Hawai’i’s Hijacked Civil Rights Advisory Committee

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… As impossible as it sounds, the anti-Akaka racists have reached a new low. As most of you may have heard, the Hawai’i State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (HISAC) has begun hearing testimony on the proposed Akaka bill.In a move that shows just how ignorant the Bush administration is about Hawaiian history and culture, new members of the advisory committee include H. William Burgess, James Kuroiwa Jr., and lawyer Paul Sullivan – all of whom have publicly stated their strong opposition to the Akaka bill. These bozos are now using the Commission to give their preposterous arguments the illusion legitimacy. The fact that the Civil Rights Commission is against the Akaka Bill is an irony of the highest order. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who bled for equal rights in the ’60’s must be rolling in their graves!

HISAC had a public briefing in the state capitol auditorium on August 20th. State Attorney General Mark Bennett spoke in strong support of the Akaka bill, while Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Virginia spoke in opposition. Bennett must be commended for his expertise on the issues and using his quick wit to make Clegg look like a fool.

Clegg kept insisting that the Akaka bill is unconstitutional, as if saying it over and over would make it a reality, but Bennett made it clear that Congress has the (plenary) power to pass the bill into law.

Clegg, admitted (several times) that he wasn’t familiar with Hawaiian history and culture and it showed. He argued that the “one drop rule” for Hawaiians to be considered Hawaiian wasn’t enough to qualify them to help rebuild a Hawaiian Governing Entity. He clearly didn’t know that the United States Congress created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands. It had nothing to do with defining whether a person can be considered Hawaiian or not.

Clegg also argued that the islands were not united as a single distinct nation prior to the arrival of Europeans and, therefore, don’t qualify to rebuild their government. This statement is also mistaken since the islands were still occupied by Native Hawaiians who were governed by a feudal system of Island Chiefs. Bennett had to remind him again that the argument is moot since Congress clearly has the power to make it happen.

Clegg argued that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government under the process set-up for Native American tribes because the Hawaiian government hasn’t continued to function over the 100+ years since the overthrow. Bennett responded that it is ridiculous for the United States, who helped to overthrow the Hawaiian Government, to now say that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government because it doesn’t exist today.

Finally, Clegg argued that if the Akaka bill passed, it could encourage other people to ask for nationhood, such as the Native peoples living in Texas. Bennett said it best when he reminded the audience that people usually go to “slippery slope” and “what if” arguments once they run out of good ones. This got more than a few chuckles from the audience.

I believe Clegg showed his true intentions when he mentioned that Hawaiians number more than 400,000 people across the nation and asked whether it would be wise to give so much power to such a large group within the U.S. He stressed that no American Indian or Alaska Native tribe even comes close to our numbers. If he had done his research, he would have known that the Navaho, the largest Native American tribe, have close to 500,000 members.

Clegg and the racists that invited him here to speak obviously fear that the Akaka bill would give us the power to finally help ourselves to forge a brighter future. They obviously want to keep Hawaiians and other native peoples from being self-sufficient. We need to fight harder now to preserve, not only our rights as natives of this land, but to show these racists Americans that we are not just poor Hawaiians but savvy Americans as well. We will attain sovereignty no matter how long it takes.

Dan Boylan of Midweek said it best: “The GOP Insults Hawaii’s Host Culture,” by stacking the deck of the Civil Rights Commission with Republican ideologues.

Imua e Hawai’i nei

Divide & Conquer

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: September 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Honolulu attorney Walter Schoettle must like beating a dead horse.  The Day v. Apoliona lawsuit against OHA is just another chapter in his long legal battle with OHA over the Hawaiian blood quantum percentage of beneficiaries.  This war in the courts goes back 20 years.  For example:  Price v. Akaka (1993); Price v. Hawaii (1991); Price v. Akaka (1991); Price v. Hawaii (1990); and Price v. Hawaii (1985).  (http://lp.findlaw.com/).

When I was first elected to OHA 17 years ago, Walter Schoettle was the attorney for The Hou Hawaiians (Nui Loa Price and Kamuela Price).  They sued several federal and state officials, including OHA trustees.  The district court denied the Hou’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed their complaint against all defendants.  But that didn’t stop Schoettle.

Now Schoettle has a new strategy with Virgil Day, Mel Ho’omanawanui, Josiah Ho’ohuli, Patrick Kahawaiola’a and Samuel Kealoha (all of whom are 50 percent Hawaiian or more), to revisit blood quantum again.  Their lawsuit argues that OHA’s $28 million annual budget should go to those with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood.  In essence, they don’t want to “share the wealth.”  Let us not forget that blood quantum was never an issue with the Hawaiian Kingdom.  It was the United States Congress who created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act.  It was created to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands, not to preserve our race.  It is sad that even after 100 years, some Hawaiians don’t recognize when they are being used.

They also challenge OHA’s right to partially fund the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), which provides Hawaiian families with affordable legal representation.  Thousands of people who might not otherwise have been able to obtain legal advocacy have held on to valuable lands or received fair compensation for their lands.  NHLC also helped others to obtain Hawaiian Homestead leases, water for taro farming, and access to shoreline areas for fishing.  NHLC is the only non-profit, public interest law firm specializing in Hawaiian land and traditional rights.

Other groups that are threatened by the lawsuit include Alu Like, a non profit that funds Kupuna programs and assists Hawaiians with job training, and Na Pua No’eau, a Hawaiian language and culture program established at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.  It is important to point out that all of these programs are also funded through matching funds by the legislature.

The lawsuit also objects to OHA’s use of trust funds to lobby the Akaka Bill in Congress.  They seem to miss the point that without the Akaka bill, we may lose all of our Hawaiian Trusts and programs to lawsuits.

Walter Schoettle may be misleading his clients by telling them that unless they stop OHA, they will have to share their benefits, if the Akaka bill passes, with those with less than 50% Hawaiian blood.  I say, “What benefits?”  The only thing people with 50% or more Hawaiian blood are entitled to now are Hawaiian Home Lands.

On the other hand, all 1.4 million acres of Ceded Lands belong to all Hawaiians, regardless of their blood quantum.  The Native Hawaiian Trust Fund is much bigger than the acreage under the control of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL).  There is no need to be selfish.  Their self-serving attitude will only end up dividing Hawaiians.

Another reason that some homesteaders listed in the lawsuit probably don’t want the Akaka bill to pass is that they only want sovereignty on DHHL Lands.  How small-minded can these people be?  Do they honestly believe that hundreds of thousands of Native Hawaiians are going to go along with such a terrible idea?

We all need to realize that if we fight over the entitlements we receive then we all end up losers.  The only ones who end up winning are the Twigg-Smiths of the world.  Virgil Day and the other 50% Hawaiians need to wake up and realize that they are only being used to divide us.  Who wins if the Schoettles and the Burgess’ succeed?  Certainly not the Hawaiians.

“I appeal to you… that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  I Corinthians 1:10

Now is the time to Kau Inoa

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: July 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  In light of the Akaka bill’s impending passage in the United States Senate, I think it’s a good time to review the process towards Hawaiian sovereignty.

The three key elements of nationhood are sovereignty, self-determination and self-sufficiency.  In order for Hawaiians to exercise control over their lands and lives, they must achieve self-determination by organizing a mechanism for self-governance.  Hawaiians must create a government which provides for democratic representation before they can begin to interrelate with the State and the Federal governments who control their lands and trust assets.  The ultimate goal of nationhood is to become self-sufficient and self-supporting.

REGISTERING ALL HAWAIIANS.  Most people agree that the first step in this process should be to determine who will participate in the creation of the Hawaiian government.  This would involve the establishment of a roster or “roll” of all (interested) Hawaiian adults.

CHOOSE OUR ‘ELELE (Representatives).  Those on the roll will then have the opportunity to choose who will represent them in drafting governing documents.  Everyone is encouraged to participate in this process so that those elected will best reflect the needs and will of the people.

CONVENE AN ‘AHA.  Calling an ‘aha (constitutional convention) is critical in providing an open and democratic forum to develop the governing documents.  This is where the ultimate form of the Hawaiian government will be debated, considered, and reflected.

APPROVE A CONSTITUTION.  The governing documents drafted during the ‘aha must be voted on and approved by the Hawaiian people before they can be implemented.  The Hawaiian people will have the opportunity to examine the documents before deciding whether to accept, reject, accept them in part, or reject them in part.  The documents which are not accepted are returned to the ‘aha for reconsideration by the ‘elele (Representatives).

IMPLEMENTATION.  Once the articles or provisions of the governing documents are ratified by the Hawaiian people, they can be implemented.

ELECTION OF OFFICIALS.  Before the provisions of the governing documents can be fully implemented, the officers and legislative arm of the nation must be selected by the Hawaiian people again with a new election.

Many Native governments have been formed under the federal government through the US Department of the Interior.  There are hundreds of recognized Native American nations within the territorial United States.  Why should Hawaiians be excluded? Failure to do so would, in fact, be discrimination against Hawaiians.

We must not confuse the forms of government that Native Americans or Native Alaskans have with what Hawaiians will develop as their governing documents.  Nor, can anyone assume that the relationship that Hawaiians will have with the Federal Government will be the same as that of the relationships between Native American Tribes and the Federal Government.  Developing our governing documents to insure that our relationship with the United States is beneficial to us will be determined by the delegates in the ‘aha.

As indigenous people, Hawaiians are seeking recognition of their right to sovereignty and self-determination from the federal government.  Hawaiians have no desire to be dependent on the state or federal government.  If Hawaiians had control of their lands and trust resources, we could take care of our people without assistance from anyone.  Hawaiians have waited over 100 years to be compensated for the illegal taking of their lands.  Now is the time for our government to finally address the issue.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Response to supporters of Clarence Ching

By: Trustee Rowena Akana
November 2006

Source: Letter to the Editor, Ka Wai Ola o OHA

My letter is addressed to Gwen Burrows and Vaasiliifiti Tauo Taumasaosili who wrote letters to the Ka Wai Ola complaining about the content of my August 2006 trustees’ column. Both writers were specifically critical of my comments referencing Clarence Ching, a former OHA trustee who went to Washington D.C. to lobby against the Akaka Bill along with William Burgess, who has consistently filed law suits against OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to remove any Hawaiian-only preferences to any and all benefits set aside by law for the Hawaiian people.

Let me say that I certainly do not view myself or other trustees as “whores” who are “in bed with the enemy,” whomever that may be (as Ms. Burrows suggests). I am sorry that they took a personal offence to my comments regarding Mr. Ching’s seating arrangement.

I believe that both of them missed my point entirely. People like Burgess have successfully used Hawaiians against other Hawaiians in the past. Burgess is obviously not in agreement with Mr. Ching’s views about Hawaiian Sovereignty. Burgess wants the Akaka Bill to fail so that entitlements for Native Hawaiians can be eliminated. Clarence, on the other hand, probably just doesn’t believe the Akaka Bill is the way to achieve Hawaiian Self-Determination. In any case, it is my view that Hawaiians should not allow Non-Hawaiians to manipulate or use them against other Hawaiians. That was my point.

It is absolutely appropriate for Hawaiians to disagree among themselves about what kind of self-determination we should eventually have. It is not appropriate for us to let Non-Hawaiians lead our way down a path we have not chosen for ourselves.

Nowhere in my article do I suggest that Hawaiians must follow OHA’s path. It is, and always will be, the right of every Hawaiian to seek independence or any other form of government that they choose.

The Three Elements of Nationhood: Sovereignty, Self-Determination, & Self-Sufficiency

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: November 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  In light of the Akaka bill’s mistreatment in the United States Senate, I’d like to set the record straight regarding the rampant misconceptions about Hawaiian sovereignty.  It should be said that the majority of the Hawaiian people do not aspire to secede from the U.S. or give up their American citizenship.  It should also be said that gaining federal recognition as a native people would allow Hawaiians to negotiate with the state and federal governments for the return of some of their ceded lands that the state holds in trust.  Despite the hysterical rhetoric being touted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, recognition would not mean the taking of private lands, kicking the military out of Hawaii, secession from the U.S., or that Hawaiians would be exempt from paying state or federal taxes.

There is nothing scary or threatening about the process.  The three key elements of nationhood are sovereignty, self-determination and self-sufficiency. In order for Hawaiians to exercise control over their lands and lives, they must achieve self-determination by organizing a mechanism for self-governance. Hawaiians must create a government which provides for democratic representation before they can begin to interrelate with the State and the Federal governments who control their lands and trust assets. The ultimate goal of nationhood is to become self-sufficient and self-supporting.

REGISTERING ALL HAWAIIANS. Most people agree that the first step in this process should be to determine who will participate in the creation of the Hawaiian government. This would involve the establishment of a roster or “roll” of all (interested) Hawaiian adults.

CHOOSE OUR ‘ELELE (Representatives). Those on the roll will then have the opportunity to choose who will represent them in drafting governing documents. Everyone is encouraged to participate in this process so that those elected will best reflect the needs and will of the people.

CONVENE AN ‘AHA. Calling an ‘aha (constitutional convention) is critical in providing an open and democratic forum to develop the governing documents. This is where the ultimate form of the Hawaiian government will be debated, considered, and reflected.

APPROVE A CONSTITUTION. The governing documents drafted during the ‘aha must be voted on and approved by the Hawaiian people before they can be implemented. The Hawaiian people will have the opportunity to examine the documents before deciding whether to accept, reject, accept them in part, or reject them in part. The documents which are not accepted are returned to the ‘aha for reconsideration by the ‘elele (Representatives).

IMPLEMENTATION. Once the articles or provisions of the governing documents are ratified by the Hawaiian people, they can be implemented.

ELECTION OF OFFICIALS. Before the provisions of the governing documents can be fully implemented, the officers and legislative arm of the nation must be selected by the Hawaiian people again with a new election.

Many Native governments have been formed under the federal government through the US Department of the Interior. There are hundreds of recognized Native American nations within the territorial United States. Why should Hawaiians be excluded? Failure to do so would, in fact, be discrimination against Hawaiians.

We must not confuse the forms of government that Native Americans or Native Alaskans have with what Hawaiians will develop as their governing documents. Nor, can anyone assume that the relationship that Hawaiians will have with the Federal Government will be the same as that of the relationships between Native American Tribes and the Federal Government. Developing our governing documents to insure that our relationship with the United States is beneficial to us will be determined by the delegates in the ‘aha.

As indigenous people, Hawaiians are seeking recognition of their right to sovereignty and self-determination from the federal government. Hawaiians have no desire to be dependent on the state or federal government. If Hawaiians had control of their lands and trust resources, we could take care of our people without assistance from anyone.  Hawaiians have waited over 100 years to be compensated for the illegal taking of their lands.  Isn’t it time for our government to address this issue?  If not now, when?

The Hawaiians’ Phantom Menace

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, August 2006

In early June, the trustees traveled to Washington D.C. to witness the long awaited vote on S. 147, also known as the Akaka Bill, in the U.S. Senate. What should have been a historic event quickly turned into a frustrating experience. Listening to Senators from the South speak against the bill, calling it “racist legislation,” made me want to jump out of the gallery and scream, “HYPOCRITES!” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) shockingly said that granting federal recognition for Native Hawaiians could lead to Mormons, the Amish, and Hasidic Jews seeking their own federal recognition! It was clear that his goal was to lump all Hawaiians together with other minorities so he could argue that we all need to be treated equally. The problem with this argument is the undisputed fact that Hawaiians are indigenous people, similar to Native Americans and Native Alaskans who are already recognized. Senator Alexander is clearly discriminating against Hawaiians. So who’s the real racist?

When the vote was finally taken, we were shy by four votes. Two Democratic Senators were out sick and thanks to arm-twisting by Senate Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) at least three Republicans switched their vote at the last minute. Senator Frist told them that their leadership positions would be in jeopardy if they supported the Akaka bill and they choose to protect their political careers rather than keep their promises to Senators Akaka and Inouye.

At the end of that sad day, I was assured of two things: First, racism and ignorance is alive and well in the U.S. Senate. Second, partisan politics has ruined Congress. The trustees later learned that the Republicans were bitter with the Democrats for voting against their Estate Tax bill the day before. Killing the Akaka bill was just payback. I left Washington with a feeling of disgust and disdain for our so-called leaders of America.

With so many important issues that need to be dealt with in the world and at home, these career politicians proved they are only preoccupied with keeping the status quo and furthering their political careers. They use inflammatory issues like gay rights, flag burning, and immigration to detract us from the real issues of importance like New Orleans, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Is it any wonder why Americans are losing respect for their leaders and canít believe a word they say?

As bad as the Southern Senators were, nothing was worse than seeing Clarence Ching, a former OHA Trustee, sitting next to William Burgess, the lawyer who has consistently sued OHA, the State, and Hawaiian Homelands to break up all Hawaiian entitlements. The same William Burgess who has lobbied Congress to kill the Akaka bill and has called Hawaiians who favor federal recognition “racists.” And let’s not forget about State Senator Sam Slom, the only member of the State Legislature to vote “no” on the Akaka Resolution (HCR 56, SD1) of 2005. He was also there with Burgess. It is just bizarre that a Republican state senator would so vigorously oppose a bill that the Republican Governor so strongly supports. Not to mention the fact that all of Hawai’i’s other elected officials including the Mayors from all counties and the state legislature also supported federal recognition in a non-partisan effort. It is egregious that one elected official felt his opinion was more important than all of the state’s other elected officials. Since when does a single opinion become more important than the will of the people?

Where and when did this opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty begin? Some rumors have been circulating that it was started years ago by a prominent Kama’aina who called a meeting of other like-minded people to his home to discuss how they could band together and prevent the Bishop Estate, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and OHA from becoming too powerful. After all, with control over vast tracts of land and revenues from ceded lands, Hawaiians could one day dominate the State, and this is a frightening thought for some. While I have no evidence that this long standing rumor is true, I have been thinking very seriously about it lately, especially after what I witnessed in Washington.

After the fall of the Bishop Estate Trustees, all of their cases were later thrown out of court, but it was too late to save most of their reputations. Now we find ourselves embroiled in more lawsuits to take out OHA and Hawaiian Homes. So, could the rumor be true? I think the question to ask is who is paying for all of the lawsuits that Mr. Burgess has filed? Perhaps then we may have the clues to who is behind the movement to ensure Hawaiians never regain sovereignty and that all Hawaiian entitlements are erased.

Akaka Bill Update…

By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: February 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  On January 11th, I was invited to speak about the merits of the Akaka Bill at the Small Business Hawaii’s annual conference.  Also speaking was Akaka Bill detractor Sandra Burgess, who is one of the plaintiffs in the Arakaki lawsuit and wife of William Burgess, the owner of the anti-Akaka bill website Aloha For All.  I was grateful for the opportunity to address this auspicious group because if I hadn’t, they probably would have only heard Burgess’ false, fear mongering, and downright racist remarks.

It was clear that the SBH audience had very little knowledge of Hawai`i’s annexation or the reasons for the passage of the Apology Bill that President Clinton signed into law in 1993.  With less than ten minutes to speak, I briefly covered how the Apology Bill set into motion a process for reconciliation between the Native Hawaiians and the United States, which is the whole purpose of the Akaka Bill. 

Then it was Burgess’ turn to speak.  Here are just a few of the things she said:  (1) She asked whether it was fair to non-Hawaiian businesses if Hawaiian businesses paid no taxes; (2) She asked whether we are all Americans and why should Hawaiians be different; (3) She said that if the Akaka bill passes, non-Hawaiians will have to face the question of returning all of their lands; (4) She said that federal recognition will give Hawaiians more power and money to corrupt our State and Federal elected officials who already can’t say “no” to Hawaiians.  She even said our Governor is misguided for her support of the Akaka bill; and (5) She said that the Akaka Bill sets up a separate class of people.

I was appalled by Sandra Burgess’ ridiculous statements.  She gave no facts to support her position and basically told the audience that the world would end if the Akaka Bill passes.  I did my best to explain in my one-minute rebuttal that the Akaka Bill:  (1) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to be exempt from state or federal taxes; (2) Doesn’t allow Hawaiian-owned businesses to have an unfair advantage over non-Hawaiian businesses; (3) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to expel non-Hawaiians or the military from their lands; (4) Doesn’t set up a separate class of people; and (5) Whatever documents are created by the new government must be reviewed by the Department of the Interior and any settlements would have to be approved by the state and federal governments.  This allows for checks and balances.

Listening to Sandra Burgess opened my eyes to her and her group’s true motives.  They want to create an “US AGAINST THEM” mentality by scaring people into believing the Akaka Bill will hurt them.  Let me be absolutely clear that it is not Native Hawaiians who are creating this kind of fearful atmosphere. 

We must all find a way to come together, both Hawaiians and Kama’aina united in our common goal, to counter this divisive attitude and stop the noxious seeds of hate that the Burgess’ group is planting from taking permanent root in Hawai’i.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Proposed changes to the Akaka bill (S.147) are a cause for concern

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: November 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  Despite the combined efforts of OHA, Governor Lingle, our Congressional delegation, and countless grassroots organizations, the Akaka Bill (S.147) has yet to reach the floor of the U.S. Senate.  As of this writing, it seems that the earliest that the bill will be voted on is during the week of October 17th.

As you may have read in the local print media, the Akaka Bill has recently been amended to appease the White House and the Republican Senators who oppose it.  While the Board continues to support the bill, I am starting to have grave concerns with the direction that the bill is taking.  I question whether we are now willing to sacrifice some of our rights just to pass the bill and stop the lawsuits.

The proposed amendments to the Akaka bill were negotiated by Congressional staff, the Justice Department, and the state Attorney General in consultation with attorney Robert Klein and others.  Even after all of the strong support we have consistently given the bill, the trustees of OHA ended up being completely left out of the loop.  This is totally outrageous since none of the negotiators were elected and they don’t have a constituency to answer to.  This is probably why they gave in to the pressure from the Republican Senators and the Bush Administration.

For example, they added proposed language that completely bans the new Hawaiian Governing Entity from ever generating revenues from gambling in this or any other state.  Even if the State of Hawaii adopts a gambling bill, Hawaiians would be the only native people who could not engage in any gambling activity.  Isn’t this unconstitutional?  I have always felt that this should be left to the new Hawaiian Governing Entity to decide.  That’s what sovereignty is all about.  We should not ban the new Hawaiian Governing Entity from a potential revenue source that could help them become self-sufficient.

Another proposed amendment prevents the United States from taking any Native Hawaiian lands into trust.  I feel this hurts us because only the federal government can give ceded lands the strong protection it needs.  Just look at what the state has done with ceded lands in the past and the reasons would be clear.  How many more $1 a year leases and unfavorable land swaps do we have to put up with?

I also have a problem with the military being taken off the negotiating table.  The new language for the bill states that the military will not be required to consult with the Office for Native Hawaiian Relations or the Native Hawaiian Interagency Coordinating Group.  What about all of the prime ceded lands that are occupied by the military?

Unfortunately, detrimental changes to the Akaka Bill are nothing new.  The 2002 version of the Akaka Bill (S. 746) was very controversial because it left out a section from the original bill (S. 81) that allows for a fair process for all Hawaiians to be included in the recognition effort.  The section was finally restored to the bill (S. 344) in May of 2003 so there is some hope that the bill can be changed for the better later. 

Some may argue that the proposed changes would allow the bill to finally get passed, but changing the bill by adding language that is not understood by the greater Hawaiian community makes no sense at all.  Still others may say, “Isn’t half a loaf better than no loaf?”  That maybe so, but we may be giving up too much. 

It is truly sad that doing the right thing has now become so controversial.  No matter how many historical facts are presented, no matter all the legal justification offered, getting Congress to do what is right is easier said than done.  The Akaka bill is supposed to represent the beginning of our journey to sovereignty.  Let us hope that the journey continues despite the proposed amendments.  Imua Hawaii Nei…

The need for compromise & unity

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: September 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  In late July, the trustees returned from another disappointing trip to lobby for the passage of the Akaka bill in Washington, D.C.  The bill has enough votes to pass the U.S. Senate, but unfortunately, several Republican Senators used last-minute political gamesmanship to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate floor for voting.  After witnessing these underhanded tactics, I am amazed that anything can get done in Washington.

The Senators that oppose the Akaka bill are obviously relying on false information being provided by Akaka bill opponents such as Thurston Twigg-Smith (who is part of the Arakaki lawsuit and whose ancestor helped orchestrate the overthrow), H. William Burgess (also with the Arakaki lawsuit and the anti-OHA organization Aloha for All), and Richard Rowland (Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i).  These people want us to believe that they are fighting for equality, but I believe they are actually motivated by racism.

To make matters worse, Washington has become so politically divided along party lines that neither side is willing to work together and hammer out a bill that all sides can live with.  It seems as if the Democrats and Republicans have lost the art of compromise. 

Years ago, Washington used to be a different place.  As Jack Valenti (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration) described it, members of Congress built relationships based on trust.  The party in power understood that the role of the opposition was to oppose and didn’t take their criticism personally.  The minority party knew that just because you opposed an issue didn’t mean you couldn’t compromise.  No party could ever get everything they wanted.  That’s not how politics works.  Politics depends on compromise.

Here at home, the time has come for Native Hawaiians who support and oppose the Akaka Bill to come together in the spirit of compromise.  Native Hawaiians who oppose the Akaka bill need to realize that if they want to form an independent Hawaiian nation, they can – even if the Akaka bill were passed into law.  The bill does not give any position on the ultimate form of Native Hawaiian governance.  It only requires the Federal Government to recognize a trust relationship with our people.  More importantly, it would give us the ability to protect our trust assets until our governing entity is formed.

All of us can agree that we cannot build a nation without assets.  Native Hawaiian opponents of the Akaka bill must understand that there can be no final judgment in the federal courts if Congress approves the Akaka bill.  The bill offers strong protection to all of our Hawaiian trusts from the constant threat of lawsuits.  That’s why I have always supported the bill.

What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, rights to our lands, and racism.  Only now, we are being called racists because we want to protect our entitlements.  Times have not changed much, people are still the same and racism is still the motivation behind the move to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left.  The only thing that has changed is the sophistication used to manipulate us and the law.

Let us begin to work together for the cause of recognition.  Let us begin to agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.

We are one people.  We cannot afford to be divided, not when so much work remains to be done.  The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers.  As the recent federal court decision regarding Kamehameha schools proves, the future of OHA, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and all of the Hawaiian Trusts are certainly at risk.  We must work together and combine our influence so that we can do what is necessary to pass the Akaka bill.

Let us be as our Queen wished…  ONIPA’A, steadfast in what is good!

“I appeal to you… that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  I Corinthians 1:10

Response to Letter to the Editor on Akaka Bill

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source:  Letter sent to the Editor of the Honolulu Advertiser

Response to Tom Macdonald’s Letter to the Editor, ” HAWAIIAN SECESSION HASN’T BEEN ABANDONED” – Monday, July 18, 2005

I am outraged that my comments to the anti-Akaka bill group Hui Pu were grossly taken out of context by Tom Macdonald in his July 18th letter to the editor.  For the record, I have never encouraged Hawaiians to use the Akaka bill as a “steppingstone” to secede from the United States.  If Mr. Macdonald had bothered to read the Akaka bill, he would have known that nothing in it even remotely allows for secession.

What I actually shared with the members of Hui Pu was the fact that if they wanted to form an independent Hawaiian nation, they could – even if the Akaka bill were passed into law.  Nothing in the Akaka bill prevents them from doing so.  Of course, they would face the daunting task of convincing a majority of the 400,000 Native Hawaiians living in the U.S. to support them.

In my view, the Akaka Bill, and I have read the bill over and over; does not give any position on the ultimate form of Native Hawaiian governance.  It only requires the Federal Government to recognize a trust relationship with Hawaiians.  It will also give Native Hawaiians the ability to protect their trust assets until a Hawaiian governing entity is formed.

We cannot build a nation without assets.  All of our Hawaiian trusts are under constant threat of lawsuits from those who want to destroy the last remaining resources that Native Hawaiians have left, but there can be no judgment in the courts if Congress shows their support by passing the Akaka bill.  That is why I strongly support the bill.