Hawaii’s governor, the state legislature and state agencies — namely the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) dragging along the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) — and many other supporters such as church organizations and community groups, have made the “Akaka Bill” a must-pass measure for Congress in coming months.
And what is the justification for giving up the Ceded Lands of the State of Hawaii and (maybe) the reserve federal/military lands/islands with all mineral rights, natural resources, and water rights to a 200-mile area around the Hawaiian Islands and related “indigenous Polynesian/-Hawaiian” areas in the Pacific Ocean somewhat connected through tradition? These ties could be by voyaging traditions or related contacts during migrations from the south to Hawaii, such as (possibly) Johnston Island, Palmyra Island, Wake Island, and remotely, even parts of American Samoa.
We ask: What justifies getting rid of U.S. military reserve areas where the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Coast Guard once were and no longer are, such as Midway Island, Kaho’olawe, Barbers Point?
Is it the U.S. political relationship with the Native Hawaiian aboriginal and indigenous people whose ancestors never directly surrendered their sovereignty in the critical period when the monarchy was overthrown (1893) and annexed by Joint Resolution of Congress (1898)?
This indigenous Native Hawaiian sovereignty has been classified in USPL 103-150 (Clinton Apology) as “aboriginal communal tenures before 1778 A.D,” potentially applicable to all lands and waterways over sea (channels), and moreover, under access rights, all mineral and natural resources, with water rights, which, under the international Law of the Sea includes a 200-mile zone in all directions around the island chain.
This is why Kaho’olawe no longer belongs to the State of Hawaii, since custody was given to the Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana in stewardship, which under the “Akaka Bill” will be “owned” by the Native Hawaiian sovereignty, which I may remind you, consists of “aboriginal communal tenures before 1778 A.D.”
The ‘Ohana makes the rules about who now may go there, when, and for what cultural exercises or events. The same is true of the coral preserve. Fishermen may not go there now, unless no longer fishing for tabu things in tabu ways. The fact you are Native Hawaiian does not qualify you by ancestry alone to go over there for your own purposes if they are not in accord with the ‘Ohana criteria for anyone being there. No longer a military bastion, but a native and culture preserve, it’s a prohibited area nevertheless, so for we who are not part of the ‘Ohana, it makes no difference that we may not go there. As a qualified observer satisfying ‘Ohana rules, you are not a participant in ‘Ohana programs without approval. The tabu fence will always be up if your native interest is for a reason other than what the ‘Ohana believes proper within their own management, which is right out of the old konohiki system.
My eyes were opened when I wrote the report on the astroarchaeological sites on that island for the Kaho’olawe Conveyance Commission in 1993, though I actually witnessed political confrontations by groups hostile to U.S. military objectives through ROTC programs on the University of Hawaii campus during the Vietnam War, and I was one of three professors who refused to consent to the nationwide moratorium during the late 1960s when the Students For a Democratic Society occupied Bachman Hall (Administration Building) while the ROTC Building was burned down during protests. Two other professors were from the College of Engineering; I was the one faculty member from the College of Arts of Sciences who ignored the campus protest by holding classes and giving final exams during the moratorium.
The political leadership of the Hawaiian Studies Center continues a somewhat similar anti-American, anti-military, anti-American missionary, anti-white stance in teaching Hawaiian language, history and culture in order to inculcate younger Native Hawaiian children to the same view: The United States must get out; it doesn’t belong here.
The recent federal $600,000 allocation to the new Hawaii Law Center supports that political position of Hawaiian Studies at Kamakakuokalani Center from the nearby William Richardson School of Law.
The ‘Akaka Bill’ is, therefore, in my opinion, the kind of retributive justice the Congress should consider putting aside until the country has had time to consider what it will mean to get out of the Pacific and out of Hawaii entirely. Else it may well put asunder the whole country’s protections of individual rights to life, liberty and property.
Who would want the United States out of Hawaii except enemies of those constitutional principles, both here and on the mainland, which have always been shared philosophies between the kings of these islands and the rulers of other nations? May freedom prevail, from sea to shining sea.
Rubellite Kawena Kinney Johnson is an emerita professor of Hawaiian language and literature at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.