We Need a Second Dialog on Sovereignty Where All Can Participate Without Predetermined Conclusions

Posted below is an original, full-length essay submitted for publication to the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. (A correction to population percentages has been made.) A shortened version was actually printed in the newspaper, under a headline which we did not write and which does not express our views, and accompanied by inflammatory photographs from the overthrow of 1893. For further details of the mis-publication of this essay, see the note at the end.


(c) Copyright 2000 H. William Burgess, Kenneth R. Conklin, and Sandra Puanani Burgess All Rights Reserved.

The Focus article "Let's open a second dialogue" in last Sunday's Advertiser (12/26/99) is based on a false premise, would demote 80% of Hawaii's citizens to second-class status and makes it sound like that is a done deal. If the authors of the article have their way, about 1 million of us and our descendants will become, even more than now, like serfs (or maka'ainana) to support the hereditary elite consisting of anyone with at least one drop of Hawaiian blood.

The false premise is in the 4th paragraph on page B4 where the issue of sovereignty is framed as "the theft of a race of people's land and rights". That statement has no historical or factual basis.

The Hawaiian "race" did not own the Kingdom's lands and no theft of any land or rights to land occurred. In 1893, at the time of the overthrow, Hawaiians made up only about 40% of the population. 60% of the people then living in the Kingdom had not even one drop of native blood. Persons of other ancestry born in Hawaii and naturalized foreigners had the same rights, privileges and immunities as natives. The Queen, like the Kings who preceded her, held the public lands for the benefit of all subjects, not just for those of Hawaiian ancestry. The provisional government, the Republic and each succeeding government to this day has continued to hold the public lands for the benefit of all citizens without regard to race. Hawaiians living in Hawaii today have the same rights with respect to the public lands as they always had, no more and no less than any other citizens.

With respect and aloha for our Hawaiian neighbors and friends and for the authors of the article, we think the real dialogue should be about whether the activists' claims have any historical, moral or legal validity at all.

We propose to look first at the racial divide that now exists in Hawaii and then examine, one by one, the "justifications" advanced in the article for making the wall between us permanent, higher and wider.


Unnoticed by the national public and even by many Hawaii residents, especially during the last 21 years since OHA was created in 1978, Hawaii has quietly become the only state in the nation that divides its citizens into two classes based on race. The wall dividing us has been built by both the federal and state political establishments and extends far beyond "affirmative action" programs such as minority set-asides or hiring quotas or school admission standards.

Those on the "Hawaiian" side of the wall receive the exclusive use of about 200,000 acres of the state's public lands, plus all of the net income and proceeds from the rest of the public lands, plus more than $30 million borrowed every year by issuing State bonds (which saddle the State's taxpayers and their children and grandchildren years into the future to repay the principal and interest) and a multitude of other state and federal programs that provide health, housing, education and other benefits exclusively to those of Hawaiian ancestry. OHA now holds cash and investments of about $350 million and is demanding about $1 billion more for "back" payments for the 11 year period from 1980 - 1991.

In addition, those on the Hawaiian side of the wall continue to share fully in the use of public schools, parks, fire and police protection and other governmental facilities and services. Still not satisfied, speaker after speaker demanded at the just concluded "reconciliation" hearings that "their" nation be restored, all of the public lands be turned over to them and that the U.S. pack up and leave, and, by the way, leave them trillions of dollars for rent for using "their" lands for the last 107 years.

On the other side of the wall are the rest of Hawaii's citizens, the about 1 million people of Haole, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, African American, Latino, American Indian and other ancestries, who are given the privilege of working to support the hereditary elite.

Now, let's look at the assumptions and arguments offered to support this government sponsored racial division and its proposed expansion.


The Focus article starts, "Hawaii will have some form of sovereignty...this is not an issue any more." Later the authors describe as "not really a matter of debate" that, "Those of Hawaiian blood have reparations or entitlements coming their way as a result of wrongs done to themselves and their ancestors."

Whoa! Stop right there gentlemen. You missed the constitution. Remember the 14th Amendment? No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. And the case law? Any governmental attempt to give special treatment based on race or ancestry or blood is presumptively invalid. "My ancestors got here before your ancestors" has never passed strict scrutiny.

Sovereignty, entitlements, reparations and OHA all violate the constitution and are very much in issue. Check the briefs in Rice v. Cayetano now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. Check the amicus brief in OHA v. State now pending in the Hawaii Supreme Court. Here's the way U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia puts it:

"Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution's focus upon the individual, see Amdt. 14, 1 ("[N]or shall any State . . . deny to any person" the equal protection of the laws) (emphasis added), and its rejection of dispositions based on race, see Amdt. 15, 1 (prohibiting abridgment of the right to vote "on account of race") or based on blood, see Art. III, 3 ("[N]o Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood"); Art. I, 9 ("No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States"). To pursue the concept of racial entitlement -even for the most admirable and benign of purposes - is to reinforce and preserve for future mischief the way of thinking that produced race slavery, race privilege and race hatred. In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American."


Was a nation stolen from the Hawaiian people? If we were to pretend that the Republic of Hawaii was not the internationally recognized government of Hawaii and that it had not governed Hawaii for five years before annexation and that the Republic of Hawaii and the United States had not agreed to and completely carried out the annexation of Hawaii and if we disregard the 101 years that have passed and the blood, sweat and tears of the people who have made Hawaii their home since then and if it were possible to turn back the clock and restore the Kingdom, then, by any standard, it should be restored to all the subjects of the Kingdom, not to a select few whose ancestors in1893 made up only about 40% of the population.

The "nation" proposed by the activists is one where the political power is held exclusively by those of Hawaiian ancestry and public lands are held exclusively for them. That is the nation they want to be "restored" to them. However, such a unified nation of Hawaii has never existed.

By 1893, the year of the overthrow, the Hawaiian monarch, like the Queen of England today, reigned but did not rule. The political power was held by multi-ethnic leaders presiding over a multi-ethnic population in which, like Hawaii today, no ethnic or racial group was in the majority. Hawaiians, like the members of each of the other groups, were in the minority. The constitutions promulgated by Kamehameha III and subsequent monarchs gave naturalized subjects all the rights, privileges and immunities of natives.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was itself established in part due to aid given to Kamehameha by westerners whom Kamehameha rewarded by making them high-ranking chiefs and advisors in his government and by giving them large tracts of land. One of them, John Young, was to later have a granddaughter who became Queen Emma. Since 1810, when the Kingdom encompassing all the Hawaiian islands was first established, control of the public land was never reserved exclusively for those of Hawaiian ancestry and that ancestry alone gave persons no added rights, privileges or immunities.

How can we "restore" a nation which never existed? Why would we want to create a new sovereign entity of any kind whose guiding principle is Apartheid?

Were lands stolen from the Hawaiian people? Certainly not. Neither the overthrow nor Annexation made any change in private land ownership. Although some Hawaiians claim the ceded lands (i.e., substantially all the public lands of Hawaii) were, are or should be "theirs", those claims don't hold water. Two federal studies have found that.

In 1983, the Native Hawaiians Study Commission examined the claims of Hawaiians to ceded lands. In a thorough and detailed analysis, the majority concluded that there was no valid basis for these claims.

Twelve years later, the issue came up again when federal officials prepared an environmental impact statement for new usage of Bellows Air Station. The EIS, prepared without reference to the 1983 study, nevertheless came to the same conclusion as the earlier work: that Hawaiians do not have and never had special rights to ceded lands different from the rights of other subjects of the Kingdom of Hawaii or citizens of successor governments.

These two studies were the products of fact-finding investigations, unlike the 1993 "Apology Resolution" which was passed without public hearings, evidence-taking or investigation, as a courtesy to Hawaii's Congressional delegation and upon the assurance of Hawaii's senior Senator that it was "just an apology".

Congress, although it has great power, cannot change historical fact. The historical fact is that the ceded lands were not "stolen" from the Hawaiian people or taken from them without compensation. Under the Kingdom of Hawaii and every government of Hawaii since then, the lands referred to as "ceded lands" were, and still are, public lands held for the benefit of all Hawaii's citizens without regard to race or ancestry. See http://aloha4all.org


The Focus article says "Clearly, in the past 106 years Hawaiians have been the ones excluded.", "lack of power" was a consistent theme and "...political status of Hawaiians has changed little since the overthrow."

The opposite is true. The Hawaiian people never had sovereignty under the monarchy. It was not "their" country; it was the monarch's country. Power did not come from the people; it resided in the monarch. That is what the constitution of the Kingdom said. That's what the Supreme Court of the Kingdom said in Rex v. Booth. That's what Kamehameha V and Liliuokalani said in their pronouncements on the subject.

Hawaiians got sovereignty in 1900 when they became citizens of two democracies, the Territory of Hawaii and the United States. Exercising this sovereignty through the vote, they dominated the legislatures of the Territory for decades. In 1903 the Territorial legislature, with a majority of over 70% Hawaiian members, voted unanimously to seek statehood. In the statehood plebiscite in1959 Hawaiian voters, along with all citizens, considered whether Hawaii should be admitted unto the Union as a state. The "yes" vote in favor of statehood was 94%.

Today, in the State of Hawaii, individuals of Hawaiian ancestry occupy positions of elected and appointed office at all levels, including, in recent years, those of governor, chief justice, speaker of the State house, and U.S. Senator. Far from excluded, the Hawaiian people have for almost 100 years wielded formidable political influence and power, vastly greater than they could have under the monarchy.


The authors of the Focus article say, "Pain will be very much present in the room. It is the pain of having your culture dishonored and your cultural practices and language outlawed."

History confirms that some features of the ancient culture were indeed of incomparable beauty but it also tells us the momentous changes in Hawaiian culture were voluntarily initiated and carried out by the Hawaiians themselves.

The most drastic cultural change came in 1819 when Ka'ahumanu, Kamehameha's widow and then the most powerful of the Ali'i nui, said, "We intend to eat pork and bananas and coconuts and to live as the white people do." Supported by her powerful Maui kinsmen, she "broke the kapu". Under her direction, the young King, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) ordered destruction of the heiaus and burning of the wooden idols. The next year, 1820, the first company of American missionaries arrived, and soon thereafter Ka'ahumanu, the kuhina nui and de facto Mo'i, took charge of Christianity and made it the official state religion. Christianity displaced Lono and Ku as the path to mana and became the new kapu. Those who did not convert were evicted from their aina. Both the British and American consuls protested that Ka'ahumanu's new kapu was a threat to the whaling fleet and bad for business. Ka'ahumanu replied, "We do not rule there [in America or Britain], but these islands are ours, and we wish to obey the commands of God." Native Land and Foreign Desires, Kame'elei'hiwa, 82 and 154-157.

The chiefs for the most part adopted western economic values and were eager to acquire western skills and goods and technology. Indeed, the chiefess Kapi'olani complained to a gratified Lahaina missionary in 1825 that when among her fellow chiefs "I hear so much said about money, and cloth, and land, and ships, and bargains, that it makes me sick..."

The King and chiefs worked with foreign nations, welcomed the westerners and their laws and forms of government and incorporated them into Hawaii's government. In 1845 Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) explained to S.M. Kamakau why he dismissed natives from government offices and appointed foreigners. "My native helpers do not understand the laws of the great countries who are working with us." William Little Lee, who had studied law at Harvard under Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, arrived in Honolulu in 1846 with Charles Reed Bishop. At the request of the King and chiefs, Lee drafted many of the documents which installed a stable democratic American form of government. The constitution of 1852 as approved by the King and chiefs established a strong role for the popularly elected House of Representatives but was not as democratic as Lee had proposed because the Chiefs (whose maxim was "Kanakas were made for the Ali'i) had become jealous of the growing power of the people.

These and many other changes in Hawaiian culture and governance were voluntarily adopted by the Ali'i nui because they considered it in their and their followers' best interests to do so. Hawaiians, like successful people, companies and societies everywhere, welcomed new ideas, adopted those which made their lives better and rejected those old ways which did not.

The Hawaiian activists' argument that they feel pain and deserve special treatment now because 170 years ago immigrants "dishonored" or "dislocated" their culture is not really persuasive at all. Many people of all ethnicities yearn for the old-time cultural values and simpler agrarian ways of their grandparents. But natives and immigrants alike made choices to adopt newer ways of life that seemed more likely to yield success in a changing world, while still honoring their ancestors and feeling pangs of nostalgia. It is patronizing, bordering on disrespectful, when some activists today "feel the pain" in a Clintonesque, staged sort of way to enhance their claims to "victim" status and obtain sympathy from politically correct politicians.

How many Hawaiians today really want to return to a culture where:


The Focus article says, "It's 1999 and Hawaiians are still at the bottom of the social ladder." An unseen violin wailing sadly in the background, the authors speak of "the current plight of many Hawaiians" and "their continued languishing and demise".

Excuse us, but didn't the August 1999 survey commissioned by OHA find that 39% of Hawaiian families have income between $51 thousand and $100 thousand? And only 37% of other families are in that income bracket?

Would someone please explain why our state and federal governments should provide health, housing, educational benefits and other entitlements for all Hawaiians, even those in the middle and higher income classes, but not give those same benefits to other citizens, even to the ones who are truly in need?

Shall we form two lines, one for Hawaiians and one for needy non-Hawaiians, and give help to all the Hawaiians, rich, middle class and poor, before giving whatever resources remain to the needy non-Hawaiians?

The answer of course is that the government should not award benefits or impose detriments based on race. If people are in need, the social support systems of the state and nation should be available to help them, without regard to race. That is the best answer, and it fits perfectly with both the Aloha spirit and the idea of equal protection of the laws.


The authors of the Focus article got it almost right on the blood quantum issue. Almost.

They pointed out that the issue of blood quantum is "divisive, racist and exclusionary". We agree. As Ken Conklin pointed out in a recent letter to the Advertiser, People are not dogs to be judged on pedigree papers.

If the authors had just taken the next step they would have it absolutely right. Any blood quantum is far too high. The blood quantum should be zero. Stop dividing the community by giving help preferentially based on race. Help people on the basis of need. Period.

For further discussion see websites https://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty and http://aloha4all.org


The concept of ethnic self determination, proclaimed by OHA, has no place in a modern, functioning multi-ethnic democracy -- and Hawaii has been one of the world's most envied. Look around at the communities dominated by the partisans of ethnic self-determination, Kosovo, Bosnia, central Africa, Chechnya, East Timor. Is that what we want in Hawaii or in the United States? Has any society ever profited from segregation based on the accident of birth or ancestry?

One of the authors of this essay was a delegate to the 1978 Constitutional Convention which created OHA. He and we now see the creation of OHA was one of the greatest mistakes this state has ever made. For the first 20 years of Statehood, the income from the ceded lands went by and large to the Department of Education where it benefitted public school children of all races, including the about 25% of the students of Hawaiian ancestry. That stopped in 1978 and now all the net income, and more, from the ceded lands goes to OHA which holds it, not even for all Hawaiians but only for the small group of 50% or more Hawaiians. OHA now holds $350 million in cash and investments. Meanwhile, our public school houses and the quality of public education delivered to our young (about 25% of whom are of Hawaiian ancestry) continue to suffer from inadequate funding.

We believe that, if OHA with its separatist agenda and voting rights and giveaway of resources based on ancestry, is allowed to continue, it will eventually destroy three things in Hawaii: the spirit of Aloha; the democratic principle of equal justice; and the State's economic future.

We hope the Supreme Court's decision in Rice v. Cayetano will make it clear that OHA, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the sovereignty movement and all federal and state programs that give special privileges or entitlements to Hawaiians, or to any other ethnic, racial or ancestral group for that matter, should be consigned to the dustbin of history with apartheid, white supremacy, ethnic cleansing and other discredited concepts based on racial discrimination.

That would allow us here at home to restore Hawaii's great gift to the world: Aloha -- true Aloha -- Aloha without government-sponsored racism. It would allow us to again make Hawaii what President John F. Kennedy once said the rest of the world wants to become. It would allow us to make real the glowing statement of Governor Cayetano in his State of the State address, "The spirit of aloha is the glue that holds us together. It is the heart and soul of the Hawaii we all love today - the Hawaii we want to pass on to our children."

Very truly yours,

(Authored and signed by) H. William Burgess, Kenneth R. Conklin, Sandra Puanani Burgess

(Additionally signed by) Donna Malia Scaff, Jack H. Scaff, Fran Nicols, Vernon F.L. Char, Allen Teshima, Patrick Barrett, Heinz-Guenther Pink, Frederick Lins, Diane Canada

(c) Copyright 2000 H. William Burgess, Kenneth R. Conklin, and Sandra Puanani Burgess All Rights Reserved.



Posted above is the original, full-length essay submitted for publication to the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. (A correction to population percentages has been made.) It was written in response to a published article of approximately the same length. We wrote and submitted it five days after the essay to which it replies. However, the Advertiser waited to publish our response until 4 weeks after the original article had appeared, and many important points were left out.

The article to which we were responding appeared on December 26, 1999 can be seen at http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/1999/Dec/26/opinion3.html

Our response, as finally published on January 23, 2000 was considerably shortened, was given a headline which we did not write and which does not express our views, and was accompanied by pictures of armed soldiers from the newspaper's archives from the overthrow of1893. We feel that the shortening of the essay, the misleading headline, and inflammatory photos do a disservice to the actual content of our essay.

The essay as published on January 23 can be viewed at



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(c) Copyright 2000 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


Email: ken_conklin@yahoo.com