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Ken Conklin -- Personal background and anecdotes showing why the Akaka bill would be harmful to the unity of Hawai'i

Aloha. I am Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. I am a retired professor and public school teacher. I am an independent scholar engaged in thinking, researching, and writing. My main interest since 1992 has been the study of Hawaiian history, culture and language with a focus on the historical, legal, and moral issues related to Hawaiian sovereignty.

My history in Hawai'i began with summer visits starting in 1982. I was profoundly moved by the spirituality of the land. I was attracted to Hawai'i's rainbow of cultures. I particularly admired the ethnic Hawaiian people on account of their culture: especially the religion, language, music, and hula. In 1992 I retired from a long-term teaching position in Boston in order to move permanently to Kane'ohe, where I expect to remain until my ashes merge with the land.

Some of my opponents now say I am just another mainland haole trying to preserve my white privilege and turn Hawai'i into another Massachusetts. But no. I had visited Hawai'i on several summer vacations before coming here to live. Hawai'i is a special place, different from where I had lived before. That's one reason I came here. And I knew before coming that in Hawai'i my white face would be surrounded by an overwhelmingly brown population. That was a positive factor, not a negative one. Hawai'i's beautiful rainbow of cultures and races is one of the things that attracted me, and I am working hard to protect the integrity of that rainbow, to keep it from splintering.

Because of my reasons for coming to Hawai'i, I immediately began full-time study of Hawaiian history, culture, and language upon arrival in Fall 1992; and have continued those studies through today. At the beginning I naturally assumed that whatever these beautiful people with their beautiful culture were saying about history must be true. Because of my love and respect for them, I naively adopted their views about Hawaiian sovereignty. Who could resist Israel Kamakawiwo'ole singing "The Song of Sovereignty"?

My first Hawaiian sovereignty rally was probably the "best" one ever -- the January 1993 'Iolani Palace commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy. At least ten thousand activists marched through the streets, and the ethnic Hawaiian Governor Waihe'e removed the American flag from all state buildings so that only the Hawaiian flag would fly. Senators Akaka and Inouye sent word that they approved. I watched as firebrand Hawaiian activist Haunani-Kay Trask screamed from the coronation pavillion: "I am NOT an American. I will NEVER be an American. I will DIE before I am an American." (yet she is a registered voter and therefore signed an affidavit swearing she is a citizen of the State of Hawai'i and the United States of America!) I watched as the American flag was raised on 'Iolani Palace only for the purpose of then lowering it and hoisting the Hawaiian flag. When that American flag was lowered and the Hawaiian flag was raised, the sovereignty activists in Honolulu cheered just as loudly as, eight years later, crowds of Islamic activists cheered to see the planes fly into the twin towers in New York and bring those scyscrapers crashing down.

During my first seven years of permanent residency I attended hundreds of sovereignty rallies. I had intense personal conversations with many people in public places and in their homes, and walked alongside some of the activists as they marched from Mauna Ala (Royal Mausoleum) to 'Iolani Palace.

Having a Ph.D. in Philosophy makes me an inquisitive person with the ability to analyze information and to pursue research until I get all the way down to the bottom of something. I became increasingly uneasy with the discrepancies between what people were telling me and what I was reading. Being a spiritually-centered person I feel a constant need to merge soul, mind, and heart.

I began looking more objectively at the events I attended. I began asking questions that probed beneath the surface and made my "friends" uncomfortable and occasionally hostile. I began attending sovereignty meetings less as a supporter and more as an observer, trying especially to see into the minds and hearts of the participants. By the time of the 100th anniversary of annexation, in 1998, all those books, conversations, and rallies gave me plenty of information and feelings, accompanied by plenty of doubts.

I recognized the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty to be the most complex and interesting puzzle I had ever studied. But the complexity was not merely intellectual. I went through a period of meditation, prayer, logical analysis, and gut-wrenching emotional upheaval, until finally everything began to coalesce into "the big picture" which I now see with increasing clarity.

The picture is both terrible and wonderful. There is frightening potential for great evil. But there is also uplifting hope. Hawai'i can be a sparkling gem that will serve as both hokule'a and pu'uhonua -- a star of joy to guide the world as it navigates these turbulent times, and a secure refuge for soul, mind, and heart.

Some opponents note that I focus entirely on ethnic Hawaiians. They accuse me of racism. But my opposition is not directed toward all ethnic Hawaiians; it is directed only toward those ethnic Hawaiians who demand special race-based rights or privileges. There is no other ethnic group in Hawai'i which has people aggressively demanding racially exclusionary government handouts, and even an entire government just for themselves. Of course the various ethnic groups have ethnic-specific organizations and festivals, such as the Japanese-American Citizens League, See Dai Doo, the Narcissus Festival, the Filipino Cultural Center, and St. Patrick's Day. But all such institutions are very small, and do not threaten to take over the government. They have nowhere near the wealth and political power of OHA, DHHL, Kamehameha Schools (Bishop Estate), Alu Like, Papa Ola Lokahi, etc. What I oppose is because of what I support -- unity, equality, and aloha for all. For a statement of my fundamental principles as related to Hawaiian sovereignty, see:


Some personal stories illustrating why the Akaka bill will promote divisiveness rather than unity

(1) Racial restrictions on voting and candidacy.

In February 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Rice v. Cayetano. The State of Hawai'i was ordered to abolish racial restrictions on voting, and to allow all registered voters to vote for the trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. By that time I was knowledgeable about Hawaiian history, spoke Hawaiian language with moderate fluency, and participated in elements of Hawaiian culture. In summer 2000 I decided to run as a candidate for OHA trustee. The state government elections office refused to issue me nominating petitions to gather signatures to become a candidate. They made that decision solely on account of my race. I said "Rice v. Cayetano." They said "That court decision only says we have to let you vote, it does not say we have to let you run." Attorney Bill Burgess was very kind to give pro bono legal representation to a multiracial group of thirteen plaintiffs (including two ethnic Hawaiians) to file a lawsuit (Arakaki#1) in federal court to abolish the racial restriction on candidacy. We won the lawsuit, and I became the first person with no native blood in OHA's 20-year history to run for OHA trustee. My candidacy was the headline story two days in a row in all the newspapers, TV and radio stations -- first the court decision, then the issuing of nominating petitions. The political establishment and news media were in an uproar because it had always been unthinkable for anyone to try to cross that color barrier in Hawai'i. Our segregated voting system and segregated candidacy system had finally been abolished, decades after the Southern states had been forced to desegregate their primary elections and their schools. It's no accident that that same summer of 2000 is when the Akaka bill was first introduced in Congress. It has been only five years since the courts desegregated voting and candidacy for government offices in Hawai'i, and now Congress is considering legislation (the Akaka bill) that would re-establish racially segregated elections. Can't we all just get along together? For coverage of the Arakaki#1 lawsuit, see:


(2) Using Hawaiian language is a political statement in itself, and can be "politically incorrect" for people with no Hawaiian native ancestry.

(2a) In 1992 I began learning Hawaiian language. After a few years, I was able to speak it with moderate fluency, but rarely had occasion to speak the language outside of class. One day I joined a group of Hawaiian activists working in a taro patch. We enjoyed each other's company, and the bonding that comes with getting mud under the toenails together. On a bus ride returning from the workday, I sat next to the Hawaiian activist who had led the group. I spoke one sentence to her quietly in Hawaiian language, thanking her for including me in the day's events. She turned angrily toward me and said "How dare you speak to me in Hawaiian! I don't speak my own language because your white ancestors stole our language from us, made it illegal. Now you use your white privilege to study my language and throw it in my face." I speak several languages, and have used them when visiting the countries where they are spoken. Most locals smile and seem genuinely happy to hear me try to speak their language (sometimes they gently correct my grammar, or help with vocabulary). They see it as a sign that I respect them and their culture. I have never encountered this sort of hostility from a local person toward my use of the local language except in Hawai'i.

(2b) On the day Judge Gillmor ruled in our favor in the Arakaki#1 lawsuit, the TV news cameras were rolling as we came out onto the courthouse steps. A reporter asked me "Mr. Conklin, if you win your election, will you forget the [ethnic] Hawaiians in order to carry out your political agenda?" I answered in Hawaiian language: "'A'ole au e poina i na kanaka maoli Hawai'i 'oiwi. Nui ko'u aloha i na kanaka maoli, a me na po'e a pau noho ma Hawai'i nei." And then I repeated it in English: "I will not forget the native Hawaiians. I have great love for native Hawaiians, and for all the people of Hawai'i." The reporter did not know Hawaiian. Hardly anyone watching the news broadcast knew Hawaiian. But that's the sound-bite that was broadcast, because speaking Hawaiian was a political act.

(2c) The March 1, 2005 hearing on the Akaka bill before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee featured a Hawaiian language chant written and performed live by OHA Chair Haunani Apoliona. Since members of the committee (including ethnic Hawaiian Senator Akaka himself) do not speak Hawaiian, one wonders what was the purpose for doing that. It was not to provide information about the bill. Rather, it was to put on a performance for political purposes: bolstering the claim that ethnic Hawaiians are an indigenous people with their own language, and "witnessing" for their beliefs much like religious zealots who feel better when they shout from a mountaintop. The hearing was broadcast live over the internet (both audio and video). A couple weeks later audio/video file was placed on the Committee's website. So long as the file remains there, it can be played by clicking here:

(2d) On March 31, 2005 two committees of the Legislature of the State of Hawai’i held a joint meeting to receive information about the Akaka bill from Hawai’i’s two U.S. Senators and Hawai’i’s two U.S. Representatives. Committee Chairman Representative Scott Saiki began the official hearing by asking committee member Representative Ezra Kanoho to offer a prayer. Rep. Kanoho proceeded to lead a singing of the Christian Doxology in Hawaiian language [most of the ethnic Hawaiians in the hearing room sang right along with him in Hawaiian], and then followed with a prayer mostly in English invoking the presence of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to bring everyone together to help pass the Akaka bill. First, of course, the use of explicitly Christian praising of God and prayer to God for a political purpose in a government hearing is grossly inappropriate (although not unusual in Hawai'i). Second, the use of Hawaiian language was a blatant political assertion of special status for ethnic Hawaiians, and a propaganda technique for leading the audience to believe that ethnic Hawaiians are an indigenous people who have a special relationship with God. For a complete transcript of the hearing, including the Hawaiian language Doxology hymn, see:

(2e) A substantial number of schools in Hawai'i use Hawaiian language as the language of instruction. Some are private preschools (Punana Leo), some are public (taxpayer supported) elementary and high schools (Kula Kaiapuni). In addition, there are a dozen public "host-culture" charter schools which teach some subjects in Hawaiian language and have the learning of the language as a primary objective. In all these schools, chants and prayers to the ancient Hawaiian gods are part of the routine events of the day. None of the parents of the children in these schools grew up speaking Hawaiian as their primary language. The parents are learning the language in night school to keep up with the children. The purpose of the whole program is both cultural and political, and the children are being used as pawns to fulfill purposes they are too young to understand. The very worthy cultural purpose is to preserve and revive a language which was close to dying out twenty years ago. The political purpose is racial separatism, to establish a cadre of "native speakers" of Hawaiian language and to demand a racially separate school system with a politically aggressive curriculum fostering racial supremacy and "liberation" from America. The people running these schools are not bashful about saying that teaching Hawaiian language is a tool for ethnic nation-building. See:


(3) The "I am Hawaiian" argument in civil and criminal court cases.

For several years I lived a five-minute walk from Kane'ohe District Court, until the new courthouse was built at a location farther away. The two-room courthouse was a pleasure to visit, with no metal detectors, easy conviviality between staff and citizenry, and the cozy sound of rain falling on the tin roof. I sometimes spent two or three hours there on many days. Each day there were hundreds of routine quickie traffic cases followed by short trials on more difficult cases (like DUI), and occasional longer trials on more serious criminal cases like assault or theft. Once each week there were also small-claims civil cases.

Occasionally an ethnic Hawaiian would demand special treatment for no reason other than race. There were Hawaiians who refused to get driver's license or car registration or car insurance, claiming that the State of Hawai'i has no jurisdiction over them because they are Hawaiian. Some claimed they could not be prosecuted without permission from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In a civil case for eviction from private property which had been sold to a new owner, the ethnic Hawaiian squatters claimed their family had indigenous rights to live on the land and the property deed was not valid because it was conveyed under the false authority of an office of the illegal State of Hawai'i. Sometimes the Hawaiians had large packets of documents to bolster their cases, and had tried to file motions with the clerk.

In almost all these "Hawaiian" cases the magic number flowed easily from the lips of people who sometimes were otherwise poorly educated or incoherent: P.L. 103-150 (the apology resolution of 1993). The argument was always made that the United States had admitted that there was an illegal invasion and overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, so therefore the U.S. has no rightful jurisdiction in Hawai'i. And the U.S. has apologized to Native Hawaiians. Now here am I, a Native Hawaiian, reminding you that you have no jurisdiction over me, and that you owe me restitution and reparations. Most judges were very polite. Some were deferential. Occasionally it seemed to this observer that ethnic Hawaiians were getting much more favorable treatment than others. And in quiet conversations outside the courtroom, some ethnic Hawaiians told me they had been stopped by police on many occasions for having no license plate or a Hawaiian Kingdom license plate, but that the police officer would let them go because they are Hawaiian.

These bogus jurisdictional claims are already taking up valuable court time and getting race-based leniency for some defendants. The frequency and severity of jurisdictional disputes will escalate greatly if the Akaka bill passes; and will become unmanageable once an Akaka tribe has actually been recognized.

The following document contains copies of two resolutions passed by Western States Sheriffs' Association in 2003 and 2004 on the subject of tribal sovereign immunity abuses and local public safety impacts. The letterhead stationery shows the number of states and organizations standing behind these resolutions.

See also excerpts from a letter from the Attorney General of Connecticut on March 10, 2003:


(4) University of Hawai'i and Hawaiian Sovereignty -- A Case Study in Political Correctness Run Amok, Trampling of Academic Freedom, and Harnessing of Hawai'i's Flagship University by its President as a Tool in Support of Ethnic Nationalism.

This is a story of academic freedom trampled at the University of Hawai'i: intimidation against offering a "politically incorrect" course; past and present threats of violence against "politically incorrect" professors, staffers, and students; a public university harnessed by its recently hired President to serve political goals of racial separatism and ethnic nationalism.

In late July or early August 2002 a "politically incorrect" course was listed in the small catalogue of an outreach program at the flagship Manoa campus of the University of Hawai'i (UH). Intimidation began the moment the course title and instructor's name were announced: "Hawaiian Sovereignty: Another Perspective" by Ken Conklin, Ph.D. The instructor is well known among Hawaiian sovereignty activists as an outspoken opponent of their fundamental beliefs.

After the course and instructor were made public, there were several instances when the program director was intimidated in her office by one or another large Hawaiian-looking man demanding the course be cancelled. Threatening phone calls were received over a period of more than two months before and during the course. Administrators expressed regrets to the program director but did nothing to provide security or protect academic freedom. The elderly students were frightened into withdrawing. It appeared the course would be cancelled, with zero support for academic freedom from UH administration. After all, if nobody wants to take a course, there’s no point in offering it.

The instructor of the course under siege decided not to simply disregard the intimidation. He discovered that similar intimidation has affected other professors, staff, and students over a period of years. The intimidation is always provoked by course content dealing with Hawaiian history, culture, or language when courses are taught by instructors outside the Center for Hawaiian Studies who have no Hawaiian blood. The intimidation always seems to come from students of the Center for Hawaiian Studies, possibly at the behest of and certainly with a wink and nod from the faculty there. The Center for Hawaiian Studies seems to control all discussion on this topic throughout all UH departments (as well as the community colleges and the K-12 public schools), and zealous CHS students intend to keep it that way. Professors, staffers, and students who disagree don’t dare to speak out. The fear is palpable.

For many years the University of Hawai'i has functioned as a propaganda factory for Hawaiian racial entitlement programs, racial separatism, and ethnic nationalism.

In any first-rate university one would expect to find robust debate among scholars and political partisans on opposite sides of important issues. In Hawai'i there is no more important issue than Hawaiian sovereignty. The historical, legal, and moral aspects of Hawaiian sovereignty are extremely complex, providing unlimited opportunities for scholarly debate. But at Hawai'i's flagship university there is dreary conformity to an ideology that would preserve and expand an already-established racial supremacy for all persons having a drop of native Hawaiian blood.

Support for this ideology of racial supremacy is the primary focus at the Center for Hawaiian Studies (CHS), and has become firmly entrenched in every other academic department or school which has relationships with CHS. Lucrative private grants, federal contracts, research projects, field activities, and academic tenure and advancement are at stake as individual professors and entire departments eagerly seek participation in collaborative projects focusing on the needs and demands of a favored racial group. Professors in other departments dare not engage in research, teaching, or writing about "Native Hawaiian" issues without consulting with and getting approval from CHS.

Political leftists often dominate university faculties and student bodies. UH is no exception. The leftists usually protest whenever they discover powerful outside institutions using money and influence to interfere with free inquiry or to control research programs or curriculum. But at UH the leftist ideology of political correctness, social justice, and identity politics dovetails perfectly with the political power and wealth of government and private ethnic Hawaiian racial entitlement programs. For many years, dissent from this ideology has not been tolerated at UH.

The newly hired President of the university, Evan Dobelle, arrived July 2, 2001. Coming from the East Coast and with no expertise in Hawaiian history or culture, on July 18 he was already pledging unlimited support for the Center for Hawaiian Studies. He has expanded that support throughout his first 15 months on the job, announcing massive increases in financial support and affirmative action for CHS. To the delight of both the leftist faculty and the Hawaiian activists, he announced his intention to further politicize the university.

On September 11, 2002 President Dobelle gave a major speech to the first annual convention of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a consortium of wealthy and powerful ethnic Hawaiian political organizations and entrenched service providers. In the speech Dobelle enlisted the university as a partner in a political struggle to protect and expand racial entitlement programs in the face of 14th Amendment legal challenges. Dobelle also announced that he was committing the university to a long-term goal of ethnic nationalism, helping bring to reality the dream (actually, a nightmare) of a Native Hawaiian nation.

President Dobelle explicitly politicized the university by pledging its active support for racial entitlement programs and ethnic nation-building. Racial entitlement programs will be protected and expanded if the Akaka bill is passed, and then the ethnic nationalist independence activists can press forward with their campaign to rip the 50th star off the U.S. flag. UH President Dobelle has committed the university to be a partner in both endeavors. His strong support for racial entitlements, racial separatism, and ethnic nationalism clearly emboldens students and staff at the Center for Hawaiian Studies.

Enormous money and power are at stake, especially if the Akaka bill passes in Congress. The deep politicization of the University of Hawai'i is clearly contrary to a spirit of academic freedom in which there could be robust, open debate of the controversial historical, legal, and moral issues of race-based political sovereignty for ethnic Hawaiians.

In Fall 2002 there was shocking indifference to the intimidation of the program director of the Academy for Lifelong learning and the students enrolled in the Hawaiian sovereignty course. How should we interpret the lack of administrative support for academic freedom and the lack of administrative action to guarantee safety for the administrator and students? Was this lack of support just carelessness? Ineptitude? Was it perhaps a typical administrative situation where nobody wants to take responsibility and the buck keeps getting passed? Or was the lack of support a calculated strategy to let the course (and academic freedom) quietly die?

The following topics are covered in detail in this case-study, located at:

(1) A look at the racial supremacist doctrine which is the CHS party line and which President Dobelle actively supports; (2) A discussion of the UH propaganda factory known as the Center for Hawaiian Studies, and why its monolithic party line in support of racial supremacy has become the unchallenged orthodoxy in every academic department that shares students and curriculum with CHS; (3) A review of the short history of President Dobelle’s tenure as President at UH, focusing on his aggressiveness in pushing the CHS agenda and his recent pledge to politicize UH even further, harnessing UH as a partner in bringing about a racial supremacist government entity; (4) The first exchange of e-mails between the director of the Academy for Lifelong Learning and Dr. Conklin which then resulted in the newspaper article and editorial; (5) The Honolulu Advertiser article and editorial; and the articles published in the UH student newspaper Ka Leo; (6) Other examples of threats, intimidation, property damage and career damage caused by CHS activists and timid administrators


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