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Editorial | Island Voices

Sovereignty movement survives and thrives

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Why should the needs, actions, responses and ultimately the fate of Native Hawaiians concern the residents of this state? Why should Hawaiians not simply be treated as any other failed or failing minority in the United States?

You hear the complaint often enough: Hawaiians aren’t going anywhere. We Hawaiians haven’t gone anywhere despite almost 90 years of the Hawaiian Homestead Act, and more than 30 years of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Look at the statistics of arrest and incarceration. Look at the school dropout rate. Look at the miserable economics that seem to hold the native Hawaiian in a grip of mediocrity despite all of the things done for them.

But Hawaiians aren’t going anywhere. The sovereignty movement, now more than 20 years old and stronger every year, more than ever seems to be nested in a classical Hawaii. We Hawaiians insist on learning our language, singing and composing our songs, learning and writing our histories and re-mastering the technologies of navigation, agriculture and aquaculture that once sustained our nation.

Increasingly we believe we should govern ourselves, and why shouldn’t we? Ninety years of the Hawaiian Homes Act and 30 years of OHA seem only to demonstrate that neither the U.S. nor the state of Hawaii can provide homes and work, education and a national and cultural pride that matches what our own kingdom provided in the 19th century.

And besides, this is our country, isn’t it? Even people who claim that the kingdom’s property is now America’s property can scarcely deny that a vocal and active sovereignty and independence movement thrives among our people today.

ULTIMATELY, the call for a just solution to the Hawaiian national claims may need to be framed not simply as the pursuit of social justice and redress for the American theft of the Hawaiian nation and its lands, but as a self-interested and rational acknowledgment that native Hawaiians are struggling to succeed, to live as Hawaiians, not Americans, despite all that has been done to them.

Whether a peaceful and mutually satisfying arrangement can be made between the native people and everyone else living in Hawaii could depend on how much of a struggle we are forced to endure. And remember, none of us are going anywhere.

Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwoole Osorio is a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and an advocate for the restoration of Hawaii’s political independence.


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