While some kanaka maoli have pinned their hopes for federal recognition and reconciliation on the now-dead Akaka Bill, others have taken a very different approach. As they see it, Hawaii was an independent nation that the U.S. illegally overthrew and continues to illegally occupy. Since sovereignty was never relinquished, it need not be asked for, given back or granted, but simply reclaimed — reinstated — essentially picked up where it left off in 1893.
That’s the premise of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, which formed a provisional government in 1999. As I wrote in a 2007 article for Honolulu Weekly:
Since then, supporters have been working to establish the Kingdom’s authority to be recognized as the lawful government of Hawai’i. They drafted citizenship rules, registered voters and held two elections, in which [Henry] Noa was twice named prime minister. They also adopted laws and the amended Hawaiian Constitution of 2000, an updated version of the one in effect when the constitutional monarchy was overthrown.
The Nation also moved to establish its sovereign rights through a July 2006 occupation of Kahoolawe that was intended to stake a claim to all the lands owned by the Kingdom when it was illegally overthrown. In April 2009, a Maui District Court judge found Noa and two other Hawaiian nationals guilty of trespassing, while issuing the seemingly contradictory ruling that “the Defendants failed to prove the Reinstated Nation of Hawaii is a sovereign native Hawaiian entity and the Court lacks authority to make such a determination.” That ruling is now being appealed.
Meanwhile, the Nation has begun working directly with Maui County to establish its authority there. “We had provided legal notice to Maui officials informing them we had completed our process by reinstating our native government and we would begin exercising some of the rights basic to us as nationals and as a nation,” Noa told me the other day.
But the cops continued to “harass our nationals,” Noa said, prompting the Nation to send county officials citations warning them of ongoing human rights violations.
“They started accumulating a little too many violations and weren’t sure how to handle the situation,” Noa said. “I told them they need to acknowledge laws passed recognizing the violations of our people and the rights granted to us to build a sovereign nation. We were just fulfilling these sovereign obligations and we were being repressed for it.”
As a result of the discussions, the Maui County Council earlier this month passed a resolution (six in favor and three absent) in which it recognizes the laws that Noa was referencing: United States Public Law 103-150, Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966.
“It was a way of getting them to acknowledge that these rights actually exist and they should start respecting them,” Noa explained.
While it took two years to get the resolution approved, Noa said the process was meaningful because it served to educate county officials.
“The Council members finally came to realize what we as kanaka have been trying to do all this time in fulfilling the obligations set within the laws,” he said. “We want them to acknowledge it so we can have more meaningful discussions. It resulted in a deeper respect between county government officials and what we’ve been doing as far as reacquainting them with our political status. They’ve actually acknowledged that these laws are in existence, and that will affect how we’ll end up dialoging and communicating in the future.”
Re-establishing a nation is a slow process, especially when the occupying forces don’t want to provide recognition and instead attempt to buy folks off with shams like the Akaka Bill, which would throw kanaka some money while forever stripping them of their sovereign claims.
But it's all going according to plan, as I reported in a June 15, 2008 post after attending a session of the Nation’s legislature:
“They’re not going to give you your country back,” [Noa] told those who were assembled. “It all comes down to how we’re going to take our country back, how we’re going to peacefully reclaim what is ours. It is by law that we will achieve our goal. We have achieved all the requirements under international law to be recognized as a sovereign nation.”
Noa told me the other day that the Nation is now turning its attention to Kauai, where it will be asking the Council to approve a similar resolution. Here’s the wording of the resolution passed on Maui:
Title: Recognition of United States Public Law 103-150, Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966.
Whereas, the people of the County of Maui, of the State of Hawaii, of the United States of America, and of this world are born free with rights derived from the inherent dignity of the human person; and
Whereas, these inalienable universal rights are adopted and codified by the General Assembly of the United Nations in what is commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights, which generally consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966. In addition to setting forth the rights of individuals, International Bill of Human Rights provides that each nation agrees to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the covenants, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status; and
Whereas, prior to the arrival of the first Europeans in 1778, the native Hawaiian people lived in a highly organized, self sufficient, subsistent social system based upon communal land tenure and that a unified monarchial government of the Hawaiian Islands was established in 1810 under Kamehameha I; and
Whereas, the United States recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii and extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government; and
Whereas, in 1893, the then United States Minister assigned to the sovereign and independent Kingdom of Hawaii conspired with others to overthrow the indigenous and lawful Government of Hawaii and did depose the Hawaiian monarchy and proclaimed the establishment of a Provisional Government; and
Whereas, the United States Minister thereupon extended diplomatic recognition to the Provisional Government that was formed by the conspirators without the consent of the Native Hawaiian people or the lawful Government of Hawaii in violation of treaties between the two nations and of international law; and
Whereas, the native people of Hawaii were deprived of their inalienable universal rights with the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in January 17, 1893; and
Whereas, the United States of America recognized that the indigenous people of Hawaii never directly relinquished their right to their inherent sovereignty as a people, right to their lands, and right to their nation by the enactment of the Apology Resolution of 1993 adopted by both houses of the United States Congress, as is set forth as United States Public Law 103-150, Stat. 1510-14 of the 103rd Congress; and
Whereas, the Apology Resolution of 1993 acknowledged “theillegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893” as well as “the historical significance of this event which resulted in the suppression of the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people”; and
Whereas, the Apology Resolution of 1993 further expressed the commitment of the United States to acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, in order to provide a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people, and
Whereas, the State of Hawaii also acknowledged the illegal acts and enacted Act 359 in 1993 entitled, "A Bill for an Act, Relating to Hawaiian Sovereignty" with its expressed purpose being “to recognize the unique status the Native Hawaiian people bear to the State of Hawaii and to the United States and to facilitate the efforts of the Native Hawaiian people to be governed by an indigenous sovereign nation of their own choosing".
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF MAUI as follows:
1. That all people of the world, of which the residents of the County of Maui and of the State of Hawaii are apart of, are born free and equal in dignity and rights. As members of the international community, there is an obligation to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinctions of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political and other opinions, all as enacted by the General Assembly of the United Nations set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights, that is fully recognized herein.
2. That the Apology Resolution of 1993 acknowledges that the overthrown of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 was illegal and native Hawaiian people were deprived of these rights as a result. The Apology Resolution of 1993 further acknowledges that steps should be taken to support reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people, which purpose is acknowledged herein.
3. That with the enactment of Act 359 in 1993 by our State, the unique status of the Native Hawaiian people was also acknowledged.
4. That the foregoing International Bill of Human Rights, Apology Resolution of 1993 and Act 359 are recognized and acknowledged. In furtherance thereof, it is acknowledged that steps must be taken to support the reconciliation efforts for the Native Hawaiian people.
5. As used in this Resolution, the terms “Native Hawaiian” and “Indigenous Hawaiian”, refers to the kanaka maoli people aboriginal to the Hawaiian Islands.