Heavy rain blew in on strong winds just as the sky was brightening, causing me to wonder if our walk would be scuttled or delayed. But the squall moved out as quickly as it had moved in, and Koko and I set out in a gusty world glowing in soft, filtered golden light.
The brisk trades were invigorating, the freshly washed landscaped smelled clean and alive and the birds expressed their approval of it all by mightily singing. In the distance, rain could be seen falling from black clouds that raced across the sky and collided with the mountains.
Kanaka maoli once again collided with the mighty mountains of Babylon when Maui District Court Judge Simone Polak ruled on Friday that three members of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation were not acting to reclaim land stolen from the Hawaiian Kingdom when they landed on Kahoolawe back on July 31, 2006, but instead were simply trespassing.
The defendants weren’t surprised. After attorney Dan Hempey put on a lengthy defense, which included testimony by an expert in international law, to prove that the Nation was a legit sovereign entity, the judge denied his motion to dismiss the charges on that basis.
“An action by this Court would, in turn, direct Congress and the State Legislature to recognize the Reinstated Nation of Hawaii as the native Hawaiian sovereign entity, and this Court cannot act where Congress and the State Legislature must,” the judge wrote in order denying the motion.
As Dan sees it, both the District Court and U.S. Supreme Court — in its decision last week in the so-called "ceded lands" case — are saying that the issues of nationhood and land ownership are political, not judicial. But even though “the state has passed all these laws that dance around the issue and say we feel so bad about what we did to the Hawaiians, the Legislature has never met to even discuss recognition of a sovereign Hawaiian entity,” he said. “It’s basically been a string-along.”
And while Gov. Lingle campaigned on the promise that reconciliation with Native Hawaiians would be a top priority of her administration, she hasn’t delivered on that promise, he noted.
The Akaka Bill, meanwhile, is not intended to recognize a sovereign nation, so “the answer ain’t gonna come from Washington,” Dan said. And with the court now saying it lacks the authority to make such a determination, the political hot potato has been passed back to the Lege.
“The Legislature will either now do something, or bite their fingernails for another 50 years while the same situation continues,” Dan said. “Who’s going to be the lawmaker who stands up and does something really big?”
He suggested Sen. Gary Hooser might have the gumption to bring the matter into the public debate, but some political observers say Gary pissed off the Japanese power block when he pushed to bring the civil union bill up for a vote, and will be stripped of power as punishment. I guess we'll see if that's true in the next legislative session.
At any rate, Dan observe, “it’s not going to change without great public pressure on the Legislature. The ugly political process has got to be done.”