By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: August 2007 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
On July 9, OHA received a letter written by H. William Burgess, a local attorney who over the years has filed two lawsuits attacking Hawaiian programs. His first suit resulted in the elimination of the requirement that candidates for the OHA Board of Trustees have Native Hawaiian ancestry. His second lawsuit unsuccessfully sought to dismantle OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The interesting thing about these two cases is that the majority of the plaintiffs are the same.
Mr. Burgess, in the past three years, has spent a lot of time and energy lobbying in Washington, D.C., against the Akaka Bill. He has lobbied both senators and congressmen against the bill, calling it racist. His zeal and enthusiasm to spread the wrong message about this bill has been unrelenting. No one works for free. The question should be: “Who is paying Mr. Burgess to lobby against the Akaka Bill and to file these lawsuits against Hawaiians?”
In his latest letter, which was sent to Hawai‘i Maoli, Mr. Burgess is requesting that Hawai‘i Maoli put five of his non-Hawaiian clients – Patricia Ann Carroll, Toby Michael Kravet, Garry Paul Smith, Earl F. Arakaki, and Thurston Twigg-Smith – on the Kau Inoa registration list. Of these people, Garry Paul Smith is the only one who is not named as a plaintiff in any of Burgess’s previous cases challenging Hawaiian programs.
The last name on the list should be viewed with great interest. Thurston Twigg-Smith’s ancestors played a prominent role in the overthrow of our Hawaiian government. This fact has been documented in our history. Now, more than 100 years later, we still see efforts to deny Hawaiians their sovereignty and their right to seek reparations for lands taken in 1893 without compensation. What could Mr. Twigg-Smith be so afraid of that he is willing to lend his name in lawsuits against OHA, DHHL and the State of Hawai‘i? My question to Mr. Twigg-Smith is this: Why hide behind these other plaintiffs? At least his ancestors were right up front about what they did to our kingdom.
Hawaiians, press on, no matter that it has been over 119 years that we have waited for the United States to rectify the injustice done to our nation by some of its citizens.
We have achieved, under the Clinton administration, the acknowledgment of the complicity of the United States with some of its citizens playing a role in the overthrow of our kingdom in the passage of the Apology Bill. This bill sets up the process for recognition and reparations from the federal government for the taking of lands without compensation. This bill – along with the report filed in 1999 in a joint effort by the Interior and Justice departments called “From Mauka to Makai: The River of Justice Must Flow Freely,” which calls for the federal government to address the unfair taking of the lands from the Hawaiian nation and also acknowledges the complicity of the federal government – gives us hope that the Akaka Bill will one day pass.
The passage of the Akaka Bill is the next step in beginning to address the wrongs committed by the United States against the Hawaiian people. We cannot and will not let Mr. Twigg-Smith and his attorney, Mr. Burgess, or anyone else defeat the Hawaiian people again. We have survived as a people over 119 years, and we will remain here on our ancestral lands until the end of time. We will prevail against all odds.