`Ano`ai kakou… Throughout the month of February, I was privileged to participated in the Na‘i Aupuni ‘aha to discuss self-governance. I believe that calling for an ‘aha is an excellent opportunity to provide an open and democratic forum to discuss possible governing documents of our new nation. This is where the ultimate form of the Hawaiian government can be debated and considered.
I have always advocated that gaining federal recognition as a native people would finally allow Hawaiians to negotiate with the state and federal governments for the return of some of our ceded lands that the state holds in trust. Federal recognition would also put us in a stronger position to protect our lands and trust assets.
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.
My hope is that, as a result of the ‘aha, we will be able to draft the articles or provisions of our constitution for the new Hawaiian nation, whatever form it ultimately takes. It is important to remember these documents can be changed or annulled. This is only the beginning. Once these governing documents are ratified by the Hawaiian people, they can be implemented to protect our lands and trust resources. We would then be able to care for our people without assistance from anyone.
The window of opportunity for us to act on controlling our lands is closing. For those who think we have lots of time to talk about this, they only need to look at all of the laws that have been passed in the last ten years to realize time is running out.
A good example of why nationhood is so critical for our people is the recent attempt in the legislature to pass the “forced land sales bills.” Kamehameha Schools (KS) recently led the charge against legislation that would have forced Hawai‘i’s landowners to sell leasehold lands to their lessees.
If HB 1635 and HB 2173 had become law, all commercial, agriculture, conservation and industrial lands would have been put under threat to be forcibly sold. KS would have been hurt by these bills since nearly 80 percent of their commercial properties are ground leased. Our ceded lands controlled by DLNR would also be threatened.
Private land developers could have moved in to condemn and remove historical lands that were passed from generation to generation of Hawaiians. This would have also negatively impacted the ability of Native Hawaiian organizations and trusts to fulfill their missions. HB 1635 and HB 2173 represent yet another example of the government’s shameful history of removing Native Hawaiians from their ancestral lands.
Thankfully, on February 8th, KS announced that the House cancelled the hearing for HB 1635 and HB 2173, which effectively killed the bills. However, there are other land bills in the legislature we need to be concerned about such as DLNR selling off remnants and the transfer of land to the military. Let us be makaꞌala (watchful). Aloha Ke Akua.