Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Native Hawaiian Rights

     My friend Norm from Seattle is very supportive of the rights of Native Americans.  He's attended pow wows and donated goods to Native American Charities and considers himself quite the liberal.  But when I shared with him my thoughts of Native Hawaiian sovereignty several years ago, which I support, he cut me off and said, “This talk about sovereignty of any kind is not going anywhere.  The powers that be will not tolerate any talk of sovereignty for any group of Native Americans anywhere.”  Further discussions revealed that he was not opposed to granting Native Americans sovereignty within certain bounds, he just thought all such notions were non-starters among the nation's ruling elite.
     Whether possible or not, I nonetheless believe envisioning ideals is helpful in making progress, for without them, how will anyone know where we are headed or feel moved to make the sacrifices necessary for significant change?
     Skipping the debate for now over ceded lands (former Hawaii crown and government lands controlled by Hawaii State and the U.S. which both governments have acknowledged Native Hawaiians have rights to—see further explanation @ http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2010/11/08/5914-what-are-the-ceded-lands-of-hawaii/) which has devolved all-too-often into ugly harangues over billions of dollars (and over which Native Hawaiians obviously deserve their fair share), following is my dumb, naive, and unworkable Native Hawaiian rights proposal:

1)  Return Kahoolawe in total to Native Hawaiians.  How “Native Hawaiians” is defined, I leave to others (mainly the courts) to decide.

2)  Likewise, give Native Hawaiians either Molokai or Lanai.  The U.S. government will almost certainly have to get involved with such a land transfer due to the expense and legal issues.  If a billionaire can purchase virtually all of Lanai, I see this as no problem for the U.S. government.

3)  Native Hawaiians will have a one-time choice to immigrate to this new land or remain part of the U.S.  (Later immigrations may be possible within the bounds of newly established law.)

4)  Native Hawaiians in this new land will have sovereignty and will provide for their own needs.  However, the new nation may sign mutually beneficial treaties with the U.S. and Hawaii for such things as national security, extradition rights, border crossings, health care accessibility, food and water security, fishing rights, etc.

5)  Hawaii should agree not to legalize gambling, leaving this option for the newly established nation.

6)  In exchange for all of the above, Native Hawaiians and the new Hawaii nation will agree to give up to Hawaii State and the U.S. government all non-transferred ceded lands claims.

     I like this idea because it would enable the Hawaiian peoples, if they choose, to turn back the hands of time (to the extent possible) to before the Great Mahele (the subdivision of vast tracts of land to private land holders, such land previously owned jointly by all the Hawaiian people) and to self-determine, with few bounds, their own futures.  From what I hear (I've never been) certain south pacific islands still retain much of their original cultures largely free from all-encompassing outside influences.  These could perhaps serve as models for this new Hawaii nation.
     Granted, the fair market values of all the disparate ceded lands claims may exceed those of the land masses I propose but having two single parcels in total plus self-determination rights—true freedom—has got to be worth the difference (at least in my naive, simplistic way of thinking).
     I recognize that an uncertain number of Native Hawaiians believe that the entirety of the Hawaiian islands chain always has belonged to them and that the U.S. “occupation” is illegal and should not be recognized and that negotiated “settlements” and “agreements” with the illegal occupiers are mere sham transaction.  Other Native Hawaiians—regardless of their view of the U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy—obviously desire to work within the existing framework to try to secure what's best for their people's futures.  Some say that a lot of the in-fighting among Native Hawaiians is caused by differences of opinion on how best to proceed.
     I empathize, feel ignorant, and don't know how to respond other than to suggest that a lot of those looking in from the outside shake their heads (some in dismay, some in disgust) and think, “If they among themselves can't decide what they want or put forth a unified platform other than ‘more’, then how can we even begin to decide what we should or should not support?”
     Something like the Akaka Bill (The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act), if one ever gets passed into law, I suppose would be as good a start as can be hoped for.  But that's all it would be is a start—the first teeny, tiny step toward what I imagine most Native Hawaiians truly desire most for themselves, their culture, their islands, and their identifies, working within the constraints of what is currently possible.  Regardless of the outcome of such a bill, however, I remain skeptical of the people's futures.  Native populations within the U.S. and around the world have been marginalized, ignored, forgotten, and even decimated for centuries by Western forces that have overrun them.  Unless the U.S. and Hawaii general populaces insist on lasting change for their betterment, things will likely continue to putter along as they have, one marginal change at a time, Native Hawaiians along with their mainland counterparts just holding on and doing their best to get by. 
     I wish they could do better and get more of what they deserve.  Unfortunately, right does not always make might in this world during our lifetimes.

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