Three Choices For Hawai'i's Future: Akaka Bill vs. Independence vs. Unity and Equality

(c) Copyright 2004, Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D., all rights reserved

The following article was published in the on-line newspaper Hawaii Reporter on April 26, 2004, in response to two articles published in the Honolulu Advertiser the previous day.

Hawaiian Sovereignty - Let's Choose the Aloha Alternative

By Kenneth R. Conklin

The Honolulu Advertiser of Sunday April 25, 2004, had two articles about the Hawaiian Recognition bill (Akaka bill) S.344 and H.R.665. One supports the Akaka bill. The other opposes it and supports independence from America instead. The Advertiser presents only those two concepts. But we do not need to choose between two evils. There is another possibility -- the aloha choice of unity and equality.

The first Advertiser article is in favor of the Akaka bill, by University of Hawaii Professor Davianna McGregor. She was the author of the 1993 apology bill in which Congress apologized to ethnic Hawaiians for alleged U.S. assistance in the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy. [The U.S. Senate Morgan Report of 1894 made available on the internet in 2006 at proves conclusively that there was zero U.S. assistance to the Hawaiian revolution] In her article, she supports the Akaka bill as a way to save racially exclusionary government programs and institutions that benefit ethnic Hawaiians. She argues against the position of the Hawaiian sovereignty independence activists, who oppose the Akaka bill because it would make independence from the United States more difficult to achieve. McGregor's article is: "AKAKA BILL YES: Independence does not offer same guaranteed protection of Native rights"

The second article is opposed to the Akaka bill, by Wesleyan University Professor J. Kehaulani Kauanui. She opposes the Akaka bill on the grounds that it would place ethnic Hawaiians more firmly under the plenary power of Congress by treating them as though they are an Indian tribe, thereby making it even more difficult than at present for ethnic Hawaiians to demand independence from the United States. Kauanui's article is: "AKAKA BILL NO: Unnecessary bargain extinguishes all claims in exchange for recognition"

Both articles make it clear that Hawaiian sovereignty activists, whether they support tribal status or independent nation status, believe that ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to racial supremacy in Hawaii on the theory of "indigenous rights." Their dispute is focused on whether ethnic Hawaiians can best preserve the racial supremacy they already enjoy in Hawaii, and expand it, by asserting indigenous rights inside an independent nation of Hawaii, or by asserting indigenous rights as members of an Indian tribe inside a state of Hawaii which is part of the United States.

However, there is a third choice which the Advertiser left out, and which it always leaves out in presenting the alternative scenarios for the future of the sovereignty of Hawaii's people. This third choice is undoubtedly favored by the vast majority of Hawaii's people of all ethnicities, and is probably favored by a majority of ethnic Hawaiians themselves. This third choice is to favor unity, equality, and aloha for all.

Unity has two aspects: the unity of Hawaii with the United States (contrary to the desire of the independence activists to rip the 50th star off the flag), and the unity of all Hawaii's people under a single sovereignty of the State of Hawaii (contrary to the desire of the Akaka bill supporters to divide Hawaii along racial lines by creating a race based government exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians).

Sovereignty activists forget that the sovereign Kings of an independent Hawaii made no claim to special "indigenous" rights. The sovereign monarchs exercised self-determination on behalf of their people by granting full voting and property rights to all non-native persons born or naturalized in Hawaii. There was a social contract, or social justice, in which the newcomers contributed their religion, literacy, financial investments and business expertise in return for full membership as equals in the Kingdom. Independence activists forget that countless persons of Hawaiian native ancestry have gladly fought and died for their nation of America, including Korean War medal of honor winner Herbert K. Pililaau. Most ethnic Hawaiians are proud to be Americans, and proud to participate as equals in our rainbow society, despite the rantings of Haunani-Kay Trask and Poka Laenui.

Equality has two aspects.

Spiritually, a belief in equality is a belief that we are all equal metaphysically, or in the eyes of God. This is contrary to the religious belief of some Hawaiian activists who claim that ethnic Hawaiians are, in some sense, the gods' chosen people. The activists say that the gods mated and gave birth to the Hawaiian islands as living beings, and later mated and gave birth to the human ancestor of all ethnic Hawaiians. Thus the gods, these islands, and the ethnic Hawaiians are all related geneologically as members of a family, and anyone lacking a drop of Hawaiian native blood is forever outside that family. Hawaii is the homeland of those who have a drop of the magic blood, and who created the "host culture." The rest of Hawaii's people are mere guests in the Hawaiian ancestral homeland. This religious theory is the basis of the assertion that ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to racial supremacy in the political life of Hawaii, with superior voting rights and property rights based on status as "indigenous" people. The Hawaiian spiritual belief in the fundamental inequality of people in the eyes of god(s), based on ancestry, is the basis for demanding first-class citizenship for ethnic Hawaiians; while the other 80 percent of Hawaii's people would be second-class citizens with limited voting rights and limited property rights.

This two-tier concept of citizenship could be achieved either by becoming an Indian tribe whose members would enjoy special rights in addition to the same rights as all other citizens of Hawaii, or by Hawaii becoming an independent nation with ethnic Hawaiians having special "indigenous" rights.

The "debate" in The Honolulu Advertiser between Professor McGregor and Professor Kauanui is merely a debate over whether independence or tribal status would be the more effective way to guarantee racial supremacy to ethnic Hawaiians. It most definitely is not a debate over what would be the best future for all Hawaii's people.

The two-tier concept of citizenship was asserted in the American system of slavery before the Civil War, and Jim Crow laws afterward. It was asserted in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, with disastrous results. More recently it was asserted in Rwanda and Bosnia. In Fiji in recent years there have been military coups in which a democratically elected government was overthrown when descendants of immigrant sugar plantation workers from India were voted into power (similar to Hawaii's people of Japanese and Chinese ancestry), and the "indigenous" Fijians refused to accept the election results. In Zimbabwe today white landowners with multiple generations of residence are having their land confiscated and are being murdered with the approval of the "indigenous" government. All these moral and political disasters came about because some people felt their racial group was entitled to special rights over the land and over other racial groups. Interestingly, the United Nations has never been able to agree on a definition of "indigenous" people; and the U.N. has had only a draft declaration of the rights of indigenous people for about 15 years because the nations of the world cannot agree on what those rights should be.

The second aspect of equality is much easier to describe. We should all be treated equally under the law. Aside from metaphysical or religious beliefs, it is important in a multiracial democracy that government not discriminate on the basis of race. We must all be able to expect government to treat us even-handedly. That most definitely is not happening in Hawaii today, with the plethora of Hawaiians-only programs paid for with government money or by private institutions: OHA, DHHL, Kamehameha School, Alu Like, Papa Ola Lokahi, Native Hawaiian Leadership Project, etc. Equality under the law is exactly what both the Akaka bill and the independence movement are trying to make permanently impossible.

In an article published in '''The Honolulu Advertiser''' of July 20, 2001, I pointed out that it is a great disservice to the people of Hawaii to portray the sovereignty debate as a choice between only the two alternatives of ethnic nationalist independence vs. Akaka bill tribal status. The third alternative of unity, equality, and aloha for all gets almost no media attention, but is by far the most popular with all ethnic groups.

Hawaii stands at a crossroads. Sovereignty is for all of Hawaii's people collectively to decide. We, the people of Hawaii, should assert our collective right to choose the aloha alternative of equality and unity. We must send a barrage of letters, faxes and phone calls to senators and representatives from other states (forget the Hawaii gang of four). We must tell them that the Hawaiian Recognition Bill S.344 and H.R.665 is extremely controversial, and that it is unconstitutional. We must beg them to rescue us from our own pork-obsessed delegation.

If the Akaka bill passes it will allow a well-organized minority of a minority group to divide Hawaii racially. The bill allows those who like the tribal concept to sign up and create a tribe, without any vote ever being taken by all ethnic Hawaiians (and certainly not by all Hawaii's people) to approve or disapprove such a concept. Those who sign up will elect a temporary tribal governing council. The council will create a tribal governing document, which can be approved by the Secretary of Interior without ever being put to a vote of those who signed up let alone a vote of all ethnic Hawaiians or all Hawaii's people. If the document calls for elections to select a permanent tribal council, only those who signed up get to vote. The council can then enact laws governing tribal members regarding property ownership, education, healthcare, marriage, divorce, child custody, criminal prosecution, etc. all without recourse to state or federal protections (sovereignty means the right to make decisions which other governments cannot interfere with). Violations of tribal law are handled by tribal courts according to whatever procedures the tribal council approves. Federal handouts are given to the tribe, which in turn distributes the benefits however it wishes, making corruption and nepotism normal. Just imagine how fairly benefits would be distributed if OHA's trustees were the tribal council. Just imagine having important personal decisions approved or disapproved by OHA's trustees, with expulsion from the tribe for those who refuse to abide by the rulings or for those who challenge the leadership.

We must tell members of Congress that if they support racial separatism for Hawaii, it will set a precedent for rewarding ethnic strife in their own states. The recent gubernatorial recall election in California shows the beginnings of such strife. Indian tribes contributed tens of millions of dollars to political candidates, without regard to state campaign contribution limits because they are "sovereign" governments (who nevertheless participate in California state elections which sovereign foreign governments are not allowed to do). Hispanic nationalist activists from La Raza and MEChA supported Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who, as a still-active member of those groups, supported the concept of a separate nation for California's people of Hispanic ancestry.

The surest way for evil to triumph is for good people to stay silent and do nothing. It's time to speak up.

The basic principles of unity, equality, aloha for all are described here:

By contrast, the commonly held anti-American and anti-white beliefs of both the ethnic nationalists (independence movement) and the racial separatists (Akaka bill supporters) are identified here:

The Hawaiian religious belief in a family relationship among the gods, these islands, and the ethnic Hawaiians is used as a spiritual basis for asserting a political claim to racial supremacy. See:

A 5-paragraph summary of what's bad about the Akaka bill, followed by extensive reference notes, is here:


(c) Copyright 2004 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved