POSTED: 30 APRIL 2008 - 8:00am HST

TGI #29: Hawaiian Nation - Part Two

image above: Recent photo of Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii found on the internet.

[Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already.]

Part 2: History & Justice
by Juan Wilson on 4 May 2008 Revision 4.2 080510

This week’s column is the second of a two part article. Part I concerned Hawaiian history and dealt with the sequence of events regarding land rights and Hawaiian sovereignty. The period discussed was from the first Anglo-American contact in 1778 to today. Part 2 will draw lessons from that history.

It should be understood that this is my personal interpretation of the historic record. As part of their own education and dialog on the subject, readers are encouraged to formulate their opinions and express them.

This article assumes there will be justice for the nation of Hawaii in time. The question examined here is: If the occupation of Hawaii were undone, what nation state would Hawaii choose? How does historic study lead us to a beter understanding?

Based on the interpretation of history, there are several end nation state outcomes possible. It is important to identify the validity, options and continuity of the island nation through history in order to reach the best results for Hawaii in the future.

It is a complicated and difficult task to redress the injustices to the nation of Hawaii by Anglo-Americans over the last two centuries. Like most cures for what ails you, it will involve some suffering. There are several related issues that include; sovereignty, civil rights, property rights, and resource rights that will need to be considered. Can it be done?

Even today we see an exacerbation of those problems today. The State of Hawaii is contesting the State Supreme Court ruling that it does not own the Ceded Lands (Crown and Government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom), and that the state governement is only a caretaker for those lands until Hawaiian independence is restored.

Sovereignty seems key to all. There are many conflicting claims on how to achieve sovereignty and what the resulting independent Hawaii might be. In this article we will look at property rights as a lens through which we might better understand how the issue of sovereignty affects all else.

If Hawaiians could enjoy any land rights system, what might that be? Let’s examine periods based on property rights and sovereignty status to get an idea. We will peel back history over four epochs of distinct Hawaiian rule to see where we might find comfort or justice.

Period D: The False Nation 1887-1898
In 1887 the Bayonet Constitution excluded three-quarters of ethnic Hawaiians from voting. Only wealthy men with property title could vote. A cabal of American businessmen controlled the economy and land of Hawaii. In 1893 they overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and set up a corporate state, the Provisional Governing Authority. The Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed on 4 July 1894, and Sanford B. Dole became president.

Going back to Period D as the foundation of the independent Hawaii has many shortcomings. The Hawaiian monarchy was broken and the affairs of state controlled by narrow American business interests. However, with some reform, this period does have the virtue of a constitutional democracy without a monarchy. The advantages of modern technical, business, military and organizational expertise had some merit to Hawaiians. A just and modern independent Hawaiian state might be extracted from it.

Period C. Return of Liliuokalani 1864-1886

Choosing Period C as a foundation would rewind the clock past the 1893 overthrow and restore the Hawaiian Monarchy of Queen Liliuokalani as it was prior to the “Bayonet” Constitution of 1887. This would entail using King Kamehameha V’s imposed Constitution of 1864 with expanded powers for the throne and customary chiefs.

Many of the problems of land and water rights, foreign influence and corruption were created during this period. The king had mortgaged the Crown Lands to raise money to support the court’s lifestyle. The leaders of Kingdom of Hawaii decided to take the Crown Lands out of his hands, pay off the debts, and put the land under the stewardship of the throne, not the monarch.

Period B: Accept the Great Mahele 1840-1863
Another option would be accept the efforts of Kamehameha III. His was the longest and most independent stewardship of the independent Kingdom of Hawaii. He introduced the first treaties with other nations, the first constitution and first distribution of property to Hawaiian chiefs and commoners.

Establishing a Hawaii founded in Period B would turn the clock back to the Constitution of 1852 and accept with the results of the Great Mahele and Kuleana Act. This scheme would employ the Royal Patent Awards of the Land Commission as a starting point on property rights.

Unfortunately, the effects of the rule of law as applied to land title was damaging to Hawaiians unfamiliar with the concept. Those that were not literate, and did not agree with the foreign notions of “ownership” were often bamboozled. Native Hawaiians were at a great disadvantage playing the property game with Europeans who had been at it for centuries.

A determination of authenticity of land titles due to the results of illegal seizure or overthrow of the nation would need to be adjudicated. Many public lands under Hawaiian State, and County administration would need to be turned over to the Hawaiian people as national or private property. That would be true of large tracts of private land claimed for a century by plantation owners and now claimed as the property of large agribusiness corporations, land speculators, and developers.

The result of reforms based on “Period B” would likely result in some redistribution of the Land Commission Survey awards into many smaller properties awarded to “commoners”. Larger remaining tracts would go to Hawaiian public lands or possibly bona fide Alii and Konahiki heirs.

Period A. Return to Customary Chiefs 1778-1839
Perhaps the most radical approach on land rights would be to abandon property ownership altogether. Abandon land title as introduced by Europeans who wanted a piece of Hawaii. If all property title were renounced, it would be an undoing of the Great Mehele. Such an act might restore the land management that evolved in Hawaii for a millennium without interference, until 1778. This would return the rights of customary chiefs. To return to a system of historic moku, ahupuaa and ili land divisions.

One variant of “Period A” would be to use pre-1778 boundaries of Hawaiian kingdoms, before the unification of the islands under Kamehameha I in 1810. The motivation being that the unification was achieved with weapons and strategic help from external interests. This would mean for Kauai once again becoming the independent Kingdom of Atooi (Kauai) with its own customary King and Chiefs restored. Dayne Aipoalani, Alii Nui of the present Polynesia Kingdom of Atooi, believes that it is possible.

Another variant would be to use the distribution of land and power achieved after 1810, and during the final days under the unified rule of Kamehameha I. This would lose full independence for Kauai to the advantage of the heirs of Kamehameha I.

Obviously, in the last 200 years, entire lines of native Hawaiian families have been destroyed by disease, poverty, discrimination, and racial dilution. Certainly some rightful heirs could be found and their traditional lands identified. But this would be a small fraction of Hawaiian land. A complicated process to fairly assign remaining power and land would ensue. With the current population, would the end result be any more equitable or sustainable than the results of the Great Mahele?

To paraphrase William Vancouver Carroll, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Barrister of the present Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi:

“In the future the lands rehabilitated from the three land divisions should go to the Maka'ainana lands (kanaka maoli or commoners land)”

For the Hawaiian people, justice regarding their nation cannot be obtained without restructuring the distribution of property and power as it exists today. Understanding the implications, contradictions and paradoxes created by accepting all or part of the conditions of any period is needed.

For example:

* If one accepts the national unification of the Hawaii islands in 1810 it has ramifications as to what restoration of sovereignty to island kingdoms is possible.

* So too, with accepting the Great Mahele of 1846 and the creation of property ownership. It deeply affects the techniques of sustainable land management practiced by Hawaiians.

* And so too, in restoring the crown as it existed in 1893, as one will be under constitutional limits on voting eligibility to those with literacy, money, and property.

Recorded history can be a tool to help us to see how the Hawaiian nation has persisted through all its travails to the present day. The study of history allows us run the clock back and forth to see action and reaction; cause and effect. However, history does not speak to us of non-linear unrecorded culture or the long term effects of our “fixes” to the present.

It is also possible that a new system could be created, from present conditions, that would meet the needs of the Hawaiian people in the future. That could be an entirely different kind of nation than has existed here now or ever. One that respects ancient cultural values while attaining modern international relations with the world. A place that is once again in balance with the land, and able to reach for the stars.

Let us hope we have the wisdom and intuition to choose a path that leads to a just and a sustainable island nation for the near future and beyond.

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI

25 April 2008 - 10:00am HST

TGI Article #28: Hawaii Nation - Part 1  The Historical background of property rights and sovereignty

15 May 2008 - 8:00pm HST

TGI Article #30: Kauai Police Mission  Under Chief Darryl Perry there is a chance for a new vision