13 years, from 2000 through 2012, Hawaii's Congressional delegation spent most of its political capital, and OHA spent millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying, in a failed effort to push the Akaka bill to get federal recognition of ethnic Hawaiians as though they are an Indian tribe. Tribes are allowed to engage in the same sort of racial discrimination which would be illegal for governments, hotels, lunch counters, etc. The main motive for federal recognition was to give legal protection to the racially exclusionary policies of wealthy, powerful institutions (like OHA and Bishop Estate), and to continue the flow of billions of government and philanthropic dollars into the state economy through hundreds of race-based programs.

Creating a race-based government, and dividing up the lands and people of Hawaii along racial lines, is the way Hawaii can sell its Aloha Spirit soul to the Devil. The purpose is to appease the demands of a few hardcore racial activists and to perpetuate the flow of federal dollars through the wealthy and powerful institutions controlling Hawaii's multitude of racial entitlement programs. Do we really want to follow the path laid out in other nations where racial separatism and ethnic nationalism have taken over? Bosnia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Timor ... must we add Hawaii to that list?


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