Hawaiian kingdom reclaims Iolani Palace

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.”

See our last posts on politics of secession and the struggle in Hawaii.

  1. Hawaiian Sovereignty
    While studying at the University of Hawai’i I went to a lecture by a PhD candidate who said the whole idea of “Hawaiian Sovereignty” is a myth. The reason is that Hawai’i is under US military occupation according to international law and, as such, has remained its own kingdom. Accordingly, Hawai’i is not a state nor a part of the US, in the same way that Iraq can never be a US state no matter how many Americans there vote to become one.

    The sad part is that though this may be true, I doubt it will make any difference as the US Government is not going to one day say, “Oh, you are right. Sorry and here’s your land back.”

  2. Supreme Court rules on Hawaii ceded lands
    The US Supreme Court, not surprisingly, agrees with our skeptic above. From Big Island Video News, April 1:

    The highest court in the nation has made a unanimous decision on the Hawaii ceded lands issue.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the 1993 Apology Resolution did not strip the state of its authority to sell or transfer 1.2 million acres of ceded lands.

    The ruling overturns a previous ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court that blocked the sale of ceded lands in Hawaii until native Hawaiian claims to the lands were settled.

    The lands were taken over by the United States from the Hawaiian Monarchy when Hawaii was annexed as a territory in 1898. When Hawaii officially joined the union, the federal government turned the lands over to the new state, with an understanding that it be used to benefit the public and especially Native Hawaiians.

    Litigation began in 1994 when the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and four Native Hawaiians sued the state for its plans to sell public land on Maui and the Big Island to residential developers. In 2002, a state court ruled that the state could sell the lands. The Hawaii Supreme Court later overturned that decision. An appeal was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, which produced this most recent decision…

    “We are pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remand the case to the Hawai’i Supreme Court, as we had suggested in our brief and at oral argument,” said Haunani Apoliona, chairperson of the OHA Board of Trustees. “We consider the Court’s decision to be a favorable one. While we would have preferred an outright dismissal of the petition, the result in this case is workable.”

    The Hawaii Reporter urged passage of the Native Hawaiian Federal Recognition act, also known as the Akaka Bill, for a permanent “Land Claims Settlement.”

  3. Hawaii: captive nation?

    The federal government is considering re-establishing a "government-to-government" relationship with Native Hawaiians, just weeks after the head of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) sought clarity on whether the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists in the eyes of the United States. The Interior Department will be seeking public commentary on the policy in the coming weeks. (AP, May 28) OHA's CEO, Kamanaopono Crabbe, sparked an internal crisis when he sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, asking for a ruling on whether the Kingdom of Hawaii still legally exists. The letter, which was quickly disavowed by the OHA's trustees, was prompted by the US government's acknowledgment that the overthrow of the kingdom in 1893 was illegal. Political scientist Dr Keanu Sai, from Windward Communtiy College in Honolulu, told Radio Australia: "A revisionist history has been taught here in Hawaii since the early 1900s that presented Hawaii as if it was a part of the United States when in fact there is clear evidence that it's not."

  4. Federal judge allows Native Hawaiian election

    A judge for the US District Court for the District of Hawaii said Oct. 23 that a Native Hawaiian election scheduled for Nov. 1 may take place. The election, known as the Na'i Aupuni election, will allow Native Hawaiians that are registered to vote to elect delegates  for a convention know as the 'aha, to establish the creation or reorganization of a new form of government. Judge Michael Seabright said that the election, despite utilizing public funds, is separate enough from the state that it is "essentially a private election" that could be conducted among a specific group. Opponents of the election believe that it is racially discriminatory and that it is wrong to use public funds to promote racial discrimination. Seabright issued an oral ruling Friday against a motion for preliminary injunction. A written opinion is expected later. (Jurist, Oct. 26)

  5. Supreme Court justice blocks vote in Native Hawaiian election

    US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Nov. 27 issued an order (PDF) blocking the Native Hawaiian Role Commission (NHRC) from counting the ballots and certifying the winner of a wholly Native Hawaiian election now taking place in the US state of Hawaii. In 2011 Hawaii enacted Act 195, which authorized the creation of a race-based voter roll to be used for an election of delegates to a Native Hawaiian convention. In July 2012 the Native Hawaiian Role Commission founded the Kanaʻiolowalu project, which now has more than 125,000 registrants. The objective of the Kana'iolowalu project is "to reunify Native Hawaiians in the self-recognition of their unrelinquished sovereignty." The NHRC later created the Na'i Aupuni to oversee the election, which began on Nov. 1 and remains open until Nov. 30. Prior to Kennedy's order, the results were scheduled to be announced Dec. 1. The US government has supported the elections, and the Interior Department intervened to stop any delays in the election when a challenge was before the Ninth Circuit.

    The larger aim of the election is to provide Native Hawaiians with a right of self-determination, similar to that of Indian tribes. Challengers in the suit argue that the election violates the Fifteenth Amendment by discriminating against the voting rights of Hawaii citizens who do not qualify as Native Hawaiians. (Jurist, Nov. 28)

  6. Supreme Court blocks Native Hawaiian election

    The US Supreme Court on Dec. 2 issued an order (PDF) enjoining Hawaii from counting recent election ballots pending a final ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Justice Anthony Kennedy previously blocked the counting of ballots in an election overseen by nonprofit organization Na'i Aupuni that would create an assembly of delegates exclusively selected by voters with native ancestry. Though the election has had federal and state support, many Hawaiian citizens found it to be discriminatory and unconstitutional. The state and Na'i Aupuni defended the election, claiming that it was private in nature and a crucial step towards achieving a Native Hawaiian government. The Na'i Aupuni has extended the voting deadline to Dec. 21 and has expressed its belief that the federal appeals court will allow the election to proceed. (Jurist, Dec. 3)