by Michael Kioni Dudley and Keoni Kealoha Agard
Na Kane O Ka Malo Press, P.O. Box 970, Waipahu, Hawai'i 96797
A Book Review by Aumear True
As human beings, we strive to feel comfortable, to find a beautiful place and to feel at home there. When we feel detached from our sense of place, we may turn to the indigenous cultures to model for us a relationship to the earth that is joyful, respectful, intimate, and at the same time, functional. Too soon we may have nowhere to turn, because from the southernmost tip of South America, through the 48 states and north through Canada to Alaska, Europeans have displaced hundreds of distinct, sovereign nations of indigenous peoples. Every nation has its own story of subjection and destruction. Among these tales Hawaii's story is astounding. Most importantly, such stories of resistance to oppression are archetypal of the human drive for freedom from man's laws to live under divine law, and these stories ennoble the heart of humanity. Across the continent, native peoples are actively governing themselves, and resisting the oppressions of American government and corporations to recover the sacredness of living according to their own cultures. Across America, men's groups and women's groups, new age groups and books of all kinds are dabbling in native americana; sweat lodges, talking sticks, smudging, drumming, and passing the pipe. We seem to find these and other rituals and aspects of indigenous culture enlightening. How much more important, then, for the native people themselves to live by their cultural imperatives? Only less than one percent of native Hawaiians perpetuate the race, and so the people and culture are both endangered.
How can we, as individuals, begin to educate ourselves about other cultures and such vast issues, and how can we influence world events with our everyday actions? We can and must act with awareness to address these issues, lending our support to causes where we can, and withdrawing our economic and political support from other places when necessary. Those first few Europeans to arrive in the islands found an ancient culture which is virtually extinct today. In Man, Gods and Nature, the first book of the Hawaiian Nation series, the authors convey the world view of the ancient Hawaiians; the peoples' relationship with their islands and with each other. In this ancient culture, our modern western concept of competition was unknown. Surplus goods were always shared. "Peddling," instead of being seen as the humble roots of capitalist glory, was seen as something antisocial. Certainly we have much to learn about ourselves from the Hawaiian culture. It's easy to see why the islands' wonderful tropical climate and agriculture looked attractive to the first few arrivals. Here, as has happened elsewhere, the Europeans brought with them fatal diseases, and religious ideas and ethics which were fatal to the native way of life. Today tourism and the myth of the wild tropical getaway continue the destruction begun by cane sugar and fruit growing industries.
The first chapter of A Call for Hawaiian Sovereignty, the second book of the series, is titled "A History of Dispossesion." The islands are legendary, one of the great jewels of the planet. The islands depend on the Hawaiians to protect them. The story of the overthrow of the ancient Hawaiian government is just one hundred years young, the movement for sovereignty and the restoration of the Hawaiian state is strong, and these are just becoming well-known. Paradoxically, the ongoing tragedy of American expansionism contains the seeds of a great victory for humankind, the reclaiming of the land and government of the Hawaiian Islands by the indigenous peoples today!
In 1872, when Kamehameha V died, Colonial England, France and the U.S. recognized the strategic importance of the islands, and the U.S. sent an admiral to influence the selection of a successor favorable to the U.S. By 1892, a fraction of the European 15% of the population of Hawaii owned most of the land and businesses. This group was composed primarily of the children of the American missionaries, the authors assert. They had considerable influence since 1876 when their revolutionary group had forced King Kalakaua to sign the bayonet constitution with support of U.S. Minister H.A.P. Carter and Secretary of State Bayard.
In 1876, and '87, the Navy used Congress to secure control over Pearl Harbor with the sugar Reciprocity Treaties.
Seventeen years later, Queen Lili'uokalani, on January 14, 1893 attempted to respond by strengthening the constitution. When the Queen discovered that the insurgents were waiting for just such a reason to call in the U.S. forces, she formally recanted her plan. But the Committee still sent their plea for protection to the U.S. Minister. More than 160 marines, from the steamer Boston, landed in Honolulu and occupied the Hawaiian capital while the provisional government read a proclamation. Minister John L. Stevens, "pursuant to prior agreement recognized this government within an hour after the reading of the proclamation." Stevens had been plotting with the Annexation Club as proved by a letter dated November 20, 1892. On the day of the landing, the "Committee" in a panic had betrayed the lie of their need for protection by asking U.S. Minister Stevens to forestall the action. The invasion on Monday, January 16th proceeded over the insurgents own objections. The 'official' proceediing was carried off with extraordinary haste, in the last 30 days of the Harrison administration.
President Grover Cleveland was inaugurated two months after the overthrow of the monarchy. He referred to the "subversion of the constitutional government of Hawaii" as an "emergency". In his address to Congress, he denounced the action as "lawless" and "an act of war." Cleveland's revealing but abysmal message to Congress fills 21 of the 143 well-annotated pages. Cleveland lays all blame on Minister Stevens, never implicating the Harrison administration. Stevens allegedly "caused United States troops to be landed and declared he would support (the) provisional government." Cleveland says U.S. Minister Stevens "evidently had an ardent desire" and "was not inconveniently scrupulous as to the means employed to that end." Cleveland repeatedly insisted on complete clemency for U.S. Minister Stevens and the local insurgents, never mentioning Secretary of State James C. Blaine or President Harrison. On her surrender, the Queen submitted a protest retelling the facts, which have never been disputed or disproven. Cleveland admits "If (the Queen's account is) true, nothing...could induce our Government to negotiate with the semblance of a government thus created, nor could a treaty resulting from the acts stated in the protest have been knowingly deemed worthly of consideration by the Senate." Cleveland warns that the U.S. may have "set up a temporary government on foreign soil for the purpose of acquiring...territory which we had wrongully put in its possession." To his shame, rather then decisively returning the islands to Hawaiian control, Cleveland's only action was to turn the matter over to Congress, and Congress never responded to this "emergency". The 'surprise ending' of this historical perspective is that Hawaii is not lawfully one of the United States, and it follows that the vote "to become a state" is also invalid. In 1895 Queen Lili'uokalani attempted to restore Hawaiian rule; after about ten days of skirmishes the royalists surrendered.
Obviously the Hawaiian sovereignty may have adverse consequences for non-native people now holding property in the nation. The lion's share of the islands is owned by a few multinational corporations. The Hawaiians in part cite the King Kamehameha edicts, which explicitly reserve land rights for native peoples.
The Hawaiian story of the forces of corporate profit infringing on people's rights is in some ways is typical of every native nation past and present in the western hemisphere and around the world. Today the pattern of imperialism and expansionism is shifting, but the forces of injustice are not off in a distant era or land, they are still at work here at home, today.
Through persistent and dedicated non-violent action, the Hawaiian government has gained some small yet significant recognition and territory from the United States government. The Hawaiian nation is working to repair their culture, and their success depends on defending and exercising their right to self-government.
The Hawaiian culture is as priceless a treasure as their islands. The call for Hawaiian sovereignty is clear, and the Hawaiian people are increasingly well-organized, acting decisively, and gaining support of other native groups and non-natives internationally. Their success in regaining their national identity and sovereignty will be another gift to the world.
The authors are duly qualified; Dudley holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Hawaiian Philosophy, and Agard is an attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. The book is clear, fair and authoritative so that its readability is an unmatched service to native peoples and to people interested in the sovereignty movement everywhere. The authors give the facts without a trace of the well-justified anger that the reader is likely to feel, and with understanding, we can usefully direct our action at the sources of injustice. As a first step, readers should write to their elected representatives to express support for Hawaiian sovereignty. Readers may also lend their support to the Hawaiian sovereignty groups by contacting them at: P.O. Box 27-478, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 96827. If you've been dreaming of getting away to some Hawaiian destination, plan your trip in a way which supports the native people and the islands themselves. Tourism can be a particularly damaging brand of consumerism, or it can be a powerful tool for the local people and economy. The North American Center for Responsible Tourism can help you plan an ethical vacation wherever you go. Contact: P.O. Box 827, San Anselmo, California, 94947. 415-258-6594.
Native american sovereignty groups and indigenous peoples around the world are gaining strength and recognition. For their sake, we must be aware that our economic actions are just as important as political action. Our every-day buying choices have an impact on indigenous peoples around the world. For example, buying goods made in China profits the regime which continues to destroy Tibet. ReadBoycott Quarterly, available from the Center for Economic Development, P.O.Box 64, Olympia, WA.98057. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Multinational Monitor also covers related issues: 1530 P St., NW, Washington, DC 20005. 202-387-8030. 202-234-5176 (fax), address e-mail to: email@example.com.
Call for Hawaiian Sovereignty is available from Rosetta the AwareHouse for $15
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