Hawaiians see ‘Aha as opportunity to restore the sovereign nation
Last week, Dec. 15, the Na’i Aupuni Native Hawaiian election was terminated.
The controversial and sometimes-called canned election process was short-lived.
The Na’i Aupuni press release provided some background about the independent organization formed a year ago with a fully volunteer board of directors.
“It exists solely to help establish a path to an ‘Aha, or constitutional convention, where Hawaiians can discuss and explore various options of self-determination,” the release noted.
Although the election was cancelled, all 196 candidates seeking to serve at the ‘Aha are invited to participate in the four-week long meeting in February on Oahu.
The deadline to RSVP is this week, and the reaction to the news is as disparate as the delegates themselves.
One learned kupuna explained to the Lahaina News in confidence, “Most Hawaiians are united in their agreement that there needs to be change from the political status quo, but there is a fault line, a chasm as deep and old as the overthrow itself. On one side of it, proponents of political independence; the other side, those who support integration, or remaining within the current U.S. system, a.k.a. ‘federal recognition.’ “
“I have been involved with various sovereignty initiatives since the 1970s, pre-dating the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,” the native elder continued.
“There is a basic divide, and divisions within those divides. I would observe, after all these years, that every independence and integration rivulet has been blocked along the way, but the Hawaiian people have remained undeterred. So when Justice Kennedy (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy) stopped the counting of the ballots and announcement of winners, it did not surprise me that Na’i Aupuni decided to proceed with the convention anyway.
“All along, it has been important to keep the momentum going; otherwise, our Hawaiian people would lose hope, which would be the worst thing of all. I, for one, still have hope.”
Lahaina News had the opportunity to interview three of the convention delegates.
Bronson Kaahui is representing the Lahaina District.
He graduated from home school, has a degree in history and calls himself a digital nomad. His approach is unique. He is riding a rogue wave in uncharted waters.
“My basic position is direct democracy. I don’t think we need a legislature at all. I believe all decisions should be put to a direct vote by 100 percent of the voters,” Kaahui wrote to Lahaina News in an e-mail.
“I support online voting and creating a website where all the proposed bills can be read and voted on directly,” Kaahui continued.
“Voting should be as easy as ‘liking’ a status on Facebook. You can either ‘like,’ ‘unlike,’ or abstain. If we’re going to have a ‘government’ that supposedly ‘represents’ us, then that means we should all be in this together and make all decisions collectively.”
Keoki Sousa is a delegate from Kihei. He is pro-independence, advocating for the restoration of the nation.
His campaign literature reads: “I am directed by my kupuna to contribute my knowledge, experience and wisdom to join with other leaders to restore our Hawaiian nation as the best path forward for the benefit for our children and grandchildren and all the people of Hawai’i nei.”
He looks forward to joining other like-minded patriots at the convention.
“I am a Hawaiian citizen. Our kingdom is the only lawful government in existence,” Sousa explained.
Representing the island of Oahu, Hawaiian leader Pu’uhonua Dennis Keiki “Bumpy” Kanahele accepted the invite the day it was received.
He is optimistic and steadfast in his actions to restore the sovereign nation.
“It moves our 2015 political process into the limelight for the world to truly see the suppression of the national sovereignty of the Hawaiian people,” he said.
Since the early 1990s, Kanahele and other Native Hawaiians have consulted with Francis A. Boyle.
Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago; a Juris Doctor Degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard Law School; and Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Harvard University.
He authored the book “Restoring the Kingdom of Hawaii, The Kanaka Maoli Route to Independence.”
The international human rights advocate was specific in outlining his strategy. He views the constitutional convention as an opportunity.
“I am saying everyone should go there – all kanaka maoli – and the delegates and everyone else should vote to restore the Kingdom of Hawaii and make it clear at this conference you want the kingdom restored, and you don’t want an Indian tribe,” he noted.
To this end, Kanahele and another delegate have agreed on tactics.
“I was advised by Francis A. Boyle, that on the opening day of the ‘Aha, to make a motion on the floor to proclaim the Restoration of the National Sovereignty of the Hawaiian People. The motion would need a second by another delegate or more, and that will not be a problem,” Kanahele said.
“Now the motion,” Boyle advised, “would be on the floor of the convention for further discussion and education. This move would protect the national sovereignty of the Hawaiian people and return to them their international status as an independent country once again.”
Mahealani Wendt lives in Keanae. She spent 32 years as the executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.
About the ‘Aha delegates, she said, “I am impressed with the caliber of candidates and have confidence that they can craft a viable proposal for ratification or rejection by the voters. Notwithstanding efforts to hobble and abort the process, legitimacy will ultimately be gauged by voter participation. If participation is poor and the ‘Aha fails, we must continue our strivings as a community until there is a greater level of trust and confidence in the process.”
She was positive about her vision of the ‘Aha outcome: “I would like to see a proposal placed before the voters and decisive voter participation. I believe remaining status quo is unacceptable, but that decolonization and de-occupation as pathways to independence are not viable legal or political strategies at this time.
“I also believe a peoples’ right to political self-determination can never be extinguished,” Wendt observed, “and, to therefore opt for less than complete independence today does not compromise those options for the future. I, therefore, support establishing a formal political relationship with the U.S., on our terms. Also, home rule and ahupua’a-based management.”
Boyle recommends avoiding federal recognition.
“An Indian tribe is a one-way pass to extermination. Look what the United States has done to Indian tribes. You want the restoration of the kingdom, and that’s what you’re entitled to. The kanaka maoli should insist on their rights,” Boyle concluded.