America’s own Tibet in the Pacific? From the New York Times, May 3, links added:
Occupation of Palace Area Invigorates Native Hawaiian Movement
HONOLULU — A Native Hawaiian independence group laid claim this week to the nation’s only royal palace and the state land surrounding it, raising anew the issue of self-determination for the islands’ native people.
Several dozen people from the group, the little-known Hawaiian Kingdom Government, were at the Iolani Palace grounds in downtown Honolulu on Friday, two days after locking the public out for several hours. On Thursday, the palace, which is also a museum where tours are given, reopened without incident.
The group believes it has the right to take back from the government more than one million acres in the Hawaiian Islands it claims were illegally seized during the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, 11 years after the palace was built.
“We are here; we’re not going to go,” said the group’s leader, Mahealani Kahau, who had a security detail of a half-dozen men surrounding her Friday on a corner of the lawn behind the palace where they had erected a tent. Ms. Kahau said members of her group planned to return to the 11-acre palace complex, a public park abutting the Hawaii Capitol, every day except Saturdays and Sundays.
As many as a dozen groups promote independence for Hawaii’s native population, but each has a different view on how to achieve self-determination.
In 2000 the United States Supreme Court, ruling in Rice v. Cayetano, found unconstitutional the restriction that only Native Hawaiians could vote in the statewide election for the nine trustees of the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the agency charged with administering programs that benefit Native Hawaiians.
The decision appeared to re-energize the various sovereignty movements, but failed to unite them.
“That’s one of the major problems, even among those who are for independence,” said Kekuni Blaisdell, a retired doctor who has been involved in the Native Hawaiian independence movement for 24 years and coordinates a network of independence groups. “We lack unity, and we realize that.”
The groups disagree over several issues, including proposed federal legislation that would give federal recognition to the estimated 400,000 Native Hawaiians in the United States.
A version of the bill passed the House in October, but has not been scheduled for a vote in the Senate. It has the support of both of Hawaii’s United States senators, as well as Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Four years ago, the office began a heavily publicized campaign—called Kau Inoa, or Place Your Name—to register everyone of Hawaiian ancestry in the nation.
Hawaiian Kingdom Government and some other Native Hawaiian groups view the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as an arm of a state government they do not recognize. They also part ways with the office on the issue of ceded lands, more than 1.2 million acres in crown lands that were ceded to the federal government when the United States annexed the republic of Hawaii in 1898. The land passed to state control when Hawaii was admitted to the union in 1959.
In mid-January, the state reached a $200 million settlement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that would transfer control of 209 acres on Oahu and the Big Island to the office. But the Legislature rejected the deal, and the state has agreed to renegotiate.
On Jan. 31, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state could not sell or transfer any ceded lands “until such time as the unrelinquished claims of the Native Hawaiians have been resolved.”
Hawaii’s attorney general, Mark J. Bennett, said the state filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday. The state argues that the 1959 Admission Act granting Hawaii statehood gave the state the right to manage and sell those lands.
But some sovereignty groups, including Ms. Kahau’s, believe those lands still belong to Native Hawaiians. Ms. Kahau and members of her organization met on Monday morning with Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, which manages the historic palace, to also lay claim to the state archives building adjacent to the palace. In the past, Mr. Chu said, the group has served his office with eviction notices.
The Friends of Iolani Palace leases space in the archives building from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, which manages the palace grounds.
Ms. Kahau said the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which has created government ministries and claims to have registered several thousand Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians as its “citizens,” plans to move its operations from a small leased office on the edge of downtown to the palace grounds whether or not it is successful in gaining access to the archives building.
“The building doesn’t make us the Hawaiian kingdom,” she said. “It’s us who makes it.”