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?