(c) Copyright 2003, Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

Hawaiian sovereignty activists begin by pointing out that Hawai'i is the homeland of ethnic Hawaiians. Nobody disagrees. Then they go a step further and say that Hawaiian culture is the host culture. Not much argument there. Then they go still further, and make their hidden meaning a bit more clear: in Hawai'i, ethnic Hawaiians are the hosts and everyone else is a guest. Well, that sounds very friendly and welcoming. Conflict begins when the meaning is made still more clear by the addition of a single word: "merely." In Hawai'i, ethnic Hawaiians are the hosts and everyone else is MERELY a guest. Guests have no real standing. They have no right to be present unless the host welcomes them. Guests have no right to make demands for equal treatment, although gracious hosts may freely bestow equal or even superior treatment as a gift of hospitality. Guests certainly have no right to impose demands for large-scale or long-term changes in the design or layout of the ancestral homeland. Guests are always second-class citizens under law, although gracious hosts may choose to give them first-class treatment, so long as they show proper appreciation and do not get maha'oi (rude or uppity).

There are important historical reasons why the duality of host/guest is not valid in Hawai'i. We are all full partners in Hawai'i as a result of free choices made by Hawaiians which established a social contract of legal and moral equality for newcomers in return for massive investment of capital, labor, and expertise. See:

The old Hawaiian religion was overthrown in 1819 by a decision of King Liholiho Kamehameha II jointly with his regent stepmother Ka'ahumanu, favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great. The heiau (stone temples) were destroyed, the kapu system (taboo) was abolished, and the wooden idols were burned. The Calvinist missionaries arrived later at a fortuitous time in 1820, having been invited by several natives who had journeyed to Yale University divinity school; and most Hawaiians converted to Christianity rather quickly. Perhaps the most famous native who traveled to Yale, converted to Christianity, inspired the missionaries to come to Hawai'i, and helped the missionaries learn Hawaiian and translate the Bible, was Opukaha'ia (Obookiah). For his magical story, hinting at divine intervention, see:

But although the old religion was abolished nearly 200 years ago, it has been making a comeback lately among Hawaiian "traditional practitioners." And although most ethnic Hawaiians today are Christians, they also embrace the mysticism of the old religion, especially regarding the special relationship between the land and the natives. Even some Christian priests of Hawaiian ancestry practice elements of the old religion and tell their Hawaiian parishioners there is no conflict between Christianity and many of the ancient beliefs. Thus it's OK to pray to the Christian God while also recognizing the 40,000 Hawaiian gods. It's OK to believe in Hawaiian family or ancestral aumakua (guiding spirits) who may take the form of mano (shark), honu (turtle), or pueo (owl). After all, Christians believe in angels; and some alleged Christians believe in reincarnation as well as the concept that God is manifested in animals and plants. People of all faiths are confused about theology, including priests and theologians themselves!

Hawaiian "traditional practitioners" hold religious views that are clearly in conflict with Christianity. But what is more important for the future of Hawai'i is that Hawaiian traditional practitioners hold religious views that are strongly in conflict with democratic political principles. They believe that it is NOT true that all persons are equal in the eyes of the gods. First, they believe that people of native Hawaiian ancestry have a family relationship with the gods and the land; and that relationship is not shared with anyone lacking Hawaiian ancestry. Thus, ethnic Hawaiians are inherently and inalienably entitled to racial supremacy in Hawai'i. Second, they believe that some ethnic Hawaiians have inherently higher spiritual standing than other ethnic Hawaiians, because of geneology. That higher spiritual standing based on geneology translates into an inherent right to superior political power. Thus, it is NOT true that all persons are equal in the eyes of the gods, and it is NOT true that all persons should be treated equally by the laws or the government.

One of the Constitutional principles that has made America strong is the first part of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This principle is commonly called the "separation of church and state." The "free exercise" clause means that government cannot interfere with the right of Hawaiian traditional practitioners to practice their traditions, and the right of others to become their spiritual followers. However, the "establishment" clause means that government cannot force anyone to adopt Hawaiian religion, and that government cannot establish laws based explicitly on Hawaiian religion -- laws such as how land shall be used, or who has the right to decide.

Indian tribes can use religion to make tribal laws or to decide tribal policies, because of two principles of Indian law: (1) the U.S. Constitution does not apply to Indian tribes; and (2) the members of an Indian tribe join the tribe voluntarily and thereby agree to be subjected to tribal law and to give up their U.S. Constitutional rights. An Indian tribe is free to establish a government religion which its members are required to obey, and it is free to prohibit any competing religions from being practiced on tribal lands.

When an Indian tribe has its reservation lands in a single place in a remote area, there is clearly no conflict with "outsiders." But in Hawai'i, people with a drop of native blood are scattered throughout all streets and all neighborhoods on all the islands. Ethnic Hawaiians live, work, and play side by side with non-ethnic-Hawaiians, at all levels of society and in all occupations.

Hawai'i as a whole must choose whether to be governed by non-sectarian U.S. law that allows free exercise of religion but prohibits any government-imposed religion; or whether to acknowledge the racial supremacy of ethnic Hawaiians over other races and the geneological supremacy of some ethnic Hawaiians over other ethnic Hawaiians. This is a fundamental conflict that cannot be set aside or compromised. It is a conflict between Hawaiian culture and Western culture. The zealotry of ethnic Hawaiian sovereignty activism is quite frightening when viewed by Americans accustomed to religious tolerance. But the demand for American-style religious tolerance is (or logically should be) "foreign" and "rude" and "intolerable" from the perspective of Hawaiian activists who claim Hawai'i is their homeland and everyone else is an uninvited guest. The conflict is not often visible, because most Hawai'i residents (both with and without native ancestry) are not theologically sophisticated and do not practice their religions "religiously." But to see the conflict expressed viciously, one need only read or listen to Haunani-Kay Trask -- and she does not even discuss religious principles! See:

The concluding paragraph of the Rice v. Cayetano decision is important:

"When the culture and way of life of a people are all but engulfed by a history beyond their control, their sense of loss may extend down through generations; and their dismay may be shared by many members of the larger community. As the State of Hawaii attempts to address these realities, it must, as always, seek the political consensus that begins with a sense of shared purpose. One of the necessary beginning points is this principle: The Constitution of the United States, too, has become the heritage of all the citizens of Hawaii."

But Hawaiian sovereignty activists say: Nonsense! Illegal overthrow. Illegal annexation. Illegal statehood vote. Hawai'i is under a 110-year belligerant military occupation by the United States. We are not Americans. We will never be Americans. This is our country and we're going to take it back. We'll start the process by getting recognized as an Indian tribe. We'll get billions of dollars and millions of acres of land in reparations. Then we'll go to the United Nations and get an international court to rule that we are an independent nation, as the U.S. has already confessed in the Apology bill of 1993. First we'll force the U.S. military out of Hawai'i. And sooner or later we'll rip that 50th star off the flag. Thus there is a common core of fundamental beliefs held by supporters of the Akaka bill and supporters of Hawaiian independence. See:

The people and politicians of Hawai'i are asleep at the switch. They just don't "get it." They think it's OK to pass the Akaka bill to keep the pork barrel dollars flowing into Hawai'i from Congress. They want to be nice to those poor, downtrodden Hawaiians. Hawai'i's people have adopted ethnic Hawaiians as the state mascot; the favored race.
As long as nothing too drastic happens, we'll all just quietly slide into that long, dark night of balkanization and racial supremacy. That must not be allowed to happen. The purpose of this webpage is to help Hawai'i's people, and decision-makers in Washington, understand the dangers posed by the religious theories underlying the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the dogmatic zealotry of the activists.


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