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U.S. says sovereignty decision is Hawaiians’

Dan Nakaso
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Residents testified at a public meeting held by the U.S. Department of Interior for Native Hawaiian community members at the Waimea Community Center in Waimea in July 2014. Interior officials today announced a rule, or “pathway,” for a future Native Hawaiian government to establish a so-called government-to-government relationship with the United States following a series of angry public hearings on the issue two years ago.

The U.S. Department of the Interior plans to make it clear this morning that any government-to-government relationship with a future Native Hawaiian government is solely up to Native Hawaiians to determine.

Today Interior officials are expected to announce a rule, or “pathway,” for a future Native Hawaiian government to establish a so-called government-to-government relationship with the United States following a series of angry public hearings on the issue two years ago.

According to a FAQ (frequently asked questions document) planned to accompany today’s announcement on the Department of Interior website, “The process is optional and triggered only when a Native Hawaiian government submits a written request to the Secretary. The written request requires, among other elements, a showing that the community’s governing document has broad-based community support in order to ensure that the will of the community as a whole is respected.

“The decision to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government and the further decision to re-establish a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States are for the Native Hawaiian community to determine as an exercise of its self-determination,” according to the FAQ. “Therefore, the rule does not attempt to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government or dictate the form or structure of that government.”

The approach is a clear response to the opposition that federal officials faced across the islands in 2014 as thousands of Native Hawaiians and their supporters turned out for a series of 15 public hearings asking a single question about what kind of a relationship the U.S. government should have with a future Native Hawaiian government.

Most of the speakers refused to address the question and instead blasted the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom and urged the United States to leave the islands, among a long list of demands and concerns.

Speaker after speaker also said that any involvement by U.S. officials to create a new relationship with a future Native Hawaiian government violated Hawaiians’ right to self-determination.

But federal officials at the time also told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that written comments from many Hawaiians, non-Haw aiians and Hawaiian groups showed widespread support for a government-to-government relationship.

“Bumpy” unimpressed

The Interior Department now uses the phrase “re-establish a formal government-to-government relationship” in a nod to the overthrow, which the federal government apologized for in 1993.

In response to the comments made at the statewide public hearings, the department said it made several changes to the final rule, including clarifying its purpose; eliminating a U.S. citizenship requirement — as long as the Native Hawaiian community provides a list of eligible voters; and increasing the public comment period.

The overture to a future Native Hawaiian government follows repeated, failed attempts to pass the so-called Akaka Bill, which would have established a path to federal recognition for a Native Hawaiian government.

Sovereignty activists such as Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, head of a group calling itself the Nation of Hawaii, will not recognize the Interior Department’s role in dealing with a Native Hawaiian government.

Kanahele maintains that the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry should already be recognizing the Nation State of Hawaii.

“The Nation of Hawaii is already operating as the government,” Kanahele told the Star-Advertiser on Thursday. “If there’s going to be any kind of recognition, the State Department should be (involved). I don’t recognize the Department of Interior as having that authority.”

Pressed on whether a Native Hawaiian government should have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, Kanahele said, “Of course Native Hawaiians want a government-to-government relationship not just with the U.S., but with every other government. We want that back.”

Robin Danner, former founding president and CEO of the Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement and a commissioner on the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, worked with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka for 15 years on the Akaka Bill. On Thursday she was “excited as all get-out” after getting word from Washington, D.C., about the Interior Department’s upcoming announcement.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has been 100 years coming,” Danner said. “I’m excited for my grandbabies. I’m excited for my people. I’m excited for all of Hawaii, Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. My cheeks hurt I’m so happy for our people.”

Senators applaud

But Native Hawaiians can choose to participate — or not — in whatever comes next toward forming a Native Hawaiian government that could seek a government-to-government relationship with the United States, Danner said.

“Federal recognition is a right and an opportunity that we don’t have to take, but have a right to take,” she said. “It doesn’t replace any history. It doesn’t replace any efforts for the restoration of the kingdom for those who want to do that.”

Asked how fragile the Interior Department’s position is given the upcoming presidential election, Danner said, “It’s as fragile as any policy in our democracy. It’s as fragile as the Civil Rights Act. No progress has ever been made by wringing our hands over what might be undone.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz celebrated what the Interior Department calls “Part 50 — the final rule for procedures for re-establishing a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”

“This is an historic step towards doing what is right and just for Native Hawaiians,” Schatz said in a statement. “For far too long, Native Hawaiians have been the only federally recognized native people without a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Generations of Hawaiians and allies have worked to restore this relationship, and this rule is one of the most significant developments in making this a real possibility.

“Although the rule establishes formal procedures for a Native Hawaiian government to re-establish its governmental relationship with the United States, it leaves the Hawaiian community with the authority and responsibility to reorganize its governing entity.”

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in a statement commended “the Obama administration for creating this opportunity that will enable the Native Hawaiian community to establish a government-to-government relationship on par with Alaska Natives and Native Americans — who are afforded significant resources and rights based on their federal standing as a native people. It was a privilege to have worked closely with Native Hawaiian community leaders, including Sen. Daniel Akaka and Gov. John Waihee, in making this day possible. In the months and years ahead, I will continue to support the Native Hawaiian community as it determines how best to move forward.”

OHA responds

Robert Lindsey, chairman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said in a statement that OHA “applauds the Obama administration for bringing Native Hawaiians closer to having equality with other indigenous groups in the United States. Native Hawaiians have been the only major indigenous group in the 50 states without a process for establishing a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. This rule finally remedies this injustice. OHA will spend the next few days closely examining the rule to better understand how the Native Hawaiian people can — if they choose — pursue a government-to-government relationship.”

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement, “Throughout this two-year rule-making process, thousands of voices from the Native Hawaiian community and the public testified passionately about the proposal. Today is a major step forward in the reconciliation process between Native Hawaiians and the United States that began over 20 years ago. We are proud to announce this final rule that respects and supports self-governance for Native Hawaiians, one of our nation’s largest indigenous communities.”

On the net:

The final rule, Frequently Asked Questions and other documents are available on the Department of the Interior website at doi.gov/hawaiian.

31 responses to “U.S. says sovereignty decision is Hawaiians’”

  1. what says:

    This is a step backwards. We are all one people under god, and should move forward to recognize that, move forward to treat all people as one under the eyes of the law.

    • mokebla says:

      You’re a legend in your own mind, The Hawaiian People deserve there place in this nation for their Kingdom were stolen by united state by greed and power.

      • ellinaskyrt says:

        Dear Dan Nakaso: Your overuse of “so-called” leads me to believe you are unaware it has a derisive aspect to it. I shall start calling you a “so-called” journalist, much in the same vein I call Ken Conklin a “so-called expert on Hawaiian issues.”

      • Pacificsports says:

        Private businessmen “overthrew” the Queen when she tried to usurp their business ownerships and rights, the USA was not involved in this first action. In truth, the Hawaiian Government was close to Bankruptcy, the King recognizing the inevitable downfall abdicated the throne. The Queen even tried to have Hawaii deal in opium as a means to save the bankrupt Kingdom but her advisors stopped her foolish plan. No significant residents of Hawaii came to the Queen’s defense after the overthrow, only a handful of the Guards tried to block the businessmen but they were rebuffed without causalties in only a few hours and another campaign was never mounted.

        • kuroiwaj says:

          IRT PacificSports, and the Queen signed the Lottery legislation. Now, does it sound familiar for 2016, Lottery for todays Gambling and Opium for todays Marijuana. And, the amendments to the 1864 Hawaiian Kingdom Constitution for the Queen to regain control of the government, with Hawaii’s one Political Party control.

    • Ken_Conklin says:

      We who live in Hawaii do NOT want our lands and people divided along racial lines. There is no historical, legal, or moral justification for race-based political sovereignty for ethnic Hawaiians.

      President Trump will use his executive power to cancel the Hawaiian apartheid regulation. But if Hillary wins, she will put it into action. Therefore those who oppose Hawaiian apartheid should vote for Trump.

      Another very effective way to block the implementation of the “rule” is to get rid of the current OHA trustees who are up for re-election on the November ballot. They pushed the Akaka bill in Congress or 13 years, and have been pushing the Department of Interior to proclaim this new regulation. Vote for Keli’i Akina (to oust Haunani Apoliona); and vote for Mililani Trask (to oust Robert Lindsey).

      Please read the following 302-page book:
      “Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State”
      27 copies are available throughout the Hawaii Public Library system, and more are at UH Manoa and other college libraries.
      A personal copy can be purchased, and the entire chapter 1 and table of contents are available for free, at

    • kuroiwaj says:

      IRT What, I fully agree with your post. My discussion once a while ago with Kahu Dr. Akaka covered his words that we, Americans were one people under God.

    • HIE says:

      Under that theory, we should get rid of all borders. We should, instead of building a wall, tear down all fences and checkpoints. As you say, “we are all one people under god”, so there is no need to have a border anywhere.

      • DannoBoy says:


        If the United States are ever to live up to their stated ideals, fundamental rights guaranteed under the US Constitution must be extended to all people not just to US citizens. It says this right there in the Declaration of Independence:

        “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

        Clearly the USA remains far far from the promised land.

  2. cojef says:

    Unity! Fractions will further delay the process! Can the Native Hawaiians all come to agreement and better pursue their goals? Thus far only dissension and disunity has been the course chosen?

    • Mythman says:

      The land base exists – namely, 200,000 acres of so called homelands. Already a federal reservation in parcels. Each parcel has a form of local governance even if not acknowledged by local public government agencies at the city, country and state levels. The ali’i trusts hold vast amounts of aboriginal land they acquired when the british style monarchy system started up after 1778. Then there is the public land trust, which accounts for the rest of all the land of the islands, which is governned by the mostly Asian derived governments that legislate the rules and laws for the public land useages. Then there is fee simple land and federal military reservation land. So governing land is what is up for the taking. Thinking about this in terms of land not in terms of royalism and its overthrow is the way to constitutionally resolve this. The objective should be for the homestead native to rapidly reach parity with the Asian derived public that now benefits from the overthrow through controlling of Waikiki and ali’i trust lands and tourism, not strengthening royalism’s colonial detritus. Families with land claims can best resolve them at this late date through Title 25, not through hula shows and chants.

  3. Sandybeach says:

    Hawaiian my seek and obtain nation to nation status. But be careful not to give up your U.S. citizenship.

  4. keonimay says:

    I spoke, at the very first DOI hearing, at the State Capitol. The 5 Federal Gov’t questions, were not answered by most speakers at the first hearing, because we were led to believe 3 days earlier, that we could give a prepared speech. It was just a question, of how long we could speak.

    If we become a Hawaiian Indian Nation, we will permanently lose, the legal title of the Hawaiian Crown Lands (Hawaiian Ceded Lands) and the Hawaiian Homelands.

    The Indian Reservation Lands, falls under the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, falls under the Department of Interior. The Department of Interior Lands, falls under the Bureau of Land Management.

    The Indians were promised Sovereignty. It has never happened. Felony crimes on the Reservations, are investigated by the FBI.

    The Hawaiian gold, stored in 3 banks, now falls under the USA control.

    This issue is not over.

  5. Bdpapa says:

    Is the door open or closed. Is Bumpy’s belief workable
    ? Too many unknowns!

  6. Kalli says:

    Put the corks back in the champagne bottles. This isn’t even a law it is a change to a internal rule. It can be changed again at will by the new DOI secretary. Any attempt to
    invent a government with a basis of race will be struck down by the U.S. Supreme court as they have done twice all ready.

  7. scooters says:

    No welfare, medicare, no food stamps, just plain no US Govt help at all and NO US Citizenship.

  8. Cricket_Amos says:

    “who are afforded significant resources and rights based on their federal standing as a native people.”
    Getting in on the gravy train. It might be too late, there may be no gravy left.

    And “native” is by definition anyone born in Hawaii.

    The group might be a little thankful for the rights they have as Americans, as opposed to the lack of this in their original culture. From what I have read, the common person lived under the thumb of gang leaders (the chiefs) and con-men(the priests).

    According to some histories the members of the Nativist group are descended from forceful immigrants to the islands, whose original people they subsequently overwhelmed.

    There are real problems to be addressed for individuals in hard circumstances, both so-called Natives and others.

    If it was the Hawaiian Kingdom that was overthrown, maybe that is what should be restored in some form, and should include the fact that its citizenship was not race-based as in the current self-serving proposals.

  9. KamIIIman says:

    The results of this will be interesting. Just like the Native Americans having at least some of their lands back. Let them govern themselves and make their own choices at face good and challenging consequences. I am sure they will consult with Native Americans for some input. But the anger of the Native Hawaiians have grown over the decades into bitterness (rightfully so) to the point of some radical and uncivil actions in my opinion. I wish them the best.

    • kuroiwaj says:

      IRT KamIIIMan, it was decided on May 16, 1910 in the U.S. Court of Claims; Liliuokalani v. The United States. Liliuokalani did not appeal.

      “The constitution of the Republic of Hawaii, as respects the crown lands, provided as follows:

      “That portion of the public domain heretofore known as crown land is hereby declared to have been heretofore, and now to be, the property of the Hawaiian Government, and to be now free and clear from any trust of or concerning the same, and from all claim of any nature whatsoever upon the rents, issues, and profits thereof. It shall be subject to alienation and other uses as may be provided by law. All valid leases thereof now in existence are hereby confirmed.”

      Chances are that the “New Hawaiian Government” will never gain any lands in the State of Hawaii, unless provided by one of the Land Trusts.

  10. lava says:

    From the article:
    “The process is optional and triggered only when a Native Hawaiian government submits a written request to the Secretary. The written request requires, among other elements, a showing that the community’s governing document has broad-based community support in order to ensure that the will of the community as a whole is respected.”

    I wonder who is included in the broad-based community support.

  11. Bothrops says:

    the government is saying “when you get it all together come back and talk” That doesn’t seem likely.

  12. butinski says:

    Nothing will come of this news folks. The Native Hawaiiians are so fractured as a group that no one concise voice speaks for them. Decades from now, we’ll still be having the same debates. In the meantime, the number of full blooded 100% Hawaiians keep getting diluted. Sad.

  13. dontbelieveinmyths says:

    Here’s my question: If I you had a magic wand and I could grant the wishes of the Hawaiian people instantly, what would that wish look like? Describe what societal system would be in place? What would that look like? Monarchy? Republic like the current system? Who would be the chosen leader? Someone with royal blood or the loudest activist? All poster who are for sovereignty, please answer the question without name calling. I can already see that too many people would like the magic wand (power). Are all non hawaiians going to be kicked out of Hawaii? What then will be your economy? Are you going to be going back to purely living off the land? I’m so curious as to what the so called, self appointed leaders of the “movement” have in mind. Please paint a clear picture for everyone.

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