In recent weeks, individuals running as delegates for Na`i Aupuni have attempted to represent Ka Lāhui Hawai`i. This response was prepared to correct the record and is submitted by the three Kia`āina (governors) elected by Hawaiians statewide and on the U.S. continent.

Ka Lāhui Hawai`i is a native initiative for Hawaiian self-governance formed by and for Native Hawaiians without the interference of state or federal agencies. Ka Lāhui Hawai`i is the evolutionary product of years of legal research, community dialogues, meetings, and workshops.

We also have engaged in nation building with Native Hawaiians without state and federal government interference. From 1987, we enrolled over 20,000 citizens from our islands and on the U.S. continent, convened three constitutional conventions, held over 35 legislative sessions, conducted four general elections with the assistance of the League of Women Voters, ratified 14 treaties of mutual recognition and friendship with Inuit and Indian Nations, sent diplomatic liaisons to the United Nations, and sent delegations to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of Hawaiian entitlements and programs.

Hawaiian Flag

In addition, Ka Lāhui Hawai`i has actively testified on issues at the federal, state, county and community levels, published newsletters and other educational materials, and convened numerous community educational meetings on sovereignty and other critical issues facing our community like protecting sacred lands and advocating for water rights.

Ka Lāhui Hawai`i has also conducted hundreds of community workshops in Hawaii and on the U.S. continent to exercise our people’s right to self-determination believing in the advancement of our efforts to be self-governing. To build on this long history of self-determination work and in honor of our citizens who have passed away, Ka Lāhui Hawai`i leadership stands in opposition to Na`i Aupuni and the U.S .Department of Interior’s Proposed Rules.

Understanding Self-Determination

The Na’i Aupuni process violates the principle of self-determination as well as the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In effect, the process is a political ruse to disenfranchise Hawaiians, deny us our right to our traditional lands, territories and resources and sidestep our historic claims for reparations.

The International Human Rights Conventions and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (applicable to and binding on the United States) defines self-determination as  “The right of all peoples to determine their political status and by virtue of that right to freely pursue their Economic, Cultural and Social development.”

Self-determination is not a right of governments or state or federal agencies. It is the collective right of “peoples” including indigenous Hawaiian peoples.  This means that the Hawaiian peoples are the only group that has the power to “define their political status” and ultimately, determine citizenship in a nation of their own creation.

Once the people have exercised this power, the nation formed has the right and authority to freely pursue social development through programs for housing, education and health. It has the right to freely pursue cultural development by preserving Hawaiian language, protecting sacred sites and maintaining cultural practices.  It also has the power to pursue economic development, including the power to tax, to trade under traditional treaties and to engage in and license others to engage in business in order to raise revenues and be economically self-sufficient.

In 1991, the state created the Sovereignty Advisory Council (SAC) in Act 301. As part of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ budget, the state provided SAC with up to $200,000 to develop a plan to discuss and study the sovereignty issue. 

On the heels of the 100th commemoration of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1993, the state established the Hawaiian Sovereignty Advisory Commission in Act 359.  Under this legislation, the state appropriated $420,000 to hold “a referendum to determine the will of the native Hawaiian people to call a democratically convened convention for the purpose of achieving consensus on an organic document that will propose the means for native Hawaiians to operate under a government of their own choosing.” 

The next year, the state amended Act 359 with the passage of Act 200 creating the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council.  The state appropriated up to $1.8 million to HSEC to hold “a plebiscite in 1995, to determine the will of the indigenous Hawaiian people to restore a nation of their own choosing.” 

Ka Lāhui Hawai`i and other community organizations opposed the SAC/HSAC/HSEC state-driven initiatives, and called for a boycott of the process. We had  grave concerns that this referendum or plebiscite would be used as evidence that the indigenous Hawaiian people relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, in direct contrast to our people’s history of resistance as acknowledged in the Apology Resolution, which provides that “the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” 

After Ka Lāhui Hawai`i and other community organizations called to boycott the process for nearly two years, a month before the election was to be held, the state amended Act 200 by passing Act 140 in 1996.  The new state law specifically changed the requirement that the plebiscite be approved by a majority of “qualified voters” to “ballots cast.”  In other words, the state first created a process that required a majority of the approximately 85,000 Native Hawaiians to approve.  However, the new law required only a majority of all votes cast in order to approve the plebiscite.

On July 15, 1996, HSEC sent out ballots to approximately 85,000 Native Hawaiians.  30,423 ballots were returned, of these ballots, 22,294 voted yes to the question “Shall the Hawaiian People elect delegates to propose a Native Hawaiian government.” Ka Lāhui Hawai`i and other community groups claimed a victory due to the low turnout. However, the state claimed a victory by looking at the majority of the ballots cast.  Consequently, this state-initiated process continued with Ha Hawai`i and `Aha Hawai`i `Oiwi.

Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill)

Hawaii’s congressional delegation introduced the first version of the Akaka bill, S. 2899/H.R. 4904 in 2000, authorizing a process for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian government and to provide for the recognition of the Native Hawaiian government by the United States. This bill had only one hearing in Hawaii in 12 years.

Over the next decade, Congress proposed multiple versions of the bill. But the changes and versions that followed were done in Washington, D.C., without the input of the Native Hawaiian people. In stark contrast, the changes reflected input from state agencies like OHA and a select few individuals from the Hawaiian community who continue to push an agenda that excludes the vast majority of Hawaiians from the process.  An estimated $30 million in trust money was spent to support passage of the Akaka Bill. No accounting has ever been provided for the Hawaiian trust funds spent on these efforts.

The Native Hawaiian Roll Commission Was Created By The State

In 2011, the state established the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission in Act 195 to prepare and maintain a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians defined initially in the law as 1) “an individual who is a descendant of the aboriginal peoples who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised sovereignty in the Hawaiian islands, the area that now constitutes the State of Hawaii; or” 2) “an individual who is one of the indigenous, native people of Hawaii and who was eligible in 1921 for the programs authorized by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, or a direct lineal descendant of that individual.”

 The law also required that a qualified Native Hawaiian “has maintained a significant, cultural, social or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community and wishes to participate in the organization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity; and is eighteen years of age or older.” Funding for the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission was provided by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs while no other community organization was provided money to conduct any kind of educational campaign in opposition to this initiative. 

As noted in a Civil Beat article by Trisha Kehaulani Watson, “within the first two years of implementation (between the signing of the Act in 2011 and September 2013), less than 19,000 Hawaiians enrolled, despite having a $4 million budget from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.”

To inflate this low enrollment, the state passed Act 77 in 2013 expanding the definition of “qualified Native Hawaiian” to include “an individual who meets the ancestry requirements of Kamehameha Schools or of any Hawaiian registry program of the office of Hawaiian affairs,” immediately swelling the roll to over 107,000 names.

It is this roll that Na`i Aupuni is using to conduct its election of delegates to a constitutional convention, or `Aha. At the heart of self-determination is deciding to participate in any process and not have the state determine participation by defining a qualified Native Hawaiian.

The U.S. Department Of Interior’s Proposed Rules

The U.S. Department of Interior has issued proposed rules to create an administrative procedure for re-establishing a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.  These proposed rules follow the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued last year where the vast majority of those who testified at public hearings expressed opposition to the DOI’s proposal. 

Nevertheless, thousands of identical postcards submitted as part of a concerted effort of political insiders intent on securing federal recognition was used to justify the DOI’s proposed rules. Interestingly, portions of the proposed rule would allow a roll of Native Hawaiians certified by a state of Hawaii commission like Kanaiolowalu that is being used by Na`i Aupuni to determine participation when the large majority of the names on the roll came from different OHA lists and registries without the free prior and informed consent of those who signed on to those prior lists and registries, including one registry that was used to qualify for OHA programs such as loans, grants and scholarships.

The record reflects that none of these initiatives came from the Hawaiian “Peoples” and all were in fact created by state and federal bodies.  SAC/HSAC/HSEC and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission/Kanaiolowalu are all state bodies, created by state procedures. The Akaka Bill and the DOI’s proposed rules were drafted in Washington, D.C., without any input from our broader community. None of these groups represents the Hawaiian Peoples. Consequently, these efforts cannot be viewed as legitimate reflections of the Hawaiian people’s desire for nationhood or a valid expression of our peoples right of self-determination.

The record further indicates that for years the state and federal government have tried unsuccessfully to manipulate Hawaiians into approving a governmental structure that would limit political power or authority. As a result of this limited power, our people’s vast trust lands and resources would continue to be controlled by the state and federal bodies that control them now.

As Ka Lāhui Hawai`i did in 1996, we are once again calling upon the Hawaiian community and all citizens to boycott state/federal efforts to manipulate Hawaiian self-determination. We urge you to oppose Na`i Aupuni, by refusing to cast a ballot in this election. We also recommend you submit testimony against the proposed DOI Rules for the following reasons:

As explained in the two US DOI memos released in late September 2015 (read them here, and here), the ‘Recognized’ Hawaiian Nation will not have any share of our people’s ceded lands trust or Hawaiian Homelands but will be only given Kahoolawe Island. (Kahoolawe was used by the U.S. as a bombing target for years and is still littered with bombs. No one lives there.)

The “recognized” Hawaiian nation will not have any of the powers the “recognized” Indian nations have.  It will not have taxing authority, the ability to zone or develop our trust lands for housing, education or health etc.  This means that some “recognized” native nations in the U.S. will have rights other “recognized” native nations are not allowed to have — a clear violation of the 14th Amendment.

The “recognized” nation will not be able to access federal laws appropriating federal funds for other classes of Native Americans. For example, Hawaiian children removed from Hawaiian families will not have the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act (the right to be placed with Hawaiian foster homes), etc.

Hawaiian trust lands under control of the U.S. and state will continue to be under federal and state control.  Wardship will be maintained. Hawaiians will be “beneficiary-wards” of state and federal government and these entities will continue to control our trust resources.

The vast majority of Hawaiian people are being disenfranchised by the process. There are approximately 577,000 Hawaiians in the U.S., less than 19,000 have been registered by Kanaiolowalu and thousands have been added to a list without their free prior informed consent and approval. These numbers confirm that the overwhelming majority of Hawaiians are not included in this process.

Hawaiians will forever be denied their right of self-governance and self-determination. The DOI memos verify that once the U.S. confers “recognition” on the Na’i Aupuni nation, the US will never again “recognize” a Hawaiian nation.

What Can Hawaiians Do?

• Inform/educate yourselves by reading the DOI memos and exercise your best judgment for yourself and `ohana ;

• Get involved by submitting testimony to the DOI opposing the Recognition Rules and limitations. Go here to submit testimony;

• Demand that the DOI respect our people’s right to “consultation” under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The U.S. should be in Hawaii meeting with indigenous Hawaiians on these issues. Previous “hearings” were held for the public and Indian nations with gambling casinos on the continent but no “consultation” has been held specifically for Hawaiians in and throughout Hawaii;

• Support and Sign on to the Kū`ē Na`i Aupuni Petition. Go here to sign on.

Remember the words of our beloved queen, Lili`uokalani, “Onipa`a Kākou.”

Mililani Bernardette Trask

Josiah “Black” Ho`ohuli

Lehua Kinilau-Cano

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