Island Breath: Sovereignty and Sustainability
by Juan Wilson - Special to The Garden Island
Posted: Saturday, Nov 17, 2007 - 11:53:49 pm HST
Carrying a football field full of vehicles and burning 2,000 gallons of fuel an hour, the Hawaii Superferry is a poster child for unsustainability. However, it was the actions of the company regarding an environmental assessment that created the strong visceral resistance to operation on Kaua’i.
The ferry operators have been their own worst enemy. Activists who had been working on individual causes — such as energy policy, overdevelopment, traffic congestion, ocean mammal protection, Hawaiian cultural integrity, invasive species and anti-militarism — all came together to stop the Superferry unless it completed an environmental study.
People who had never thought about the implication of visitors “driving” to Kaua’i became alarmed. People who had never participated in a demonstration, found themselves in the water, breaking federal laws, to protect Kaua’i.
Gov. Linda Lingle created the “Unified Command” by teaming the state with the Homeland Security, Hawaii Superferry Inc. and the Kaua’i County Mayor’s Office. Government hard-liners didn’t seem to realize the degree to which their support for the Superferry undermined their own credibility and authority.
When anti-Superferry protesters faced the armed U.S. Coast Guard, they realized that the Coast Guard was not protecting Kaua’i from destructive outside forces. It was turned landward to protect the Superferry from Kaua’i.
Denying the Superferry a docking in Nawiliwili Harbor on Aug. 27 planted a new seed of independence on Kaua’i soil. Dedicated activists who never had thought much about the kapu/taboo subject of Hawaiian sovereignty began thinking about it. The idea of taking control of our own lives and resources has begun to grow.
This growth is being nurtured by external economic forces — foremost the ever-rising cost of energy and the subsequent rise in transportation, housing and food costs. How the issue of sovereignty plays out on Kaua’i will be linked tightly to our island’s path toward sustainability.
It is quite clear to me that the means by which Hawai‘i became a territory, and eventually a state, was based on an illegal overthrow of the internationally recognized Hawaiian nation.
America’s 1849 Friendship Treaty with the Kingdom of Hawai‘i promised perpetual peace and amity. By landing Marines with bayonets on Hawaiian shores in 1893, the U.S. provided the military muscle to support a coup, lead by businessman Stanford Dole, that imprisoned the Hawaiian Queen, and seized the islands.
The Friendship Treaty may have been broken, but it was never abrogated. Moreover, the Kingdom of Hawai‘i has never given up its claim to sovereignty. American history reveals that Hawaiian culture and language were suppressed. Land and water were grabbed. The Hawaiian population was affected by Mainland diseases. Yet the sense of an independent Hawaiian nation has persisted.
In 1978, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created by a state constitutional amendment. The office’s purpose was to formulate policy and manage the resources for Hawaiians until a sovereign entity was decided upon. The most significant feature of the office’s structural model was “the authority to govern itself.”
But the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has proved to be a disappointment to Hawaiians interested in sovereignty. Recently, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously passed an amended version of the Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, also known as the “Akaka Bill.” The office has supported and lobbied for this bill.
The Akaka Bill relegates Hawaiian independence to the status “enjoyed” by indigenous American Indians, and we all know how well that has worked out for them. The Akaka Bill renounces any claims of national independence by Hawaiians, and provides the United States some legal authority here.
I won’t detail this history further. Read it for yourself, starting with the issue of the Bayonet Constitution of 1887. The record indicates that the nation Hawai‘i never ceased to exist and that the United States has no legal claim to Hawai‘i. Like the authority of the “Unified Command,” the authority of the United States to occupy Hawai‘i continues through the power of the U.S. military.
Move to sovereignty
For decades there have been many Hawaiian independence efforts. They have varied widely in style and substance. Currently, there are several active groups. They all claim sovereignty and vary in form from strict monarchies to constitutional democracies. Here are four: Hawaiian Kingdom, Reinstated Nation of Hawai‘i, Reinstated Kingdom of Hawai‘i and Kingdom of Hawai‘i.
In 1993, 100 years after the takeover, the U.S. adopted the “Apology Bill,” admitting America’s wrongdoing. That same year, international law professor Francis Boyle, of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, came to Honolulu. Boyle is an expert in independence movements and has assisted the Palestinian people in the development of their independent nation state and defended Bosnia-Herzegovina in the International Court of Justice.
Boyle outlined the criteria for international recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty:
• Territory: A fixed territory, and clearly we have the Hawaiian Archipelago.
• Population: A distinguishable population of people — Native Hawaiians.
• Government: Here you have the Kapuna Council, that you’ve traditionally supported.
• International Relations: There are states in the Western Pacific that would give Hawai‘i diplomatic recognition.
Professor Boyle returned to Hawai‘i in 2004 to give a keynote speech to a gathering of Hawaiian sovereignty advocates who met on Kaua’i. He was optimistic about the potential for international recognition of Hawaiian independence. However, he warned that the splits in the claims of sovereignty could sink the movement. He suggested that the sovereignty advocates agree to disagree. They should look to one another as political parties within a single nation and drop their claims of exclusive authority. They could then go to the people and compete for leadership authority.
He went on to stress that sovereignty proponents begin to provide the services of a nation, including education, public works, social services and all that would eventually replace what is now provided by the existing state entities.
What are the implications of this for us today?
To a degree, the sovereignty movement has foundered because it has been divided on racial lines, with Native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) on one hand, and all late comers on the other. Obviously, the Kanaka Maoli are a tiny fraction of the population due to historic events and intermarriage. It is hard to build a successful change in governance, no matter how justified, with a tiny minority.
Another distinction sometimes brought up is whether you were born in Hawai‘i or are a transplant. Although birthplace can be criteria for citizenship, it is not the only one. Commitment to sustaining a nation, understanding its history and supporting its culture are crucial criteria as well.
It is my opinion that the enthusiastic participation of people with European and Asian backgrounds will be critical to independence movement. Many of the progressive activists who have come together on the issue of the Superferry are of these backgrounds. They now perceive the state and federal government as acting against the interest of Kaua’i.
In realizing importance of protecting Kaua’i, some progressives now see they share a commitment with the sovereignty activists. As a result, they are less anxious than in the past about the implications of the movement. They see room for a wider spectrum of people working for independence.
I strongly feel that Hawaiian independence will be built from the bottom up. From the Ahupuaa (watershed) to the Kalana (district) to the Moku (bioregion) to the Moku Puni (island) and ultimately to Hawaii Nei (the archipelago).
The current federal, state and county governments are out of touch, out of control and facing an uncertain economic future. We will need to redefine and rebuild our communities after the global petroleum economic culture fails.
My advice to those interested in sovereignty and sustainability: Start at home in your own backyard. Grow some food, then start talking to your neighbors. The more local, the more bettah!
• Juan Wilson is a resident of Hanapepe and writes a bi-weekly column for The Garden Island. Juan is an architect-planner and the editor of www.IslandBreath.org