Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Living in a sovereign land

By Dana Naone Hall


IN 1990, the sale of Molokai Ranch to a Hong Kong firm was completed. I wished, at the time, that the purchase of one-third of the island's land (55,680 acres or 87 square miles) had been accomplished by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs—the price seemed reasonable enough to be within OHA's reach.

The sovereignty debate had long been raging, and I thought that what was needed was a land base where sovereignty could actually be practiced. Molokai seemed suited to this endeavor because traditional and customary subsistence practices are largely intact there. Since full Hawaiian sovereignty has been suspended for more than 100 years, we need to familiarize ourselves with its outlines in practical ways. What would the skin of sovereignty feel like? How would we organize and regulate our sovereign world?

To date, the manifold discussions on sovereignty have tended to divide rather than unite us. It would help to see a living example of sovereignty in action. We could practice, correct mistakes, change direction. I am concerned that without some experience of self-governance on a discrete land base that when sovereignty arrives we will be unprepared. The return of political power, while sought after, can also be a dangerous genie.

Different models of sovereignty can be established on different islands. Integrating ancestral knowledge with the dictates of modern life is a challenge we are ready for. As native people we could soon find ourselves once again living in a sovereign land.

Dana Naone Hall is a former member of the Maui-Lanai Island Burial Council who has long been active in cultural, environmental and historic preservation issues.


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