Frequently Asked Questions

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Introduction: Frequently Asked Questions; Quick and Simple Answers

(c) Copyright 2000 - 2002 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

The issues in the sovereignty debate are very complex, and require lengthy explanations. Here are quick and simple (overly simple) answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. People with the patience for lengthy explanations are invited to read the other sections of this website by clicking on the colored links that appear as questions at the end of this FAQ section.

Here is a list of all the questions that are answered briefly in this section of the website. When you find a question you are interested in exploring, please scroll down until you find the answer. Some of these questions are answered in far greater detail in other sections of the website. You will find a complete list of all sections of the website at the end of this section, after the last question has been answered.

For relatively brief answers to the above questions, please scroll down until you find the answer. Some of these questions are answered in far greater detail in other sections of the website. You will find a complete list of all sections of the website at the end of this section, after the last question has been answered.

Are kanaka maoli (native hawaiians) indigenous people in Hawai'i?

A: All the races in Hawai'i came here from somewhere else. The first Polynesians probably came from Marquesas around 400 AD. and a second wave probably came from Tahiti around 1200 AD, quickly overcoming the first wave and establishing a new social and cultural system. The Norman invasion of England happened before the Tahitian invasion of Hawai'i; and the Saxons had occupied England before the first Polynesians arrived in Hawai'i. So Anglo-Saxons have a greater claim to be called indigenous in England, than kanaka maoli have to be called indigenous in Hawai'i.

Are kanaka maoli an "endangered species"?

A: Following Captain Cook's arrival in 1778, kanaka maoli population declined dramatically due to Western diseases, economic changes, and continuing "normal" warfare between chiefs who suddenly had access to guns and cannons and used them to slaughter each other by the thousands. Disease and starvation continued to decimate kanaka maoli population throughout the Kingdom period, until there remained fewer than 40,000 with any blood quantum. However, following annexation, kanaka maoli population has increased through intermarriage and improving social and economic conditions, until there are now over 200,000 in Hawai'i and perhaps another 100,000 living elsewhere. Annexation and statehood have helped kanaka maoli prosper and thrive compared to their devastating decline during the monarchy.

Do kanaka maoli need protection because their culture and lifestyle are incompatible with modern U.S. culture?

A: Virtually all kanaka maoli now living have grown up speaking English as their primary language, living in the same kinds of houses, eating the same kinds of foods, believing in the same Christian God, and earning a living in the same ways as most of the other people in Hawai'i. Over the past 20 years there has been growing interest by many kanaka maoli in rediscovering their cultural roots, just as many other ethnic and racial groups have been doing throughout the U.S.. Some children have been educated in Hawaiian language immersion programs, seeking to rescue a language that nearly died out, and seeking to make them "native speakers" of a modernized Hawaiian language. But it is extremely rare to find any kanaka maoli who speaks Hawaiian more fluently than his primary language (usually English), just as it is extremely rare to find any kanaka maoli whose primary lifestyle is traditional fishing or taro-farming, or whose primary religion is worship of the old Hawaiian gods. Most "traditional practitioners" of the old religion and lifestyle grew up as assimilated Americans and have adopted traditional practices deliberately to seek their roots, in much the same way as some African-Americans have adopted Islamic religion, learned Swahili, and celebrate the American-invented Kwanzaa alternative to Christmas. Kanaka maoli scholars and traditional practitioners constantly struggle to discover the ancient culture and revive it, often recreating or even inventing ceremonies, prayers, or procedures which have long been forgotten or may have never existed in the forms now practiced. What would be natural and automatic for a genuinely indigenous tribe in Africa or Asia, who have maintained their traditions continuously for many thousands of years, is artificially reinvented by fully-assimilated kanaka maoli seeking to rediscover their forgotten roots. Today's kanaka maoli are successfully establishing their unique culture and spirituality just as other ethnic groups are doing, within the context of the modern U.S. political and cultural system.

Was hawaiian language illegal during the Republic and Territory periods?

A: There was never a law prohibiting the speaking or writing of Hawaiian language. Indeed, there were numerous Hawaiian-language newspapers which continued publishing throughout the Republic and Territory periods, including many that were politically active in opposing the annexation, and promoting the kanaka maoli dominated Home Rule Party. Following the overthrow, the Republic of Hawai'i passed a law in 1896 making English the required language of instruction in schools, and forbidding other languages as the primary medium of instruction. Here is the exact wording of that law: School Laws of 1896 Section 30: "The English Language shall be the medium and basis of instruction in all public and private schools, provided that where it is desired that another language shall be taught in addition to the English language, such instruction may be authorized by the Department, either by its rules, the curriculum of the school, or by direct order in any particular instance. Any schools that shall not conform to the provisions of this section shall not be recognized by the Department." June 8 A.D., 1896 Sanford B. Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii. The law clearly concerns only schools, not society at large. And even within the schools, the law clearly does not prohibit Hawaiian language from being taught, it merely says the language used for teaching all courses other than language courses must be English. The purpose was both political and social, not so much to repress Hawaiian language (or Japanese, Chinese, Tagalog, Ilocano, Visayan languages), but to promote the use of English as a universal language because of anticipated annexation to the U.S. and because of the already dominant role of English in cultural and economic activity in Hawai'i. Many kanaka maoli parents spoke Hawaiian between themselves but insisted that their children speak only English at home as well as at school, because they recognized that the path to social and economic success would be through English. The practical result was that use of Hawaiian language declined to the point where it was nearly extinct as a daily-use language by the time of statehood (except for its use in hula and other special cultural activities). Even many hula dancers memorized the Hawaiian language lyrics without understanding their meanings, just as some American-born opera singers memorize their Italian or German lines without understanding them. But now, thanks to a growing group of dedicated kanaka maoli and non-kanaka maoli, the language has been saved and is now no longer endangered. The use of the language carries political overtones, however, unlike the use of most other langauges in other cultures. Some speakers use the language as a political weapon to assert cultural hegemony; and some kanaka maoli who have not yet learned the language but are active in the sovereignty movement are extremely resentful or even angry toward non-kanaka maoli who do use the language, especially in political situations. The claim that the Hawaiian language was illegal is used by sovereignty activists to grab attention, to demagogue the idea that Hawaiian culture was stolen or suppressed, and to seek sympathy for an "oppressed" people. The language nearly died out because people voluntarily stopped speaking it in favor of speaking English; but that fact is uncomfortable for sovereignty activists who like to portray ethnic Hawaiians as victims. The following information is taken from a sheet distributed by kumu hula John Lake in his Hawaiian culture classes: 1901 (note: 5 years after Hawaiian language was supposedly made "illegal"): All laws become legally binding only when published in both an English daily newspaper and a Hawaiian weekly; 1913: Law requiring announcements relative to the sale of government land must appear in Hawaiian; 1913: $10,000 appropriated for publication of a Hawaiian dictionary; 1919: Law that Hawaiian shall be taught as a subject in all high schools and teachers' colleges; 1923: $2000 appropriated for writing and publishing textbooks in Hawaiian; 1935: Daily instruction of at least 10 minutes in Hawaiian conversation or writing required in elementary schools serving Hawaiian Homes children. For further information about the false claim that Hawaiian language was ever illegal in Hawai'i, or in the schools, see Was Hawaiian Language Illegal?

Was the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy illegal?

A: Yes, of course. All revolutions are illegal, including the U.S. revolution against the King George III of England in 1776, the French Revolution, the Russian revolution, etc. Within two days after the revolution, every foreign government which had diplomats in Honolulu issued a document formally recognizing the legitimacy of the Provisional Government. Read the lengthy section of this website devoted to this question.

Was there an armed invasion by the United States military that was essential to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy?

A: The U.S. landed 157 armed military personnel who remained for about one day at the time the queen was forced to give up power. The U.S. forces never fired a shot. They were vastly outnumbered by about 1500 local residents who were members of the Honolulu Rifles and who did the actual work of occupying government buildings and disarming the Royal guards. From January 1893 (overthrow) until July 1898 (annexation), the Republic of Hawai'i held power, without any assistance from the U.S., and despite strong opposition from U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who attempted to reinstate his friend the ex-queen, and who successfully resisted all attempts by the Provisional Government and the Republic to be annexed to the U.S.. The Republic easily defeated an attempted counter-revolution by Robert Wilcox in 1895, after which the ex-queen was held under house arrest in I'olani Palace for several months because she had allowed Wilcox to hide guns on her property. In short, the 157 U.S. troops were not essential to the revolution, and the new government easily had the strength to maintain power despite an attempted counterrevolution and despite a hostile U.S. administration for four years under President Grover Cleveland.

Does the U.S. owe kanaka maoli a restoration of a sovereign nation, and billions of dollars in reparations, because of its role in the overthrow?

A: Is this a joke? Read the answer to the previous question! Even if the U.S. were primarily responsible for the overthrow, what would be owed is a restoration of the government as it existed the day before the 157 troops came ashore -- a very shaky government with a figurehead queen who could neither appoint nor dismiss her cabinet without legislative approval, under the Bayonet Constitution of 1887 which had been forced on King Kalakaua by the local Honolulu Rifles without any U.S. government intervention. Most cabinet members and important government officials were non-kanaka maoli. Most residents and citizens were non-kanaka maoli prior to the overthrow. Most economic power and privately-owned land belonged to non-kanaka maoli. Yet modern-day sovereignty activists think that restoration of sovereignty is owed to racially-defined kanaka maoli alone. At no time in history was there ever a unified Kingdom of Hawai'i in which only kanaka maoli had the right to hold office or vote.

Was the annexation of 1898 illegal (or did it "never happen")?

A: Two treaties of annexation were offered by the Provisional Government and the Republic, but were defeated in the U.S. Senate. However, when the ex-queen's friend President Grover Cleveland (Democrat) left office and was replaced by President William McKinley (Republican), and the Spanish-American war began, the Republic of Hawai'i once again offered to be annexed, and the U.S. agreed to the annexation by a joint resolution of the Senate and House, signed by the President. The joint resolution of annexation passed the Senate by the 2/3 vote that would have been required for a treaty, and passed the House by an even larger ratio. Hawai'i became a territory at the same time as Guam and Puerto Rico, in the heat of the Spanish American War.

Do the ceded lands rightfully belong to kanaka maoli alone?

A: No. The ceded lands are the former crown lands and government lands of the Kingdom, which were ceded to the United States as part of the annexation process, and which were later ceded back to Hawai'i during the statehood process in 1959 (except for lands which the U.S. retains for military bases, national parks, and other governmental purposes). Kanaka maoli as individuals, and kanaka maoli as a race of people, never owned the ceded lands during the Kingdom -- they were owned by the government or by the office of the head of state (the monarch as head of state, not as an individual). And still today, those same lands are owned by the governments of the U.S. and Hawai'i on behalf of all the people regardless of race. See the section of this website devoted to the ceded lands. See also another website Aloha For All.

Are non-kanaka maoli merely guests in a kanaka maoli home?

A: All ethnic groups are immigrants to Hawai'i, although kanaka maoli got here first. Kanaka maoli enthusiastically welcomed newcomers and made them into full partners. For details, see the section called "Were non-kanaka maoli historically full partners in Hawai'i, or only second-class guests?" Non-kanaka maoli brought religion, written language, huge investments of capital, technology, and the rule of law which were eagerly embraced by kanaka maoli. Non-kanaka maoli were most of the population and most of the voting citizenry prior to the overthrow, and held most of the economic and political power; and grew to 74% of the population by the Census of 1900 (shortly after annexation). It would be both illegal and immoral for kanaka maoli, who comprise 20% of current population, to demand political power based on race.

Are land titles in Hawai'i not valid?

A: A large portion of the lands in Hawai'i are the ceded lands (government and former crown lands), and that topic has already been discussed. Regarding the privately owned lands in Hawai'i, sovereignty activists make this claim: since the overthrow was illegal, therefore the Provisional government, Republic, Territory, and State governments have also been illegal. Therefore, officials of the Bureau of Conveyances were illegally appointed and had no valid authority to certify the transfer of land titles. Therefore, all deeds that changed hands after the overthrow were transferred illegally. Furthermore, there are problems with land transfers between the time of the Mahele (1848-1850) and the overthrow (1893), so that many such transfers were also illegal. In other words, virtually all private land titles in Hawai'i are invalid. Now comes Keanu Sai, modern self-appointed Regent Pro-Tem of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, who offers (for a fee of between $1500-$2000 for research and filing fees) to repair a kanaka maoli's land title by certifying on behalf of the Kingdom that the Kingdom condones the chain of land transfers. In one case, a man and woman used his theories to attempt to "take back" a house they had lost through foreclosure. An interracial jury on December 1, 1999 unanimously found Mr. Sai guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of attempted theft of title to a house (value approximately $300,000) for his role as an accessory to that man and woman. Not even one member of the jury had any reasonable belief that his fanciful theories could possibly be correct because, as Mr. Sai had argued during the trial, if his theories are correct then there would not have been any theft because the rightful owners of a house cannot steal it. The ordinary people of the multiracial jury have now given their unanimous verdict beyond a reasonable doubt based on common sense. If the verdict is appealed, then judges and legal scholars will also be able to sustain the verdict that his theories are false. There are also theories that kanaka maoli retain in perpetuity an undivided right to all the lands of Hawai'i, because of certain protections given to tenants living on chiefs' land at the time of the Mahele. And there are theories that land title in Hawai'i does not include the right to keep out any kanaka maoli who wishes to exercise "native gathering rights." In due course, these theories will also find their way into jury trials and appellate courts of Hawai'i and of the United States, where they will be appropriately disposed of.

What should be the blood quantum percentage required for kanaka maoli to be eligible for special benefits?

A: The Department of Hawaiian Homelands has 200,000 acres of land set aside for kanaka maoli to get free land for long-term lease for building a house or for subsistence agriculture. This DHHL legislation was passed by Congress in 1920, and the responsibility for continuing its implementation was taken over by the State of Hawai'i as part of the act by which Hawai'i became a state in 1959. DHHL land is limited to kanaka maoli who have at least 50% blood quantum, although a recent amendment allows children of at least 25% to inherit a lease from a 50% parent. OHA is required to use ceded land revenues only for kanaka maoli of 50% or more quantum, but can spend state-appropriated funds on KM of any blood quantum (as low as one drop). Kamehameha Schools require only one drop. Setting the quantum at 50% seems appropriate if the goal is to set an objective standard to identify people who are likely to identify primarily with the kanaka maoli part of their heritage. And setting the quantum at 50% limits the number of beneficiaries to about 50,000 people at present, and fewer as time goes by and there is interracial marriage. Setting the quantum at a single drop would make about 240,000 residents of Hawai'i eligible for help, with another 160,000 living elsewhere who could choose to come "home." Thus, if there are limited resources available for helping kanaka maoli, the 50% quantum presumably ensures that those who are "most Hawaiian" will be helped before those who are "less Hawaiian," while reducing the quantum increases the number of eligible beneficiaries and therefore reduces how much each can receive from a limited resource base. However, the 50% quantum sets up an arbitrary line within the kanaka maoli community which creates divisiveness and sometimes bitter feelings. Reducing the quantum to a single drop would more than quadruple the number of people in the eligible group, which would create a much larger group of people who feel entitled to special benefits and who would make a larger and more powerful political pressure group. The trend today is strongly trending toward a one-drop definition of who is kanaka maoli. However, even requiring a single drop of kanaka maoli blood as a prerequisite for getting benefits is highly divisive in the multiracial state of Hawai'i, where 80% of the people do not have even that one drop. Why should benefits be based on race? There are many needy people of all races. It would be clearly more fair and less racially discriminatory if benefits were based on need alone without regard for race. And if indeed kanaka maoli have a disproportionately large share of need, then they will receive a disproportionately large share of benefits under a needs-based procedure which is racially neutral. An essay by a kanaka maoli in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper on December 9, 1999 addressed this issue of blood quantum. The author urged that the quantum be reduced to just one drop to avoid divisiveness in the community. His reasoning was so clear and so persuasive that I replied to him a few days later by using his own words to show that the whole concept of blood quantum is divisive. The blood quantum should be zero. Here is how I responded: Wesley Kamakawiwo'ole (Advertiser 12/09/99) got it almost right on the blood quantum issue. Almost. He said: "Some half-blooded Hawaiians cling with pride to their 50 percent status. Other Hawaiians, lacking 50 percent, argue for inclusion based on the common needs of all Hawaiians. Is there a solution? Yes, lower the quantum ... Today, this artificial line unnecessarily divides the community, causing friction and misunderstanding." I agree. He got that absolutely right. He was ALMOST right when he said at the end: "Eliminate the 50 percent and eliminate the injustice. Require proof of Hawaiian blood and open the door of eligibility to all Hawaiians. Then, concentrate on the single most important issue: need." If we could just take out those 5 words in the middle he would have it absolutely right. Get rid of the words that say "Require proof of Hawaiian blood." People are not dogs to be judged on pedigree papers. The "one drop" blood quantum is far too high. The blood quantum should be zero. Stop dividing the community by giving help preferentially based on race. Help people on the basis of need. Period.

What is ths status of treaties between the Kingdom of Hawai'i and other nations, including the United States?

A: The U.S. and the Kingdom of Hawai'i had a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation. Other nations had similar treaties with the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Sovereignty activists claim that the treaties remain in force and establish a de jure continuing existence of the Kingdom. The activists also claim that the U.S. "armed invasion" during the revolution of 1893 was an "act of war." If indeed it was an act of war, then the obvious conclusion is that the U.S. won the war and Hawai'i was conquered, making the treaty moot and automatically abrogating all other treaties of the Kingdom with other nations. The fact that the queen surrendered to the United States until such time as the U.S. would undo the overthrow, and the U.S. has never undone it, would seem to indicate that indeed the Kingdom was conquered by the U.S. So on the interpretation that the 157 U.S. troops committed an act of war, then the obvious success of that war makes Hawai'i a conquered territory and all treaties were thereby abrogated. However, the other way of looking at it is this: the revolution of 1893 was primarily done by the local residents of the Committee of Safety, the Honolulu Rifles, etc. who actually did the work of disarming the royal guards and seizing the public buildings (the 157 U.S. soldiers never entered government buildings or took away guns from anyone, they simply stood in the street while local revolutionary forces did all the work). The revolution would have succeeded even if the 157 U.S. soldiers had never come ashore. Therefore, the status of the treaties of the Kingdom of Hawai'i are the same as the status of treaties of any nation which has a change of government by means of revolution. The usual theory is that a treaty is between nations, not between particular leaders. So treaties remain in effect even when governments change. When a revolution occurs, other nations have the option whether to give diplomatic recognition to the new government. When a newly successful revolutionary government seeks diplomatic recognition, that implies that it acknowledges and agrees to uphold inherited treaties; and when other nations grant diplomatic recognition, that implies that those nations also acknowledge and agree to uphold existing treaties through relations with the new government. (For example, the U.S. never recognized the Castro revolution in Cuba because Cuba expropriated the property of the U.S. government and citizens without just compensation). So, on the interpretation that the overthrow of the monarchy was a revolution, then Kingdom of Hawai'i treaties with the U.S. and other nations that recognized the Provisional Government would have continued in force, but through the newly recognized sovereignty of that Provisional Government. Later, the same treaties continued in force under the sovereignty of the Republic of Hawai'i. Finally, those treaties continued in force under the U.S. government as a result of annexation and statehood, subject to whatever subsequent treaties the U.S. may have entered into with foreign powers. And indeed, the U.S. continues to have very friendly relations of commerce and navigation with the state of Hawai'i! Other nations continue to have such relations with Hawai'i but of course all such relations are conducted through the sovereignty of the United States. The Republic of Hawai'i in its June 16 1897 offer of a treaty of annexation, and the United States in its July 7, 1898 Joint Resolution of Annexation, used exactly the same language regarding the prior treaties of Hawai'i with other nations, as follows: "The existing treaties of the Hawaiian Islands with foreign nations shall forthwith cease and determine, being replaced by such treaties as may exist, or as may hereafter be concluded, between the United States and such foreign nations...Until legislation shall be enacted extending the United States customs laws and regulations to the Hawaiian islands the existing customs relations of the Hawaiian Islands with the United States and other countries shall remain unchanged." (quoted in the decision of Lili'uokalani v. United States, 45 Ct Cl. 418, 1910, pp. 436-439)

Can the 1993 Apology Bill be used to prove that the U.S. and State of Hawai'i governments and courts have no jurisdiction in Hawai'i, especially regarding kanaka maoli?

A: No court has ever given such a ruling. Indeed, many kanaka maoli have been found guilty of various offenses even after specifically raising this issue. In some cases, for example, kanaka maoli have tried to assert this defense when accused of speeding, or failing to have proper license plates on their cars, or proper driver's licenses. Kanaka maoli have occasionally asserted this claim in civil litigation, especially in cases involving squatter eviction or land title. The apology bill was passed by Congress as a favor to the Hawai'i Congressional delegation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the monarchy. It was passed without public hearings or any substantial floor debate, just as Congress passes hundreds of such bills routinely to commemorate various historical events or to recognize "national nutmeg day." On November 21, 1998, Hawai'i Senator Daniel K. Akaka (himself kanaka maoli) gave a public speech before the Kukahi Coalition at the Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai'i, Manoa (Honolulu). Here is one full paragraph from his speech: "The Apology Resolution was never intended to be used as the basis for disobeying local, state, and federal laws. I do not support any individual or organization that uses the Apology Resolution for personal benefit or gain. The 1893 overthrow affected Native Hawaiians as a class of people. As such, the remedy for this injustice must be determined collectively. Anyone who willfully violates laws based on the Apology Resolution will be personally accountable for his or her actions." This statement is important because Senator Akaka was the author and Senate sponsor of the Apology Resolution. When courts interpret the meaning and application of federal laws, they often consider historical information that shows the intent of Congress. Even the Supreme Court considers the writings of the founding fathers (as in the Federalist Papers) when interpreting the meaning of particular phrases in the Constitution. So it is clear that Senator Akaka's statement establishes that the Apology Resolution was never intended to support claims by sovereignty activists that the State of Hawai'i lacks jurisdiction to enforce the laws, or that kanaka maoli should be treated any differently from other citizens.

Are kanaka maoli similar to an indian tribe? Should they be granted that status and have special rights over land and water?

A: Kanaka maoli claim to be indigenous, but actually their first wave arrived in Hawai'i later than the Anglo-Saxons were established in England, and their second wave (which conquered and destroyed or enslaved the previous settlers) arrived in Hawai'i later than the Norman invasion of England. Kanaka maoli are far less indigenous than the Indians on the American continent. Kanaka maoli fail to meet most of the criteria established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognizing tribal status. Kanaka maoli were never slaughtered in wars with non-kanaka maoli, and were never forced to move hundreds of miles away from their "ancestral" lands. They have no recognized tribal leaders or tribal courts. They are well-assimilated, and learn ancient cultural practices and Hawaiian language just like other ethnic groups seek their roots -- only as secondary pastimes to their primary lifestyle as ordinary citizens of Hawai'i. However, some kanaka maoli envy the gravy train of federal benefits to Indian tribes, and the special rights of Indian tribes over land and natural resources. And some state government officials, together with Hawai'i's two U.S. senators, believe that federal recognition of Indian status would bring megabucks to Hawai'i and would help defuse the sovereignty movement. Federal recognition of Indian status is being sought by leaders of the largest kanaka maoli sovereignty organization (Ka Lahui), and by some of the elected officers of a State of Hawai'i governmental equivalent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (OHA). Some kanaka maoli who advocate total independence and a restriction of voting rights and property rights to kanaka maoli alone, see tribal status as a dangerous but possibly acceptable first step toward their goals. But other kanaka maoli strongly oppose tribal status, because they believe it would block or delay restoration of an independent and sovereign nation or Kingdom of Hawai'i. Growing numbers of people of all races in Hawai'i, including many kanaka maoli, are concerned that tribal status would be a major drain on the resources of the U.S. government, could eventually bankrupt the State of Hawai'i, and would cause an irreparable breach of the aloha spirit, putting up a permanent wall of apartheid between the 20% of the population who have any kanaka maoli blood vs. the 80% who do not. There is no historical, legal, or moral basis for tribal status in Hawai'i, nor for any other special rights limited by race to people who have the "right" ancestors. See especially the sections of this website dealing with whether non-kanaka maoli were historically full partners, and whether there were stolen lands. See also another website focusing on the ceded lands issue: Aloha For All. See also a large website based in upstate New York focusing on the effects of Indian tribal status on states and localities throughout the United States:

Would Dr. Martin Luther King support the Hawaiian sovereignty movement?

A: Martin Luther King’s holiday coincided on January 17, 2000 with the 107th anniversary of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s overthrow. Kanaka maoli activists tried to link their political quest for sovereignty to the celebration of Dr. King's holiday. Superficially, there appears to be some similarity between the status of African Americans and Americans of Hawaiian ancestry (kanaka maoli). Both groups see themselves as darkskinned, downtrodden minorities struggling against a dominant culture that is often insensitive or even hostile to their concerns. Dr. King and African-Americans struggled mightily to achieve equal voting rights, property rights, and desegregation. But the Hawaiian sovereignty movement is working hard to take away those same rights from the 80% of Hawai'i's population who lack the proper racial heritage. Most sovereignty activists claim that only kanaka maoli (native Hawaiians) have the right to vote on whether to establish a sovereign kanaka maoli entity; and only kanaka maoli have the right to vote and own property inside the resulting Kanakaland. Many claim the new Kanakaland should include the entire State of Hawai'i; taking away voting rights and property rights from a million non-kanaka maoli residents. The Kingdom of Hawai'i never restricted voting rights to kanaka maoli alone. In 1893 it was a multiracial nation where every ethnic group (including kanaka maoli) was a minority, just as now. Power held solely because of race is exactly what Dr. King fought against. Rule by a racial minority was the discredited apartheid system from South Africa. Dr. King would be horrified.

Is the sovereignty movement racist?

A: Many people think racism is an attitude of hating or feeling repelled by people on account of race; and that is certainly part of the equation. Most kanaka maoli are very friendly and welcoming to non-kanaka maoli, freely associating and intermarrying with them. Their person-to-person attitudes are often the opposite of racist. However, the most important part of racism is not a matter of attitude, but a matter of one race exercising power over other races solely on the basis of race. That's what the whites did in the old South (U.S.), that's what the whites did in South Africa, and that's what Hitler did with the Jews. If one race has power over another race because the laws are explicitly written to give them such power, that is government-sponsored racism; and is illustrated by the laws governing voting rights and property rights in all three examples just named. That is the kind of racism which the sovereignty activists are proposing to establish. They believe that only kanaka maoli should have the right to vote on whether to partition the State of Hawai'i to create a race-based Kanakaland; they believe that inside Kanakaland only kanaka maoli should be able to vote and own property; and many of them believe that Kanakaland should include all the territory of the State of Hawai'i, thereby taking away voting rights and property rights from the 80% of population who are non-kanaka maoli. If people show negative feelings toward me, I will feel hurt and sad. But I can live with that. The thing I cannot live with is if people of one race have power to take away voting and property rights from all other races solely because of race. If someone in private life gives me "stink eye" or the one-finger salute, I can simply walk away. But if a government takes away my property and tells me I cannot vote because I don't have the right ancestors, that kind of racism is intolerable and must be fought against. That is the racism of the sovereignty activists: it is less about attitude, and more about the exercise of power. And it is demonstrated in every large social organization where kanaka maoli hold power, allowing only kanaka maoli to vote, to hold office, or to receive benefits: OHA (the State of Hawai'i Office of Hawaiian Afairs), Kamehameha School/Bishop Estate, DHHL (Department of Hawaiian Homelands), HSEC (Hawaiian Sovereignty Election Council) and the Native Hawaiian Convention, etc. The largest sovereignty organization, Ka Lahui, allows non-kanaka maoli to belong and support them, but only kanaka maoli can vote. Bumpy Kanahele's constitution for the "Nation of Hawai'i" allows non-kanaka maoli to belong, and even to be elected to the legislature, but requires that at least half of all legislators must be kanaka maoli, the chief executive and all judges must be kanaka maoli, all the councils of kupuna, makua, and 'opio must be kanaka maoli, etc.

Are sovereignty activists political leftists?

A: Most Hawaiian sovereignty activists have a general political orientation that is quite far to the left. Many acknowledge they are socialists, and some are explicitly Marxist. This leftist orientation can be explained partly because they are struggling against an entrenched political system and dominant culture they see as repressive, and partly because they see traditional Hawaiian culture as a form of agrarian communism. Land was held in common, redistributed at will by chiefs, and labor was organized by and owed to the chiefs. Individual rights were vastly subordinate to group needs. "From each according to ability, to each according to need" was the operative economic policy. It took many people working together to build taro patches, water channels, and fishponds. Warfare was constant except during the rainy season. Some observers fear that if the sovereignty movement is successful, it will establish a form of national socialism with officially-sanctioned racial supremacy for kanaka maoli; and to some this sounds like fascism or Nazism. However, the sovereignty movement seems non-violent. There is no apparent thought of expanding kanaka maoli control beyond the Hawaiian archipelago (including Palmyra, Midway, Kure, and various atolls), although there is a strong Polynesian racial pride and identification with all the islands in the Polynesian triangle, bounded by Aotearoa (New Zealand), Ka Pae 'Aina (Hawai'i), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Modern-day political conservatives are generally opposed to Hawaiian sovereignty, and view kanaka maoli as a racial minority seeking affirmative action or race-based entitlement programs. For a Hawai'i conservative viewpoint, see the following website created in February 2000: on

Should racially-defined kanaka maoli get free tuition at the University of Hawai'i because of the fact that the university sits on ceded lands?

A: IN ONE WORD: 'A'OLE!! (NO!!) During the Kingdom, the government lands were held on behalf of ALL the people for public purposes. Government lands are still used that way today. For ALL the people. During the Kingdom, the crown lands were held by the government to provide income to support the head of state. Crown lands did not belong to a monarch personally -- they were passed from one monarch to the next (not to personal heirs of the monarch), even when monarchs from different families were elected. After the King had run up huge mortgages on the crown lands to pay gambling debts and support a dissolute lifestyle, the Kingdom legislature in 1865 took control of the crown lands, issued government bonds to pay off those mortgages, and passed a law (signed by a grateful King) declaring that the King could no longer mortgage them. When the monarchy was overthrown and the office of monarch ceased to exist, the crown lands became the same as government lands. Ex-queen Lili'uokalani sued the United States in 1910, claiming that the U.S. owed her money for taking "her" crown lands. (By the way, she claimed the crown lands were hers personally, not the property of the kanaka maoli race). But she lost, because it was proved that even when she was Queen she did not own the crown lands. The Provisional Government, followed by the Republic, accepted as its own obligations the huge debts of the monarchy. When the annexation occurred, the U.S. agreed to pay the debts of the Republic, most of which were from the monarchy. Paying someone else's debts is a form of compensation. The U.S. also agreed not to simply take the government and crown lands as its own, but to hold them in trust for ALL the residents of Hawai'i. Finally, when those "ceded" lands were returned to the new State of Hawai'i at statehood in 1959 (minus national parks and military bases, which also benefit the people of Hawai'i), they were returned on condition that the income must be used for ANY ONE OR MORE OF 5 PURPOSES. One of those purposes is education; and for the first 20 years of statehood, all the ceded land revenues went to support the public schools (which means that about 25% of the ceded land revenues went to kanaka maoli, since they are about 1/4 of the school population). Finally, when OHA, racially restricted to kanaka maoli, was created in 1979 (big mistake!), it was funded by giving it 20% of ceded land GROSS revenues -- a huge error, because it costs big money to operate airports, universities, parks, roadways, etc. OHA's 20% of gross ceded land revenues is more than 100% of net revenues after operating expenses. It's easy to see the problem here. OHA claims to be entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars -- 20% of ceded land revenues -- because "betterment of native Hawaiians" was one of five purposes for use of ceded land revenues. Well, what about the other four purposes? The Superintendent of Schools should be lined up right next to the head of OHA, demanding the same number of dollars as OHA, because education was also one of those five purposes. Likewise for the other stated purposes. There isn't that much money in the State budget. And the reason is that most government activities operate at a loss (that's why people have to pay taxes, to make up that loss). Also, kanaka maoli get all the same benefits everyone else gets from State expenditures on public facilities, PLUS the 20% for OHA. The University, for example, operates at a huge loss. The tuition paid by students is only a small part of what it costs to operate the University. The rest is made up by the taxpayers. So when kanaka maoli students say they are owed "rent" for being kind enough to allow the university to sit on ceded lands, we should all feel free to laugh. They think that every time somebody pays tuition, or buys saimin on campus, or pays for a parking space, the race of kanaka maoli should get 20% of all that money (revenue from using the ceded lands) -- as though the professors don't have to be paid, the noodles didn't cost anything to make, and the parking spaces simply materialized from nowhere. Who do they think paid for the buildings? Who paid for the Center for Hawaiian Studies, and all those scholarships and tuition waivers? Where did the library books come from? The ceded lands belong to ALL the people of Hawai'i. The ceded land revenues belong to ALL the people of Hawai'i. The institutions used by kanaka maoli and everyone else cost money to operate, and are heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. Instead of getting 20% of ceded land revenues, OHA should be forced to pay for the difference between what the kanaka maoli students pay to attend school and what it actually costs the State for them to attend. So don't be fooled by revisionist history, half-truths, and Clintonesque twisting of facts. Kanaka maoli entitled to free tuition because the University sits on ceded lands? 'A'OLE!!

Should evelopment of more astronomical observatories on Mauna Kea be prohibited, because Mauna Kea is sacred ground?

A: Of course all land in Hawai'i is sacred. But Mauna Kea is especially sacred because it is the tallest peak in the Pacific, closest to the heavens, and sacred to sky-father Wakea from whom all kanaka maoli are descended. The mountain's name superficially means "white mountain" in honor of its often snow-capped peak. But it is also called Mauna-a-Wakea; i.e., Wakea's mountain. That is exactly why the world-class telescope campus should be expanded to create the most sophisticated observatories in the world. Sky-father Wakea's daughter, with whom Wakea mated to produce the first human being Haloa, is Ho'ohokuikalani -- she who placed the stars in the heavens. It is an act of respect and worship to appreciate and study the stars. Kanaka maoli studied the stars as a technology for navigation, as we all know from the outstanding work of master navigator Nainoa Thompson with the voyaging canoe Hokule’a. Besides using the stars for technology, kanaka maoli in ancient times also studied the stars as an act of respect and worship of the gods. An ancient adz quarry near the observatory campus proves that kanaka maoli had no hesitation about using the summit of Mauna Kea for technological purposes, and digging into the ground to get materials. Ancient shrines there should be preserved. And the telescope campus should be expanded, as our modern shrine to the glory of Wakea and Ho'ohokuikalani. Unfortunately, most of the people protesting development of Mauna Kea for astronomical observatories are sovereignty activists. They are using this issue for political purposes as part of a larger agenda to get money and power, and their motives are far from spiritual.


The issues in the sovereignty debate are very complex, and require lengthy explanations. These were quick and simple (overly simple) answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. People with the patience for lengthy explanations are invited to read the other sections of this website by clicking on the colored links that appear as questions below.