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What Does the United States Owe to Native Hawaiians? Two reports commissioned by Congress (Morgan 1894 and NHSC 1983) contain the answers, which are directly applicable to the Akaka bill.

The United States owes to Native Hawaiians the same things it owes to all citizens -- things like protection of life, liberty, property, and the rule of law; and assistance to individuals who are unable to help themselves.

The question raised here is this: Does the United States owe Native Hawaiians anything else, in addition to what it owes all citizens? Does the U.S. owe reparations to Native Hawaiians for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893? Does the U.S. owe Native Hawaiians special treatment, group rights, or political sovereignty on account of anything that happened in the past, or on account of current economic or social afflictions?

The simple answer is "No." There are many reasons for that answer.

Some of those reasons are found in major reports that were commissioned by Congress specifically for the purpose of studying what, if anything, the U.S. owes to Native Hawaiians. One report was published in 1894. Another was published in 1983. We do not need to reinvent the wheel every generation. These reports are just as valid today as when they were first produced.

Both reports were swept under the rug by Hawaiian activists determined to extract land, money, and power from the U.S. government to the maximum extent possible. The resolution of sentiment passed by Congress in 1993 apologizing for the overthrow of the monarchy would never have been passed if Senators and Congressmen had been familiar with reports their predecessors had commissioned. The Akaka bill will not pass if Senators and Congressmen can be made aware of what's in those reports.

Fortunately those reports are now easily available on the internet, after years of being hidden away in dusty archives. Following are brief descriptions of what's in those two reports, how anyone in the world can now easily read them, and what bearing they have on the Akaka bill.


THE MORGAN REPORT (U.S. Senate, 1894)

A revolution in 1887 by 1500 armed local men had forced King Kalakaua to agree to a new Constitution giving up most of his powers but retaining his figurehead status as King. The U.S. played no part in that event. On January 17, 1893 the same local revolutionaries took the final step and dethroned Queen Lili'uokalani.

Because of serious threats of violence and arson as the revolution moved from rumor to reality from January14-17, the U.S. representative in Hawai'i sent about 160 sailors and marines ashore to protect American lives and property and to prevent rioting -- the same sort of peacekeeping mission done in modern times in Granada, Haiti, and, quite recently, in Liberia. U.S. forces remained scrupulously neutral; did not conspire beforehand with the revolutionaries; did not provide assistance during the revolution; did not fire a shot or take over any buildings; and spent the night inside a building behind where the Post Office is now located and out of sight of the Palace and the Government Building (Ali'iolani Hale). The mere presence of U.S. troops in Honolulu might have encouraged the revolutionaries and discouraged the Queen's forces; although there is also evidence that some royalists thought the U.S. troops would support the Queen.

U.S. President Grover Cleveland came into office a few weeks after the revolution. He was a friend of Queen Lili'uokalani, and an isolationist opposed to U.S. expansion. He immediately withdrew from the Senate a treaty of annexation proposed by the revolutionary government that had been approved by outgoing President Harrison. Cleveland sent a new representative James Blount to Hawai'i with secret orders to destabilize the Provisional Government of President Sanford B. Dole and to restore the Queen. Blount tried to stir up trouble; and he sabotaged negotiations whereby Lili'uokalani was offering to abandon any efforts at restoration in return for a lifetime pension. Blount assured Lili'uokalani that President Cleveland would get her back on the throne; and she passed along that message to her supporters. Later, in December, Blount's replacement as Cleveland's representative wrote a letter to President Dole on behalf of the U.S. government ordering Dole to step down and restore the Queen. When all Cleveland's efforts failed because of the strength and determination of the revolutionary government, he referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs to investigate the U.S. role in the overthrow and to recommend what should be done (he was hoping Congress might approve the use of force to overthrow Dole).

In early 1894, after two months of hearing sworn testimony under cross examination in open session, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by James Morgan, published an 808-page report concluding that the U.S. had not conspired with the Hawai'i revolutionaries beforehand and had not assisted them during the revolution. The Morgan report repudiated a previous report by Cleveland's hatchet-man Blount. It included evidence that Blount had listened to the royalists and excluded the revolutionaries, and had falsified or misrepresented some statements made to him. As a result of the Morgan report the Senate passed a resolution that there should be no further U.S. interference in Hawai'i, thus destroying Cleveland's hope for approval of U.S. intervention to restore the Queen. Also as a result of the Morgan report, President Cleveland gave up any further efforts on the Queen's behalf; he extended formal diplomatic recognition de jure (rather than merely de facto) to the Dole government, and he engaged in diplomatic negotiations regarding further implementation of treaties. The Dole government held power for more than 5 years, including all 4 years of an initially hostile President Cleveland, and in the face of an attempted armed counter-revolution in which several men were killed and many were imprisoned. The Dole government was not democratic, and probably did not enjoy the support of the majority of Hawai'i's people. But it was given diplomatic recognition by all the nations who had previously recognized the monarchy; just as other oligarchies around the world.

The Morgan report, and President Cleveland's turnabout, should have settled once and for all that the U.S. did not overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, and does not owe any reparations to Native Hawaiians. Indeed, the U.S. during the first year of Grover Cleveland's administration provided the best possible kind of reparations by trying aggressively to undo the Hawaiian revolution forthwith. But when the apology resolution came up in the Senate 99 years later, even the strongest opponents of that resolution had forgotten all about the Morgan report and meekly said they had no quarrel with the history contained in the "whereas" clauses of the apology resolution -- a historical narrative filled with errors and distortions that the Morgan report would have easily corrected.

See the end-notes for internet access to the Morgan report and to two point-by-point rebuttals to the faulty history of the apology resolution.



The Native Hawaiians Study Commission was created by the Congress of the United States on December 22, 1980 (Title III of Public Law 96-565). The purpose of the Commission was to "conduct a study of the culture, needs and concerns of the Native Hawaiians." The Commission released to the public a Draft Report of Findings on September 23, 1982. Following a 120-day period of public comment, a final report was written and submitted on June 23, 1983 to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

The NHSC examined the history of Hawai'i and the current conditions (1980) of Native Hawaiians. One purpose of the commission was to explore whether Native Hawaiians have special needs, and what those needs might be. Another purpose of the commission was to explore whether the United States has any historical, legal, or moral obligation to meet the special needs of Native Hawaiians by providing them with political sovereignty or race-specific group rights.

The commission found that Native Hawaiians have higher rates than other ethnic groups for indicators of dysfunction in health, education, income, etc. The commission concluded that the U.S. has no obligation to remedy those problems in any way other than the usual assistance given by government to all people afflicted with difficulties.

Portions of the "Conclusions and Recommendations" section of the NHSC final report focus on topics of special interest regarding the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill, S.147 and H.R.309 in the 109th Congress. Two conclusions relevant to the Akaka bill might be described as follows:

1. There is no historical, legal, or moral obligation for the U.S. government to provide race-based reparations, assistance, or group rights for Native Hawaiians.

2. Affirmative outreach is appropriate to ensure Native Hawaiians are given the assistance they need; but race-based or racially exclusionary programs are not recommended. Native Hawaiians may be disproportionately afflicted by some specific medical or social problems. Native Hawaiians should receive affirmative outreach to ensure they are aware of and receive help from existing programs open to all needy people. When considering what new programs government should sponsor, care should be taken to target some of those new programs to areas of concern which disproportionately afflict Native Hawaiians. However, the NHSC carefully worded its recommendations to avoid proposing race-based or racially exclusionary programs or group rights.

Following are some quotes from the "Conclusions and Recommendations" section of the NHSC report. These particular quotes are highlighted because of their relevance to the Akaka bill. The full set of conclusions can be found on pp. 23-32 of the report. The conclusions regarding lack of a federal trust relationship with Native Hawaiians, and lack of any obligation to pay reparations, are more fully explored in the NHSC section entitled "Existing Law, Native Hawaiians, and Compensation" found on pp. 333-370 including 198 footnotes citing both Kingdom of Hawaii and U.S. government actions and legal decisions.


"To summarize the Commission's findings with regard to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy: Based upon the information available to it, the Commission concluded that Minister John L. Stevens and certain other individuals occupying positions with the U.S. Government participated in activities contributing to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy on January 17, 1893. The Commission was unable to conclude that these activities were sanctioned by the President or the Congress. In fact, official government records lend strong support to the conclusion that Minister Stevens' actions were not sanctioned." (page 29)

"Besides the findings summarized above, the Commission concludes that, as an ethical or moral matter, Congress should not provide for native Hawaiians to receive compensation either for loss of land or of sovereignty. Reviewing the situation generally, including the historical changes in Hawaii's land laws and constitution before 1893, the Hawaiian political climate that led to the overthrow, the lack of authorized involvement by the United States, and the apparent limited role of United States forces in the overthrow, the Commission found that on an ethical or moral basis, native Hawaiians should not receive reparations." (page 29)

"The relations between the United States and Hawaii up to the time of annexation were relations between two separate, sovereign nations, not between a sovereign and those subject to its sovereignty." (page 25)

"Generally, the most likely possible theories for the award of compensation to native groups for loss of land were aboriginal title or recognized title doctrines." (page 25)

"The law has developed specific tests for establishing aboriginal title: the group must be a single land-owning entity; there must be actual and exclusive use and occupancy of the lands; the use and occupancy must be of a defined area; the land must have been used and occupied for a long time before aboriginal title was extinguished. Additionally, title must have been extinguished by the government of the United States, not by another body, such as the government of Hawaii before the United States annexed Hawaii. Finally, some law must give the native group, here the native Hawaiians, a right to compensation for loss of aboriginal title. The Commission finds that the facts do not meet the tests for showing the existence of aboriginal title." (pp. 25-26)

"Even if the tests had been met, the Commission finds that such title was extinguished by actions of the Hawaiian government before 1893, and certainly before annexation, which was the first assumption of sovereignty by the United States." (page 26)

"Finally, even if these tests had been met, neither the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution nor current statutes provide authority for payment of compensation to native Hawaiians for loss of aboriginal title." (page 26)

"The law also has developed specific legal requirements for compensation of loss of lands by recognized title. The Commission examined the question of whether treaties and statutes, the Joint Resolution of Annexation, or the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provide a basis for payment under the theory of recognized title, and concluded that no basis exists." (page 26)

"The Commission examined whether a trust or fiduciary relationship exists between the United States and native Hawaiians and concluded that no statutes or treaties give rise to such a relationship because the United States did not exercise sovereignty over the Hawaiian Islands prior to annexation, and the Joint Resolution of Annexation, No. 55 (July 7, 1898) did not create a special relationship for native Hawaiians." (page 26)

"The Commission considered whether native Hawaiians are entitled to compensation for loss of sovereignty, and found no present legal entitlement to compensation for any loss of sovereignty." (page 26)


The commission recommended that government programs be targeted to deal with problems that disproportionately affect Native Hawaiians, to ensure that they receive the help they especially need. But notably the commission did not recommend singling out a specific racial group for benefits that would exclude other groups. Benefits are to be given to all individuals afflicted with a particular problem, regardless of race; and if Native Hawaiians are disproportionately afflicted then they will receive a disproportionate share of the benefits of such programs without any need for programs limited by race.

The "Conclusions and Recommendations" section of the NHSC report makes clear that there should be special outreach to Native Hawaiians to ensure that they are made aware of government programs from which they could get assistance, and to ensure that new and existing programs be focused on problems that disproportionately affect Native Hawaiians. But the Commission's recommendations never propose to create race-based programs exclusively for Native Hawaiians. Here are some quotes illustrating the careful wording of recommendations for affirmative outreach but avoiding race-based or racially exclusionary programs:

"[C]onsideration should be given to a wide variety of Federal programs that are already available or that could be made available to help address specific needs. Private, local, and State officials in Hawaii should take the initiative to become aware of available programs, secure and disseminate information on them, and ensure that native Hawaiians have equal access to those programs." (page 28)

"The Commission recommends: ... Making sure that Federal programs for vocational training funded through block grants are targeted to groups most in need, including native Hawaiians. ... Initiating efforts to ensure that information on specific Federal programs (for example, supplemental food program for women, infants, and children) is disseminated through native Hawaiian organizations, and recruit eligible native Hawaiians to participate in these programs. Ensuring that a fair share of Federal block grant monies are directed toward alleviating specific health problems, including those of concern to native Hawaiians, such as infant mortality and child and maternal care. Giving higher priority to native Hawaiian sites in considering nominations for the National Register of Historic Places; activating the State Historic reservation Plan and revising, in consultation with native Hawaiians, the plan in an effort to ensure protection of ancient Hawaiian artifacts and sites." (page 29)

"The Commission also recommends that the heads of all Federal departments and agencies act to ensure that the needs and concerns of native Hawaiians, to the extent identified and defined in the Commission's Report, be brought to the attention of their program administrators; that these administrators consult officials in Hawaii for further guidance on specific programs; and, once this guidance is received, consider actions that could be taken to ensure full and equal access by native Hawaiians to various assistance programs." (page 30)


CONCLUSION: The United States owes to Native Hawaiians the same things it owes to all citizens -- things like protection of life, liberty, property, and the rule of law; and assistance to individuals who are unable to help themselves. The United States owes nothing less to Native Hawaiians. And nothing more.



The Morgan Report (1894)

Constitutional law scholar Bruce Fein provided a point-by-point criticism of the Hawaiian apology resolution on pp. 5-18 of his monograph "Hawaii Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand." That entire monograph in pdf format is available at:

Thurston Twigg-Smith's family now has seven generations of people born and raised in Hawai'i, descended from one of the early New England missionaries. Mr. Twigg-Smith's grandfather, a native-born subject of the Kingdom, was one of the leaders of both Hawaiian revolutions in 1887 and 1893. Mr. Twigg-Smith published a book about the history of Hawai'i entitled "Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do The Facts Matter?" Chapter 10 of that book analyzes the apology resolution. The entire book, as well as the individual Chapter 10, can be downloaded in pdf form free of charge from

HAWAIIAN REPARATIONS: NOTHING LOST, NOTHING OWED by Patrick W. Hanifin, esq.; Hawaii Bar Journal, XVII, 2 (1982). Mr. Hanifin's lengthy, heavily footnoted article can be downloaded in pdf format. An informal summary of it published in a newspaper is also available. A tribute to Mr. Hanifin with biographical information and some of his other publications is also available. To find all this material in one place, go to:

Native Hawaiians Study Commission report (1983) This report has only recently been made available on the internet. Many pages have been edited to make them easy to read, copy, or search as text documents. Some pages still need editing although the content is there for those who have patience to read material with no paragraph breaks and with tables whose columns have not been lined up. Photographs of every individual page are provided, as taken from an original hardcopy of the 1983 book. Please visit:

Native Hawaiian Victimhood Claims -- What Are They? Why Are They Being Asserted? How Can the Bad Statistics Be Explained?



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