It was dark, but getting lighter, when Koko and I went walking this morning on a street that was once again unusually devoid of both traffic and other walkers, even the usual ones. The sky, with its great masses of black and occasional fleeting glimpses of the moon, was what some might call ominous, but to me it was beautiful.
It had rained heavily during the night, and I stopped for a while, fascinated by the rapidly changing reflection of the dark sky in a dark puddle. Fatigue, or perhaps just a lack of will, prompted me to cut our walk short, which proved to be a good thing, as we’d just gotten back inside the house when a downpour arrived.
It seems likely that Felicia’s clouds will block viewing of the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks tonight and next, but the trade off will be some much-needed rain.
I’ve been thinking about trade-offs since I had a conversation with my former neighbor Andy a couple of weeks ago about statehood, and whether its benefits had been outweighed by its impacts on kanaka maoli.
He expressed concern that many Hawaiians had failed to buy land back when it was still relatively affordable because they had put their faith in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. The Act was supposed to “rehabilitate” Native Hawaiians who had suffered under Western occupation by awarding them land leases. Specifically (emphasis added):
The Congress of the United States and the State of Hawaii declare that the policy of this Act is to enable native Hawaiians to return to their lands in order to fully support self-sufficiency for native Hawaiians and the self-determination of native Hawaiians in the administration of this Act, and the preservation of the values, traditions, and culture of native Hawaiians.
(b) The principal purposes of this Act include but are not limited to:
(1) Establishing a permanent land base for the benefit and use of native Hawaiians, upon which they may live, farm, ranch, and otherwise engage in commercial or industrial or any other activities as authorized in this Act;
(2) Placing native Hawaiians on the lands set aside under this Act in a prompt and efficient manner and assuring long-term tenancy to beneficiaries of this Act and their successors;
(3) Preventing alienation of the fee title to the lands set aside under this Act so that these lands will always be held in trust for continued use by native Hawaiians in perpetuity;
(4) Providing adequate amounts of water and supporting infrastructure, so that homestead lands will always be usable and accessible; and
(5) Providing financial support and technical assistance to native Hawaiian beneficiaries of this Act so that by pursuing strategies to enhance economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development, the traditions, culture and quality of life of native Hawaiians shall be forever self-sustaining.
By all reasonable accounts, the state has done a miserable job of fulfilling that trust duty, which prompted a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,700 Native Hawaiians. The trial began last Tuesday and is expected to run through September.
In its meager coverage of opening arguments, The Advertiser reported that attorney Thomas Grande argued the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) has failed to put Hawaiians on Homestead lands in a timely fashion, as required by the Act.
But Deputy Attorney General Randolph Slaton, arguing on behalf of DHHL, said the act does not provide beneficiaries with rights and entitlements other than what the agency can offer.
As of June 30 there were 19,886 Native Hawaiians waiting for residential leases, and many others have died without ever getting an award, including an estimated 200 since the suit was filed a decade ago. Meanwhile, as I have reported, DHHL has awarded numerous commercial, industrial and pasture leases to non-Hawaiians, ostensibly to raise money for its operations. This approach has been accelerated under the Lingle Administration.
So getting back to the conversation with Andy, he was concerned that Hawaiians had already lost out once because they put their faith in the Homestead Act, which didn't deliver. And now, by putting their faith in independence/sovereignty movements, which he feels are unlikely to prevail, kanaka maoli are at risk of being left behind again.
The assumption there, which I find inherently faulty, is that being "left behind" means failing to take full advantage of the goodies proffered by the American system, and that accumulating money and stuff is a good measure of success.
Among the young kanaka maoli I know, having to survive in a system dominated by those values, which they see as false, without getting caught up in it, causes them a great deal of frustration, anger and angst.
As I noted in the very first post on this blog:
Prosperity isn’t even a word in the Hawaiian language, Ka`imi said. It’s an entirely Western concept, that idea of making good in a way that sets you apart from others; accumulating possessions with an eye toward achieving status; attracting money and material things to be stored up, hoarded.
Yet in the ultimate suppression of their culture, that’s what they’re now expected to do if they don’t want to be left out, left behind. What kind of trade off is that?
And how does that fit into the goals of the Homestead Act that by “pursuing strategies to enhance economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development, the traditions, culture and quality of life of native Hawaiians shall be forever self-sustaining?”
Meanwhile, even as we’ve seen the travesty of mismanagement that has characterized the state’s handling of Homestead lands and the so-called “ceded lands,” the federal government is again asking Hawaiians, through the Akaka Bill, to trust that things will be different this time.
In other words, forever relinquish your claims to sovereignty and independence in exchange for another empty promise of "something" followed by interminable delays in its delivery.
What kind of trade off is that?